Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was recently honored to host Dr. Antonio Diaz de Leon, Deputy Head of PROFEPA (Federal Attorney of Environmental Protection of Mexico ) who was on the ground in San Felipe on an unofficial visit to see first-hand the issues currently facing the Upper Gulf of California, and the important work being done to protect the critically endangered vaquita from extinction.
Dr. Diaz de Leon boarded Sea Shepherd’s Island Class Cutter MV Farley Mowat, meeting crew members and discussing the important net retrieval operations the vessel has been carrying out inside the Biosphera del Alto Golfo y Rio Colorado Vaquita Refuge, a federally protected sanctuary for the world’s smallest and most endangered marine mammal.
Dr. Diaz de Leon embarked on board the MV Farley Mowat as an expedition being led by CONANP (Mexico’s Commission on National Protected Areas) with the support of Sea Shepherd to locate and photograph vaquitas is underway inside the zero tolerance area of the vaquita refuge, a 150 square kilometer area of heightened biological importance.
The presence of pangas or small fishing skiffs actively fishing with gillnets (which are banned inside the refuge) was witnessed first-hand by Dr. Diaz de Leon, who expressed immediate need for both heightened and coordinated enforcement as well as solutions for the artisanal fishing community, to ensure that this important habitat of the last vaquitas remains gillnet free.
Dr. Diaz de Leon expressed his support and thanks for Sea Shepherd’s work protecting the vaquita from extinction, and the dedication of the Mexican and International volunteers making the mission possible in the Upper Gulf of California.
The visit reinforced the strengthened collaboration between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and PROFEPA who have been collaborating under an agreement since 2016 to remove illegal gillnets from the vaquita habitat and protect it from extinction.
Sea Shepherd is grateful to Dr. Diaz de Leon and PROFEPA under Dra. Blanca Mendoza Vera for their commitment to protecting the fragile and critically important biodiversity in the Upper Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd Director is currently attending meetings in Mexico City, where the two organizations are working together to renew and reinforce an agreement of collaboration to include the ongoing presence of PROFEPA agents onboard Sea Shepherd vessels to undertake inspection activities within the vaquita refuge, as well as other expanded forms of collaboration in the interest of protecting marine wildlife in Mexican waters.