The Vaquita Are About To Become Extinct From Being Victims Of Mafias And Chinese Medicine (IMAGES)

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The vaquita is the marine mammal that is closest to extinction after becoming a collateral victim of the capture in Mexican waters of the totoaba, a fish whose crop is bought by exorbitant sums in China , although its export is completely illegal.

Both are endemic species of the Gulf of California (Mexico), but while the vaquita is a funny animal that some call “dwarf whale,” the totoaba is a huge fish (it can reach two meters), whose appeal is in its buche or Swimming bladder, to which various properties are attributed in traditional Chinese medicine.

The destinies of both have crossed in recent years, when the totoaba fishing in the Upper Gulf of California has caused the bycatch and the death of cows – as well as sharks, dolphins, turtles, among other species- caught in the nets

“We have no time to lose. The last thing we know is that there would be less than twenty vaquitas. We have the opportunity to grow the population of this species if all measures to eliminate illegal fishing are put in place,” Ivonne Higuero tells Efe , responsible for the UN convention that regulates international trade in threatened species (CITES).

Since 2015 in the Upper Gulf of California there is a fishing ban that includes monthly financial compensation to fishermen prevented from going to work, an aid that the Government of President Manuel López Obrador suppressed at the beginning of the year because he considered that he did not contribute Nothing to protect the cow.

“The government makes a serious mistake by refusing to compensate fishermen without offering them an alternative,” explains Richard Ladkani, director of the National Geographic documentary “Sea of ​​Shadows”, who denounces the tragedy of the vaquita and criminal networks that they have been woven around the illegal exploitation of totoaba.

Fishermen in the area suffer from the closure and so they have informed President López Obrador, in a letter addressed to him last day 3 asking him to lift the restriction and authorize a new type of network that would reduce the risk of capture of the vaquita, or to be compensated again.

If neither happens, the federation that represents fishermen has warned that they will go fishing with their traditional nets this week, according to a copy of the letter to which Efe had access.

Sea workers denounce that they are the only ones affected by the closure and that in the meantime “illegal fishing has become owner of the Upper Gulf of California”, on whose banks each totoaba is paid around $ 5,000 (4,600 euros)

Intimately linked to the fate of the vaquita, the situation of totoaba was discussed last August at a meeting of the 183 countries that adhere to CITES, where it was decided that Mexico, the United States and China will meet before the end of the year to seek solutions

Mexico will participate from the perspective of the territory of origin of the species, the United States as a transit country and China from its role as a demand generator.

The monitoring of the mafias that control the illegal traffic of totoaba buche has allowed to establish that this product transits through Chinese populations settled in the US, which then forward them to China and Hong Kong, where each crop is sold for quantities ranging between 60,000 and 100,000 dollars, (55,000 and 91,500 euros), depending on its size.

It is feared that if fishermen are still prevented from fishing, they will become illegal and fall into the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel, which controls this criminal business and uses the descendants of Chinese living in Mexicali and Tijuana (both on the US border) as part of the traffic chain, says Ladkani, whose documentary will be released in Spain and Latin America in the coming weeks.

But how can a species native to Mexico be an ingredient of ancient Chinese medicine?

Higueros explains that, in reality, Chinese medicine used another endemic fish from its waters, but it became extinct a decade ago due to overexploitation.

The Vaquita Are About To Become Extinct From Being Victims Of Mafias And Chinese Medicine

It was then that it was discovered that the totoaba had a strong similarity to the missing fish, particularly in its size and strength, so it was adopted as an ideal substitute.

According to Chinese belief, this fish’s crop is an ingredient that gives vitality and has regenerative effects on those who consume it and, in addition, it has begun to be used in recent years as an ingredient of Chinese haute cuisine and as an investment .

Conservation specialists have proposed to the Chinese buyers totoaba of hatcheries, but when those found that it does not grow in the same way as in the wild, they rejected the offer.

“The mafias are very strong and it is very difficult to fight with them. We must avoid corruption and put the police and the navy to watch so that the ships do not enter the protected area of ​​the vaquita because, as in any other issue of organized crime, the profits are huge and risks are taken, “Higuero reflects.

The Mexican Government has committed to CITES to inform at the latest on November 1 about surveillance measures and other mechanisms put in place to prevent the illegal capture of totoaba and help the survival of the vaquita.

As the American Mammalian Society transmitted to President López Obrador a few weeks ago, we must not listen to those who claim that nothing can be done to save the cow.

The Vaquita Are About To Become Extinct From Being Victims Of Mafias And Chinese Medicine

“Many other species have recovered from similar small populations thanks to solid and well-executed conservation programs, and this includes Mexican species such as the Guadalupe Guadalupe Wolf, the Elephant Seal or the Gray Whale,” recalls the president of the agency, Douglas Kelt EFE


Source: La Vanguardia