ENDANGERED: California Porpoise (Phocoena sinus)

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3 min readFeb 19, 2023

Day #14

In the Gulf of California, they call it vaquita, which means “little cow” in Spanish. This is the California Porpoise.
It is the smallest of the dolphins and one of the smaller cetaceans.
A very rare species, considered the most endangered representative of both the family and mammals in general.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vaquita6_Olson_NOAA.jpg#/media/File:Vaquita6_Olson_NOAA.jpg

It is the only species of porpoise found in such warm waters.
The California porpoise lives singly, in pairs or in small groups (up to 10 individuals).
Due to the characteristic black ring around the mouth and eyes, it is called the panda of the seas.
It feeds on fish and squid.
Pregnancy lasts probably 10–11 months. Females give birth usually every other year, in addition, vaquitas live for a short time, up to 25 years.

Since scientists learned about the existence of the vaquita in the mid-twentieth century, its population has been steadily decreasing — every year by an average of 20–50 percent.
In 1997, the International Union for Conservation of Nature recognized the vaquita as a critically endangered species.
Over the next 24 years, none of the efforts to save him had a satisfactory effect.

Vaquita in the Gulf of California are killed by gillnets laid for the lucrative totoaba, pictured, whose swim bladders sell for thousands of dollars a kilo in China.

Vaquitas are difficult to study in their natural habitat because, like all porpoise species, they are very shy and sensitive.
Just contact with a fishing net caused the animal to die from a stress-induced heart attack.

Attempts to breed the California harbor porpoise in captivity have been unsuccessful.
Two females captured for the trial died of stress and heart failure.

Illegal fishing with gillnets — huge, hundreds of meters long, almost invisible, but at the same time very effective, causes porpoises to get entangled in them and die most often due to suffocation. Trapped in nets under water, they are unable to come to the surface for air.

However, gillnet fishermen are not concerned with porpoises, which are caught by accident. This is due to the catch of the totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is used to make an exclusive soup in China as “fish mouth”, and the belief in its healing properties, including its ability to increase fertility and help treat cardiovascular disease.

https://www.national-geographic.pl/artykul/smallest-morswin-world-a-step-from-extinction-remaining-them-less-niz-60

Even Leonardo DiCaprio and Carlos Sima, the richest Mexican, intervened in the case of vaquita. The Gulf of California forms a specific ecosystem in which each species, including the vaquita, fulfills its function. The disappearance of a species can disrupt the functioning of an ecosystem.

Kate O’Connell, a marine consultant at the Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said AWI, the Center for Biodiversity, the Environmental Research Agency, and the Natural Resources Defense Council made urgent appeals to the international community to “provide Mexico with logistical and financial support.” and put pressure on the government through trade sanctions and other measures to ensure that the vaquita is saved.”

Only 10–12 of these porpoises are now estimated to be alive, and their survival is heavily dependent on the Mexican authorities banning gillnet fishing.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mor%C5%9Bwin_californian
https://weekend.gazeta.pl/weekend/7,177330,27343393,morswin-kalifornijskie-jest-niesmialy-i-wrazliwy-ginie-bo-ludzie.html https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/vaquita-porpoise-sacrificed-for-political-gain-extinction-feared/

Photo:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vaquita6_Olson_NOAA.jpg#/media/File:Vaquita6_Olson_NOAA.jpg
By Paul Olson, NOAA -
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/vaquita-porpoise-sacrificed-for-political-gain-extinction-feared/
https://www.national-geographic.pl/artykul/smallest-morswin-world-a-step-from-extinction-remaining-them-less-niz-60

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