Jan 2017 update on the decline of the Vaquita
As noted in the 16 December 2016 posting on this site, CIRVA (Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita) met in November to update its findings and recommendations concerning vaquita science and conservation. The meeting report, which was officially released today, concludes that the species population has continued its precipitous decline. It numbered only around 30 individuals (95% CRI 8 to 96) by autumn 2016, a decline of nearly 50% since 2015, according to results from the acoustic monitoring program (following the published methodology of Jaramillo-Legorreta et al. 2016 and also Taylor et al. 2016).
Illegal fishing, mainly for totoaba, has continued at alarming levels despite best efforts by the Mexican Government (including the Mexican Navy) in collaboration with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Once again CIRVA stressed, given that the current two-year rangewide ban on gillnets will expire in April 2017, the sale, possession and use of gillnets must be permanently banned in the northern Gulf of California if the vaquita is to survive. Reluctantly, but on the basis of extreme concern over the safety of vaquitas in their natural habitat, the committee also recommended that the Mexican Government put in place a carefully planned, step-wise attempt to determine whether some vaquitas can be caught and held in a temporary sanctuary until they can be safely returned to a gillnet-free environment (http://www.vaquitacpr.org)