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Another extinct cetacean?

By Dave Armstrong - 07 Aug 2014 7:44:0 GMT
Another extinct cetacean?

The only photograph of the vacquita is NOAA's surface pic, showing the shy, short creature avoiding the boat as far as possible; Vaquita image; Credit: © National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Paula Olson, via Wikimedia

"The little cow," is the critically-endangered vacquita, a tiny porpoise known as Phocaena sinus that lives only in the north of the Gulf of California in Mexico. Numbers this year are down to around 90, with only 25 breeding females.

This species is the most endangered of the whales (cetaceans) as well as the smallest, comparable with the situation of the various species of river dolphin with equally restricted habitats. The Earth Times account of the loss of the Chinese river dolphin, the Baiji princess, is here: - Dolphin's Demise.

The problem is the gill-nets being used in season to catch the equally-endangered totoaba, Totoaba macdonaldi. This fish's swim bladder is believed by the Chinese to have medicinal properties, as is the case with many bear bladders and other animal parts. The Mexicans catch the fish which is also endemic to the Gulf and sell for thousands of dollars. The porpoise are caught in the nets at a reported 39 per season in one port alone, even though they avoid people and boats.

This adds up to an estimated 20% loss of population each year, according to official sources.

The damming of the Colorado River has also created consequences for animals feeding offshore in the Gulf of California. Fresh water flow is limited and pesticide use is liable to make the marine concentrations more concentrated than before. However the threat of drowning in the nets is killing so many, there won't be any left to suffer from long-term poisoning.

The Mexican commission investigating the terrible situation, meets again at the end of August. The totoaba season begins in September. We have days left to enable a gillnet ban that includes all the illegal fishermen in at least 3 Mexican ports. Otherwise, there will be another small loss for mankind and a giant step towards more extinctions.