According to reports from Mexico, the government there is to go ahead with plans to use dolphins trained by the US Navy to try to save the world’s most endangered marine species, the vaquita.
Vaquita are the world’s smallest and one of the most endangered species of whale, dolphin or porpoise on the planet. Found only in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California, the population has declined by more than 75% in the past three years and currently fewer than 50 vaquita remain.
The single biggest threat to this species is accidental catch in illegal fisheries targeting yet another endangered species, a fish known as Totoaba. Smuggled into China, dried Totoaba swim bladders, worth more than $10,000 each, are used to make maw, a soup thought to boost fertility.
Mexico’s Environment Minister, Rafael Pacchiano said that the dolphins would be deployed to locate and herd vaquitas into a marine refuge.
WDC has often spoken out against the use of dolphins in military exercises and opposes the captivity of whales and dolphins for human entertainment but the story of the vaquita is not about captivity. Vaquita are on the brink of extinction because of the inadequate management efforts in place over past decades to prevent illegal fishing and illegal trade.
The near extinction of Vaquita was preventable. The plan to save Vaquita is uncertain and controversial, but the need to prevent the unnecessary bycatch and illegal trade of endangered species is not. We continue to support the efforts to ban all gillnetting within the Vaquita habitat and continue to work to reduce the threat of bycatch to all whales, dolphins, and porpoises.