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Historic Decrease in Threats to the Vaquita porpoise

Washington D.C., U.S. – April 20, 2023, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) announced a 90% reduction in illegal fishing activity in the Zero Tolerance Area (ZTA) of the Vaquita Refuge in the 75 days since the new ship M/V Seahorse was introduced into the campaign to protect the Vaquita Porpoise. 2022 saw a 79% reduction in hours of illegal fishing, and this announcement builds on that progress.

The record reduction in threats to the Vaquita is the result of “Operation Milagro”, the partnership with Sea Shepherd and the Government of Mexico that protects the Zero Tolerance Area of the Vaquita Refuge. The partnership keeps the UNESCO-recognized protected zone free of the illegal fishing gear that ensnares the world’s most endangered marine mammal. 

News of the 90% reduction was shared by Sea Shepherd’s Chief Scientist Andrea Bonilla in a program entitled “Progress in Conservation” on April 18, 2023 in Washington D.C. The program featured Ambassador Moctezuma, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, Sea Shepherd’s Chairman and CEO Pritam Singh, as well as Captain Carlos Ruiz, Director of Fisheries Inspections and Vigilance for the Navy of Mexico, and various Sea Shepherd officials. 

Images, video clips, and Eng/SPA translations of the event are available HERE.

The M/V Seahorse arrived at the Vaquita Refuge on January 17th, 2023, and the new ship’s ballast allowed Sea Shepherd to remain in the ZTA through inclement weather, thus remaining stationed and vigilant for more hours than any previous ship. By April 13th, Sea Shepherd had 76 days of data. Hourly counts, 24 hours a day, were conducted using radar, binoculars, drones, cameras, and Infrared systems. The data showed that the average presence of net fishing vessels and potential net fishing vessels in the ZTA is 0.19 boats per day. On average, if any net or potential net fishing boats are in the ZTA, they spend only 1.7 hours in the area. From January 17th to April 13th, only one day had 20 potential net fishing vessels, and those boats stayed in the area for only four total hours. Compared with 2021, which registered 26.4 fishing vessels per hour per day in the ZTA, we show a reduction of over 90% in the illegal fishing vessel presence in the ZTA.

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