Crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Operation Milagro Captures Rare Footage During First View Since 2013 of Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise in Sea of Cortez

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The lone vaquita documented by Sea Shepherd's crew is one of only 97 remaining members of its species.The lone vaquita documented by Sea Shepherd’s crew is one of only 97 remaining members of its species.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Carolina A Castro
Taken under Aviso de filmación CNANP-00-010
On April 18, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captured rare footage of the elusive and endangered vaquita porpoise in the waters of Mexico’s Gulf of California, the small cetacean’s only home on Earth. The sighting marks the first time since 2013 the shy creature has been spotted and filmed in the Sea of Cortez. The vaquita documented by the crew of Sea Shepherd USA’s Operation Milagro (Operation Miracle) campaign is one of only 97 remaining members of its species, considered by many to be the rarest marine mammal in the world.

The Sea Shepherd crew filmed and photographed as they encountered the lone porpoise on April 18, while documenting within the vaquitas’ marine refuge. The footage will be shared with the scientific community to contribute to the vitally important study and understanding of the dwindling vaquita population.

Sea Shepherd has been present in the Sea of Cortez for more than a month, with an international crew of volunteers aboard the research sailing vessel, R/V Martin Sheen. Captain Oona Layolle and her crew are documenting the plight of the vaquita population, collecting data in order to collaborate in efforts dedicated to vaquita conservation. Sea Shepherd has also been conducting outreach in the region, meeting with marine biologists, vaquita experts and other NGOs working locally to save these endangered porpoises from the irreversible fate of extinction.

The crew of Sea Shepherd USA research vessel, R/V Martin Sheen watches as the elusive vaquita swims within its marine refugeThe crew of Sea Shepherd USA research vessel, R/V Martin Sheen watches as the elusive vaquita swims within its marine refuge.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Carolina A Castro
Taken under Aviso de filmación CNANP-00-010
The smallest of all seven porpoise species, the vaquita is also the smallest cetacean in the world. These petite porpoises are particularly vulnerable to population decline, with a slower rate of reproduction than that of other porpoises – giving birth to only one calf every two years. They have a comparatively short lifespan of approximately 20 years, and have never been held in captivity. Of the less than 100 remaining vaquitas, only 25 are believed to be females of reproductive age.

According to a 2014 report from the Comité Internacional para la Recuperacíon de la Vaquita (CIRVA), a committee that includes government agencies, marine biologists and NGOs, the vaquita population drastically plummets by 18.5 percent every year – and it is estimated that the vaquita could be extinct by 2018 if they continue to fall victim to by-catch in legal and illegal fisheries.

The biggest threat to the vaquita’s survival may now be the gillnets of illegal poaching operations aimed at catching the prized totoaba fish – a critically endangered species itself. The fish are highly sought after for their lucrative swim bladders, exported from Mexico – often sent through the United States – and sold on the black market in China, where they are served in soup. CIRVA reports that fishermen can receive as much as $8,500 USD for just one kilogram of swim bladder. Destructive gillnets are set on the bottom of the sea, leaving a deadly trap not only for the totoaba but for the vaquita as well. The porpoises become trapped in the nets – and unable to reach the surface for air, they drown.

The vaquita sighting during Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro marks the first time since 2013 <br>the shy porpoise has been spotted in the Sea of Cortez.The vaquita sighting during Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro marks the first time since 2013
the shy porpoise has been spotted in the Sea of Cortez.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Carolina A Castro
Taken under Aviso de filmación CNANP-00-010
Sea Shepherd commends the Mexican government for the vital actions it is taking to prevent the extinction of the vaquita. Along with a two-year moratorium on gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat, the government provided speedboats to the Navy for patrols of the marine reserve. In addition, Mexico is spending more than $30 million USD on efforts, including a net “buy-out” program to compensate fishermen who agree to stop using gillnets. Mexico will also strongly encourage the use of other, less destructive fishing methods that will not harm the dwindling vaquita population. Sea Shepherd hopes to work with Mexico in the effort to save the world’s last vaquitas and help their endangered species to recover.

“Seeing one of the 97 vaquitas alive in the sea with our own eyes was an incredible experience for all of us onboard the R/V Martin Sheen,” said Captain Oona Layolle. “To see one of the critically endangered marine animals we are here to protect has invigorated and inspired us and reminded us of why this campaign is so important. Sea Shepherd will continue our work for this imperiled species and we hope to assist local and national efforts here to protect it. It is Sea Shepherd’s hope that one day the beautiful sight of a living vaquita in these waters will no longer be a miracle.”

Operation Milagro
Visit our
Operation Milagro
site for more information.

 


 

The lone vaquita documented by Sea Shepherd's crew is one of only 97 remaining members of its species.La solitaria vaquita documentada por
la tripulación del Sea Shepherd es uno de sólo
97 miembros restantes de su especie.
Foto: Sea Shepherd / A Carolina Castro.
Tomado bajo Aviso de filmación CONANP-00-010
El 18 de abril, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society capturó imágenes inéditas de la elusiva vaquita marina en el Golfo de California en Méjico, el único lugar en el planeta que es hogar de la pequeña marsopa en peligro de extinción. El avistamiento marca la primera vez desde 2013 en la que se ha visto y filmado a la tímida criatura en el Mar de Cortés. La vaquita documentada por la tripulación de la campaña Operación Milagro de Sea Shepherd USA es uno de los 97 miembros restantes de su especie, considerada por muchos como el mamífero marino más raro del mundo.

