WWF’s successes of 2013

As the year draws to a close, WWF takes a look back on the wonderful year of 2013 in their “15 WWF Success Stories of 2013.” Of course, the biggest Vaquita news in recent memory took place this June in the form of the Official Norm law, a new regulation that guarantees that all shrimp gillnets will be phased into Vaquita-safe trawls within the next 3 years! The Vaquita is featured at number 6 on the list because it was WWF’s petition (which garnered over 38,000 signatures from 127 countries) that caused the law in the first place. We cannot give enough thanks to WWF and everyone else that has helped the Vaquita so far in its eventful, 55-year history with us (the Vaquita was discovered in 1958). Let’s have a toast to a great 2014 for the Vaquita!

My sister and I came up with a fun holiday activity to find out your Vaquita name! For example, my name is Aidan and I was born in March, so my Vaquita name would be, “Vita Marina.” Have fun and please share!

What's your Vaquita name?

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2013 shrimp season starts

On September 5, the Sonoran shrimp seasons commenced. The season generally begins in early September and ends in April, meaning you can shrimp during every month with the letter “r” in it. For the first ten days of the season, only artisanal panga fishermen, ribereños, are allowed to shrimp. But starting Sunday the 15th, the enormous trawling boats, cameroneros, are allowed to set sail. Both are of danger to the Vaquita unless they are outside of the Vaquita’s range and/or using Vaquita-safe trawls. This is an important time for Vaquita conservation because we will be able to see the Official Norm regulation hopefully be put into action. It would also be nice if all the fishermen follow the law and stay out of the Biosphere Reserve and Vaquita Refuge, but realistically, that’s not going to happen, at least not yet.

PROFEPA ships used for patrolling.  © 2008 Chris Johnson, earthOCEAN

PROFEPA boats used for patrolling.
© 2008 Chris Johnson, earthOCEAN

Hopefully PROFEPA (the part of the Mexican government in charge of patrolling the water for illegal fishing) will be out in large numbers trying to keep the reserves gillnet-free. That is another thing that will be very interesting to see during ¡Viva Vaquita!’s expedition starting the 23rd. Number one, if they see any fishermen, and if they do, what are they fishing with. I am not sure what they would do in that situation, and as cool as it would be for ¡Viva Vaquita! to go full-out Whale Wars on a tiny fishing boat using gillnets, I believe they would handle it very calmly and probably radio to PROFEPA, or something along those lines. The second thing that will be interesting to see will be if the ¡Viva Vaquita! team is spotted by PROFEPA, and if they are, will they be inspected for permits. Here is an excerpt from the blog of their 2010 expedition (hopefully they will have a blog this year too) about this very situation, which happened to be at the exact time they saw their only Vaquita during the entire 3-week trip:

“Captain Antonio sighted a Vaquita off the port-bow that surfaced twice and avoided the boat. We stopped to search, but at that same moment we were approached by the PROFEPA boat (Mexico’s environmental law enforcement agency) asking to see our permits. By the time the agents reviewed our paperwork, the Vaquita was gone. No one had been able to get any pictures. It was bad timing, but good to see the PROFEPA agents were doing their job.”

So my hopes for this year’s shrimping season is that no Vaquitas are killed by humans. This is definitely possible if the Official Norm is put into action and the fishermen follow the law. That way in the spring, when the calves are born, the Vaquita will finally begin its climb back from the brink of extinction.

For more information on this year’s shrimping season, read this article: http://sancarlos.tv/shrimp-season-commences-in-sonora/, and here is a great piece from Vaquita.tv about 2010’s shrimp season: http://vaquita.tv/blog/2010/09/17/big-expectations-for-the-2010-shrimp-season/.

List

Good news: the Vaquita is near the top of a recently published list that is the international buzz in the nature world.

Bad news: the list is of the 100 most endangered species on earth.

It is no secret to us that the Vaquita is critically endangered, nor am I trying to make it one. If it is so endangered, than it might as well be on this newly-created list. Thankfully it is on the list, and conveniently near the top so people won’t get bored of the list before they get to the Vaquita. Here is the link to one site with the list: The Guardian, and the Vaquita is the 15th one down. My one complaint, however, is that besides being able to infer that it lives in the ocean, someone who doesn’t know about the Vaquita will not know that it’s even a porpoise. Aside from that, this list is good for publicity for the Vaquita and many other troubled species.