Vaquita porpoises have been disappearing at an alarming rate because they drown in illegal fishing nets in the Gulf of California. With a team of 90 experts from 9 countries, VaquitaCPR (Conservation, Protection and Recovery) set out on a courageous path to buy the vanishing vaquitas more time on the planet. We attempted to locate and rescue the remaining vaquitas from extinction and bring them into a temporary ocean sanctuary while the complex issues surrounding fishing in their habitat could be solved. It was a plan embraced by conservationists all over the world. Sadly our rescue plans were suspended because vaquitas reacted poorly to being in a new environment. But with fewer than 15 vaquitas now remaining, fighting to save them is more important than ever.

Now, the story of the vaquita is being told in a new documentary film. Sea of Shadows just had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and we’re all hopeful that it will find a wide audience that cares about ocean conservation. Watch more from the film’s director and one of the VaquitaCPR scientists featured in the movie.

Rescue Efforts: The Details

VaquitaCPR’s goal was to bring vaquitas into temporary human care until all gillnets for shrimp and finfish were banned and removed from their habitat. Particularly harmful are the illegal nets to catch a large fish, the totoaba, which is butchered for its swim bladder, smuggled to China and Hong Kong, and sold for thousands of dollars each. Along with the totoaba and masses of other marine life, vaquitas get entangled in these nets and drown. As we prepared for this bold conservation endeavor, the world’s best biologists and veterinarians joined our efforts.  Read the details of the rescue plan here, and the scientific paper that summarizes how the project went and lessons we learned as we continue our work to save the world’s most endangered marine mammals.

But the story doesn’t end here. And we need your help to write the ending.

Vaquitas are vanishing. Fast. The problem is so simple and yet extremely complex. If we can remove illegal nets and prevent more from entering the water, we have a chance at saving vaquitas from extinction. But that will take the might of the people of San Felipe, the government of Mexico, and the entire international community.

Consider these conundrums. Can alternative fishing gear that does not kill vaquitas be developed in time to save the species? We can’t save the vaquita and drive fishers to extinction. How do you fight an illegal fishery that offers wealth in a climate of poverty? We need all hands on deck to save not just the vaquita, but also the fishing communities in Baja. And we don’t have a moment to spare.

Here's what you can do to save the Vaquita from extinction.

Use your heart. You can make a difference today by supporting the multi-institutional effort to remove deadly gillnets from the Gulf, which includes the Mexican Ministry of the Environment, the Mexican Navy, Museo de la Ballena, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Use your voice. We owe it to each of the remaining vaquitas to sound an alarm that is heard round the world. Help us tell their story. Talk about vaquitas that are drowning, fishermen who are struggling, and the illegal fishery that is to blame. Talk about it at the water cooler and at the dinner table. And talk about how we still have time to pull them back from the edge of extinction. Then start sharing. Tweet it, post it, and blog it. #vaquitacpr @vaquitacpr

The VaquitaCPR team is hard at work to determine our next steps, and we are utilizing the expertise of our vaquita scientists to guide the way. Updates will be posted on this website.

Please stay tuned.

To each and every one of our supporters, partners, colleagues, friends, and family members… thank you. Thank you for caring about vaquitas. Thank you for showing up. And thank you for not giving up.