VAQUITA PORPOISE (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 - Env & Eco)

News-CRUX-10     8th August 2023        

Context: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued its first ‘extinction alert’ on the vaquita porpoise, of which only 10 individuals survive in the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

  • The vaquita is only found in the northernmost part of the Gulf of California, Mexico.
  • Numbers have fallen from a population of approximately 570 in 1997 to around 10 animals in 2018.

Vaquita porpoise

  • About: The vaquita porpoise is the world’s smallest cetacean and the most endangered marine mammal. 
    • It has the smallest range of any whale, dolphin or porpoise, and only lives in a small 1,500 square-mile area in Mexico’s upper Gulf of California, near the town of San Felipe. 
  • IUCN Status: Critically endangered.
  • Threats : The vaquita population has been declining precipitously for decades due to bycatch in gillnets set to catch shrimp and fish, including totoaba - a large, endangered fish that is threatened by illegal fishing for international markets 
    • Totoaba is also protected under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  • It is a specialised regional fishery management organisation.
  • It was established under the terms of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry".
  • The role of the commission is to periodically review and revise the Schedule to the Convention.
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