Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took to Twitter this week to express their commitment to saving the vaquita, a rare species of porpoise in the Gulf of California.
It started when the DiCaprio shared an online petition from the World Wildlife Fund asking Peña Nieto to take immediate action to protect the vaquita, which is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. A November 2016 report from the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) stated that the species' population had declined by 90 percent in a five-year period, and only about 30 vaquitas remained. Several have been found dead since then, with some scientists saying their numbers could now be as low as two or three.
The mammals, called the "pandas of the sea" because of the dark rings around their eyes, are often trapped and killed in gill nets used by illegal fishing operations to catch another endangered species — the giant totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China.
Peña Nieto responded to DiCaprio and the WWF's plea on Thursday, tweeting that Mexico "has focused all its efforts to prevent the extinction of this species." He noted the two-year ban on gill nets in the area, which was put in place in 2015. The Huffington Post notes that the ban expired in April of this year, although reports from July 2016 state that a permanent ban had been announced.
Peña Nieto went on to note that the Mexican government had "extended the protection zone to a surface three times larger than the original," and that the country's Navy has "300 marines, 15 boats and unmanned aircraft systems" watching over the area.
Scientists announced earlier this year that the last hope for the mammal could be capturing and breeding it, although no live specimen has ever been captured.
Peña Nieto said that Mexico is "making a major effort" to save this endangered species, adding that the country is "doing what should have been done decades ago."
However, it could take more than just Mexican efforts.. The WWF has also called on the American government "to stop transborder shipments of totoaba products," and the Chinese government to stop their illegal transport and sale.
Hopefully, through the efforts of scientists, activists such as DiCaprio, and governments around the globe, this elusive creature can be saved from extinction. You can learn more about the vaquita on the WWF website.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
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