Make the gillnet ban permanent!

If the Vaquita is to be saved, four things need to happen:

  1. The gillnet ban is made permanent
  2. The ban is properly enforced
  3. The Totoaba swim bladder trade is shut down
  4. Alternative, Vaquita-safe fishing gear is developed and implemented

These are not going to be easy to accomplish, but Mexico certainly has the power and will to make them all a reality.

We need to show our support and clarify exactly what needs to be done to save this species. But how can I tell the Mexican government these four things? How can I make my voice heard?

Now there is an easy way.

The VIVA Vaquita Coalition has started a petition to get this message to:

President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto
Secretary of SEMARNAT Rafael Pacchiano Alamán
Director of CONAPESCA Mario A. Aguilar Sánchez
Minister of SAGARPA José Eduardo Calzada Rovirosa
Director of INAPESCA Dr. Pablo Arenas Fuentes
 ~~~~~

These people are extremely influential and literally have the power in their hands to save the Vaquita. If they agree to the four things above, the Vaquita will most likely thrive.

Signing the petition is extremely easy. All you have to do is fill in your name, email address, etc. and press Sign! Or you can log in to Change.org with Facebook or email, and literally just click one button to sign!

If there is one thing you ever do for the Vaquita, make it signing this petition.

Thank you from the VV coalition and the Vaquita.

To learn more and sign, click here:

https://www.change.org/p/make-the-gillnet-ban-permanent-to-save-the-vaquita

And don’t forget to support the Thunderclap!

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Muskwa’s new president

It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am the new president of the Muskwa Club, Inc. I will be taking over for William Whittenbury, who is heading off to Northwestern University (but don’t worry, he will still be running the college department of Muskwa). I am extremely excited as to what the next few years will hold for me and the Muskwa Club, and whatever happens, I know that we will be making a huge difference in this world. Feel free to watch my official inauguration speech below.

Silver linings

There’s no other way to put it. The Vaquita is in a terrible situation.

There are fewer than 100 remaining, and they all live in a relatively miniscule area. They have consistently declined for as long as we have known about the species, and it could be getting even worse. There is a lot of conflict among governments and NGO’s in terms of who wants to help the Vaquita and who doesn’t. However,

“A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.”

We must look at the silver linings of the very dark storm cloud that is the Vaquita’s situation.

The Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his committees are being extremely helpful, which is obviously a huge step. There are many confidential progressions being made in the “Vaquita Headquarters,” many of which are positive.

Conservation group LightHawk will be “flying monthly aerial surveys over the northern Gulf of California” this year to monitor the fishing activities in the Gulf, both legal and illegal. This kind of surveillance is a major part of enforcing the new laws to protect the Vaquita: http://www.planeandpilotmag.com/products/whats-new/lighthawk-flies-to-help-save-endangered-porpoise.html

Some more great news is that the Colorado River has finally reunited with the Gulf of California. What this means for the Vaquita, it’s hard to say. But let’s just admire some great restoration work: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/19/a-sacred-reunion-the-colorado-river-returns-to-the-sea/

Another example of great Vaquita conservation is the San Diego Zoo: http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/2014/10/31/helping-vaquita-porpoises/

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium, famous for their dolphin Winter (the subject of both Dolphin Tale movies), has started a major campaign to save the Vaquita: http://www.seewinter.com/get-involved/winters-hope-vaquita

Two more petitions that we would really appreciate you to sign are:

https://secure.oceanconservancy.org/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=8399D1166361249BAC174C8F19764608.app260b?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=846&s_src=14WAXAXXXX&s_subsrc=14AVQE

http://www.change.org/p/prevent-the-extinction-of-the-vaquita-porpoise-the-world-s-most-endangered-marine-mammal

I have a second edition of my book in the works, so keep an eye out for that in the near future…

Finally, many of you remember the Vaquita Blanket Challenge. It was a challenge (much like the ALS Ice Bucket one) where we encouraged participants to get wrapped up in two blankets and try to escape in under 97 seconds (the number of Vaquitas left). Though there were some wonderful participants, many people either didn’t have the time to film themselves doing this or simply were embarrassed. Therefore, the t-shirt campaign for people who had taken the challenge did not thrive by any means. In light of this, I have created a new t-shirt campaign that isn’t related to the challenge. Please check it out, and hopefully purchase one for yourself or a loved one (it makes the perfect Christmas gift for that animal lover in your life). Our goal is 50 shirts, but I believe we can surpass that. 100% of profits go to the Muskwa Club, Inc., now an official non-profit organization, and you can even make an additional donation directly to them. The campaign runs the entire month of November, so you will receive the shirts by Christmas.

Thank you!

https://www.booster.com/savethevaquita97

T-shirt

Bad news

I am deeply saddened by the news that there are likely less than 100 Vaquitas remaining on the planet, with under 25 of them being reproductive females. The International Vaquita Recovery Team, CIRVA, has just published the findings of their 5th meeting here: http://www.iucn-csg.org/index.php/2014/08/02/the-vaquita-new-report-from-cirva-released/, with more information coming soon from the Mexican Presidential Commission on Vaquita Conservation at this site: http://www.iucn-csg.org/.

The issue has quickly become a worldwide news story, being covered by the Washington Post (below) and ABC News among others.

The reason of their decline remains the same: accidental capture due to illegal gillnet fishing. But it now appears that there is a culprit more damaging than the shrimp fishery: Totoaba. A critically endangered species in its own right, Totoaba has been illegally hunted for years due to the incredibly high market value of their swim bladders. Particularly in China, these organs are a delicacy that can fetch over $10,000 per bladder. The temptation is simply too good to be true for the local fishermen, no matter how illegal it may be. As one of NOAA’s Vaquita experts Jay Barlow says, “With two days of fishing, you can buy a new pickup truck.”:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/china-bladder-trade-sending-porpoise-to-extinction/2014/08/01/3b317cf8-19ba-11e4-88f7-96ed767bb747_story.html

We all feel a little hopeless right now. It seems almost impossible to save the Vaquita. But I’m here to tell you that the fight is not over. Everybody has fought too hard for too long to give up now. These next few years could go down in history as the biggest success story in conservation history if we can turn things around. It is now in the hands of our governments, so we need to do something to get them to permanently remove gillnets from the Vaquita’s range. Hopefully there are some petitions in the works, so in the meantime, please use social media to our advantage. Spread the word in any way you can. It will be unexplainably devastating if we lose the Vaquita, so please, everybody, we need to work together and do something to save everyone’s favorite little Mexican porpoise. Check back here for the latest updates on the situation. Thank you.

 

 

Book signing recap

Here is the email I received from Beth Whittenbury (mother of William, Muskwa Club President) who so graciously helped me out by setting up and attending my “book signing” today:

“Hi Aidan:

Today went really well. They made two sales of your book, but I talked to about 20 people. I gave them all flyers with your blog address and also asked them to “like” the Muskwa video so that we can start to show the Mexican government how many people actually care about the Vaquita. You might want to ask friends and family to do the same as I do think it will make a big difference. Also, if you haven’t already subscribed to “TheMuskwaclub” YouTube channel, please do so that we can start streaming videos when we get to 100 subscribers. Everyone I talked to couldn’t believe a 13-year-old wrote and illustrated the book. They were also really impressed that you were donating back your proceeds to help save the Vaquita. Really good press for you! Also, I was wearing your “Save the Vaquita” shirt. 🙂

The event today was covered by both our local TV channel and our local paper. Your book should be prominently featured both ways over the next two weeks. So, overall, I would say it was a very successful day!”

The table that Mrs. Whittenbury manned to raise awareness for the Vaquita and my book.

The table that Mrs. Whittenbury manned to raise awareness for the Vaquita and my book.

I cannot thank Mrs. Whittenbury enough for all the help she has given me with the book, and I might not have even gotten it published in the first place if she didn’t refer me to CreateSpace.

Also, today my 9-year-old sister made the clay Vaquitas below. Please feel free to send me pictures of your Vaquita crafts at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com (especially your recipes) so I can post them on this blog. Thanks!

Clay Vaquita

Clay Vaquitas

Email Obama

For my 200th post, I am asking you to email President Obama with this message asking him to make July 6 National Save the Vaquita Day. His “Other Inquiries” email address is support@barackobama.com. Thanks from the Muskwa Club!

________________________________________________________________

June 19, 2013

Dear President Obama:

