Why are we doing this?

We spend a lot of time asking how to save the Vaquita.

However, asking why may be just as important.

To me, it has always been obvious. When any creature is in trouble, I want to help it; let alone when we are the reason behind its suffering. There are countless other amazing people who think this way, and because of them, the Vaquita is still swimming today.

But this morning I read a comment on a social media post about how exciting the recent Vaquita sightings are, and it went something like this:

“Thank God. Now, because of this, all the homeless have homes, the unemployed have jobs, and the beaten wives have boxing lessons. It’s so great that we’ve seen a bloody porpoise.”

I will not name this person, because, of course, everyone is entitle to their own opinions. I just found this comment very intriguing. I am sure this person is not alone in thinking this way about environmental issues, so I will delve into this a little.

I will start off by saying homelessness, poverty, and abuse are some of the most tragic realities of our world today. It is unfair that people have to spend the only life they have in such terrible situations. And because of how upsetting these things are to the general public, there are countless organizations dedicated to helping these sufferers and victims.

But just because there is something terrible happening, doesn’t mean that all other terrible situations should be forgotten about. There are enough people in this world to help both humans and nature.

And believe me, nature needs saving.

But why? What’s the big deal if an almost never-seen porpoise disappears? Here is an excerpt from my upcoming article (stay tuned for when it gets published) in the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology:

“The extinction of the Vaquita would have major global impacts in a variety of ways. The effect on the local ecosystem would be seen very quickly because the Vaquita is an important species in the food web. If Mexico allows the Vaquita to go extinct, there would be numerous social and economical repercussions. In addition, every living organism is valuable; an entire species is even more so. We have the moral duty to save a species when we are the reason they are endangered. Finally, the outcome of the Vaquita’s situation will affect conservationists all over the world. If the Vaquita goes extinct, it will send the message that we don’t have the will to save endangered species, and it will happen again and again. However, if we do save the Vaquita, it will inspire conservationists to work harder to save other species in similar situations. The Vaquita needs to be saved for the Vaquita, its ecosystem, other endangered species, and for us.”

The philosophy that humans are the only species that matters has put our planet into a downward spiral for the past few hundred years. We haven’t really felt the effects of this spiral yet, but very soon, we are going to experience the repercussions of our collective neglect for this planet’s resources and for other species.

However, it is not too late to reverse some of the damages we have made. One of the best opportunities to do so in dramatic fashion is to save the Vaquita.

So when three Vaquitas are seen by decision-making Mexican dignitaries at the beginning of an extremely important survey, just when hope is fading, there is reason to celebrate. That is why we are glad to see a bloody porpoise.

Here is a photo gallery of the expedition so far, and it gives an idea of how important it really is:

Expedition gallery

SEMARNAT Press Conference

Most recently, the illegal Totoaba trade has been focused in Hong Kong, as discovered by Greenpeace. Please sign their petition to end this trade, which as you may know, is the primary cause for Vaquita bycatch:

Greenpeace Hong Kong Petition

And lastly, Mexican-American non-profit organization World’s Aquarium has created a campaign to fund their program to help monitor the illegal fishing in the Gulf. Non-governmental participation is a necessary effort in this fight. Please donate if you can; there are no better causes:

Marina Vaquita Observer Program

Let’s save this bloody porpoise! 😉

Crunch time

Vaquita conservation may never be the same. In a recent study, a remarkable discovery was made: the Vaquita, always considered to be a true porpoise, is actually more closely related to fish in the Psychrolutidae family, also known as blobfishes.

April fools! I’m sure most of you didn’t fall for that… Vaquita are still 100% mammals (and porpoises). On a more serious note, the 2-year ban on all gillnets in the Vaquita’s range officially begins TODAY, April 1 (this was not actually the case. The ban was delayed once again, but officially began on April 10, and is set to go into effect on April 28.) It is unfortunate that it took until now for it to start, but there is no point of harping on the past. The ban has started, and now it is crunch time for us. We need to keep the pressure on with petitions (see previous post) to make sure they strictly enforce the ban. The recovery of the Vaquita begins NOW.

