The world’s smallest porpoise is on the brink of extinction. The vaquita marina (little sea cow) is only found in the Northern Sea of Cortez and fewer than 30 individuals remain (a dramatic decrease from last year). While fishermen do not target the vaquita directly, its numbers are decreasing due to entanglements in gillnets.
Known for its stunning seascapes and desert vistas, Baja California’s abundant reefs and thriving marine habitat attract both tourists seeking an escape and illegal fishers profiting off its biodiversity.
Together with partner Pronatura Noreste, WildAid is currently working in the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez, an uninhabited archipelago recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its incredible marine biodiversity, to improve enforcement strategies. The initiative includes developing a comprehensive control and vigilance plan, featuring new surveillance equipment and multi-agency patrols that can be replicated throughout Mexico’s coastal protected areas.
Sea Shepherd and their aging former U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Farley Mowat, have just completed a four-month mission called Operation Milagro (Miracle) to save the vaquita. They fought a 24/7 battle against gill nets, longlines and the fishermen who deploy them. With a nearly all-volunteer crew of 16, they patrol a vaquita refuge set up by the Mexican government in 2005. Using dragging tools fashioned from the anchors of the illegal nets, they scour the sea day and night pulling up anything they can find, including large gill nets and longlines. WildAid was invited on-board the Farley Mowat to experience and document what Sea Shepherd is doing in the fight to save this unique species.