U.S. Navy sending dolphins to help rescue endangered Vaquita Marina

The waters west of Rocky Point over to San Felipe are home to one of the world’s most endangered porpoises. Only around 60 of the Vaquita Marina, or Little Sea Cow, are thought to remain in the wild.

Fishing nets are the problem. The Vaquita get tangled in them.

With the help of environmental groups, the Mexican government has been attempting to save the remaining porpoises. Over the past two years, fishermen in the area have been paid to stay ashore.

New patrol boats, and even drones have been used to watch over a huge piece of the ocean that has been designated a reserve. Over 100 dangerous drifting ‘ghost nets’ have been removed from the area as well.

An attempt will be made to breed the remaining Vaquitas. Removing some of the animals from the wild is seen as a last ditch measure. It is hoped that the program will be a success, like a previous one that brought the California Condor back from the brink of extinction.

The shy Vaquita Marina is rarely seen, and has never been captured. Stepping in to help locate them will be dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy!

Intelligent dolphins have been used in the past to find endangered Harbor Dolphins in California. The Navy has also used them to spot underwater mines.

The U.S. Marine Mammal Program has been in operation since the Vietnam War, and is located in San Diego, California. Beginning this year, the dolphins will be phased out and replaced by the Knifefish, an underwater robot.

Currently, the biggest threat to the Vaquita comes from illegal fishing of another species, the Totoaba. The swim bladder of the Totoaba is in high demand in Asia. It commands a higher price per gram than cocaine! The incentives of black market fishing lure fishermen into the reserve, and Vaquita can be caught in the nets that they use.

The Vaquita breeding program will go into effect this coming Spring.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

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