Very few people have ever seen La Vaquita porpoise. Scientists estimate that no more than 400 of the elusive marine mammals are alive today. La Vaquita conservation efforts have ramped up in the past couple of years. Vaquitas mainly are killed as “by-catch” in the gill nets used for fishing.
Scientists trying to save La Vaquita from extinction say they have run out of alternatives as well. The Mexican government set up a reserve in 1993 to protect the porpoises, which become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Biologists say studies of the carcasses of the vaquita porpoises show no signs of malnourishment, but plenty of scars from fishing nets.
Environmentalists from United States and Mexico have asked fishermen to stop using the gill nets. They have put forward proposals to pay the fishermen not to fish and to develop tourism as an alternative source of income.
The advocates of buying fishermen say that the solution lies in banning fishing with nets in the upper gulf and establishing a $50 million trust fund and using the earnings to pay fishermen a total of $4 million a year to pursue other trades.
Survey by Lorenzo Rojas, a biologist with the National Ecology Institute shows that the porpoise population is so thin that if more than one died each year in fishing nets the species would be doomed. Each female porpoise has only one calf every two years.
Mr. Vidal and other biologists say: Whether the decline in vaquita stems from over fishing or the damming of the Colorado River or both, the fishermen will have to find other employment eventually.
Some fishermen say that they are already having a harder time making a profit and would welcome another way to make a living. But many other fishermen say that it would be hard for them to change a way of life that has lasted generations.
Source: The New York Times