Expedition summary

The 2013 Vaquita Expedition has drawn to a close. Though it was not exactly what everyone had been hoping for, there were some upsides to the expedition. Here is the email I received from Tom Jefferson on Friday:

“Greetings,
We have just returned from our 24-day Vaquita photographic expedition in San Felipe. The project had some bad luck and we were not able to get high-quality images of Vaquitas, as we had hoped. Here are some lowlights and highlights of the project:

Lowlights
1) The only Vaquita images obtained were very distant and blurry.
2) Of 22 potential days to work, nearly half (10) were too windy to even consider going out to sea. We had very little calm conditions (Beaufort 0-1), which is important for finding Vaquitas.
3) In one of our sightings that presented good photo prospects, three large trawlers moved through and scared the Vaquitas away just as we were attempting to get photos.
4) We did not observe any fishing with the new mini-trawl nets.

Highlights
1) We conducted 558 miles of searches for Vaquitas while traveling in two boats.
2) We conducted over 20 hours of intensive ‘stop and drift’ searches while sitting in the water with engines off.
3) We had 11 cetacean sightings (including several groups of long-beaked common dolphins, and large whales).
4) We observed three groups of Vaquitas at relatively close range.
5) We did not observe any illegal fishing with gillnets in the Vaquita Refuge.
6) We conducted a talk on the Vaquita for about 45 people at El Dorado Ranch.
7) We distributed educational brochures and coloring books to several businesses in town.

We are disappointed that we did not obtain any high-quality Vaquita images this year, but are not giving up. We are re-evaluating our approach for future expeditions.

Best wishes,
Tom
¡VIVA Vaquita!”

I was, of course, frustrated that the weather did not cooperate, and that once again the bad timing of large vessels scared away good photo subjects. It would have been incredible to get new Vaquita images to use for publicity, or at least witness the use of Vaquita-friendly fishing gear. Though it wasn’t an ideal mission, there are a few very important positives that we should focus on. First of all is the fact that they were able to go on the expedition in the first place. This means that they are getting the funding they need in order to successfully complete the endeavors they feel necessary to save the Vaquita. Going by the goals that I set in previous posts, the mission was technically a success in that they saw multiple groups of Vaquitas (more than in 2010!) as well as no illegal fishing. Firstly, this means that they are still alive and probably reproducing because when Vaquita are in groups it usually includes a mother and her calf, which would have been born in the spring, meaning Vaquitas were mating within the last few years and hopefully the summer of this year so calves are born next spring. Secondly, if there are no gillnets in the Vaquita Refuge, then the mortality rate of the species will be about zero, meaning any births will increase the population. I hope this expedition helped and will continue to help the spreading of awareness for the Vaquita, from the talk, to the brochures, to the coloring books. It would also be great if everyone reading this post shared their knowledge of the Vaquita on all their social networks and to all their friends. There is still hope for the Vaquita if we work together!

Expedition progress

Dr. Tom Jefferson just sent me some good news! Though the weather has not been ideal so far during the expedition, there has been a Vaquita sighting! Here is what he wrote:

“We have not had very good weather so far, but we did have one very calm day with a single Vaquita sighting very close to the boats. Three animals, but the photos did not turn out well.”

I was very excited to read this, and filled with hope that if the weather is calm for the next two weeks, they will get some really good Vaquita photos! Stay tuned.

And they’re off!

Today marks the beginning of Expedition Vaquita 2013! We wish you the best of luck ¡Viva Vaquita!

Let’s hope that they have a successful mission, including getting some good Vaquita photographs. If they start a blog during the expedition, I will post it here.

Surprise package

Today I got a surprise package in the mail from Dr. Thomas Jefferson. He sent me 7 books (some written by him, some about the Vaquita, and even one about the Baiji), a brochure, and a sticker as a thank you for me sending him 20 of my books. He has been so amazing to me, from answering my first ever Vaquita question, to sending me magazines and brochures in the mail. I just want to thank him for everything and wish him and the rest of the team the best of luck on Expedition Vaquita 2013, which begins Monday.

Package contents

The contents of the package from Tom.

Vaquita-specific books, brochure, and sticker.

Vaquita-specific books, brochure, and sticker.

The North American Conservation Action Plan for the Vaquita, 2008.

The North American Conservation Action Plan for the Vaquita, 2008.

Interior of the NACAP.

Interior of the NACAP.

Thanks Tom!

Thanks Tom!

Vaquita Expedition 2013 Campaign

There are a lot of things going on right now in the Vaquita world. Topher Jones of Bisbee, Arizona has created an Indiegogo campaign for a Vaquita Expedition 2013 to get good photographs and video of the Vaquita. I believe this expedition has nothing to do with ¡Viva Vaquita! or their possible 2013 Expedition. Either way, it sounds very neat and worth donating to: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/vaquita-expedition?c=home.

A National Geographic article about un-damming the Colorado River seems very positive at first, but it may lead to an increase of illegal fishing in the Vaquita’s range. Read it here: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/12/colorado-river-meet-the-sea/.

The Muskwa Club has contacted many nationwide aquariums and has begun to form a successful Vaquita Day 2013. The day is planned to be July 6th, and we are trying to get as many aquariums to celebrate the Vaquita on that day as possible. I might even have a table at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey! They have already arranged nationwide media coverage! This will really be a huge event! The Muskwa Club has really helped me achieve my dreams of saving the Vaquita, and they have many more crazy ideas in the works! 🙂

Being a Vaquita conservationist is one busy job!