SAN FELIPE, November 12th, 2019 – The Mexican Navy (SEMAR) along with Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), agents from the Office of the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), agents from the National Commission on Fisheries and Aquaculture (CONAPESCA), and Federal Police (Policia Federal), supported by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s M/V Farley Mowat, conducted a joint operation over the weekend to remove illegal totoaba fishing gear from the waters south of San Felipe.
“Confiscating this quantity of illegal nets set for totoaba bass as they migrate northwards in close collaboration with PROFEPA and the Mexican Navy eliminates a threat and ensures these nets will never be re-deployed further north and reach the critical vaquita habitat”, stated Sea Shepherd Campaigns Director Locky Maclean, concluding “ This joint operation ensures these gillnets won’t contribute to the extinction of a species”.
The use of these nets is banned in the area as they pose a great risk to the endemic vaquita marina porpoise, the most endangered mammal in the world. It is estimated that fewer than 20 vaquitas remain, and illegal totoaba gillnet fishing is the primary threat to the survival of the species.
At approximately 06:20 on the morning of November 10th, the first illegal net of the day was located and retrieval operations commenced. Over the next six hours, the crew of the Farley Mowat retrieved and removed seven illegal gillnets from the area. An additional nine nets were retrieved by Mexican Navy vessels. In total, 16 illegal nets were retrieved from the Upper Gulf of California, corresponding to over 16,000 ft or over 5 kilometers of illegal fishing gear. The nets have been taken to a safe facility where they will be destroyed, ensuring they will not return to the ocean.
Read the official statement from Mexican authorities here.
This operation marks a successful start to Operation Milagro VI, Sea Shepherd’s campaign to protect the critically endangered vaquita. Sea Shepherd has been present in the Upper Gulf of California since 2015, working in collaboration with Mexican authorities to remove the illegal fishing gear that threatens the area.
Photo Credit: Melissa Romao | Drone Photo Credit: Jack Hutton