We who live on an island chain in the middle of the Pacific may tend to feel isolated and detached from the rest of the world by choice, or by geography. But let us remember that we breathe the same air, work and play under the same sun, sleep under the same moon and stars (although we have superior night skies) and are connected to the rest of the world by air and water. Metaphysicists would tell us that nothing is random, spontaneous or mysterious, and that every event is the outcome of other events. Ocean lovers can envision waves on the water to understand the validity of this theory.
Springtime: a time of birth and renewal, and of new life, perspective and perennials, a time when some mothers in the animal kingdom give birth to offspring, and a time of hope for a vanishing species such as the vaquita-the rarest and most endangered species of marine mammal on our planet. Current population estimates are between 125-150 individuals, and if they go extinct, they will be gone forever.
The American Cetacean Society (ACS) founded in 1967 has just released a special Vaquita & Phocoenid issue of their journal Whalewatcher (2010, Volume 39, No. 1) completely dedicated to the family Phocoenidae and the critically endangered vaquita. ACS credits Dr. Thomas A. Jefferson, who serves as guest editor for this unique issue of Whalewatcher which contains articles and recent literature by top conservationists and scientists, illustrations of porpoise including the vaquita and Dall's porpoise, and a porpoise photo gallery.
The vaquita Phocoena sinus, or "little cow" in Spanish, has only been known to us since 1958. At about 5 feet (1.5 m) long, it's the smallest species of cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise). They live in one tiny section - about 4,000 square kilometers - of the extreme northern Gulf of California in Mexico, just south of the US border, which is only a four-hour drive from San Diego.
The primary reason for mortality is incidental capture (drowning) in fishing nets.
Unlike other porpoise and marine mammals, vaquita give birth only every other year. Newborns are born in March and April, and live to be about 20-21 years old. Vaquita have never been held in captivity, which could be a sideways argument for captivity; many rare and endangered species are captured to reside in zoos and aquaria, many for profit, and some for research in relatively controlled and safe environments. Anti-captivity advocates might argue against the practice of captivity, citing the atrocity of capture and confinement of wild animals in unnatural, artificial confinements, which are purported to be much worse than prison. Regardless, vaquita are not for the present time reproducing in captivity, and could quite possibly go the way of the Yangtze River dolphin- declared extinct in 2007--if swift action is not taken.
Vaquita are elusive, and fast swimmers, and have only recently been photographed alive.
There are several ways you can create waves of action: Tell all your friends and family about the vaquita and its plight. Avoid buying shrimp or fish caught with gillnets by supporting fishermen who don't use gillnets. Help the Mexican economy by traveling to Mexico. Write to Congress and ask them to support Mexican action to save the vaquita. Write letters of support to Mexico's Ministry of Environment. Send vaquita drawings to the United Nations, asking them to support vaquita conservation and protection.
Whales Alive! newsletter about whales, dolphins and porpoise like the vaquita Cetacean Society International
Donate to the Vaquita Recovery Fund
Click Brochure about the vaquita
To order a copy of ACS Whalewatcher email email@example.com or phone(310) 548-6279