San Felipe, BCN-The government of Mexico announces the second leg of the 2019 Vaquita Survey. Sea Shepherd is pleased to collaborate with The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and world-leading vaquita scientists on this important research project in waters of the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve and the Colorado River Delta. Photo identification of specimens of vaquita marina (Phocoena sinus) to verify the presence, size and characteristics of the population, will be the two-week project’s objective.
During the previous expedition in September 2019, six vaquitas were sighted in the Gulf of California, proving that these animals still exist and are in need of protection. Using state-of-the-art equipment including Long Range “Big Eye” Scopes, this important survey provides insight into the behavior and location of the most endangered marine mammal in the world.
This next phase of the research expedition to photo identify vaquitas takes place from October 14 to 28. The first photo identification efforts were made in 2008 and later in 2017 and 2018 as well as September 2019. Photo identification consists of taking advantage of the natural marks and scars of the animals to identify each individual photographically, which allows scientists to study movements of distinctive animals and provides support to estimates of population size among other details. Thanks to this type of work, in 2018, a mother was observed with her calf – a different calf than the one that had been identified in 2017.
The positive outcome of this finding is that it opens the possibility that this species breeds on an annual basis and not every two years, as was previously believed. This implies that the recovery rate of the vaquita could be much faster than initially anticipated.
This month’s investigation is coordinated by CONANP with the support of the Mexican Navy, Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar, and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) with the participation of researchers and observers from Mexico and from other countries.
The vaquita marina, one of the smallest porpoises in the world, is endemic to the Gulf of California and is in danger of extinction.
Operation Milagro, Sea Shepherd’s campaign to protect the critically-endangered vaquita, is in its sixth season and will continue in collaboration with the Mexican government, removing the illegal fishing gear that threatens the survival of the most endangered marine mammal in the world.
Read the full release here: