Drowning in illegal gillnets is the main reason why the Vaquita Porpoise is fast becoming extinct. These illegal gillnets are primarily used to catch the also critically endangered fish, the Totoaba.
The Vaquita (‘little cow‘ in Spanish) is the world’s smallest porpoise and can only be found in the shallow northern parts of the Gulf of California in Mexico.
As one of the only seven true tortoise species, its existence wasn’t known until 1958. From an estimated 1,000 porpoises when they were first documented in 1958, the Vaquita is on the brink of extinction. This tiny cetacean (aquatic mammal) species, whose nickname is Panda of the Ocean or Señorita of the Sea, is down to its last 6 – 10 remaining individuals.
They usually get trapped within abandoned nylon gillnets used during illegal fishing operations to catch another endangered fish species called Totoaba. This entanglement often leads to drowning.
Just recently, a unique sonar scanning technology became available – making it possible to detect the location of entangled Vaquitas and to facilitate their rescue and recovery.
It has distinct Goth-like features due to its dark eye rings and lip patches. The Vaquitas, whose average lifespan is twenty years, can only give birth once every two years.