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:
The #ISTVD2016 t-shirt campaign just ended, at it was by far our most successful campaign ever! We sold 62 shirts, raising a total of $509.99 for the Muskwa Club, Inc. and VIVA Vaquita! Also, everyone who bought a shirt now has an awesome way to spread the word about the species, and of course, the perfect shirt to wear if they host an ISTVD table next year!
I can’t thank everyone who bought shirts enough! You guys made it a great day for the Vaquita!
There is only 1 day left in the #ISTVD2016 t-shirt campaign! For every shirt that is bought during the remainder of the campaign, the Muskwa Club and VIVA Vaquita will be directly sent all profits! Let’s make this campaign a successful one for the Vaquita, a species in much need of success. The Muskwa Club is the founder of International Save the Vaquita Day, which will be on July 9 in 2016. ISTVD has spread the Vaquita’s story to tens of thousands of individuals over the past few years, and 2016 will be the most important year yet! We need to keep the Vaquita’s recent momentum going and show Mexico that its efforts are appreciated and worthwhile! Buying this shirt is a great way to support this event, and therefore, an incredible species that is on the brink of extinction! Please share!
And if you are on the fence about ordering one, just know that there is no better cause to put your money into this holiday season!
Here is a poem that I wrote for an upcoming poetry competition focused on ocean pollution:
THE NETS WE FORGETThe dark gray sky casts its shadow on the sea,The sea swells with the wind, whipping up froth.Thunder booms among the rolling clouds;Lightning flashes in the distance,But underneath, it is calm.The muffled sound of the storm above dances off the coral.Small reef fish swarm in and out of nooks and crannies.All seems fine at first, but there is something wrong here.A ghost enters the scene.A nearly invisible drifter.A gillnet.But this fishing net does not belong to anybody.It has been abandoned,But its job is not done.This ghost still has lives to take.First comes a shrimp,A puny pink prawn:Gone.His life ends and is doomed to drift away,Trapped forever.Next is a fish.A huge one at that.He swims right into the net,And in the blink of an eye,The life leaves his body.A little porpoise swims through the shallows,Bubbles dancing down her side.She’s teaching her baby how to fish.They happen upon a juicy meal,But as the mother darts towards the target,She is struck by a web of death.The fish they were chasingWas already a victim.The baby, terrified, watches as her mother writhes in agony.And the ghost has taken yet another life.
And here is a mosaic of a Vaquita made out of hundreds of photographs taken during International Save the Vaquita Days 2014 & 2015:
International Save the Vaquita Day has become a huge event, and one that has been—and will continue to be—making a legitimate difference for the Vaquita and its survival. Showing the people and government of Mexico that the world cares about the Vaquita and appreciates their efforts to date will hopefully inspire them to follow through with their promises and actually save this species. To make ISTVD 2016 the biggest one yet, help ignite the buzz and donate to the event by buying a cool ISTVD 2016 t-shirt!
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!
“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.”
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.
With the holidays right around the corner, now’s the time to start buying gifts for your loved ones. Money is tight these days, so gifts where some the proceeds go to a good cause is a great deal. Luckily for you, there are many such gifts that are related to the Vaquita! Let’s take a look.
The CEDO Eco Shop is a wonderful place to buy awesome gifts for the holiday season. From Vaquita t-shirts to booklets, to even a special link to Amazon that gives a portion of any purchase to CEDO, they have it all.
CEDO works extensively with the Vaquita, so it is one of the best charities to donate to.
Another wonderful holiday gift for that special someone would be CEDO wine, complete with one of six creatures of the Gulf on the label (of course including the Vaquita). And a portion of the proceeds goes to CEDO!
The VIVA Vaquita La Tienda has some wonderful Vaquita-specific items, with a new collection by Memuco: http://www.printfection.com/vivavaquita/NEW–memuco-vaquita-items/_s_583346
A perfect gift is the Adopt-a-Vaquita kit from Save the Whales. For $25 you get:
- An 8 x 10 glossy color photograph of a Vaquita in the wild
- Adopt-a-Vaquita certificate personalized to your specifications
- 4 page color newsletter about Vaquita
- A letter to the United Nations for your signature
- Save The Whales window sticker
- VIVA Vaquita window sticker
- A Vaquita dog tag necklace (suitable for all ages and both sexes)
With the second edition of the world’s only Vaquita book coming in the near future, you might want to keep it in mind: https://www.createspace.com/4268018
And my final suggestion is a Save the Vaquita! t-shirt from the Muskwa Club’s campaign, with 100% of the proceeds going to this non-profit. Remember, if 34 t-shirts are not bought, none will not be printed. So please, support a great cause and look stylish while you do it: https://www.booster.com/savethevaquita97
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:
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.