Mexico, the Vaquita, and the USA

The vaquita is a small porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California. It is also critically endangered, with only about 150 individuals left. The Associated Press reports that Mexico is working on ways to reduce human interaction with the remaining vaquita population, primarily through programs to get fishermen to stay out of vaquita habitat, use equipment that is safer for the vaquita, or to retire or otherwise leave the fishing trade. They are putting a chunk of change into these programs, though various fishermen asked seemed to think that the Mexican government’s financial inducements were a bit lowball.

An oblique mention is made of another issue in vaquita conservation, and that would be the alteration of the habitat of the Gulf of California due to a factor beyond the control of the Mexican government: water use of the Colorado River. The vaquita has the misfortune to be in part dependent on water that could otherwise be flushing toilets in Los Angeles, and therefore usually is. The AP report is pretty bland about this, noting that the water from the Colorado River that does reach the Gulf of California carries a lot of agricultural runoff, and that changes the Gulf’s chemistry. A somewhat more basic issue is that the volume of water reaching the Gulf is far reduced from pre-irrigation and aqueduct days, and that makes for a much saltier Gulf than was the case just a hundred years ago. So we have an unstated contrast between Mexico putting a pot of money into trying to do something toward vaquita conservation, and the USA that is doing… well, probably nothing particularly effective, at least if vaquita extinction is not the goal in mind.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.