There are a number of animal species on Earth that are feeling the burn of the human way of life. Numerous species are being driven to dangerously low numbers that have placed them on the IUCN’s critically endangered or endangered species list, some of those are even nearing extinction.
One that has been getting some attention this month is the Vaquita, which is a type of porpoise that much of the world probably hasn’t even heard of before. The animal was discovered in low count to begin with, and while it looks a lot like a dolphin, the creature is doing far worse right now than any dolphin is.
Image Credit: Paula Olson/NOAA
The IUCN announced at the beginning of February that there are probably only around 30 Vaquitas in the wild today, which is an unbelievably low number. They also say that this estimate is around a 50% decline in population in comparison to the previous year.
“This breaks my heart," said Leigh Henry in a statement from the World Wildlife Fund. "Wildlife conservation can be a tough job. What's so devastating about the vaquita is that it could go extinct with the majority of the world having no idea this beautiful animal even existed. But I refuse to give up hope. We'll fight on. ”
Little is known about the creature as a whole, but what we do know is that our habits are directly related to its near-extinction status. Perhaps the leading problem with its situation has to do with fishing, which happens to be a problem in two different senses: illegal fishing, and bycatch of even legal fishing.
Vaquitas are found in Mexico’s jurisdiction, mostly in the Gulf of California. They are often caught as bycatch while fisheries try to (illegally) catch Totoaba, a type of fish in the region whose bladders are a delicacy in Asia, but once Vaquitas are caught and stuck in the nets, there is little that can really help them.
At this point, unless the Mexican government does something to protect the animals very soon, such as banning fishing in regions believed to be a natural habitat for them, Vaquitas probably face a grim fate.
The Chinese and United States governments can also make a difference by helping to stop the illegal fishing and trading of Totoaba, as they tend to live in the same environment as Vaquitas. By killing off the demand for the fish and ending as much of the illegal fishing as possible, it could give Vaquitas a fighting chance to rebound.
All these animal agencies can do at this point in time is spread awareness, but from the looks of things, the Vaquita unfortunately may not be able to survive.