The dorsal fin of a vaquita coming out of the water as the animal surfaces.

Protecting the Vaquita Porpoise in Mexico Through Fishing Net Removal

CAT Action Treasury, Inc. and project partners are helping to remove illegal fishing gear in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico, and building awareness in local communities to better protect the endangered vaquita porpoise.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Mexico

Project Dates: September 2022 - August 2024

Who is involved?
Through this collaborative project, supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, CAT Action Treasury, Inc. is working in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico, with ​​partners and fishers, to search for, detect, and mark derelict fishing gear, primarily consisting of illegal bottomset gillnets, for removal by Mexican authorities and partner organizations. Partners are also working with local communities to raise awareness on the issue of marine debris.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Upper Gulf of California, Mexico, is the only habitat in the world for the vaquita porpoise. This species is endangered and under critical threat, with entanglement in derelict and active illegal gillnets being the driving force towards their extinction. The Upper Gulf of California is rich in other marine resources and supports shrimping and fishing industries, including the endangered totoaba fish, which are illegally fished in the region. Totoaba are sought after for its swim bladder, an air-filled sac in the totoaba’s body that helps it float, which is highly prized in oversea markets. Thousands of swim bladders are dried and smuggled out of Mexico each year, sometimes through the United States.

CAT Action Treasury, Inc. is coordinating efforts with local partners and communities in the Upper Gulf of California to help protect the vaquita. Together, they are locating and assisting in the removal of approximately 260 gillnets, with large-mesh gillnets used for totoaba fishing being the top priority as they pose the greatest entanglement risk to the vaquita and are associated with trafficking. Once nets are removed, they will be assessed and processed for recycling, if possible. Through the removal of these illegal gillnets, it is hoped that the vaquita population will be protected and survive for future generations. 

Partners are also working with local communities that fish in the Upper Gulf of California to raise awareness among local and tourist populations on the plight of the vaquita and the importance in protecting this unique species. 

Last updated Tue, 05/21/2024 - 05:14 pm EDT