Should we breed the vaquita in captivity?

For as long as we have known about the vaquita, gillnets have been killing more individuals than are being born. The upper Gulf of California has been a danger zone for the species ever since humans started fishing there, and unfortunately, vaquita don’t live anywhere else.

Yet.

Even though gillnets are now permanently banned in the vaquita’s range, there will still be illegal fishing if compensation and/or nighttime enforcement issues are not fixed immediately. These are indeed desperate times. So desperate, in fact, that no option is off the table when it comes to salvaging this species.

The idea of ex-situ conservation (captive breeding) for the vaquita has not been given much thought, until recently.

Here is ¡VIVA Vaquita!’s official position statement on the issue:

“The issue of possible live-captures and ex-situ conservation (generally known as captive breeding) of the vaquita has recently been much talked about and debated. This results from the 2016 CIRVA report, which for the first time, recommended evaluation of the prospects and steps needed for captive breeding of the species, as part of the conservation plan. This is a very complex issue, and there are a variety of different views within our organization on this proposal.

After detailed discussion, ¡VIVA Vaquita! has come to a consensus. Due to the undeniable fact that the current efforts to stop the decline of the species (however, well-intentioned) are simply not working, we are not opposed to evaluating and considering ex-situ conservation measures for this species. However, we emphasize that the primary focus and priority for long-term conservation of the species must be in-situ—that is protection and recovery of the species in its natural habitat. That can only happen with a permanent and complete cessation of all gillnet fishing within the species range. This is an absolute pre-requisite to any attempts to save the species, and must remain the top priority. Any work towards captive breeding efforts must not in any way decrease the focus, resources, or funding applied to maintaining and effectively enforcing the gillnet ban.”

We will not allow the vaquita to go extinct, which means if captive breeding is the only option left, we will try our best to accomplish it. There is still a long way to go in terms of determining whether or not it would be safe for the animals (some porpoise species do well in captivity), or how we would do it (underwater pen in the Gulf, tank on land, etc.), but if necessary, we could have captive vaquitas by next year. Too much later, and there may be no vaquitas left to save.

To learn more, check out these in-depth articles:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/07/scientists-mull-risky-strategy-save-world-s-most-endangered-porpoise

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/jun/08/vaquita-captive-breeding-ex-situ-panda-porpoise-extinction

And listen to this interview with the always-wonderful Barb Taylor:

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/how-can-we-keep-the-endangered-vaquita-from-vanishing/

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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A very successful campaign!

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!

Thanks

#GivingTuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday! This is a day dedicated to donating to charities and other good causes in the holiday spirit. We spend a lot of time buying things this time of year, but how about giving?

Luckily, there is a way to do both! I have extended the #ISTVD2016 t-shirt campaign by 3 more days because the Muskwa Club has stepped up and will be handling international orders! That means if you live outside the U.S., you can now get a shirt! Email me at <gl.tamarin123@gmail.com> with the amount and sizes of the t-shirts you want.

And if you live in the U.S., you have a second chance to get your shirts! Remember, all profits go to the Muskwa Club, Inc. and VIVA Vaquita’s International Save the Vaquita Day 2016 efforts! Thank you from the Vaquita!

https://www.booster.com/international-save-the-vaquita-day-2016

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#ISTVD2016 t-shirt campaign!

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!

And the best part is that ALL PROFITS will go directly to the Muskwa Club, Inc. (check out our newly redesigned website) and VIVA Vaquita!

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!

https://www.booster.com/international-save-the-vaquita-day-2016

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New Vaquita photos!

On October 22, two Vaquitas were photographed at close range, marking the first good photographs of the 2015 Vaquita Expedition, and some of the best ever of the species, for that matter!

Check out some of the photos (by Todd Pusser):

Vaquita-marina-2

Vaquita-marina-3

Everyone is extremely excited about this sighting (and the approximately 25 other Vaquitas seen so far during this expedition!), as well as relieved to have new photos for future conservation efforts. President Enrique Peña Nieto is one of these excited individuals! He tweeted reports and photos of the sightings, and also stated that the efforts to save this species rage on, detailing the extensive recovery plan once again in a press release today! The U.S. government has also announced their partnership with Mexico and both of their commitments to saving the Vaquita and eliminating the illegal Totoaba trade in China.

Weather conditions during the expedition have been favorable for the most part (despite the devastating Hurricane Patricia that hit much further south in Mexico), allowing for many sightings, including many of female (cow) Vaquitas with their calves that were presumably born this spring. This is tremendous news, as it means that Vaquitas are still finding ways to reproduce, and therefore can recover if the population isn’t being threatened by gillnets. This expedition has only been going on for a month, and it has already resulted in over 25 sightings, great photographs, and best of all, a renewed hope among the conservation community that the Vaquita can not only be saved, but that all the pieces are already in place to make it actually happen.

Viva Vaquita!