International Save the Vaquita Day falls on July 18 this year, and will be conducted virtually to ensure safety for all involved. However, just because it is online doesn’t mean you can’t participate! Our annual t-shirt campaign has only 3 days left, and we need your support! Please consider purchasing this year’s t-shirt. All proceeds going to the Muskwa Club, Inc.’s vaquita conservation efforts, and it is a great way to spread the word about the plight of this species. We would love to see your selfies wearing the shirt on July 18 with the hashtags #SaveTheVaquita and #ISTVD2020!
It’s been a while. The last post I wrote on this blog was in November 2016, at the end of a crazy year and the beginning of an even crazier saga in modern history.
A lot has changed in that year and a half. I am 18 years old now, legally an adult. I live and train at a tennis academy in Greenville, South Carolina, where I’ve made some really good friends while learning a lot about life in general. I’ll be heading back to my birth county in New Jersey in a few months to play tennis for Monmouth University, where I will also study for a degree in Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy.
I created this blog when I was 11 years old, soon after learning about the vaquita and its decline. It was a way for me to share the plight of a beautiful little animal, as well as express myself to people other than my family. It was truly an exhilarating time for me. I posted anything I could find or create about the vaquita; facts, poems, drawings, news. Over time, it grew, and I became partners with many incredible people in all facets of life. From the Muskwa Club, Viva Vaquita, and many other conservation groups, to authors, filmmakers, passionate citizens, and even government officials, I began to learn that this issue had a much wider reach than I expected. People cared about the vaquita, and this public sentiment grew substantially in the years following the conception of V-log. And as the vaquita’s fame grew, so did my optimism. I saw what passion and teamwork could do. We started International Save the Vaquita Day. Millions of people were educated, between the websites, books, social media, ISTVD, and the countless articles and news segments about this animal. I felt my responsibility to share the vaquita’s story lessen as more and more people heard it. The gillnet ban was even made permanent. In a way, it almost felt like it was mission accomplished.
But I had entered a world more complex than anyone could have imagined, let alone a child. The story of the vaquita was not what it seemed from an outsider’s perspective. And perhaps the irony of it all is that I still have no clue what is really happening. I’m not sure if any one person knows the entirety of the situation.
The recent estimates put the vaquita population at fewer than 30 individuals, possibly much fewer. Illegal gillnet fishing continues at a high level. The lucrative totoaba trade thrives. A desperate effort to capture and safely breed vaquitas ended in the worst way possible: the death of a mature female vaquita. It is extremely difficult to remain optimistic as you learn more and more about the deep, dark truth of what is happening on the water and behind closed government doors, despite the best efforts of conservationists there and around the world. From an analytical perspective, the vaquita needs an unprecedented miracle.
Yet, I still have hope. I am 18 years old. I see a world around me at a crossroads in time. I believe these next few years are going to change the world forever. Slowly but surely, around the globe, people are beginning to see what we have done to the planet. Plastic fills the oceans. Species are disappearing. Warming climates are wreaking havoc on land and marine ecosystems, even strengthening natural disasters that are already affecting humanity. In the relative fraction of time we have been on this planet, we’ve doused it with gasoline and struck a match. However, we haven’t thrown down the match yet. I believe we still have time to blow it out.
This next brief moment in history will see the end of many ancient ways of thinking as citizens and governments decide which side of history they would like to be on. It is simply not an option to continue down the path we have created. Humanity will go extinct if we do. Sustainability is the future, because without it, we are going to be just another lost species in Earth’s history as new ecosystems evolve and erase all traces of life as we know it. That idea actually sounds poetic and relaxing in a strange way, but that is because I omitted the few hundred years in between now and our theoretical extinction where human and animal life would descend into a miserable world as more species go extinct while the human population balloons to a level that is not even close to sustainable before storms, heat waves, air pollution, droughts, and diseases spell the end of us. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather see us stop that trend while we still can by peacefully coexisting with nature.
Forgive me for the apocalyptic rhetoric. I am only using such bold, dark imagery because I know that it is not inevitable and that we still have time to save the planet and ourselves. I firmly believe that we as a species will fully realize what needs to be done and act accordingly, even if it is for selfish reasons. It is ridiculously easy to forget about the problems in the world while we go about our daily lives, especially those of us in first world countries. The extinction of humanity seems unfathomable when you look around at what we have created. However, we are already in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, and we are not excluded from it. Every part of the apocalyptic scenario I laid out is already happening to some extent. It’s not science fiction, it’s science. And it could get much worse. If we wait, every human alive will witness these things firsthand, but it will be too late by then. We need to heed scientists’ desperate warnings and act now.
I am no longer the naive child that created V-log, and I no longer see the world as somewhere that is only good. However, I am still the same person who believes that it is our duty protect the planet, and the same person who truly believes that we will. It is not going to be nearly as easy as I thought when I was 11, and it’s probably going to be a lot harder than I think it is now. But we don’t have a choice. My generation and the ones that come after mine have decades and centuries of life left to live on this planet, and we want to do it in a world that is even better than the one we currently live in.
That brings me back to the vaquita. This precious species has been nearly destroyed by the same traits in humanity that are causing every other problem: ignorance, apathy, corruption, and greed. Deep down, we all have to personally fight these urges in some way every day. Now we need to fight them on a bigger scale. How many more examples do we need of what not to do? Why should the vaquita be just another species that goes extinct before we finally realize that we need to change?
