This weekend I am on vacation in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. While exploring the famous lighthouse, we found a gift shop that contained many ocean-related objects. When I was checking out the books, I was astonished when I found the “Whales and Dolphins Coloring Book” by John Green. I immediately recognized the book (because of my past internet research) as one of the only in the world that contains the Vaquita. This book was published in 1990, before the Vaquita’s appearance was well-known. To give you a feeling of how much we have learned about the Vaquita in the last 20 or so years, here is what the Vaquita’s coloring page looks like:
And here is their example of the Vaquita:
They didn’t even know that the Vaquita had eye- and mouth-patches, as well as the chin-to-flipper stripe and a triangular dorsal fin. The Vaquita was discovered in 1958 from a few skulls, and first seen in 1985. We still have so much to learn, but it will not be possible to learn anything if we lose them now.
In an interview with Chris Johnson, Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho stated that the Vaquita probably has the cleanest blubber of any marine mammal. This is a direct result of the health of the Gulf of California, which is one of the least polluted and most naturally productive areas of ocean in the world. This shows how simple the Vaquita’s threat is. Once we remove the gillnets, the Vaquita is in one of the best possible places to thrive. Watch the inspirational interview below. (Not viewable in email.)
The Vaquita is Mexico’s national marine mammal. This goes without surprise as it is not only an icon but also Mexico’s only endemic marine mammal. I read this on Wikipedia, and I’ve only seen it there so I am not sure if it is official.
The Vaquita’s black eye-patch is thought to reduce glare, much like the eye-black used by football and baseball players.
The Biosphere Reserve was created in 1993, and the Vaquita Refuge was created 2005. These two areas legally protect the Vaquita from gillnets, but they do not cover the entire range of the Vaquita. Along with that, the laws within these areas are very weakly enforced, resulting in much illegal fishing. It is therefore necessary for the Vaquita’s existence to expand and enforce the Biosphere Reserve and Vaquita Refuge.
Vaquita have 32-44 teeth on the upper jaw and 34-40 on the lower. This means a Vaquita can have 66-84 teeth in total, with the average at around 74 teeth.
A usual group of Vaquitas contains 1 to 3 individuals. Occasionally there is a larger group, containing up to 10 Vaquitas. But like many other cetaceans, multiple pods join on rare instances, creating superpods that can hold up to 40 individuals!
The Vaquita reaches sexual maturity at around six years old.
There are seven species of porpoise worldwide: the Vaquita, the Burmeister’s Porpoise, the Spectacled Porpoise, the Harbor Porpoise, the Dall’s Porpoise, the Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoise, and the Narrow-ridged Finless Porpoise.
The Vaquita eats a wide range of small fish and squid. All of the 17 fish species that have been found in Vaquita stomachs can be classified as Demersal and/or Benthic species living in relatively shallow water in the northern Gulf of California.