Mexico, DiCaprio, Slim team up to help endangered porpoise

Calvin Saunders
June 10, 2017

Leonardo Dicaprio put the porpoise first when he met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and signed an agreement that would do away with the use of gillnets in the Northern California gulf, The Associated Press reports.

Under the memorandum, the signatories undertook to make permanent a temporary ban on using gillnets in the vaquita's waters and to step up efforts to combat the use of illegal gillnets, as well as the prosecution of illegal fishing and totoaba poaching.

"Mexico understands its responsibility as one of the countries with greatest biodiversity", he said.

"The efforts embraced by the government of Mexico towards the maintenance and preservation of the environment, as well as the relentless work by universities, NGOs and philanthropic organizations have been significant", Slim said.

Hope has been ignited for the vaquita marina porpoise as the Mexican government, a Mexican tycoon and USA actor-cum-environmental activist, Leonardo DiCaprio are out to protect the world's smallest porpoise species that is severely on the brink of extinction.

The agreement - which will be backed by both the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation - commits to fund local development and fishing options that don't involve gillnets as a way to counter any negative economic effects for the fishermen who rely on income from catching totoaba.

Totoaba maws or swim bladders for sale in China
Totoaba maws or swim bladders for sale in China

Reuters reported that the memorandum also stipulates - among other regulations - a ban on night time fishing in the upper Gulf of California as well as at the vaquita reserve, and to limit the entry and exit points for fishing purposes within the region. "That is why we have implemented an historic effort to avoid the extinction of a unique species in the world".

As DiCaprio pointed out in his post, the vaquitas' habitat in the Gulf of California along the west coast of Mexico is unsafe for the marine mammals who are often caught up in gillnets. Last month DiCaprio launched a Twitter campaign aimed at Mexican officials to encourage them to take action, an effort that led Peña Nieto to declare the country was focusing "all its efforts to prevent the extinction of the species".

Enforcement against go-fast boats used by illegal fishermen is hard, so the memorandum also includes a prohibition on night fishing and improved entry and exit control in the vaquita reserve.

The foundations believe the fishing rules and tighter enforcement should help protect threatened ecosystems across the entire gulf.

Found only in Mexico's Gulf of California, or the Sea of Cortez, only about 30 individuals of the species are thought to still exist, according to data from World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

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Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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