Evidence of a Singular Cause of the Vaquita’s Steep Decline: Bycatch

A recently published paper provides etiological analyses of eight vaquita deaths in March and April 2016–2018. Nutritional state, lesions, biotoxins and levels of contaminants in fat were considered. Injuries to the seven vaquitas found dead (the eighth animal was the healthy adult female that died after being live-captured in November 2017) were consistent with entanglement in monofilament nets or ropes. The authors were able to exclude persistent organic pollutants and biotoxins as sources of mortality in this critically endangered species, and their findings reconfirm that incidental mortality in illegal fishing gear is the sole factor driving the vaquita ever-closer to extinction.

March 2020 – Another vaquita death

A video (see below) has come to light that was taken by a fisherman in the upper Gulf of California and which shows a dead vaquita entangled in a fishing net.  The video is determined to be authentic and was recorded in early March 2020.

 

Given that it was estimated that fewer than 19 vaquitas remained as of summer 2018 (Jaramillo-Legorreta et al. 2019) this latest death, along with others documented in 2019, and in 2018 , is of utmost concern. For more information on the active efforts to remove fishing nets from the range of the vaquita see article here and for more information on conservation efforts see our vaquita page.

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