Let’s start right now by saving the vaquita. We don’t have to accept their fate. There are still vaquitas out there swimming right now, and it would be an unforgivable travesty to give up on them in the critical moment. I don’t know what it will take, but we need to find a way to stop the extinction of the vaquita. Ask yourself, which side of history would you like to be on? The revolution needs to start now, and you and I need to be a part of it.
Something you can do right now is to purchase an official International Save the Vaquita Day 2018 shirt here: https://www.customink.com/fundraising/istvd2018. All proceeds go to the Muskwa Club’s efforts to save the vaquita and make the world a better place.
Also, please sign this petition and pledge to avoid shrimp from Mexico: https://www.change.org/p/boycott-mexican-shrimp-take-the-pledge. We need to show that we will not accept lackluster enforcement of the gillnet ban.
Learn more about how you can help at https://vlogvaquita.com/how-to-help/ and http://www.vivavaquita.org/act-now-to-save-the-vaquita.html
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
―Martin Luther King Jr.
I have reopened the ISTVD 2016 t-shirt campaign due to popular demand!
There are less than two weeks remaining in the campaign, so please act quickly if you would like to get a stylish shirt for you or a loved one (U.S. residents only). This is the last chance to get an official shirt for what is sure to be the biggest ISTVD yet, and all profits go directly to Vaquita conservation, particularly our International Save the Vaquita Day efforts!
Last winter’s campaign was very successful, raising over $500 for Vaquita conservation!
But that’s nothing compared to this time; we have already sold about 200 shirts, raising almost $3,200 in only 9 days!
Here is part of an update from our petition to make the gillnet ban permanent:
“Not only does the shirt raise awareness for the Vaquita, all profits go to Vaquita conservation, particularly our ISTVD efforts this year.
We have every size, age, and gender, so feel free to get one for everyone in the family!
Of course the shirt is perfect if you are having an ISTVD table, but even if you aren’t, people will ask you about this mysterious animal on your shirt, and voila! Now you have a perfect opportunity to educate someone about the world’s most endangered marine mammal species.”
Get yours now:
Want to be a part of the action for International Save the Vaquita Day 2016? Do you want to show your support for the world’s most endangered marine mammal? Do you want to raise money for the Muskwa Club and VIVA Vaquita for #ISTVD2016? Do you want a stylish, limited edition t-shirt that will make everyone around you jealous and curious about this mysterious “Vaquita”?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this campaign is the right one for you.
Only during the month of November, you can purchase a cool #ISTVD2016 t-shirt for only $19! This shirt makes a perfect gift for the holidays, or you can splurge and spoil yourself for a good cause! (Or both!) The more, the better, because if we don’t reach our goal of 50 shirts sold, the campaign will not run!
But remember, the campaign ends on November 30, and we need to reach our goal of 50 shirts, or else nobody will get them! Let’s make this ISTVD the biggest and best one yet!
Thank you and Viva Vaquita!
I would like to give a big thanks to everyone who bought a Vaquita t-shirt during the Muskwa Club’s campaign. All in all, we sold 47 shirts, raising $160.63 for the Muskwa Club. I hope everyone enjoys their t-shirts; I know I will! While we wait for them to ship, please keep your fingers crossed that the Mexican government’s upcoming Vaquita announcement will be a positive one!
Happy Memorial Day!
Sunday, June 8th, is World Oceans Day 2014! Like last year, my family will be hosting a table in Boston’s New England Aquarium for their World Oceans Day celebration! Please join us between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm for a day of fun, learning, and conservation!
The New England Aquarium is big on ocean conservation, and has created the live blue™ Initiative, a project that protects endangered marine species and their habitats. I look forward to educating the public on one of the planet’s rarest and least-known species, the Vaquita, at this wonderful aquarium.
Please check out this really neat website about bycatch, with great statistics and graphics: http://www.bijvangst.org/en/home
Elaborating on my last post, Project #ChangeOurPerception, here is Anthony Bourdain’s blog, which talks a lot about the evolving food culture of Mexico, and The Truth About Mexico, a great Facebook page showing the positive truth about this extremely misunderstood and under-visited country.
Below are some photos of the Vaquita-related things that I have gotten in the past few months:
My dad’s Vaquita calf carving, to go with the mother he made earlier:
Stephen and Anthony Palumbi’s book, The Extreme Life of the Sea, which contains a few pages about the Vaquita:
Jean-Pierre Sylvestre’s Dolphins & Porpoises: A Worldwide Guide, which we found in an old book shop:
Beach Bar Radio and Save the Whales/VIVA Vaquita’s awesome shirt from their Booster campaign:
And this cool t-shirt from Vince Radice’s Vaquita documentary Indiegogo campaign:
Thanks to Carla Porter for buying a shirt! Today, Monday the 17th, is the last day to buy your very own Save the Vaquita t-shirts, with all profits going to the Vaquita! Please buy one for yourself and your loved ones for this very worthy cause!
You can’t buy your Vaquita t-shirts after Monday! Please buy one for you or a loved one to show your support and to raise funding for the Vaquita!
Here is what the t-shirt looks like (they simplified my drawings’ colors and details for easier printing):
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.