The elusive vaquita porpoise is now facing imminent extinction according to reports. Native to the Gulf of California, there were an estimated 30 vaquitas left in 2016 and an alarming new study
has found that there were fewer than 19 animals remaining in autumn 2019. Nets hung vertically called gillnets are the primary reason for the drastic decline in vaquita numbers, though they were banned in the gulf in 2015 for a period of two years. Since 2011, the population has plummeted 98.6 percent and immediate action is required to save the species from extinction.
Fishermen still continued to work the waters the vaquita calls home in spite of the ban, seeking a large fish called the totoaba for its bladder. Such bladders can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market
and they are in high demand in traditional Chinese medicine. Between 2016 and 2019, ten dead vaquitas were found and eight of them died due to entanglement in gillnets.
The only real good news in the report is that the surviving vaquitas are perfectly healthy with the presence of two calves also documented. Scientists believe that the species may be able to rebound if the gillnet threat is removed. If a solution is not found soon, it is highly likely that the vaquita will be declared extinct, reminiscent of when China's baiji river dolphin was declared functionally extinct in 2006.