On March 8, 2016, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Rafael Pacchiano Alamán traveled to San Felipe, Baja California Mexico to preside at a meeting with all of the governmental entities involved in the Vaquita Monitoring Program. The goals of the meeting were to assess the state of the current vaquita situation and see what changes need to be made to improve the efforts to protect the vaquita.
Sea Shepherd Captain and Operation Milagro Campaign Leader Oona Isabelle Layolle was invited to the meeting. She stressed the importance of nighttime beach and sea patrols. Land-based law enforcement are needed patrol the beaches of San Felipe where the pangas are launched while the sea-based law enforcement are necessary to stop pangas once they are in the water. In addition, Captain Oona stressed that poachers must be arrested and their charges must be greater so that the punishment matches their crimes.
Sea Shepherd's presentation to Secretary Alamán and Navy personnel showed the illegal fishing activity at night. Sea Shepherd's ships, along with the Mexican government, have been removing illegal nets every day. In the 30 days preceding March 20, 2016, Sea Shepherd removed 26 illegal nets and nine totoaba long lines.
On March 17, the Navy from Baja California, SEMARNAT, CONANP and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society held a press conference to present the “Upper Gulf of California Attention Program,” part of the government's Vaquita Monitoring Program. The event took place in the naval base of San Felipe and Sea Shepherd was invited to present images and information regarding the cooperative work between Sea Shepherd the Mexican government to protect the vaquita.
From Captain Oona statement at the press conference:
"All the conservation efforts for the vaquita aim to help the future of the communities living around the Gulf of California, so their children can live in a healthy environment, and so life can continue on our planet. Without a living sea we all die. Seventy percent of the oxygen is produced by the sea, it is essential to our survival to take care of all marine species, for the oceans to stay healthy and alive.
The vaquita is a Mexican treasure. The vaquita is endemic to the northern Gulf of California. Losing the vaquita is getting one step closer to our own extinction. Education of the population is essential to understand the importance of our environment. Fighting for the vaquita is fighting for life on our planet.
It is an honor to be able to work with the Mexican government. The collaboration between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican government is an example to the world on how we can join forces to protect our planet.
Actions that lead to the extinction of any living creatures are crimes against life and should be treated as a serious felony.
The situation is dramatic - taking into consideration the amount of vaquita left and the illegal fishing activity happening at night. But we cannot lose hope.
There are examples in Mexico of marine mammals who reached lower numbers than the vaquita and are now back to healthy numbers. The Guadalupe fur seal is one of them. They were down to 14 individuals and are now more than 10,000 because of the protection of the species by law, and enforcement of the law by the Mexican government authorities. I hope the same example will be applied to the vaquita without reaching such catastrophic numbers.
As long as we continue our efforts to protect the vaquita marina, there is hope."
All photos by Carolina A Castro
Operation Milagro II
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