With only 30 vaquita porpoises left in the world, a California assembly member has introduced a bill to help save the rare sea mammal from extinction.
The bill would make it illegal to possess or sell fish products caught in the northern Gulf of California with a gillnet.
More often than not vaquitas get entangled in nets meant for a fish known as the totoaba, which inhabits the same territory and can be sold for thousands of dollars in the Chinese market. With no where out of the nets, the vaquitas end up drowning.
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The gillnets have led to a 90 percent decline in the vaquitas' numbers over the last five years, according a study by an international committee of experts. In 2016, 31 illegal fishing nets for the totoaba were pulled from the Gulf of California.
"This bill helps ensure that Californians are not contributing to the vaquita’s extinction," said Assemblymember Todd Gloria in a press release.
The Defenders of Wildlife, a non-profit working to protect and restore imperiled wildlife across North America and around the world, said California will not "stand idly while harmful fishing practices push the world’s rarest dolphin to extinction."
"California banned the use and importation of shark fins to halt the decline in sharks years ago, and if Assemblymember Gloria’s bill becomes law, California will once again lead the way on protecting our ocean’s rare marine life," said the California program director for Defenders of Wildlife.
Mexico has temporarily banned the use of gillnets for fishing of shrimp and other sea creatures in an effort to protect the vaquita. However, there is a loophole that allows for the use of gillnets for fishing of Gulf corvina, a practice used to capture the totoaba fish.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the dark-eyed sea creature as critically endangered since 1996. More than half of the population has been lost in the last three years, according to the World Wildlife Fund.