Unconfirmed reports on the plight of the vaquita suggest that no more than 12 now remain.
Vaquitas are the world’s smallest and one of the most endangered species of whale, dolphin or porpoise on the planet. Found only in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California, the population has declined by more than 75% in the past three years alone. In Spanish, vaquita means ‘little cow’ and many local people believe them to be ‘mythical creatures’ as most have never seen one and photographs, until recently, were lacking.
In 2017, the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported that there were just 30 left in the northern gulf, but Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group, EAL says that sources think that figure has more than halved in the past year.
The single biggest threat to this species is accidental catch in illegal fisheries targeting yet another endangered species, a fish known as the totoaba. Smuggled into China, dried totoaba swim bladders, worth more than $10,000 each, are used to make maw, a soup thought to boost fertility.