Cracking down on totoaba trade – the key to saving the vaquita | WWF

Cracking down on totoaba trade – the key to saving the vaquita

Posted on 29 September 2016
© Cristian Faezi / Omar Vidal
At CITES today, countries adopted a proposal from Mexico calling for strong action and an immediate halt to the illegal international trade in totoaba. 

The totoaba, a fish native to Mexico’s Gulf of California, is under significant pressure due to increased demand for its swim bladders in China and Hong Kong. With the rapid evolution and growth of this market over the last few years, a new illegal fishery emerged in Mexico to supply the demand. 

The fishery directly targets and threatens the already endangered totoaba, and the gillnets used in this fishery are also driving the rapid decline of the critically endangered vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise.

“Today’s decision demands ongoing accountability from Mexico, US and China,” said Leigh Henry, WWF-US Wildlife Policy Expert. “Now, all CITES parties must rally together to support efforts to end illegal fishing and crack down on trafficking that threatens the vaquita with imminent extinction. The clock is ticking.”

With excessive overfishing of the totoaba to feed an influx of illegal international trade, the vaquita is suffering the consequences and is more threatened than ever before – down from 250 individuals in 2007, to less than 60 today.

A working group made up of delegates from the US, Mexico, China, New Zealand, the EU and WWF worked throughout the week to achieve consensus, and their ability to collaborate on this critical conservation issue should be commended.

“Given that illegal international trade now threatens both of these Appendix I listed species – WWF warmly welcomes Mexico’s efforts and urges them, as well as the US and China, to act with the utmost urgency to ensure the recovery of the vaquita,” said Henry.
© Cristian Faezi / Omar Vidal Enlarge
Foto: Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
© Chris Johnson Enlarge
CITES CoP17 logo
© Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa Enlarge

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