The fishing-free zone set up to protect the vaquita habitat has been abandoned officially by Mexico. The rare endangered porpoise was protected by a government policy that maintained a fishing-free zone to protect the critically imperiled porpoise.
The government announced the measures on Wednesday by replacing the ‘zero tolerance’ zone for fishing in the restricted upper stretches of the Gulf of California with a watered-down version of penalties if there are above 60 boats in the area on multiple occasions.
The authorities have been unable to impose the present rules and even the sliding-scale punishments seem to be destined to be irrelevant and toothless. This move opens the formerly protected zone to rampant fishing as there will instead be an absence of even the minimal checking and enforcement that was in place to stop illegal fishing.
Conservatives warn that the ill-planned move will definitely harm the vaquita habitat and push the gentle creatures towards extinction. Their numbers are already down to 9.
Gillnet fishing In The Vaquita Habitat Decimated Their Population
The vaquita habitat is limited to the upper reaches of the Gulf of California in the Sea of Cortez. The population of the small porpoise (Phocoena Sinus) has been decimated by illegal fishing through the use of gillnet fishing. They are used for fishing the critically threatened totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi)
The ‘no fishing’ zone was imposed in 2017 to defend the vaquita habitat from unlawful fishing. The zone was even expanded last year in September. But in an about-turn, the vaquita habitat has been opened up by replacing the enforcements with watered-down rules.
Marine consultant Kate O’Connell at the Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, said that this ill-advised move will open up the vaquita habitat to illegal fishing and drive the porpoises to extinction. With any monitoring, the gillnet fishing will again be used by the fishermen. This view was echoed by Earth League International’s executive director Andrea Crosta who said that the move has effectively sealed the fate of the vaquita. He said that the move is an open invitation for totoaba traffickers and illegal fishermen. He called it a wrong political move.
Attempts to move the vaquita from their habitat were unsuccessful as one of them died from the stress.