Vaquita Habitat Gear Removal - Gulf of California
The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal on the planet, with fewer than 30 of them remaining.
In an effort to save these critically endangered porpoises, World Animal Protection joined forces with the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), and Monterey Bay Diving in May 2017 to locate and remove illegal gillnets from the critical vaquita porpoise habitat in the Gulf of California.
The vaquita’s proximity to extinction is due to illegal fishing activity and the resulting abandoned gillnets, known as ghost nets.
Nylon gillnets intended to catch a fish called the totoaba, another critically endangered species sold illegally in China where their swim bladder is prized for use in traditional medicine, entangle and drown the vaquita.
As the illegal totoaba fishery ends for the season once the fish stock has migrated, the abandoned nets left in the shared habitat pose an active risk to vaquitas, frequently entangling the animals.
Unique sonar scanning technology allowed the team to locate illegal and discarded fishing nets likely to cause entanglement of the vaquita species. This project was the first to use this sonar technology to locate the extremely fine meshed gillnets in far greater numbers than would otherwise be possible. This incredible sonar capacity made it possible to determine the location of nets in the habitat area to be reported for recovery.
The team ultimately removed approximately 5,702 square meters of net.