11th meeting of the Vaquita Recovery Team

The report of the 11th meeting of the international vaquita recovery team (CIRVA), held in La Jolla, California on 19-21 February 2019, is now available. The report recommends a series of immediate, near-term, medium-term, and long-term actions to prevent extinction of the vaquita. It calls on the Government of Mexico to do a great deal more than has been done to date to eliminate illegal fishing for totoaba, with the focus of enforcement and net-removal efforts now centered in the small area where the few remaining vaquitas have been observed (acoustically) and visually over the past six months. This is expected to be treated as a ‘Zero Tolerance Area’ where the goal is to remove any illegal net within hours of its deployment, particularly during the totoaba season, which continues through April and into early May. The report also provides updates on the acoustic monitoring program and other scientific work, net-removal efforts, development and testing of alternative fishing gear, and various socio-economic and legal issues.


January 2019 Vaquita Update

January was a month marked by the violent action of illegal fishermen directed toward people engaged in net removal efforts. Press releases including video of the attacks are available here for the January 9th attack and here for the January 31st attack. Men in multiple pangas set upon the Sea Shepherd’s Farley Mowat and a Navy Defender vessel, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Because of these attacks, only 7 days of net-removal effort were possible (4 for the Farley Mowat and 3 for the Museo de Ballena’s Narval). Twenty-two active totoaba nets were removed, all within the Vaquita Refuge and near where the attacks occurred.

The net-removal effort will resume because, as the totoaba spawning season advances, conditions become increasingly dangerous for the remaining vaquitas.  Through December 2018, the first month of the 2018-2019 totoaba spawning season, 41 active totoaba nets were removed by the Farley Mowat, more than were removed in December 2017.

A recap of efforts during 2018 can be found in the December 2018 vaquita update.

The map below (Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Internal Reports, 2019) shows the locations of active nets removed in January 2019 by both the Farley Mowat and Narval (black dots for December and yellow dots for January). The black line shows the area of enhanced protection including both the Vaquita Refuge and the enhanced enforcement area recommended by the 2018 CIRVA meeting.

30 new IMMAs identified in the eastern Indian Ocean

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Erich Hoyt, co-chairs of the IUCN SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force have announced final results from the Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) Workshop in the North East Indian Ocean and South East Asian Seas which was held in March 2018 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (Borneo).

The approved IMMAs—as well as those that will remain as candidate IMMAs and areas of interest (AoI)—are now displayed on an interactive map, the IMMA e-atlas, at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/imma-eatlas/.

The final report of the workshop is now available for download at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/downloads/. There is also posted a news item summarizing the results and giving background on the IMMA programme at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/30-new-immas-awarded-in-the-ne-indian-ocean-and-se-asian-seas/

Meanwhile, the Task Force is shortly entering the review period for the Extended Southern Ocean IMMA process, and in early March will host the IMMA workshop for the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas, in Oman.


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