20 Sep 2010

Vaquita - Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is the smallest living cetacean species, reaching only up to 1,5 meters. Why is it so special? It lives only in the northern area of the Gulf of California, Mexico (Sea of Cortez). The vaquita (meaning »little cow«) is a very elusive and shy creature and is in critical danger of extinction. Latest findings reveal that only about 250 animals remain. Their numbers are declining, mainly because of accidental entanglement in gill nets. Is vaquita next in line to disappear after the extinction of the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) in 2007?

In October 2008 earthOCEAN launched project Expedition Vaquita and joined scientists to document their effort to estimate the population size, identify the main problems and find solutions. Check out the documentary Vaquita – Last chance for the desert porpoise and see what they discovered.

“The vaquita has no value as a commodity: It is too shy and small ever to support an ecotourism venture. It is not a vital link in the marine food chain. There is no cure for any human disease lurking in its liver proteins. It is just a lowly beast trying to make its way, like the rest of us. Its loss would barely be noticed. Yet it is part of the magnificent diversity of life on Earth that our generation inherited, and it is rapidly becoming part of the dwindling legacy we are leaving behind. We have a year or two now to decide whether we are going to let this species live, or whether, like the baiji, we vote it off the island and wipe that little black smile off the face of the Earth forever.”

Robert Pitman, NOAA Southwest Fisheries, ‘How Now, Little Cow?', Natural History magazine 2007.

Photo: Chris Johnson / earthOCEAN

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