Here’s a great video in Spanish (with English subtitles) by Greenpeace with some wonderful visuals!

International Save the Vaquita Day 2015 is officially July 11, and you can read more about it here: http://www.vivavaquita.org/international-save-the-vaquita-day.htmlISTVD Logo The International A-Team for Wildlife is an organization dedicated to educating the public about endangered animals and encouraging youth to participate in conservation. The group has a select “A-Team,” a group of 18 kids from around the world that have extensive experience and accomplishments in wildlife conservation. I am honored to be one of those 18 kids! http://www.a-teamforwildlife.org/international-team/ AidanB-ProfilePic

We can save the Vaquita! If we work together, we can keep gillnets out of their range…for good.

Even more good news!

Happy Friday! As if you need any cheering up on a Friday, I have even more good news to go along with the new 2-year gillnet ban.

After 40 years, the United States has finally made the decision to ban all seafood imports that are not marine-mammal safe. The ultimate form of a boycott, not only will this save hundreds of thousands of marine mammals from unnecessary death, it will encourage Mexican fishermen to switch to safe nets due to the increased demand of sustainable seafood by the US. Read the full article, http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/26080, below:

“In a landmark settlement reached yesterday, more than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other “bycatch” from fishing will be saved from accidental killing.

Despite US efforts to protect marine mammals in its own waters, we continue to import seafood from countries that don’t abide by our laws.

The lawsuit forces the US government to adopt long overdue policies that ban imports from those countries. All countries we import from will have to meet the same marine mammal protection standards required of US fishermen – a 40-year-old provision of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Fishing gear is the most significant threat to whale and dolphin populations worldwide. For example, Vaquita – the world’s smallest porpoise – is close to extinction because so many are caught in Mexico’s shrimp gillnets. There are only 97 left. Under the new policy, that shrimp would be barred from entering the US until fishing fleets meet standards that protect Vaquita.

Vaquita

“This law provides real, enforceable protections for marine mammals and sets up an even playing field that allows our fishermen to be competitive in the US market. If we’d had these standards 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be scrambling today to save the imperiled Vaquita. Thankfully, if this law is implemented, other species won’t share their fate,” says Zak Smith of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Americans eat 5 billion pounds of seafood each year, about 90% of which is imported and half, wild-caught.

The settlement in the US Court of International Trade is on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. The US government has until 2016 to develop standards that imports must meet.

It’s supported by an executive order on oceans from President Obama last year, which takes aim at rampant seafood fraud and the global black market fish trade. He directed federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program that deters illegal fishing and prevents illegally caught fish from entering the US marketplace (20-32% of all wild-caught seafood!).

Global Fishing Watch will be there to help by exposing illegal practices and creating a deterrent to breaking the law.”

This new law will tie in very nicely with all of VIVA Vaquita and the Muskwa Club’s plans during the new 2-year ban. All of these new developments, if well-implemented, might have come just in time to save the Vaquita.

If we can save the Vaquita through sustainable fishing, we are showing the world that we can coexist with animals without one or the other suffering. Also, it will be an example of what can be done to save a species, inspiring other conservationists to not give up. So what I’m saying is, not only does it matter for the Vaquita itself, but saving this species will have timeless global implications.

Greenpeace’s petition was a big part of this new ban, garnering over 320,000(!) signatures, each one sending a letter directly to the President of Mexico. But they made an important point:

“There are some missing measures that must be included for this [2-year ban] to be fully effective. The most important is to strengthen surveillance and enforcement. Illegal gillnetting in the Vaquita habitat is common and must be eliminated. We’re also urging the Mexican government to make this a permanent ban on gillnet fishing.

By the end of this month the proposal will have passed through consultation and be ready for a final draft. This doesn’t mean the campaign is over, as there may be more campaigning needed… there’s a big difference between what’s written on paper and what happens on the water.”

It is wonderful to have such a big powerhouse organization like Greenpeace fighting for the Vaquita.

