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Thu May 13, 2021, 02:35 AM

'Cocaine of the sea' threatens critically endangered vaquita

By Linda Pressly
BBC News, San Felipe, Mexico

Published 6 hours ago

The vaquita marina is found only in Mexico. It is the most critically endangered sea mammal on the planet, its survival threatened by a deadly clash of interests between fishing and conservation. Scientists estimate there may be fewer than a dozen left in the wild.

Jacques Cousteau, the marine explorer, called the Sea of Cortéz, also known as the Gulf of California, "the world's aquarium".

One of its treasures is a silvery-coloured porpoise with wide, panda eyes. But the vaquita's days may be numbered because of illegal fishing for another protected species: totoaba.

Totoaba, a fish that can grow as large as a vaquita, was a food source before it was placed on Mexico's endangered list.

"We used to catch it in the 60s and 70s," remembers Ramón Franco Díaz, president of a fishing federation in the coastal town of San Felipe, on the peninsula of Baja California. "Then the Chinese came with their suitcases full of dollars, and bought our consciences."


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