The world's most endangered animal: Who's to blame for the vaquita's demise?

·Environment Editor
·2-min read

Failure to protect vaquita, the world's most endangered animal, must be investigated, a major international organisation has recommended.

In 2021, Yahoo News Australia confirmed the world's tiniest porpoise was not extinct, but their population was in serious trouble.

Mexican cartels, Chinese smugglers, corruption and illegal fishing have seen their numbers likely plummet to less than 10.

A recent survey concluded there are no more than 10 vaquita on Earth. Source: Chris Johnson / WWF
A recent survey concluded there are no more than 10 vaquita on Earth. Source: Chris Johnson / WWF

Use of gill nets to catch endangered totoaba fish have taken a heavy toll on vaquita which survive in a 300 square kilometre refuge in the Upper Gulf of California.

While Mexico maintains it enforces a ban and violations only occur in “exceptional cases” in recent months, conservationists have observed hundreds of illegal boats in the zero tolerance area.

Monday’s recommendation by environmental authorities from the United States, Mexico and Canada who form the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) will go to a vote in 60 days.

What the vaquita investigation means

If the vote is affirmative, then the commission’s secretariat will prepare a record of Mexico’s enforcement.

It would examine the country's "compliance with the relevant laws and orders” along with “the effectiveness of the measures taken.”

Sarah Uhlemann from non-profit Center for Biological Diversity, which has been petitioning for an investigation, said it's “a dramatic spotlight” on Mexico’s “refusal to stop illegal fishing”.

Mexico's efforts to stop illegal fishing in the vaquita's waters could soon be investigated. Source: WWF Netherlands
Mexico's efforts to stop illegal fishing in the vaquita's waters could soon be investigated. Source: WWF Netherlands

“Right now we have the Mexican government going around the world to various treaty meetings, telling everyone its enforcement is hunky dory… but the evidence clearly shows there is a massive amount of illegal fishing,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“I think this investigation will be very helpful in elucidating what the situation really is out there, and put a spotlight on Mexico's claims that they have illegal fishing under control.”

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