The big 3

According to leading Vaquita researcher Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, there are 3 initiatives that we members of the general public can participate in to legitimately make a difference in the Vaquita’s situation. They are:

1. Raise awareness
2. Convince restaurants to only buy their shrimp from safe sources
3. Raise money towards the switch-out program

The first one has so many different levels to it. This blog is an example of the online branch of public awareness, as is a Vaquita-related Facebook post. Another branch is face-to-face awareness, such as the tables manned by the Muskwa Club and ¡Viva Vaquita!, or a Vaquita speech at an event. Some other things that can raise awareness are books (mine is the only one so far), pamphlets, or public service announcements (especially on the radio). The online branch is the easiest and most effective, because you can instantly send information around the world with the click of a button. The hard part is getting the information to a large enough audience with the information being worthwhile enough that they will, in turn, pass it around to other people. Luckily, the Vaquita is a very worthwhile cause. So all you need to do is start a chain of posts about it, and those very posts could end up being read by every person on earth.

The second one is only for the dedicated Vaquita conservationist. It would require quite a bit of research and getting out of the house. For example, the next time you go to Red Lobster, ask your waiter where the shrimp comes from. If they don’t know, ask to speak with the manager. I honestly have never seen shrimp that was not farm-raised somewhere in Asia, but I always make sure. Always. Even though there is much debate as to how/where shrimp should be caught for maximum sustainability, anything other than gillnet-caught in the Gulf of California is fine from a Vaquita standpoint. It is most important to check restaurants and grocery stores for Vaquita-unsafe shrimp if you live near Mexico, in places like California and Arizona. There are many sites, including http://vaquita.tv/, that go into detail about sustainable seafood. After all, gillnet fishing is the only thing wiping out the Vaquita. Why not make sure that you aren’t supporting it?

The third and final initiative is raising money towards the switch-out program. The Muskwa Club and the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter have teamed up to create the only charity that sends money directly to the switch-out program, and nothing else. This is vital because the switch-out program is believed to be the best chance for the Vaquita, because it is unreasonable to think that the fishermen will just give up fishing for some unknown business that could get them nowhere financially. The switch-out is a best of both worlds situation, because the fishermen still can fish with the new nets that have proven to be as or more effective than gillnets, while the Vaquitas are put in little to no danger whatsoever. To donate to the new charity, please write a check to P.O. Box 1208, San Pedro, CA 90733-1208 and write Vaquita on the memo line. Yes, I know it is a cliché, but every dollar really does count. But the Muskwa Club has bigger plans. We are attempting to contact eco-conscious celebrities and billionaires as potential funding sources. Leonardo DiCaprio and Pierce Brosnan are both part of huge efforts to save tigers and whales, so why not the Vaquita? Warren Buffett just donated $2.6 billion to charity. Yes, you read that correctly. The entire switch-out program can be funded with, at most, $180 million. I am not necessarily saying we are going to get $180 million from Mr. Buffett, but it is exciting to think about what one human can do. He can literally save a species, in theory.

Maybe I will start playing the lottery.

Ellen

Thanks to Ellen DeGeneres for talking about the critical issue of fishing net entanglement on her show. You can watch her interview with Captain Dave Anderson here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DlIPKvYJ04&sns=em. If you find an entangled or injured ocean animal, call your nearby agency:  http://www.savethewhales.org/strandingsD-2.html.

Damming

The damming of the Colorado River in the United States has led to a decrease in freshwater input into the upper Gulf of California. The long-term impact on the Vaquita from this drastic habitat alteration is of serious concern, though not as much as gillnet fishing.

How to help

According to Viva Vaquita, some ways YOU can help the Vaquita are:

Tell all your friends and family about the Vaquita.

Support conservation measures and vote for politicians with a good environmental record.

Support the Mexican economy by traveling to Mexico.

Do not buy shrimp or fish caught with gillnets.

Write your elected officials and tell them to help the Vaquita.

Write a letter to the President of Mexico and tell him to save the Vaquita. Felipe.Calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Send Vaquita drawings to the United Nations, asking them to support Vaquita conservation efforts by Mexico.
ExecutiveOffice@unep.org

Send a message to the Mexican government to show your support for the Vaquita! Below are the most relevant agencies and links to their online suggestion boxes:

SEMARNAT (Ministry of Natural Resources)
http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/Pages/buzonciudadano.aspx

CONANP (Commission of Natural Protected Areas)
http://www.conanp.gob.mx/buzon.php

Donate to the Vaquita Recovery Fund!
http://www.vivavaquita.org/donations.htm

Totoaba

The initial reason of the Vaquita’s decline was its entanglement in gillnets set out for Totoaba. Totoaba are large fish in the drum family. They share the same water as the Vaquita, and because of overfishing, are also listed as Critically Endangered. Next time you eat seafood, be careful not to have Totoaba, which is often misidentified as White Sea Bass.

Adiós

I swim in a place where fish float by.

Croakers, grunts, and shrimps you fry.

Silky sea grass below, shiny sun above,

But the Gulf isn’t a place filled with much love.

You catch us with nets set out for shrimp,

And at the moment of impact, our bodies go limp.

Our entire kind is quickly disappearing.

The weight of an entire species we’re bearing.

But the one thing we care about most:

Vaquita don’t have to say “Adiós”.