The international body behind the treaty that protects endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade has announced sanctions against Mexico for its failure to control illegal fishing and trade that endangers the vaquita porpoise.
CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) has asked most nations around the globe to suspend all commercial trade with Mexico in certain listed species, amounting to millions of dollars in wildlife products.
The plight of the vaquita is a desperate one with some reports stating that less than 10 now remain. WDC has been pushing for action at CITES meetings to help the vaquita for some time and this news is welcomed.
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.
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.
There are over 3,000 animals and plants from Mexico listed under CITES, and many of these species are exported. These include lucrative products, such as crocodile leather, mahogany, tarantulas, pet reptiles, cacti, and other plants.