Photo: International Whaling Commission


The Mexican government is currently considering lifting endangered-species protection for the totoaba fish, which will almost certainly negatively impact the country’s indigenous vaquita porpoise, one of the world’s most endangered mammals.

With only about 10 of the critically endangered marine porpoises, which are endemic to Mexico’s Sea of Córtez in the Upper Gulf of California, still in existence, the few remaining vaquitas could soon be wiped out by gill net fishing for the also-critically endangered totoaba, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Nevertheless, according to a press report filed by the Associated Press’ (AP) Mark Stevenson on Friday, March 12, an “inter-agency group is considering lifting endangered-species protection on the totoaba.”

Stevenson went on to say that the Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat is not expected to publicize the group’s recommendations before March 26 and had so far not commented on the group’s proposals.

The bladder of the totoaba fish is a highly-sought (and pricy) delicacy in China, and the group — whose composition was not disclosed in the AP article — had opted to legalize its capture in order to allow local fishermen to cash in on its sale.

Moreover, the article said, the group was considering “reducing the protection area for the vaquita marina in the upper Gulf of California, the only place the vaquita lives,” opening up more areas to gill nets used for totoaba and other species that trap and drown vaquitas.

“The group also revived an old, discredited theory that blames the vaquitas’ decline on the lack of water flows from the United States through the Colorado River, which starts in the United States and empties into the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez,” Stevenson wrote.

“The Colorado River theory posited that a decline of fresh water from the river due to U.S. usage had increased salinity in the upper gulf, somehow affecting the vaquita.”

Stevenson said that “a scientist who is familiar with issue, but who could speak on the record for fear of antagonizing the Mexican government, called the renewed use of the theory a nationalistic ploy that had no basis in science.”

All scientific research clearly indicates that “fishing nets are the main cause of the deaths of vaquitas,” Stevenson’s sources said.

…March 16, 2021

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