Durante el encuentro la tripulación de Sea Shepherd filmó y fotografió a la solitaria marsopa el 18 de abril, mientras documentaban dentro del refugio marino de las vaquitas. Las imágenes serán compartidas con la comunidad científica para contribuir al vital e importante estudio y comprensión de la disminución de la población de la vaquita.

Sea Shepherd ha estado presente en el Mar de Cortés durante más de un mes, con una tripulación internacional de voluntarios a bordo del velero de investigación, R / V Martin Sheen. La Capitán Oona Layolle y su tripulación están documentando la difícil situación de la población de la vaquita, recopilando datos a fin de colaborar en los esfuerzos dedicados a la conservación de la vaquita. Sea Shepherd también ha estado realizando conexiones en la región, reuniéndose con los biólogos marinos, expertos vaquita y otras organizaciones no gubernamentales que trabajan a nivel local para salvar a estas marsopas amenazadas con un destino irreversible de extinción.

The crew of Sea Shepherd USA research vessel, R/V Martin Sheen watches as the elusive vaquita swims within its marine refugeLa tripulación del buque de investigación de Sea Shepherd, EE.UU., R / V Martin Sheen observa como la esquiva vaquita nada dentro de su refugio marino.
Foto: Sea Shepherd / A Carolina Castro.
Tomado bajo Aviso de filmación CONANP-00-010
La más pequeña de las siete especies de marsopas, la vaquita es también el cetáceo más pequeño del mundo. Estas marsopas petite son particularmente vulnerables a la disminución de población, con una menor tasa de reproducción que el de otras marsopas – al dar a luz a una sola cría cada dos años. Ellas tienen un relativamente corto tiempo de vida de aproximadamente 20 años, y nunca se han mantenido en cautiverio. De los menos de 100 ejemplares de vaquitas restantes, sólo se cree que 25 son hembras en edad reproductiva.

Según un informe en el 2014 del Comité Internacional Para La Recuperación de la Vaquita (CIRVA), un comité que incluye a las agencias gubernamentales, los biólogos marinos y organizaciones no gubernamentales, la población de la vaquita cae drásticamente en un 18,5 por ciento cada año - y se estima que la vaquita podría extinguirse para el 2018 si continúan siendo víctimas de la captura incidental en las pesquerías legales e ilegales.

La mayor amenaza para la supervivencia de la vaquita ahora podrían ser las redes de enmalle de operaciones de pesca furtivas destinadas a la captura del preciado pez totoaba - una especie en sí misma en peligro crítico. Los peces son muy codiciados por sus lucrativas vejigas natatorias, exportadas desde México - a menudo enviados a través de los Estados Unidos - y se vende en el mercado negro en China, en el que se sirven en sopa. CIRVA informa que los pescadores pueden recibir hasta $ 8,500 USD por un solo kilogramo de vejiga natatoria. Las destructivas redes de enmalle son colocadas en el fondo del mar, dejando una trampa mortal no sólo para el totoaba pero también para la vaquita. Las marsopas quedan atrapadas en las redes - y sin poder llegar a la superficie en busca de aire, se ahogan.

The vaquita sighting during Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro marks the first time since 2013 <br>the shy porpoise has been spotted in the Sea of Cortez.El avistamiento de una Vaquita durante
la Operación Milagro de Sea Shepherd
marca la primera vez desde 2013 en que
la tímida marsopa ha sido vista en el Mar de Cortés.
Foto: Sea Shepherd / Sandra Alba.
Tomado bajo Aviso de filmación CONANP-00-010
Sea Shepherd felicita al gobierno de México por las vitales acciones que está tomando para evitar la extinción de la vaquita. Junto con una moratoria de dos años en la pesca con redes de enmalle en el hábitat vaquitas, el gobierno proporcionó lanchas rápidas a la Marina para las patrullas de la reserva marina. Además, México está invirtiendo más de 30 millones de dólares en los esfuerzos, incluyendo un programa de red de "compra" para compensar a los pescadores que estén dispuestos a dejar de utilizar redes de enmalle. México también alentará enérgicamente el uso de otros métodos de pesca menos destructivos, que no perjudiquen a la menguante población de la vaquita. Sea Shepherd espera trabajar con México en el esfuerzo por salvar últimas vaquitas del mundo y ayudar a su especies amenazada a recuperarse.

"Ver a una de las 97 vaquitas vivas en el mar con nuestros propios ojos fue una experiencia increíble para todos nosotros a bordo del R / V Martin Sheen," dijo la capitán Oona Layolle. "El ver a uno de los animales marinos en peligro de extinción, por el que estamos aquí y hemos venido a proteger, nos ha fortalecido e inspirado y nos recordó por qué ésta campaña es tan importante. Sea Shepherd continuará su trabajo por esta especie en peligro y esperamos ayudar en los esfuerzos locales y nacionales para protegerla. Sea Shepherd tiene la esperanza de que un día el hermoso avistamiento de una vaquita que vive en estas aguas ya no sea más un milagro".

Operation Milagro
Visita nuestra página de
Operación Milagro
para más información.
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