CANCÚN, QROO – The vaquita marina, an endemic species of Mexico that lives in the Upper Gulf of California, is about to disappear. Its main enemy, the fishing of a fish whose kilo of craw costs in the illegal market up to 60 thousand dollars. The totoaba fish feeds in the same area as the vaquita marina and for its fame is also in danger of extinction. His crop is considered in Asian countries as a powerful aphrodisiac, so the kilo in Mexico costs about eight thousand dollars, in the United States to 16 thousand dollars and in China and Japan is bought up to 60 thousand dollars in the black market.
Ricardo Rebolledo, a specialist of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, who participated in Cancun in the recent Festival of the Oceans, states that the vaquita marina shares the habitat with the totoaba fish and it was until this species started fishing with gill nets, indiscriminately, when the problems for both began.
The gillnets basically consist of a mesh panel constructed of fine threads, which is assembled with reinforcement cords on all sides, to obtain a vertical position of the net in the sea. They are, in general, made of polyamide, a multifilament yarn that is almost invisible in the sea.
The problem with these ghost networks is that many are lost or abandoned and continue to catch and kill fish for long periods of time. They have been used to capture a wide variety of species such as cod, sole, snooker and snapper, tuna, mackerel, salmon, squid and herring, but they can also catch dolphins and marine vaquitas. Given this, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, as well as the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources prohibit the use of gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California, but it has not been enough because illegal fishing they keep catching dolphins and vaquitas with the sole purpose that the totoaba does not escape.
The Chinese consider the totoaba a panacea, they say that it has aphrodisiac, medicinal and regenerative qualities, although no scientific research has been able to demonstrate it. The illegal market is such that the United Nations Organization has considered totoaba as Mexico’s water cocaine since it considers that organized crime is behind that business. In May 2017, the American actor Leonardo Di Caprio asked the Mexican government, through social networks, to implement actions for the protection of this marine mammal, which was answered by the Federation a month later, with the signing of an agreement to his care to which the Oscar winner was invited.
However, on April 6, the death of the first vaquita in 2018 was reported within its refuge area. The animal was caught in a network, which showed the few results of the efforts of the Federal Government and international associations on the subject. Seamen from the region have accused the drug cartels as responsible for fishing the totoaba and therefore, guilty of the death of the vaquita, so in the midst of a battle between the authorities and the illegal fishermen, the risk of the disappearance of the vaquita and the totoaba is imminent.
Source: Oaxaca Quadratin