Let’s go Sea Shepherd Vaquita protection going on!  For on the Heels of an Announcement by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Government’s strong commitment.

Protecting the Sea for Vaquita

Sea Shepherd Vaquita protection Plan Reports it has been Documenting the Plight of These Endangered Porpoises in the Marine Reserve in the Sea of Cortez

April 17, 2015 – Mexico – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society announces it has had a crew present in the Sea of Cortez for more than a month on Operation Milagro, a campaign dedicated to the protection of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

Sea Shepherd Vaquita protection

With only an estimated 97 vaquitas remaining, this campaign addresses the urgent need to protect these vulnerable marine mammals from extinction. This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. For he was detailing the government’s firm commitment to conserving the vaquita.

This announcement has inspired hope for this imperiled species. Mexico is enacting a two-year moratorium on gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat that takes effect later this month. Moreover, taking other critical steps to protect the endangered cetacean.


Operation Protecting the Sea abs Vaquita

Since the launch of Operation Milagro in March of this year, crewmembers aboard Sea Shepherd USA’s research sailing vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen. It was captained by veteran crewmember Oona Layolle.  For they have maintained a presence within the marine refuge of the vaquita in the Gulf of California’s Reserve de la Biosphera.

Monitoring and therefore documenting the issues facing this species. The Sea Shepherd crew has been surprised to see the extent of illegal fishing and deadly presence of gillnets. Especially within these protected waters.

This is the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen on Operation Milagro. (photo credit: Sea Shepherd/Carolina A Castro)
This is the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen on Operation Milagro. (photo credit: Sea Shepherd/Carolina A Castro)

The vaquita, the smallest cetacean in the world.

For it is native to this region and is known only to occur here. According to reports from CIRVA (Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita), a committee that includes government agencies, marine biologists and NGOs, the vaquita population is declining by a shocking 18.5 percent each year – and if measures are not taken to halt this downward spiral, it is believed that the species could be extinct by the year 2018. Of the estimated 97 remaining vaquitas, only about 25 of the petite porpoises are believed to be females of reproductive age. In addition, since the vaquita has a slow reproductive rate. Thereby giving birth to just one calf every two years. For these animals are being wiped out faster than they can possibly reproduce.

Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd commends the Mexican government. Especially for the vital actions it is taking to prevent the extinction of the vaquita. Along with the two-year moratorium on gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat. For that’s located in the northern Gulf of California.

I mean government has offered the use of speedboats to the Navy to patrol the reserve. During yesterday’s press conference in San Felipe, President Nieto officially presented to the Navy the keys to the vessels. Those that will now be dedicated to protecting the vaquita by patrolling for poachers and helping to enforce the gillnet ban.

In addition, Mexico is spending more than $30 million USD on efforts. That’s including a net “buy-out” compensation program for fishermen who agree to stop using gillnets. The government will also strongly encourage the use of other ideas. Those less destructive fishing methods that will not harm the dwindling vaquita population.

Sea Vaquitas

The vaquitas often become by-catch in gillnets set by both legal and illegal fisheries. The biggest threat to the vaquitas’ survival is likely now the gillnets of illegal poaching operations. Of course seeking the totoaba fish. Especially because it’s a critically endangered marine species itself.


The totoaba is a prized and lucrative catch for poachers who cash in on the high price tag of the fish’s swim bladder, which is exported from Mexico, often being sent through the United States, and sold on the illegal black market in China, where it is served in soup. CIRVA reports that fishermen can receive as much as $8,500 USD for just one kilogram of swim bladder. The fish are caught, their bladders are removed and the rest of each critically endangered totoaba. All which can reach two meters in length – is simply left to rot.


Gilnets are set on the bottom of the sea. Thereby leaving a deadly trap not only for fish but for the vaquita as well. The porpoises become trapped in the nets, and unable to reach the surface for air, they drown.

Mexico is leading the way in the movement to save the last vaquitas on Earth. Sea Shepherd hopes that the U.S. and Chinese governments will follow suit and take decisive steps together to end the illegal totoaba trade that is threatening both endangered species.

Sea Shepherd hopes to work with Mexico in its ongoing efforts in this region to protect the diminishing vaquita population and its habitat. Throughout our history, Sea Shepherd has had great success working with governments and officials to protect ocean wildlife and oppose poaching operations.

Sea Shepherd Efforts

Since 2000, Sea Shepherd has maintained a positive presence in the Galápagos Islands. Thereby working in cooperation with the Ecuadorian government and the Galapagos National Park Service. Especially to protect this UNESCO World Heritage Site from illegal shark finning and the trafficking of wildlife.

Among other efforts, Sea Shepherd has provided an AIS tracking system to monitor vessels operating within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In addition, he worked with Ecuadorian police to form an elite K-9 unit. One that’s dedicated to detecting contraband wildlife. That’s the first unit of its kind in South America. 

Along with efforts to document the plight of the vaquita in the marine reserve, Sea Shepherd has been active in outreach in the region to discuss efforts to protect these elusive and endangered cetaceans. Captain Layolle and members of her crew have met with marine biologists, vaquita experts and other NGOs in Mexico dedicated to this important work in a cooperative effort to assist this species on the brink of extinction. The Mexican government has shown itself to be serious about protecting its marine wildlife. Sea Shepherd stands ready to assist in defense of the world’s remaining vaquitas, before it is too late.


So President Peña Nieto said yesterday that Mexico is home to 10% of the world’s bio-diversity.  Moreover, he has shown that the government is willing to protect that remarkable eco-system. Because this vulnerable marine species calls for Mexico’s waters: its only home on Earth.

Sea Shepherd believes the miracle of the vaquita’s survival is not only possible. In addition, he will do everything we can to help.

In addition and for more information on Operation Milagro, please visit: http://www.seashepherd.org/milagro/.

Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA

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