“Perspective” - Vaquita
Acrylic on Canvas, 16” x 12” x 1.5"
Original Painting: $1,950.00
Ready-to-Hang, Limited Edition Archival Metal Print: $350.00
Time to Completion: 162 Hours
Ounces of Paint: 32
Custom sizes and materials available for prints. Inquire here.
Human Impacts Resulting in Protected Status:
The term bycatch describes animals caught in various types of fishing nets that are not the intended target of commercial fishing. Being a bycatch victim is usually fatal. The victim is sometimes stored on board for secondary markets, but is usually discarded. The most serious and immediate threat to the Vaquita is illegal fishing bycatch by gillnet. The main driver of illegal fishing practices in the Vaquita habitat is the Chinese demand for swim bladder from the endangered totoaba fish.
Gillnets are huge nets set under water, that look like giant volleyball court nets. As fish are swimming, they are caught in the gillnet holes and are then trapped by their gills. At regular intervals, the fishermen will pull up the gillnets and empty them, sometimes storing select bycatch, but most often discarding it. The Vaquita is always discarded bycatch.
Population and Environment:
In November of 2016, there were about 30 Vaquita in the Northern Gulf of California, Mexico. As of 2017, it is unsure if the Vaquita will become extinct by Christmas or not. If the Vaquita is able to be saved, then inbreeding will become a concern.
Pesticide exposure from runoff into the Gulf and reduced flow from the Colorado River resulting in ecological changes are a secondary threat to the Vaquita.
Last Ditch Effort:
Expert advisors to the Mexican Government have advised to capturing several specimens of the Vaquita and holding them in captivity, until the Gulf of California, Mexico, illegal fishing crisis can be resolved. U.S. Navy dolphins would locate the Vaquitas, then workers would capture them, and transfer them to a sea pen that would be built along the Gulf of California coastline. The experts do not know if the dolphins will be able to locate or capture the Vaquitas, and how the Vaquitas would react to captivity.
Update as of 12.4.17 from The Guardian:
They [the scientists] had hoped to catch a few of the planet’s last 30 vaquitas – which are only found in one small area of the Gulf of California – and protect them in a sanctuary where they could breed safely. But last month, the $4m (£3m) rescue plan by an international team of more than 60 scientists and divers ran into trouble after only a few days, when the first vaquita they caught had to be released when it began to display dangerous signs of stress.
Shortly after that, a second vaquita was caught but died a few hours after capture. The team then decided that catching any more animals presented too much risk to the species and further attempts were suspended.
Update as of 1.16.18 from ¡VIVA Vaquita!:
¡VIVA Vaquita! is “...now working to stop the demand for the products that are causing the decline (In Hong Kong and China).”
Protected Areas and Protection Efforts:
A large portion of the Vaquita distribution falls within the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, which was created by the Mexican Government and UNESCO in 1993.
Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita (CIRVA) was created in 1997. CIRVA makes recommendations on best ways to help save the Vaquita, such as the prohibition of large-mesh gillnets throughout the known natural habitats of the Vaquita. CIRVA also has proposed to ban medium and small-mesh gillnets after the prohibition of the large-mesh gillnets has been passed. Following this, CIRVA proposed the exclusion of gillnets and trawls within the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, and general improvement of fishing regulations enforcement.
In 2005, the Mexican Ministry of Environment created a Vaquita refuge that contains about 80% of locations where the Vaquita has been sighted. The State Governments of Sonora and Baja California were offered $1 million dollars to compensate commercial fishermen who would no longer be able to fish in those areas. In 2015, the Mexican government imposed a two-year ban on all gillnets across 5,000 square miles of the Vaquita habitat, using its Navy to enforce it. The Mexican government allocated $74 million in compensation over the two-years for communities that depend on those waters for financial security.
More recently, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in agreement with the Mexican Navy, has been patrolling the Gulf of California, looking for poachers and pulling illegal nets out of the water. They say that they encounter illegal fishing activities on a daily basis.
Profits will go to ¡VIVA Vaquita!, which is an organization made up of educators, researchers, and conservationists from Cetos Research Organization, Save the Whales, the American Cetacean Society, Monterey Bay Chapter, ACS National, Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, the Muskwa Club and V-Log. They conduct public awareness, research and education activities in order to drive attention to the plight of the Vaquita and promote a healthy Upper Gulf of California ecosystem.