Continuing its 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.
The 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 mammal. Joining the Farley for the first time on a Milagro campaign will be the M/V John Paul DeJoria.
With Milagro IV, Sea Shepherd said it “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.
According to Sea Shepherd, the most recent statistics show the population of vaquita 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. In addition, it 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. Similar in size to the totoaba, the vaquita gets caught in 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 for unsubstantiated medicinal properties.
“We must have a higher regard for ocean life if these species are to survive. 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,” Jean Paul Geoffroy, Campaign Leader, pointed out.
“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,” Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Founder and CEO, commented.