Before Vaquitas Vanish, a Desperate Bid to Save Them

This calamity has hardly gone unnoticed. The vaquita has been vanishing in plain sight, to the despair of conservationists who have been advising the Mexican government on how to save it. All of the resources brought to bear, including the protection of the Mexican Navy, have proved to be no match against the illegal wildlife trade.

“If we continue on the path we’re on, we’ll have no vaquitas in two years,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine mammal expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The vaquita are simply bycatch, trapped and drowned in curtains of illegal gillnets set for an endangered fish called the totoaba. The fish’s swim bladder is dried and smuggled to China, where wealthy diners pay thousands of dollars for the delicacy, believing it to have medicinal powers.

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Vaquitas in the Gulf of California. No more than 30 vaquitas are left, according to a…

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