The situation has worsened: Vaquita is in critical danger

The Vaquita is classified by the IUCN and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in the most critically endangered category

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The situation has worsened: Vaquita is in critical danger

The Vaquita is classified by the IUCN and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in the most critically endangered category. In order to try to prevent extinction, the Mexican government has created a nature reserve that covers the upper part of the Gulf of California and the delta of the Colorado River.

CIRVA claims that this reserve covers the entire southern part of the porpoise's known range and that fishing nets are completely banned from the protected area. Even if the number of porpoises killed by fishermen were reduced to zero, there would still be risks for conservationists.

The use of chlorinated pesticides, reduced freshwater flow from the Colorado River due to irrigation, and depression due to inbreeding also have harmful effects.

About the Vaquita

It lives in low and dark lagoons located along the coast and is rarely seen in waters deeper than 30 meters.

In fact, it can survive in water so shallow that its back sticks out of the water. Other characteristics of its habitat are a strong tidal excursion, strong convection processes and primary and secondary productivity. The vaquita features the classic porpoise shape (strong and curved to a concave shape when viewed from the side).

It is the smallest of the porpoises and is thus one of the smallest cetaceans. Individuals reach 150 centimeters in length and 50 kilograms in weight. They have a large black ring around the eye and spots on the lip. The upper region of the body is medium gray to dark gray.

The underside is white to light gray, but the demarcation on the flanks is indistinct. The flippers are proportionately larger than in other porpoises and the flipper is lower and more falcate. The skull is smaller and the rostrum is shorter and wider than in other members of the genus.

There are few reports of this cetacean in the wild. It appears to swim and feed slowly, but is elusive and avoids vessels of all kinds. It emerges to breathe in a slow, forward motion that barely disturbs the surface of the water, then quickly disappears for a long time.

It has a breath that is not visible, but which causes a loud, dry and snorting noise reminiscent of that of the harbor porpoise.