Mexico is in the eye of a storm over a conservation issue related to the faster extinction of porpoises in its seas. The anger of conservationists is spilling over to the streets after the death of a baby porpoise, which was recently found with its umbilical cord still attached.
The snub-nosed vaquita porpoises live in the Gulf of California. Activists are blaming the Mexican government for serious lapses in preservation efforts that accentuated the rapid extinction of the animal species. There are only 30 animals from that species left on Earth.
Scientists have warned that if the trend persists, the world's smallest porpoise will be extinct by 2022.
The reason for the rapid decline of the vaquita population in recent years has been gillnet fishing for shrimp. Agitated conservationists have called for the boycott of Mexican shrimp in the aftermath of the death of the vaquita calf, and have stepped up protests against the poor conservation efforts on the dying species.
The call for a boycott was mounted by 45 conservation organizations that jointly urged Mexico to clamp a permanent ban on gillnet fishing, take out all illegal nets from the water, and use more enforcement muscle.
The corpse of the vaquita calf washed up on a beach in the Gulf of California, said Sea Shepherd, an NGO. According to the group, a female vaquita gives birth to a calf once in two years.
"Under the stress of fighting for its life, a mother could have discharged the calf," said Sea Shepherd activist Oona Layolle.
Scientists are desperate at the latest news regarding the world's smallest porpoise.
The population of vaquitas is just 30 and the decline has been about 50 percent a year, noted Thomas Jefferson, a marine mammalogist who is the director of Viva Vaquita.
Sea Shepherd said illegal gillnets are also after a large fish called totoaba, which is also endangered. The totoaba's dried bladder enjoys big demand in China where it fetches thousands of dollars.
Call To Boycott Mexican Seafood
Meanwhile, angry conservation organizations have urged U.S. consumers and seafood companies to boycott Mexican shrimp to pressure the Mexican government and save the rare porpoises.
It seems Mexico's conservation efforts, including a two-year ban on gillnet fishing in vaquita habitats in 2015, have not worked well. The environmental groups say the ban was marred by poor enforcement.
Conservation groups are now seeking a permanent ban on gillnet fishing to save the species.
"It's clear that the actions taken by Mexico to date have not been consistent enough or sufficient enough to protect the species," noted Kate O'Connell, a marine wildlife consultant with the Animal Welfare Institute.
Mexican Minister Vouches Protection
However, Mexico's minister for agriculture, Jose Calzada, asserted that the government is doing everything to protect the vaquita. He claimed an "ambitious program" is in the pipeline to salvage them.
Mexico's environmental protection authority said the baby vaquita's corpse would be sent for examination at a lab in San Francisco to test for toxic substances and pathogens.