The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is considered the world’s smallest cetacean. They are found in the northernmost tip of the Gulf of California also known as the Sea of Cortez. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a rich ecosystem that include a wide range of endemic and migratory creatures.
About the Vaquita:
- The vaquita is also known as the ‘smiley panda of the sea’ due to the dark circles around its eyes and mouth.
- Vaquitas have a comparatively short lifespan of approximately 20 years compared to other porpoises.
- Vaquitas have never been held in captivity.
- They have a slower rate of reproduction, birthing a calf every two years.
- The vaquita has been listed as critically endangered since 1996. In 2019, the Gulf of California has been added to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the imminent extinction of the vaquita.
- Estimates based on acoustic research indicate that there are less than 10 remaining.
- The government of Mexico, determined to prevent the vaquita’s extinction, enacted a two-year moratorium on fishing with gillnets in the vaquita’s habitat.
- A protected refuge for the vaquita was established in 2005 in an attempt to stop this marine mammal from falling victim as by-catch in the deadly gillnets. Unfortunately, due to a lack of enforcement, this measure failed to solve the problem and the vaquita population declined even further.