Considered the most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is an elusive species which is restricted to the northern part of the Gulf of California. After a scientific expedition in March of 2018, scientists estimated that there are only 12 vaquitas left in the world. They will likely go extinct in the next decade unless drastic action is taken.
The vaquita is the smallest cetacean (a group which consists of whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and is listed as a ‘critically endangered’ species by the IUCN. This porpoise is mainly grey in colour with a black ring around its eye and was only discovered in 1958.
Little is know about the vaquita since they are exceptionally rare and quickly swim away from any sign of human activity. However, we do know that they use echo-location, just like other cetaceans, in order to find prey (which usually consists of crustaceans, small fish, squids and octopuses).
It is very upsetting to witness this species’ population rapidly fall to a point whereby they are almost unrecoverable. Their decline has been caused by human behaviour; the main threats are inappropriate fishing and pollution of their habitat. In Mexico, projects such as the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) are trying to save this marine mammal by prohibiting the use of fishing nets throughout the vaquita’s habitat. Conservation efforts like this are the last hope for the vaquita but with such a minuscule population and a dramatically reduced gene pool it will be very difficult to help them recover, nevertheless, we must try.