By: Courtney Gallagher
The world's smallest cetacean, the vaquitas, are going extinct. Only about 60 of these marine mammals are still alive today. It was estimated that about 200 would still be remaining in the year 2012, but a report made by CIRVA (committee for the recovery of the vaquita) proved otherwise. The decline in these animals is more than 92% since 1997.
Why it's Happening
The vaquita species is going extinct because these creatures get caught in gillnets owned by illegal fishing operations in marine areas that are protected inside Mexico's Gulf of California. The animals get entangled in them and can no longer reach the surface for air, resulting in them drowning.
The same nets and people that are killing off a majority of the vaquitas are also a danger to the ecosystem of marine life. The dragging nets that are used to capture tuna and other fish are tearing up the sea floor. It can remove lots of the fauna living in that area that may contain fish still in their juvenile ages. Changes like these can cause a disruption in the gulf's benthic food web, along with many other ecosystems across the globe.
A solution to hope for would be to make gillnets inside all of the vaquita's habitats illegal. to ensure that this would happen there'd have to be an increase in boats patrolling these areas for illegal fishing vessels, and make it illegal to even have a gillnet on board your ship.
An alternative to this would be to give fishermen vaquita safe fishing gear, things that would allow them to fish for shrimp and finfish, while keeping the vaquita from getting entangled in nets.
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat