Death bring world’s smallest porpoise closer to extinction
San Felipe, Baja California, MEXICO – March 21, 2017 – Sea Shepherd found the body of a dead vaquita porpoise floating in the Gulf of California on Sunday March 19, 2017.
The non-profit marine conservation society has been in the upper Gulf since last fall as part of Operation Milagro III to save the vaquita and the endangered totoaba bass. Sea Shepherd’s anti-poaching ships, the M/V Farley Mowat and M/Y Sam Simon are currently patrolling the area.
At 2:47pm on Sunday, the Farley Mowat crew came across the dead vaquita – known as the world’s smallest porpoise – and notified the Mexican authorities to retrieve it. The carcass is currently being held in San Felipe, frozen, awaiting an examination to determine its cause of death.
With the near-extinct vaquita porpoise now numbering less than 30, the devastating sight comes exactly one week after Sea Shepherd found a dead newborn vaquita on the beach just 33 km south of San Felipe.
San Felipe, Baja California, MEXICO – March 16, 2017 – With the near-extinct vaquita porpoise now numbering less than 30, conservation was dealt a blow on Sunday March 12, 2017, when Sea Shepherd found a dead newborn vaquita on the beach just 33 km south of San Felipe, in the Northern area of the Gulf of California.
The non-profit marine conservation society’s anti-poaching ships, the M/V Farley Mowat and M/Y Sam Simon, have been patrolling the upper Gulf since last fall as part of Operation Milagro III to save the vaquita and the endangered totoaba bass.
The body of a second, adult vaquita was reported to the crew not far from where the neonate was found, but after several days of searching by the crew, it has yet to be located. However, the locals who spotted it took pictures and gave them to SSCS in hopes that its body would still be found.
On Wednesday 15th of February, the M/V Farley Mowat retrieved three totoaba nets off the shores of San Felipe, just a few miles away from the Vaquita refuge in Mexico’s Gulf of California. In one of these nets the crew found two dead sharks. The first one was believed to be a smoothhound shark measuring 1.10 m in length. The second was a juvenile thresher shark 1.70 m long.
Both these sharks suffered long and painful suffocation whilst struggling to escape these nets. Unfortunately, the Farley Mowat arrived too late to save them. The reality is that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of nets in this area, trapping all sorts of wildlife, condemning the trapped individuals to a slow and agonizing death. A third shark was spotted by the crew in the same net, however, the shark sank as the net was pulled up and no accurate identification could be done. It was believed to be a smoothhound shark as well. However, whether the shark escaped actively or just fell off the net, its carcass sinking to the bottom of the sea, remains unclear.
On the 16th of February 2017, the M/V Sam Simon spotted a dead whale on the horizon. The animal, which appeared to be entangled in gillnets, was in waters too shallow for the Sam Simon to approach. PROFEPA, the Mexican environment law enforcement, was notified immediately. It had already identified the animal as a female Bryde's whale, about 12 m long and 12 tons, under special protection according to the Mexican law NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010. The Whale was caught in an illegal gill net used to catch the totoaba fish, located in the Reserve of the Upper Gulf of the Colorado, 30 km North of San Felipe.
On February 11th, three days before the international World Love For Dolphin’s Day, Sea Shepherd discovered 14 dolphin corpses floating between the M/V Sam Simon and The M/V Farley Mowat in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. At least two of them showed signs of a violent death, with net marks on their bodies, stab wounds or fins crudely cut off in order for the fisherman to remove them quickly from their nets.
In the last month alone, the Sam Simon has retrieved 22 illegal nets in the Sea of Cortez. These dangerous nets entangle various marine life, which likely included some, if not all, of the 14 dead dolphins that Sea Shepherd found. When a situation like this occurs, Sea Shepherd notifies Mexico’s environmental protection agency, PROFEPA who uses this data to understand the devastating effect of illegal fishing on wildlife in this area.