Mexico

Mexico Launches Plan to Delimitate Reserve of Vaquitas

The Mexican government announced on Thursday that it will place buoys to delimit the reserve where the vaquita lives, the smallest and most threatened porpoise in the world, in an attempt to save the approximately 10 individuals that survive.

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The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources promised to provide social programs and jobs for fishing communities in the Upper Gulf of California, the only place in the world where the vaquita marina lives.

He indicated that tourism, fish farms and better fishing practices in the area will be promoted.

The government faces the challenge of ending the use of gillnets for the illegal fishing of totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China.

Environmental groups said on Thursday that the government program lacks sufficient details, and stressed that more urgent measures are needed to save the vaquita from extinction.

Alejandro Olivera, representative of Mexico for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the plan "is not up to the urgency that is required."

"With 10 remaining vaquitas, it is necessary the total protection and the elimination of illegal nets of their habitat of immediate form", said Olivera.

In a report published earlier this month, an international commission of experts estimated that only about 6-22 vaquitas survive.

The figure of six was the number of vaquitas that they managed to see on the surface during a research trip towards the end of last year. The highest figure was the number of specimens that could have been heard in an acoustic system that captures the distinctive clicks of the species.

The commission noted that it is most likely that the number of surviving vaquitas is around 10.

Activists have said on previous occasions that the few surviving vaquitas are concentrated in such a small area - a rectangle of about 24 by 12 kilometers (15 by 7 miles) - that some type of floating barrier could be built around them to keep away from the area to the illegal fishing boats.

But the program announced on Thursday seems not to reach such an extreme. Instead, it simply proposes the delimitation with buoys of the vaquita reserve - a more extensive area - although it is very clear that the smugglers know very well where the reserve begins.

The plan proposes fish farms, safe nets for the vaquita and sport fishing for totoaba as a potential source of income for fishermen.

But it will be difficult for these measures to replace the thousands of dollars sometimes perceived by fishermen for a swim bladder of good size totoaba.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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