In a first, US, China and Mexico meet to halt illegal totoaba trade and save the vaquita | WWF

In a first, US, China and Mexico meet to halt illegal totoaba trade and save the vaquita

Posted on
25 August 2017
This week, Ensenada, Mexico hosted the first-ever trilateral meeting between US, China and Mexico to discuss solutions to end the illegal totoaba trade – and save the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita.

The totoaba and vaquita are species endemic to the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico, part of the Gulf of California World Heritage site. In recent years, unsustainable fishing practices and illegal wildlife trafficking have seen populations spiral downward, with vaquita numbers plummeting to as low as 30 or fewer individuals remaining.

We at WWF have been working with the government of Mexico and other partners to identify and implement a comprehensive long-term strategy to save the vaquita and secure its habitat in the Upper Gulf of California, an important source of income, food and livelihood for thousands of people in the country.

As the majority of totoaba swim bladders follow an illegal trade route from Mexico through the United States to China, this first meeting marks an important step forward in bolstering ongoing conservation efforts to protect the last remaining vaquitas but we need the discussions to be translated into actions - and fast.

“As we head into a new fishing season in the Upper Gulf of California, the meeting reminds us all that we – and the vaquita – have no time to lose. The commitment we have seen at the table today is promising but our work has only just begun. We urge the three countries to rapidly move to action even as we work together with local communities and partners to create a gillnet-free and healthy Upper Gulf of California - for both marine life such as the vaquita and totoaba, and people,” said Jorge Rickards, Director General, WWF-Mexico.

The meeting follows a permanent ban on the use of gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California, which the government of Mexico implemented in June 2017 following a massive e-action by WWF, supported by thousands of our supporters as well as actor and WWF-US board member Leonardo DiCaprio.

The ban will also be accompanied by the retrieval of all abandoned or lost “ghost” nets within the vaquita habitat and the development of new fishing gear and techniques for local communities – measures we consider imperative to halt the vaquita population decline and secure its habitat.

WWF was invited by the Mexican government to participate in the trilateral meeting as an official observer. To read more, click here.
Vaquita or Gulf of California Harbor porpoise (Phocoena sinus) caught in fishing nets, Baja California, Mexico.
© National Geographic Stock/Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures / WWF
© Thomas A. Jefferson