Each day I get more confident that we really will save this species.

Greenpeace

I just received an email from Greenpeace UK stating that their new Vaquita petition is the fastest-growing petition in Greenpeace history! They already have over 250,000 signers in 3 days, and it’s our job to keep that number shooting up. Please share this link to keep the heat on the Mexican government as they make their decision any day now about what their plans are for the Vaquita!

https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/protect-the-vaquita3

I am very pleased to say that Greenpeace is using one of my paintings for their social media outreach for this campaign!

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I have noticed some misunderstandings about this picture. As I said when I posted this a while back, this is a digital painting/photo manipulation of a photograph of a captive harbor porpoise from the Netherlands. It has become by far my most popular artwork (it is near the top when you search ‘Vaquita’ on Google images), so I just wanted to clear up everything. I obviously did not intend to confuse anyone. Vaquitas cannot be kept in captivity for many reasons, so this kind of view of a Vaquita is impossible. I wanted to show what it would be like to see a real, alive Vaquita close up. And of course, I do not want to cause any problems for the original photographer.

But I am flattered that Greenpeace thought it was a real Vaquita. 😉

The last stand

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy

I want to be a Vaquita scientist when I grow up, not a conservationist. I don’t want to live in constant fear of the day that the Vaquita goes extinct. I want to go out on a boat and do research while admiring a mother and calf happily swimming.

And I certainly want to have Vaquitas to study.

These all require the Vaquita to not go extinct. In a way, me trying to help the Vaquita now (as a kid) is ensuring that my dreams of the future will come true. In essence, the Vaquita is my bank account; I am depositing money now (helping the Vaquita) so I can have a lot more in the future (study the now-abundant Vaquita).

I am sure there are many other people like me who wish to save the Vaquita, for various reasons. But the point is, we can’t realize this dream without all of us working together.

This is literally the final chance to save the Vaquita. They are right at the population size that has always been considered past the point of recovery. Without a voice like us, the Vaquita is doomed. This is our last stand.

“A last stand is a general military situation in which a body of troops holds a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. The defensive force usually takes very heavy casualties or is completely destroyed, as happened at Thermopylae, or Custer’s Last Stand. Bryan Perrett suggests that although the majority of last stands throughout history have seen the defending force overwhelmed, on rare occasions the outnumbered defenders succeed in their desperate endeavors and live to fight another day, and he lists the Battle of Rorke’s Drift as one such engagement.”

Last stand

This has an eerie resemblance to our situation. But we need to replicate the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, not Thermopylae or Custer’s Last Stand. It will take a little luck, but we will have no chance unless we put forth our best effort.

To read more about what is happening, click this link: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/zsmith/this_week_in_whales_focus_ngos.html

And here is the letter that was sent to the Mexican President: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/zsmith/Letter%20to%20President%20Pe%C3%B1a%20Nieto%20FINAL.pdf

The Mexican government is scheduled to make their announcement about their official plans to save the Vaquita TOMORROW, so while you are feasting with your family or watching football, keep the little porpoises in the back of your mind, and maybe even shoot them a prayer.

A new way for you to help is through Greenpeace’s new campaign by sending a personal letter of your own to the Mexican president: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/speakout/save-the-vaquita?js=false

Please like VIVA Vaquita on Facebook for constant updates and links, and stay tuned to V-log to get the latest Vaquita info.

Finally, we have reached the minimum number of shirts sold in Muswka’s campaign, so everyone is guaranteed to receive their shirts! If you haven’t already, please purchase a limited edition Vaquita shirt for yourself or a loved one just in time for the holidays. There is less than a week left, but we are only 13 away from our goal! Please help us surpass our goal, because all funds go to the Muskwa Club, a leading Vaquita conservation group that is on the cutting edge of porpoise conservation and awareness. The only thing holding back Muskwa from succeeding in all of its many projects is funding, so buying this shirt really could save the Vaquita.

And it’s pretty stylish.

http://www.booster.com/savethevaquita97