Continuing its relentless commitment to stop the imminent extinction of the endangered Vaquita porpoise, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro IV.
Lone Vaquita porpoise swimming in Gulf of California, Mexico. Photo: Paula Olson/NOAA (Public Domain)
Milagro IV, a Vaquita defense campaign, will have Sea Shepherd’s M/V Farley Mowat back on active duty for the third consecutive year in the Gulf of California - the only waters on Earth which are home to this shy and elusive mammal.
Joining the Farley for the first time on a Milagro campaign will be the M/V John Paul DeJoria. The vessel is arriving from the Caribbean where it was engaged in Operation Good Pirates of the Caribbean, a relief mission that brought aid to islands affected by Hurricane Maria and Irma.
With Milagro IV, Sea Shepherd will once again work with the Mexican government to address the urgent need to protect the elusive Vaquita before it is too late. Both the Farley and the JPD will protect the waters of the Vaquita marine reserve, remove nets, patrol for poachers, document issues facing this endangered cetacean and continue to collect data to share with the scientific community. The campaign will run through May 2018.
About the Vaquita
The Vaquita’s signature dark circles around its eyes and lips have earned it the nickname Panda of the Sea. At around 5ft in length, it is also the smallest marine mammal in the world….and the most endangered. The most recent statistics show the population has dwindled to an estimated less than 30 individuals.
The Vaquita is particularly susceptible to population decline, with a slower rate of reproduction than that of other porpoise species – giving birth to only one calf every two years. The species also has a comparatively short lifespan of approximately 20 years.
Yet despite these vulnerabilities, the biggest threat to the Vaquita’s survival are illegal gillnets fishermen put out to catch another endangered species: the Totoaba bass. The fates of these two sea animals are intertwined. Similar in size to the Totoaba, the Vaquita gets caught in these gillnets, suffocates and drowns. Meanwhile the captured Totoaba has its swim bladder removed and transported to China and Hong Kong where it sells for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market to be consumed under the false belief that it has medicinal properties.
“We must have a higher regard for ocean life if these species are to survive,” said Campaign Leader Jean Paul Geoffroy. “Human greed and lack of respect for the oceans is responsible for near-wipeout of the Vaquita. If it goes extinct, that’s another broken link in the eco-chain and one step closer to our own extinction. Sea Shepherd will not give up its fight to save the Vaquita and the Totoaba.”
Added Sea Shepherd Founder and CEO Captain Paul Watson: “Sea Shepherd is now taking on Milagro IV, our fourth year of the challenging task of preventing the extinction of the endangered Vaquita. If not for the confiscation of hundreds of nets and our drone interventions in finding the poachers at night, the Vaquita would now be extinct. There are some people who say this is a lost cause and that extinction is inevitable. We disagree. Increased patrols, increased interventions coupled with the courage and the passion of our volunteer crews can prevail. To those who say this is a lost cause, we intend to prove them wrong. Saving the Vaquita from extinction is a challenge but we are up for that challenge and we hope that you agree. Making the impossible possible is something we have been doing for forty years.”