The Mexican government will no longer protect the habitat of the critically endangered vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California, but has opened the area up to fishing, according to a news report. It’s estimated that there are only about nine vaquitas left in the world. The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a bathtub-sized porpoise endemic to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California, has experienced a sharp population decline in the two past two decades, mainly due to illegal gillnet fishing for the critically endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi). In 2017, the Mexican government established a “no tolerance” zone to protect the vaquita from illegal fishing, and even expanded the area last September. But now the government has given fishers open access to the refuge, the only enforcement being a  “sliding scale of sanctions if more than 60 boats are repeatedly seen in the area,” according to Mexico News Daily. “I fear this might be the death knell for the vaquita, as the plan that has been proposed by Mexico will convert what should be a straightforward ‘no go’ zone into a complex enforcement area with varying levels of monitoring and deterrence depending on the amount of illegal fishing taking place in the area,” Kate O’Connell, marine consultant at the Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute, told Mongabay. “The vaquita are being mismanaged to death.” Two vaquitas surfacing for air in the Sea of Cortez. Image by NOAA. O’Connell said gillnet fishing is technically still banned in the Upper Gulf…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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