Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on December 6, 2007
Vaquita is Spanish for “little cow”. Not sure how such a moniker became attributed to the world’s smallest porpoise, but that’s what the locals call it. However, vaquita might as well be Swahili for “vanishing”, because according to vaquita.org, it is the planet’s most critically endangered small marine mammal.
Found only in San Felipe and Roca Consag in the Gulf of California, this rare Mexican porpoise prefers shallow water and is usually spotted along the shoreline. Less than five feet long, the animal has a medium to dark gray body with beautifully distinctive black rings around the eyes and lips.
Unfortunately, the vaquita is dangerously close to extinction, with only an estimated 100-300 remaining.
Ironically, the group that gave the little cow its nickname is the one that might ultimately bring about its demise – the fishermen. As many as 80 vaquita are lost every year in gillnets meant to catch shrimp, fish and shark. And while the World Wildlife Federation developed a plan to phase out these nets and offer paid alternatives to local fisherman, it seems the fisherman are unconcerned with saving this precious species. According to a Nature.com article, the reported “$1 million from the government that ostensibly paid regional fishermen not to fish instead went to buy new boats and motors, scientists say.”
Plenty cites a recent study saying “at least 100 vaquita are necessary to preserve genetic diversity”. With the small number remaining, it takes only basic math skills to determine a tiny two-year window before extinction is almost guaranteed.