Throughout its limited range of only a 48km radius in the northern end of the Gulf of California, the vaquita has been rapidly declining in numbers due to incidental entanglement in drift nets and less than 200 are thought to survive. Not only the smallest but possibly the most critically endangered cetacean of them all, the vaquita may finally have a chance at survival.
After several efforts to protect these little porpoises, for example the creation of a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 to protect the vaquita and their habitat, WWF reports that the Government of Mexico has taken a decisive step towards ensuring their future conservation at the same time as promoting sustainable fisheries by approving a new regulation, called an “official norm”. As a result of this measure, over the course of the next 3 years, drift gillnets (the type of gear responsible for vaquita deaths) will be substituted for selective fishing gear that do not kill the world’s smallest porpoise yet still ensure a livelihood for local fishermen.
This long awaited regulation will go some way to establishing shrimping standards within Mexico, determining the various fishing gears permitted in different zones in the country and ultimately protecting the smallest dolphin of them all.