Marine Debris Drives Vaquita to Extinction

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Vaquita, known as the sea panda because of the coloration around its face.

The vaquita, a porpoise endemic to the Gulf of Mexico is likely to soon be extinct. We know very little about the small, elusive animal accept that they are dying at an alarming rate, and based on acoustic analysis, there are only about 30 left.

The vaquita is especially threatened by illegal fishing for totoaba, a fish revered in Chinese markets. Gillnets have been banned in the area, and efforts to remove derelict nets, and illegal nets have been underway for some time. Still the effort seem to be failing. Vaquita continue to be discovered dead, and caught in nets, and the population continues to decline, and illegal fishing is rampant. Even if conservation efforts are able to turn the tide, the population might take centuries to recover, with an uphill battle against an extreme genetic bottleneck.

The troubling thing is that we have been watching the decline of the vaquita for decades.  Legislation, conservation and education have not slowed this decline. The Chinese market power is just to much to resist. Ultimately, it will drive the second marine mammal to extinction in our life time. The first being the loss of the baiji, or the Chinese River dolphin in 2006.

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