¡VIVA Vaquita!

*The Muskwa Club has also accepted their offer: http://vivavaquita.org/aboutus.html!

It all started on August 8th, 2010, when I was 10 years old. At the time, I had a really strong fascination with Sperm Whales. I was looking for a way to symbolically adopt one, which led me to the Save the Whales website. In the top right corner of the page, I noticed a picture of a little gray porpoise that said “Help Save the Vaquita!!! The World’s Most-Endangered Cetacean.” I had heard of the Vaquita before from one of my marine mammal field guides, and I remember loving how they looked. But I had no idea they were endangered. I started to read about this mysterious creature called the Vaquita. Something about it evoked an emotion that I had rarely felt before. A mix of fear, curiosity, vulnerability, sadness, and determination. I could not believe it was so rare, and that is was still decreasing. How could this be happening? I knew that I had to help it.

I scrolled down and clicked on the link to ¡VIVA Vaquita!, where I was captivated even more. I entered this into the contact box, “How much money is usually donated? Is $30 good? And can I learn more about vaquitas? Thanks!” A few days later, I received a package from Dr. Thomas Jefferson, containing a bunch of things to help me learn about the Vaquita, such as some brochures and a magazine that focused on them. I was hooked. A little over a year later, on September 27th, 2011, I started the website that you are reading this post on. I have always been obsessed with ¡VIVA Vaquita! and look up to them like a celebrity, which they are, in my eyes.

They are the world’s leading Vaquita conservation group, and their work is unparalleled in the activism community. That is why their email to me last night completely shocked me. They invited V-log to become an official member of ¡VIVA Vaquita! I hope our new partnership will create some amazing new opportunities, and I will be sure to keep everyone updated. I would like to thank ¡VIVA Vaquita! again for continuous inspiration and for asking me to join their incredible organization!

In other news, the Muskwa Club will have some big announcements coming within the next few months, so stay tuned.

VIVA Vaquita

Times have changed

I remember when I was a little boy
first learning about the Vaquita.
I was filled with wonder and determination…
Determination to keep them on this planet.
I donated my Christmas money;
I didn’t get souvenirs when the rest of my family did,
so I could donate even more.
I told everyone I knew,
and told them to do the same.
I even started a Vaquita club at my school to raise money.
I emailed the experts as often as I could,
and read every book and website with the word, “Vaquita.”
I don’t exactly remember what I thought was going to happen to the species,
but I know what I wanted to happen.
That was around the time Chris Johnson’s movie came out,
and I loved it.
But I was also scared…
Scared we might lose the Vaquita forever.
Thinking back upon these things,
I wasn’t doing very much.
But I loved doing it.
Then came V-log.
I still remember coming up with the name,
“A vlog is a video-blog, and Vaquita starts with V, so it could be a Vaquita-blog!”
I was 11 at the time, so I wasn’t the best with websites.
My first post was,
“Vaquita is Spanish for ‘little cow.'”
I became obsessed with learning and writing about the Vaquita,
so I started a book on it.
When I finished writing the book,
I kind of stopped for a little while.
But then my passion was rekindled by art.
I learned that I love to draw, especially Vaquitas.
I began illustrating my book.
And then, on one fateful March morning,
I received a comment.
It was from William Whittenbury.
He told me all about his club,
The Muskwa Club.
My life changed dramatically on that day.
Together, we have accomplished so much.
Videos, tables, my book’s publishing,
and National Save the Vaquita Day.
This event coincided with the Official Norm law,
and this summer was one of utter awesomeness for the Vaquita,
and me.
I am learning the ways of a businessman, conservationist, and artist.
Or some combination of the three…
Muskwa and I may be getting some pretty crazy ideas,
but hey, they are working.

And there has never been a more exciting time in the world of the Vaquita.

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.

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/.

It’s not time to let go

Okay, so I found a link to an article in a New York Times blog post. The article, here, by Erik Vance, is on an extremely personal and controversial topic:

Should we let the Vaquita go extinct?

I had to close my eyes and calmy inhale to even make it through the article. The answer is absolutely, positively, no way in the world, not in a million years, no. He says that perhaps we should let the Vaquita go in order to get the fishermen on board with saving other endangered species of the Gulf. I am not sure if/how that would even work, but there is no way that the scientists and conservationists who have worked on saving the Vaquita for their entire careers would just let the Vaquita ‘slip away.’ I am not arguing with the fact that the Vaquita is in a tough situation right now, and that there has been phenomenal effort by the Mexican government to seemingly little avail. I am not arguing with the fact that the Vaquita is a life-changing ‘nuisance’ to the fishermen that they will likely never see in their entire lives, yet they have been very cooperative with NGOs and the government for the most part.

But this is about the big picture. The Vaquita cannot be a canary in a coal mine. It is not an option for us to learn from our mistakes on the Vaquita. We have already lost the Baiji because of human activities. Those beautiful dolphins were sacrificed so we could learn what not to do with an endangered species. The Vaquita is the test. If we can save the Vaquita, we can do anything. Tigers, pandas, rhinos, polar bears, and every other endangered species can benefit from us saving the Vaquita, not letting it go extinct. The Baiji has already filled that role.

It is also about the little picture. The Vaquita simply deserves to live. If you were born before 1958, then the Vaquita was discovered in your lifetime. Now it could go extinct within the next few years. Your life could completely encompass our knowledge of the existence of an entire species. We definitely do not want that. The Vaquita as an animal is extremely unique. We will absolutely never have a species like the Vaquita again if we lose Phocoena sinus.

So the real question is, “Now that we know the Vaquita can’t go extinct, how are we going to save it?” In June, an enormous step was taken by the Mexican government in the form of a new regulation that will phase out all shrimp gillnets to Vaquita-safe trawls within the next 3 years. This is great news, but this doesn’t mean our work here is done. The government still has to pull through with their promise, as well as develop safe trawls for finfish, not just shrimp. For now, you can help the Vaquita by raising awareness, not buying seafood caught in gillnets, and raising money towards the switch-out program. For more details, visit https://vlogvaquita.com/2013/07/14/update-the-big-3/.

So my point is, there is no way we can give up, especially after all this time and effort. This is where we need to explore the limits of human teamwork to save something that’s not a human. The Vaquita has never done anything to us, so why should we accept murdering every last one? This adorable, innocent little porpoise deserves every drop of blood, sweat, and tears we can squeeze out of ourselves. And even if the Vaquita does eventually go extinct, I could not live with myself knowing that we didn’t try our hardest to rescue it.

We need to at least, as my tennis coach would say, go down swinging.

I’ll be back

Here is what the t-shirt looks like (they simplified my drawings’ colors and details for easier printing):

front-big

back-big

big_thumbnail

I have been and will continue to be extremely busy for the next few months, due to the publishing of my book, the creation of the VCS, and helping coordinate National Save the Vaquita Day (July 6). I may not be able to post as many things during this time. But believe me, I am going to have a lot of stories to tell when it’s all over.

Mahalo Mondays

Tomorrow, Monday the 29th, is the last day to join ¡Viva Vaquita! at Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room in Monterey, California for Mahalo Mondays, where 10% of all sales go to ¡Viva Vaquita!. Dinner starts at 4 pm.

Please email Endangered Species Chocolate at info@chocolatebar.com and ask them to make a Vaquita bar. It would be an enormous deal for such a big company to advertise the Vaquita!

Also, you probably noticed that I completely changed how my blog looks. I personally like it better now. How do you feel about it?

And, for the 100th News Update, I would like to end with a riddle. Submit your answers in the comments.

What is a Vaquita’s favorite model of computer?