via Brandt Witt / Twitter

via Brandt Witt / Twitter

The vaquita is an innocent bystander that may go extinct as Mexican cartels battle for the "cocaine of the sea."

Less than two dozen of the smallest porpoise on Earth exist due to gill net fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico trying to catch the endangered totoaba fish. Totoaba are falsely believed to have medicinal purposes and China and can be sold for up to $100,000.

Cartels in Mexico purchase totoaba from poachers and then sell them to Chinese traders.

In 2016, the Mexican government banned gill nets from most fisheries in the Gulf of California, but they haven't done enough to hold the poachers accountable.

The gill nets used by the totoaba poachers are anchored to the sea floor floor so when the vaquita are snared they are unable to get to the surface to breathe. "These nets are anchored to the seafloor and so they can't pull those nets up to the surface to take a breath," Cynthia Smith, executive director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation told "Nightline." "So, a marine mammal or a sea turtle — they're going to drown really quickly."

via NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

Today, less than two dozen vaquita live in the gulf. The species is experiencing an 8% to 19% decline per year.

The vaquita or "sea cow" in Spanish, is the smallest species of porpoise on earth at about five feet in length and they live for around 20 years. It has a distinct body shape and a dark eye rings and lip patches on its face that resemble goth makeup.

They tend to live in groups of three and live on small fish and squid.

According to ABC News, the vaquita may only last for another six to eight months.

While the odds are stacked against the vaquita, a new documentary "Sea of Shadows" chronicles the two-front war being fought for its survival. The film chronicles the work of conservationist Andrea Crosta as he fights the cartels and traffickers on land and Smith's battle to rehabilitate them at sea.

"From the outside it looks like an environmental story, right? But if you dive in, you understand the role of transnational crime, the narco trafficking, working with Chinese traffickers," Crosta said. "They form what we call Totoaba cartels because they work in the same way, with the incredible power to corrupt, all over the place."

For more information on how you can help fight to save the vaquita from extinction, please visit vivavaquita.com.

popular

Parents everywhere are empathizing with this orca mom grieving the loss of its newborn.

The orca's baby died about 30 minutes after it was born in Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington state, but the mother had a hard time letting go. For three days, whale researchers observed her carrying the calf's body, carefully balancing it on her head as she swam. Even through rough waters, when the baby slipped and started to fall, the grieving mama, known to researchers as J35, dived deep to lift it back up again.

“It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being. It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest...

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared

UPDATE 8/12/19:

More than 1,600 species are protected by the federal government's Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to new changes from the Secretary of Interior, the Trump White House is literally putting a price tag on which species to protect and which could see their fate's permanently sealed in order to protect the bottom line of corporate interests.

The Trump Administration has been trying to gut the act for months. The latest changes have been blasted as disastrous by a number of governors, environmental groups and Democrats in Congress.

After all, as the Associated Press notes, this is the same act that helped to save the Bald Eagle, literally the creature chosen to represent America as a living symbol.

"As we have seen time and time again, no environmental protection - no matter how effective or popular - is safe from this administration," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

The original story begins below.


If you care about saving the environment, November 2018 can't come fast enough.

Republicans in Congress are moving fast to reverse and alter portions of the Endangered Species Act, which has helped bring several species back from the brink of extinction for nearly 45 years.

Weakening the act is bad for the environment and bad for people. At least 10 animals, including America's iconic bald eagle, could have gone extinct without it.

Keep Reading Show less
More

When you think of the quintessential American species, what comes to mind? Buffalo? Bald eagles? What about ... the gray wolf?

It probably wasn't the first thing you thought of, but maybe it should be.

After all, the gray wolf was once common all across the country, frequently seen — or heard howling — by America’s earliest settlers everywhere.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared
True
Rocky Mountain Wolf Project