Mexican porpoise on the verge of extinction

November 19th, 2007 - 3:47 pm ICT by admin  

London, Nov 19 (ANI): New reports indicate that a Mexican porpoise, which is the world’s most critically endangered marine mammal, is closer to extinction than previously believed.
According to biologists, only an estimated 150 individuals of the porpoise species known as Vaquita, survive in the upper Gulf of California, which happen to be its sole habitat as well. This figure is quite bleak as compared to an estimated 567 vaquitas in the region in 1999.
“The rising number of fishing boats is killing the porpoises at a rate of at least 40 a year,” said Mexican biologist Armando Jaramillo-Legorreta, lead author of the new report. “A population of about 100 must be saved for sufficient genetic diversity,” he adds.
The vaquita’s plight echoes that of other marine mammals. Last year, for instance, an international team of researchers declared the Chinese river dolphin, the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), extinct in the Yangtze River, after a belated effort to save it.
Previous attempts to alter fishing practices by creating no-fishing zones and buy out fishermen in the vaquita’s habitat have failed. This is evident from a large amount of money that the government paid regional fishermen not to fish, was spent in the purchase of new boats and motors.
But environmental groups like WWF, Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have now joined forces in a 10 million pledge to buy up boats and nets that kill the vaquita, while also seeking to develop more sustainable fishing practices.
Apart from this, the Mexican government has also allocated about 4 million this year for the vaquita, including developing alternative economic opportunities for local fishermen. The government is also allocating 1 million this year to help enforce the no-fishing regulations.
“This is the best political opportunity we have ever had to try to save them,” Nature News quoted co-author Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho as saying. “If it doesn’t work, the vaquita will go extinct,” he added.
For the long term, economic researchers at the Mexican National Ecological Institute in Mexico City, and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California at Santa Barbara, are studying how to provide alternative opportunities for the fishermen.
“We want to introduce incentive-based fishing management,” said biologist Susan Anderson, director of the Nature Conservancy’s northern Mexico programme. (ANI)

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