Incredibly Rare and Severely Threatened – The Vaquita
The vaquita is the smallest whale in the world and considered as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. The following blog reveals more about the fascinating marine mammal.
Global warming due to climate change, large-scale pollution from waste and a growing world population are just some of the factors with a negative effect on nature and its various ecosystems.
The vastness and depth of our oceans, combined with the powerful currents and waves, may give the impression that the oceans of this world cannot be disturbed by anything. But: the oceans and their inhabitants are just as affected as the ecosystems on land.
In the following article we would like to introduce a sea dweller which is particularly affected by the dangers mentioned above and who has been included in the Red List in the category "threatened with extinction": the vaquita.
What is the vaquita’s current situation?
With a maximum length of 1.5 metres, the cochita or gulf porpoise (as the vaquita is also called) is the smallest whale in the world. Its distribution area extends over an area of approx. 2235 square kilometres in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Thus, the vaquita has the smallest range of all marine mammals worldwide – and is therefore particularly sensitive to changes within its habitat. It feeds on smaller fish and crustaceans in the shallow coastal waters, with temperatures of more than 30 °C. With a population of just under 20 individuals worldwide, the vaquita is the most endangered toothed whale species on our planet. A comparison that illustrates the dramatic development: In 2007, the worldwide population still included almost 600 animals. According to the IUCN Red List, the vaquita is one of the hundred most endangered species and the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Any form of commercial trade with the vaquita is internationally prohibited as the species is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Why is the vaquita threatened?
A particular threat to the species is by-catch. The vaquita is often caught as a by-catch of the Totoaba, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in some countries. The vaquita is also endangered by ghost nets. In addition, there is the decline in fish stocks, which provide a food source for marine mammals, and the pollution of their habitats by agricultural pesticides released into the sea.
Despite the small population of the vaquita, there is still hope that it will recover. The Mexican government, for example, has established a protected area in which fishing is strictly prohibited.
If you are interested in protecting the small whales and want to learn more about different protection measures, you can visit the website of WWF to receive further information.
Vaquita conservation supported by Lexi&Bö
The Cologne fashion label Lexi&Bö has launched a campaign to support the local protective measures of the YAQU PACHA organisation.
"The official vaquita shirt with the large "Vaquita don't quit" print on which the vaquita can also be seen is intended to draw attention to the unfortunate situation of the gulf porpoise" says Stefan Böhland, co-founder of Lexi&Bö. "As divers, we love the underwater world and its inhabitants. We want to protect and preserve these at all costs. Since we can't help directly on the ground, we'll do it our way." For every vaquita shirt sold, Lexi&Bö donates another campaign shirt to YAQU PACHA. This means that twice as many people become aware of the problem. At the same time, YAQU PACHA uses the proceeds from the donated shirts to support local conservation measures.