A great way to help the Vaquita is to write a letter to someone in the U.S. Government. I wrote a template that you can use (just add the info in the underlined areas.) Feel free to send it to anyone in the U.S. Government (that was who it was directed to when I wrote it.) I suggest sending it to someone such as your state representatives or senator. Or even Barack or Mitt (wait till after the election. Once you send it, by email or snailmail, you will feel good about yourself for helping. I guarantee it.
I am ______________ from ________, _________, and I ask for your attention.
In the Gulf of California, Mexico, the water is clean and the sea life thrives. That is, except for the Vaquita.
The Vaquita is a tiny porpoise (4.5 ft. long) that only lives in the extreme northern tip of the Gulf of California. And there are only 200 left. This makes the Vaquita the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and it is a mere few hour drive from the United States.
Extinction was always an abstract term for conservationists, until it actually happened to the Baiji river dolphin from the Yangtze River, China, in 2007. This extinction was the first ever for a cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) during our existence. Now that we already lost one species, another could be very near.
The rare Vaquita is declining so rapidly due to accidental entanglement in gillnets set out for fish and shrimp, called by-catch.
Gillnet by-catch is the only threat to the Vaquita, so it is pretty obvious what needs to be done: get those nets out of the water.
The Mexican Government has lately been very helpful with assisting the Vaquita organizations in getting the fishermen to stop using gillnets in that part of the Gulf. Some efforts that have been made include: the creation of the Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and the Vaquita Refuge in 2005, which makes it illegal to fish in the covered areas. Although these areas do not completely cover the Vaquita’s range, they provide important legal framework that will be very useful in the future. A program called the buy-out was recently put into use that provides incentives to fishermen who voluntarily give up fishing to an alternative livelihood, such as ecotourism or a local business. The buy-out program has something called the switch-out, in where the fishermen are given alternative fishing methods that are Vaquita-safe instead of gillnets.
Fishing is, by far, the main livelihood in the local towns of the Gulf, so it will be very difficult to stop gillnet fishing. But it must be done. The Biosphere Reserve and Vaquita Refuge must be expanded and their laws enforced. More work needs to be done on creating Vaquita-safe fishing gear to be put into use as soon as possible. More education of the Vaquita is needed for the fishermen and the general public. More time and money needs to be put into rewarding and assisting the fishermen who voluntarily change livelihoods.
Mexico has done its part. Now it’s our turn. I ask you to assist and support Mexico in their efforts to help this little porpoise, because the world cannot afford another extinction. Not here. I ask you to save the Vaquita.