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Mexico uses drones to save vaquitas, the world’s rarest marine mammals

Mexico launches a plan to protect vaquitas using drones, abolishing fishing nets and relying on international cooperation.

With a global population of about 60 specimens, vaquitas are world’s rarest marine mammals. The Mexican government has recently announced that it will launch a campaign to monitor illegal fishing activities in the Gulf of California, the habitat of this animal. The Minister of the Environment will use three drones Arcturus T-20 to monitor the area.

A protected area for vaquitas

Despite President Enrique Peña Nieto’s efforts to increase tenfold the protected area of the Gulf of California last year, the number of individuals of the species has dramatically dropped in the last few years. A report written in May 2016 confirms that vaquitas declined from over 500 in 1997 to 220 in 2008 and 60 this year.

In the last two years, the government has allocated 70 million dollars to help local fishermen, hit by the ban on the use of fishing nets in the protected area for small porpoises. Some illegal nets were identified some time ago thanks to the association Sea Shepherd, which monitors the Gulf with its drones.

Vaquita, credits foto: Noaa
Vaquita © Noaa

Illegal fishing

Illegal fishing often hides behind legal fishing: so the goal is to catch every type of fishnet, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Oona Isabelle Layolle told the website Seeker. Rigoberto Garcia, a fisheries commission official, stated that the ban on the use of fishing nets in the area could be made permanent when the temporary ban adopted two years ago expires in April 2017.

Actually, Mexico is not the only country to protect vaquitas: according to the New York Times, Peña Nieto has recently met Barack Obama to talk about cooperating with the United States to intensify the efforts to preserve the species. China is also willing to collaborate to stop the illegal trade of Totoaba bladders, which are considered a delicacy in the Asian country and are used as a natural remedy. This species lives in the same habitat as vaquitas and the country believes that it will be necessary to stop illegal trafficking as well as educate consumers.

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