We have an easy, no-cost way for you to make a critical difference to precious lives. We, the Muskwa Club, would like you to proclaim July 6, 2013 as “National Save the Vaquita Day.” The Muskwa Club was started by kids to promote value-added activities for Middle School and High School age students. We take field trips to places of educational interest, we build engineering projects, we host a speaker series to showcase our members’ passions, and we engage in community service activities. Saving the Vaquita has become our number one service project.

The Vaquita is the smallest, arguably cutest and definitely most endangered marine mammal. These precious porpoises live in the Sea of Cortez and have a range only one quarter the size of metropolitan Los Angeles. Only about 170 Vaquita remain in existence today and approximately 30 die each year due to accidental gill net entanglement. If nothing more is done, they will be functionally extinct by 2017. We can’t let this happen! Solutions have been created such as Vaquita safe nets, and the Mexican government is working on the problem. However, the current economic climate necessitates that we all pitch in and help our neighbors to the south.

Our club is working very hard to raise awareness of the Vaquita. The more people who know about these beloved porpoises, the more likely they will receive what they need to survive extinction. So far we have hosted five Vaquita awareness tables at local events in the Southern California area. We plan to host at least three more during World Ocean’s Day on both the west and east coasts of the US. However, our really big push will be on July 6, 2013 when we will host a tri-coastal event. The Waikiki Aquarium in your home State, and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, CA have confirmed. The National Aquarium is very interested in allowing us to host a table there and we have tentative agreements with seven more aquariums across the country. All we need from you is to officially proclaim the day “National Save the Vaquita Day.” That will help promote media attention to our efforts, show that you care about this important international issue, and shine a much needed light on the plight of the Vaquita.

In addition to our awareness table efforts, we are also producing a series of videos about the Vaquita, have our own website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube Channel, and we speak locally to school science classes about the Vaquita. We’ve established alliances with the American Cetacean Society, Los Serenos de Pt. Vicente, Viva Vaquita, and V-log. At our request, the American Cetacean Society, Los Angeles Chapter has set up a fund to which people can contribute toward the net switch out program. We do not collect money, being minors, but we feel we can be a force for change. Please help us!

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Obama-Thank-You1

Official Norm

About a week ago, the Mexican government took an enormous step in saving the Vaquita. The government has created something called the “Official Norm,” a regulation that plans on completely switching out all gillnets with Vaquita-safe trawls in the next 3 years. They hope to switch out 30% this year, 30% next year, and 40% in the third year. This giant step was taken due to the over 38,000 signatures on WWF’s petition to Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president. Read WWF’s article about this landmark announcement: http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?208988%2FMexico-approves-measure-to-save-worlds-rarest-marine-mammal.

To donate to the switch-out through the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter’s new switch-out charity, send a check by mail to: P.O. Box 1208, San Pedro, CA 90733-1208. It is very important that you write “Vaquita” on the memo line for it to go to the switch-out.

If you would like to help make the Official Norm successful, please copy, paste, and send this resolution created by the Muskwa Club to any member of the U.S. government that you can:

________________________________________________________________

A Resolution to Support Mexico in its Effort to Prevent the Extinction of the Vaquita.

WHEREAS, The Vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal, with less than 200 individuals remaining, and is heavily threatened by incidental gillnet bycatch; and

WHEREAS, The Vaquita is likely to become extinct within the next several years; and

WHEREAS, It would not be acceptable for extinction of an intelligent and unique species to occur; and

WHEREAS, The government of Mexico has adopted an Official Norm to replace all shrimp gillnets within the Vaquita’s range with sustainable fishing gear within the next three years;

RESOLVED, That the Congress here assembled commends the government of Mexico for its step to save the Vaquita and strongly encourages the government thereof to successfully complete the program within the allotted time; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the government of the United States highly recommends that the government of Mexico develop sustainable finfishing gear as a further guarantor of the Vaquita’s survival.

Introduced for Congressional Debate by (will be filled in shortly).

Muskwa’s National Save the Vaquita Day

