Expedition summary

The 2013 Vaquita Expedition has drawn to a close. Though it was not exactly what everyone had been hoping for, there were some upsides to the expedition. Here is the email I received from Tom Jefferson on Friday:

“Greetings,
We have just returned from our 24-day Vaquita photographic expedition in San Felipe. The project had some bad luck and we were not able to get high-quality images of Vaquitas, as we had hoped. Here are some lowlights and highlights of the project:

Lowlights
1) The only Vaquita images obtained were very distant and blurry.
2) Of 22 potential days to work, nearly half (10) were too windy to even consider going out to sea. We had very little calm conditions (Beaufort 0-1), which is important for finding Vaquitas.
3) In one of our sightings that presented good photo prospects, three large trawlers moved through and scared the Vaquitas away just as we were attempting to get photos.
4) We did not observe any fishing with the new mini-trawl nets.

Highlights
1) We conducted 558 miles of searches for Vaquitas while traveling in two boats.
2) We conducted over 20 hours of intensive ‘stop and drift’ searches while sitting in the water with engines off.
3) We had 11 cetacean sightings (including several groups of long-beaked common dolphins, and large whales).
4) We observed three groups of Vaquitas at relatively close range.
5) We did not observe any illegal fishing with gillnets in the Vaquita Refuge.
6) We conducted a talk on the Vaquita for about 45 people at El Dorado Ranch.
7) We distributed educational brochures and coloring books to several businesses in town.

We are disappointed that we did not obtain any high-quality Vaquita images this year, but are not giving up. We are re-evaluating our approach for future expeditions.

Best wishes,
Tom
¡VIVA Vaquita!”

I was, of course, frustrated that the weather did not cooperate, and that once again the bad timing of large vessels scared away good photo subjects. It would have been incredible to get new Vaquita images to use for publicity, or at least witness the use of Vaquita-friendly fishing gear. Though it wasn’t an ideal mission, there are a few very important positives that we should focus on. First of all is the fact that they were able to go on the expedition in the first place. This means that they are getting the funding they need in order to successfully complete the endeavors they feel necessary to save the Vaquita. Going by the goals that I set in previous posts, the mission was technically a success in that they saw multiple groups of Vaquitas (more than in 2010!) as well as no illegal fishing. Firstly, this means that they are still alive and probably reproducing because when Vaquita are in groups it usually includes a mother and her calf, which would have been born in the spring, meaning Vaquitas were mating within the last few years and hopefully the summer of this year so calves are born next spring. Secondly, if there are no gillnets in the Vaquita Refuge, then the mortality rate of the species will be about zero, meaning any births will increase the population. I hope this expedition helped and will continue to help the spreading of awareness for the Vaquita, from the talk, to the brochures, to the coloring books. It would also be great if everyone reading this post shared their knowledge of the Vaquita on all their social networks and to all their friends. There is still hope for the Vaquita if we work together!

Change the Course

Please read this awesome article and Take the Pledge to help Change the Course restore the Colorado River and save the Vaquita! You can also text ‘RIVER’ to 77177 to take the pledge and receive updates on the project. For each pledge, 1,000 gallons of water will be added back to the Colorado River! Please take the pledge to use less water and save the Colorado, which could be another piece in the puzzle of saving the Vaquita. The enormous river used to flow in massive amounts into the Gulf of California, until the delta was riddled with dams. It is not known for sure how such damming affects the Vaquita, but we do know that the water needs to be returned to the Gulf for political reasons, which you can read about in the article above. The Change the Course project is a coalition of TakePart, National Geographic, Participant Media, and BEF, and you can watch a video about the project below:

Porpoises

There are seven species of porpoise worldwide: the Vaquita, the Burmeister’s Porpoise, the Spectacled Porpoise, the Harbor Porpoise, the Dall’s Porpoise, the Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoise, and the Narrow-ridged Finless Porpoise.

Like a web

Like a web,

the net

devoured my soul.

With invisible hands,

the net

gouged my body.

Like a whirlpool,

the net

sucked me in;

stabbing me with knives,

wrapping me up.

I rolled to escape

the net,

but it was no use.

The net

tightened,

suffocating me.

The net

stopped my heart.

One who has found my boat

The sea rose, engulfing the boat.

Water pouring in, twas impossible to float.

Lightning pounding, thunder resounding,

The clouds came rolling in,

Like a field of wheat in the breeze.

Finally, it was time to begin.

I unrolled the nets, set out the floats,

Baited the trap, and then let go.

About this story I have wrote

To inform you, one who has found my boat,

That on this day, a small porpoise got trapped in my nets.

Going shrimping on this day is an action I regret.

No one should set out their nets.