Cooperative Net Removal Efforts Increase to Save Vaquitas


The net removal effort, started by Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro in collaboration with the Mexican Navy in 2015, is building to become the biggest yet in the totoaba season currently under way. The initial Sea Shepherd/Navy effort focused on observing pangas illegally setting nets at night and on removing those nets. The effort was expanded in 2016 to systematically remove both active and inactive nets throughout the vaquita’s primary distribution. This expansion in effort has been led by the Department of the Environment (SEMARNAT) together with Sea Shepherd, the Mexican Navy and Army, PEMEX, WWF-Mexico, Museo de la Ballena, Parley, World Animal Protection, and the fishermen’s organizations PESCA ABC and Cooperativa Islas del Golfo. The Mexican Fisheries Department CONAPESCA recently started supporting the program as well.

From December 2016 through December 2017, 518 nets were retrieved, most of them active totoaba nets. Over 50 tons of net were donated to Parley for recycling (further details can be found in the CIRVA 10 Report).

With fewer than 30 vaquitas remaining and the idea of rescuing some by capturing them and placing them in human care not considered viable, conservation action is now focused on enforcement and net removal. The current enhanced net removal effort during the totoaba spawning season will last until May. Because the net removal effort is critical to saving the vaquita, progress will be updated on this website monthly.

The map on the left shows active nets removed between October 2017 and January 2018. The graph on the right shows the number of totoaba nets removed by Sea Shepherd last year (blue) and this year (orange).