Sea Shepherd Announces Partnership with Government of Mexico
Sea Shepherd Announces Partnership with Government of Mexico to Protect the Endangered Vaquita Porpoise And Other Marine Species
May 5, 2015 — FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. — Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is pleased to announce it has entered into a partnership agreement with the government of Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) to protect the world’s most petite porpoise, the critically endangered vaquita, and other marine species. As part of the partnership, Sea Shepherd will be involved in patrolling of marine fauna, surveillance, and research and scientific monitoring for the purposes of conservation, the organization has announced.
CONANP announced the partnership on their website on Thursday, April 30, immediately following working meetings between veteran Sea Shepherd crew member Oona Layolle, Captain of Sea Shepherd’s research sailing vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, and representatives of CONANP and PROFEPA. The parties agreed to a strong collaboration in order to patrol the protected Reserve de la Biosphera, a marine reserve in the Gulf of California, from poaching that has brought the vaquitas and other marine species to the brink of extinction.
A press release issued by CONANP (http://www.conanp.gob.mx/difusion/comunicado.php?id_subcontenido=839) stated Sea Shepherd “is an ally in the task of protecting this species and others that exist in the Sea of Cortez and Mexican territorial waters,” and cited Sea Shepherd’s experience working in collaboration with the Government of Ecuador to stop illegal fishing in that region.
Representative of CONANP, Alejandro del Mazo Maza, held a working meeting with Sea Shepherd representative Captain Layolle, and agreed to work in cooperation to protect the vaquita and other marine species such as the seahorse, the croaker and sea cucumber among others. Others in attendance at the meeting were Joel González Moreno, Director General of Inspection and Monitoring of Marine and Wildlife Resources Coastal Ecosystems of PROFEPA; Mariana Bellot Rojas, Director General of Institutional Development and Promotion and Oscar M. Ramirez Flores, Director of Critical Species Conservation, both of CONANP.
Since Sea Shepherd’s launch of Operation Milagro in March of this year, Captain Layolle and crewmembers aboard the R/V Martin Sheen have maintained a presence within the marine refuge, monitoring and documenting the issues facing the vaquita. Sea Shepherd crew has been concerned to see the extent of illegal fishing and deadly presence of gillnets within these protected waters.
Despite a small volunteer crew, heavy winds in the region, and limited opportunity to come into port, the crew has to date had a very successful campaign, having recently spotted and filmed an elusive vaquita — the first time a vaquita has been spotted since 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Gcqv4TQwY). The vaquita, the smallest cetacean in the world, is native to this region and is known only to occur here. According to reports from CIRVA (Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita), a committee that includes government agencies, marine biologists and NGOs, the vaquita population is declining by a shocking 18.5 percent each year – and if measures are not taken to halt this downward spiral, it is believed that the species could be extinct by the year 2018. Of an estimated 97 remaining vaquitas, only about 25 of the endearing porpoises are believed to be females of reproductive age. In addition, since the vaquita has a slow reproductive rate, giving birth to just one calf every two years, these animals are being wiped out faster than they can possibly reproduce.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently unveiled a plan demonstrating the government’s firm commitment to conserving the vaquita – an announcement that has inspired hope for these marine mammals. A two-year moratorium enacted by Mexico on gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat has just taken effect and the country is taking other critical steps to protect the endangered cetacean. The Mexican government’s partnership with Sea Shepherd is further testament to its commitment to saving the vaquita.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Government of Mexico to protect the critically endangered vaquita and other marine animals in these territorial waters,” said Captain Layolle. “Together we will work hard to make miracles happen for these imperiled species.”