The Muskwa Club has put up the first episode of their series of shadow puppet videos. You can watch it below. Also, their website is now www.muskwaclub.org.

Attention Muskwa Club members: the deadline for ordering a Vaquita t-shirt is Tuesday, May 7 at 11:59 pm, though I may extend the deadline slightly. Order it here: http://www.customink.com/signup/2nvhf7s2.

I have made a lot of progress on my book, including finishing all text, almost finishing all the illustrations, and I have front and back cover images (courtesy of Memuco and Tom Jefferson). I might even get NOAA or The Cousteau Society to pay for printing by sponsoring it! I hope to send it off to publishing this month.

Immense progress has been made with Muskwa’s National Save the Vaquita Day, about which they are contacting the president to make it an official day, July 6th. They have many, many aquariums participating in or considering participating in the event, with the Waikiki and Cabrillo Aquariums being confirmed for that day. Also, there is a chance I will be manning a table at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts on June 9 for World Oceans Day, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland on July 6 for National Save the Vaquita Day, if they confirm their participation in the event.

The Muskwa Club has a huge range of contacts in every imaginable niche, which is helping make all of this possible. They will be selling my book on July 6 at many of their tables, (¡Viva Vaquita! will be doing the same), and the Cabrillo Aquarium has even offered to sell the book at their gift shop! The Muskwa Club has many projects that they are keeping under wraps for now, but believe me, they are awesome! Also, I am now writing a column for the Muskwa Club’s monthly newsletter.

In other news, Jonathan answered the riddle correctly! Q: What is a Vaquita’s favorite model of computer? A: Microsoft Surface.

Letter

A great way to help the Vaquita is to write a letter to someone in the U.S. Government. I wrote a template that you can use (just add the info in the underlined areas.) Feel free to send it to anyone in the U.S. Government (that was who it was directed to when I wrote it.) I suggest sending it to someone such as your state representatives or senator. Or even Barack or Mitt (wait till after the election. 🙂 Once you send it, by email or snailmail, you will feel good about yourself for helping. I guarantee it.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear ______________,

I am ______________ from ________, _________, and I ask for your attention.

In the Gulf of California, Mexico, the water is clean and the sea life thrives. That is, except for the Vaquita.

The Vaquita is a tiny porpoise (4.5 ft. long) that only lives in the extreme northern tip of the Gulf of California. And there are only 200 left. This makes the Vaquita the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and it is a mere few hour drive from the United States.

Extinction was always an abstract term for conservationists, until it actually happened to the Baiji river dolphin from the Yangtze River, China, in 2007. This extinction was the first ever for a cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) during our existence. Now that we already lost one species, another could be very near.

The rare Vaquita is declining so rapidly due to accidental entanglement in gillnets set out for fish and shrimp, called by-catch.

Gillnet by-catch is the only threat to the Vaquita, so it is pretty obvious what needs to be done: get those nets out of the water.

The Mexican Government has lately been very helpful with assisting the Vaquita organizations in getting the fishermen to stop using gillnets in that part of the Gulf. Some efforts that have been made include: the creation of the Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and the Vaquita Refuge in 2005, which makes it illegal to fish in the covered areas. Although these areas do not completely cover the Vaquita’s range, they provide important legal framework that will be very useful in the future. A program called the buy-out was recently put into use that provides incentives to fishermen who voluntarily give up fishing to an alternative livelihood, such as ecotourism or a local business. The buy-out program has something called the switch-out, in where the fishermen are given alternative fishing methods that are Vaquita-safe instead of gillnets.

Fishing is, by far, the main livelihood in the local towns of the Gulf, so it will be very difficult to stop gillnet fishing. But it must be done. The Biosphere Reserve and Vaquita Refuge must be expanded and their laws enforced. More work needs to be done on creating Vaquita-safe fishing gear to be put into use as soon as possible. More education of the Vaquita is needed for the fishermen and the general public. More time and money needs to be put into rewarding and assisting the fishermen who voluntarily change livelihoods.

Mexico has done its part. Now it’s our turn. I ask you to assist and support Mexico in their efforts to help this little porpoise, because the world cannot afford another extinction. Not here. I ask you to save the Vaquita.

Sincerely,

____________________

http://www.vivavaquita.org