The tiny vaquita porpoise in Mexico is in danger of being wiped out. The Vaquita porpoise is the world’s most endangered marine mammal.
A porpoise is a dolphin-like mammal and vaquita means 'small cow' in Spanish. The vaquita porpoises are the only sea mammals that are endemic to Mexico, which means they only breed and live in this area. These porpoises are found along one small stretch of the Pacific ocean near the Mexican mainland.
Vaquita porpoises are now on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Twenty years ago over 500 vaquita porpoises were still swimming around in the warm waters of the Gulf of California. Now, there are thought to be fewer than 30.
"Vaquitas are vanishing. Fast. By summer of 2018, they could all be gone" (Vaquita CPR)
The reason is fishing. Vaquitas are being killed by gill nets - nets that hang vertically and catch fish by their gills. In 2015, the Mexican government launched measures to save the vaquita and imposed a fishing ban in its habitat.
The vaquita would not be the first sea mammal to become extinct through harmful fishing methods and overfishing. The Steller's sea cow (1768), the Caribbean monk seal (1952), the Japanese sea lion (1970) and the baiji or Chinese river dolphin (2006) have already been wiped out.
image: Paula Olson/NOAA