Happy holidays!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and is taking this time to enjoy their families, friends, hobbies, and the little things in life. It is very important to appreciate the people and things we take for granted, because you never know when they will be gone. I also hope that some of you are still thinking about the Vaquita, and are preparing for what is sure to be one of the most historic years in the history of conservation:

2016: The Year of the Vaquita

Our team firmly believes that 2016 is a make or break year for this species. I don’t know about you, but we sure want it to be a “make” year. If all goes as well or better than it did this year, the Vaquita could very well be on its way to recovery. It has been too many years in a row that we have been wishing for things to get better. Things are finally starting to turn around, but it is still up to us wildlife warriors to make sure things stay on track. We need to sign petitions, make donations, create social media campaigns, and take the world by storm with International Save the Vaquita Day 2016. Let’s keep the pressure on, and never give up the fight.

A very special Christmas gift for someone who truly cares about wildlife is to make a donation to the Vaquita on their behalf. A truly amazing person will genuinely appreciate this gift, even though there is nothing physical to unwrap, although you could get creative and give them something to open, like a stuffed dolphin with a Vaquita donation certificate. (This is a great last-minute gift because there is no shipping involved.)

One of the most exciting developments that occurred this year was Sea Shepherd’s sudden, unprecedented, and impactful involvement in the situation by having a vessel (about to be two vessels!) in the water patrolling the Vaquita refuge, removing nets, photographing Vaquitas, teaming up with the Mexican government, and getting the Mexican Navy to arrest poachers. The first leg of this mission was earlier in 2015, and the second leg just began. They call this campaign Operation Milagro, which is Spanish for miracle. We hope there will be a miracle for the Vaquita! Here are the first four episodes of their new vlog series (click here for the entire playlist, where they post a new video every Tuesday morning), documenting the amazing things they are accomplishing! It’s basically like watching Whale Wars, but much more peaceful! Click here to support Operation Milagro II: http://www.seashepherd.org/milagro2/

The best news of the year is probably the fact that almost no gillnets have been found in the Vaquita’s refuge since enforcement of the 2-year ban began. Because of this, at the very recent 21st biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in San Francisco (MarMam15), the Mexican government and its Vaquita recovery team was awarded with the first-ever International Conservation Merit Prize. Senator Rafael Pacchiano Alamán received a standing ovation from a huge room of marine mammal scientists and enthusiasts after his optimistic acceptance speech. Mexico must really feel motivated to continue with this tremendous progress, especially now that all eyes are on them.

Take a look at these two sonar readings of fishing boats in the Vaquita refuge, one from the 2008 survey, and one from this year’s. This is wonderful news (photo via Twitter courtesy of Emily McParland from the MarMam15 conference):

Sonar readings

The new issue of the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology just came out, and this one is exclusively about the Vaquita! This is a great issue, with many worthy reads. William Whittenbury and I wrote an article in this issue about why everyone should care about the Vaquita’s survival. Check it out!

http://oers.ca/journal/volume8/issue1/issue.pdf

And finally, please sign the new Defenders of Wildlife Vaquita petition asking the U.S. government to eliminate the illegal smuggling of Totoaba swim bladders through the United States: http://www.defenders.org/content/save-vaquita-0

I will sign off for the year (unless there is a huge announcement or breaking news in the next week) with a throwback to 2011. Exactly 4 years ago, I wrote this poem as a tribute to the classic work “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore. It was one of my first poems on this blog, so don’t be too critical.

See you in 2016 for The Year of the Vaquita, and have a wonderful V-mas!

‘Twas the night before V-mas,

And all through the pod

Vaquita were gossiping,

With whispers and nods.

The fish were packed in the coral with care,

In hopes that St. Blue Whale would soon be there.

The calves all rested on the water’s surface,

But they couldn’t sleep because they were nervous.

The parents set out the croakers and milk,

And lay on their seabeds, softer than silk.

When up on the surface arose such a splash

That sounded like Narwhals in heated clash.

Papa V swam to the top like a jet.

And guess who was there? Guess whom he met?

St. Blue Whale, floating with a smirk.

Warm eyes and a smile, he couldn’t be a jerk.

He had eight antsy dolphins pulling his reins,

And a sack full of treats like seaweed canes.

He left some presents under the Christmas Reef,

And called to his dolphins, “Now Swimmer, now Spinner, now Breacher and Sleef,

On Logger, on Ringer, on Pinger and Turf!”

And St. Whale and his pod swam off in the surf.

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