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Protected Vaquita Territory to Increase By More Than 60%, New Totoaba Protection to Include Entire Vaquita Refuge

October 3, 2023 Mexico City The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Mexican government today signed a historic endangered species conservation agreement expanding the area of Operation Milagro’s protection of the Vaquita by more than 60%. Operation Milagro protects the Zero Tolerance Area of the UNESCO-recognized Vaquita Refuge from the illegal fishing gear that ensnares and kills the endangered Vaquita. 

Tuesday’s agreement also expands Operation Milagro’s protection protocols to include the endangered Totoaba across the entire Vaquita Refuge.

The agreement, signed by Secretary Admiral Ojeda of the Mexican Navy and Sea Shepherd CEO Pritam Singh, was witnessed by Mexican Ambassador to the United States Esteban Moctezuma. The expanded partnership extends protection to the west and northwest of the current Zero Tolerance Area to include the areas where the May 2023 Vaquita Survey identified a significant number of Vaquita sightings. The agreement also expands Operation Milagro to provide expanded protection for the endangered Totoaba.

This is a huge step forward,” remarked Pritam Singh at the signing. We are deeply grateful to our partners in the Mexican Government for expanding Operation Milagro and exponentially increasing the capacity to help protect these two species. More protection means a better chance for survival for the Vaquita and the Totoaba. Their future remains our sole focus.”

After witnessing the signing ceremony, Ambassador Moctezuma said, The successful partnership between SEMAR and Sea Shepherd is a clear example of what can be achieved towards maritime conservation with relentless commitment and trust. This unique association has strengthened the efforts to protect natural resources and ocean diversity by providing agile and effective solutions for protecting endangered species like the Vaquita and the Totoaba. We look forward to continuing and extending this collaboration for many years to come.

Sea Shepherd and the Grupo Intragubernamental sobre la Sustentabilidad en el Alto Golfo de California or GIS, continue to partner in Operation Milagro X after a historic year that saw a 90% reduction in illegal fishing activity in the Zero Tolerance Area of the Vaquita Refuge.

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