Observers say Mexico is not enforcing a gillnet ban meant to save vaquitas from extinction

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Despite a ban that started April 10, some Mexican fishermen are still using gillnets in the northern Gulf of Mexico to the detriment of critically endangered endemic porpoises. Photo via Greenpeace.

Illegal international wildlife trade presents a related threat

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say some Mexican fishermen are ignoring a ban on gillnets in the northern Gulf of California, driving a porpoise species even closer to extinction.

Biologists say there are less than 100 vaquitas left in the area, and perhaps as few as 50, and despite Mexico’s stated intention to enforce the gillnet ban, Greenpeace observers reported this week that the now-illegal nets are still being widely used. Continue reading

Is global warming driving seabirds from their Gulf of California nesting grounds?

"Elegant Tern Bolsa Chica" by Regular Daddy - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“Elegant Tern Bolsa Chica” by Regular Daddy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Study tracks shift in nesting grounds as oceans warm

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientist think climate change may be a key reason that thousands of seabirds are leaving their nesting grounds on an island in the Gulf of California and moving north.

In a new study, researchers from the University of California at Riverside looked at Isla Rasa, where more than 95 percent of the world’s population of elegant terns and Heerman’s gulls have traditionally nested.

In the past 20 years, the seabirds have abandoned the island and moved to other nesting grounds in Southern California including the San Diego Saltworks, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, and Los Angeles Harbor. Continue reading

Vaquita population may be down to 50

Illegal fishing drives species toward extinction

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

vaquita habitat map

Vaquitas live only in the northern end of the Gulf of California, where they are threatened by illegal fishing.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Illegal gillnet fishing in the northern Gulf of California continued to take a toll on endangered vaquita porpoises the past few years, according to a new report suggesting that as few as of 50 vaquitas remain.

The report, from the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), is based on acoustic detection surveys, which is the best way to count the small porpoises. Based on the most recent survey, the scientists concluded an apparent 42 percent drop in the vaquita population from 2013 to 2014, when scientists estimated the population at less than 100. Continue reading

Conservation groups seek international help to save the Gulf of California’s vaquita

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Less than 100 vaquitas remain in the northern Gulf of California.

Petition requests ‘in danger’ status for Baja World Heritage area

Staff Report

U.S. conservation groups working to save the world’s most endangered dolphin from going extinct are hoping to get some help from the rest of the world.

At issue is the vaquita dolphin, which lives only at the northern end of the Gulf of California, an area designated as a World Heritage site in 2005. Less than 100 of the marine mammals remain, and conservation advocates fear that they’ll soon be wiped out.

This week, several groups petitioned the World Heritage Committee to declare the World Heritage area as being “in danger,” a status that recognizes threats to the values that earned the designation in the first place. The World Heritage Committee may consider the petition at its annual meeting in Bonn, Germany, this June. Continue reading

Oceans: Proposed gillnet ban may be too little, too late for critically endangered Gulf of California vaquitas

Lack of enforcement seen as stumbling block to recovery

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mexico has launched a last-ditch effort to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise by banning the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Conservation advocates said the ban is a step in the right direction, but expressed concern that Mexico won’t follow through with enforcement.

Vaquitas, the smallest members of the porpoise family, live only in the northern Gulf of California, generally in the vicinity of the Colorado River delta. The species has been on the Endangered Species List since 1985. Scientists say less than 100 individuals remain. Vaquitas could be extinct by 2018 without drastic conservation and recovery actions.

According to conservation biologists, the biggest threat by far to vaquitas is drowning in fishing nets. Environmental pollution, habitat degradation and inbreeding are also factors in their decline. Continue reading

Hearing shines spotlight on Colorado River woes

The dried up delta where the Colorado River reaches the Sea of Cortez

The dried up delta where the Colorado River reaches the Sea of Cortez is symbolic of the challenges facing the river.More information at this NASA Earth Observatory website.

‘Make every drop count’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Colorado River took center stage in Congress for a few hours this week, as the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power focused on a recent Colorado River study that predicts a growing gap between what the demand for water and what the river can deliver.

The hearing was chaired Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, who knows first-hand what is at stake, from the headwaters in the mighty Rockies down to the Gulf of California. Business as usual just won’t cut it, Udall said, advocating for a short-term focus on conservation, innovation and better management of supply. A video of the hearing, as well as the written testimony of the witnesses, is online here. Continue reading

International legal petition aims to protect Baja ecosystems under NAFTA environmental provisions

Petition to NAFTA environmental commission seeks investigation

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Baja California, photographed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Click here to learn more on the NASA Earth Observatory website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Environmental groups are testing a North American environmental treaty with a legal petition, charging the Mexican government with failing to enforce its own environmental laws when it authorized four large developments along the Gulf of California.

The petition was filed with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established under the North American Free Trade Agreement to promote cooperation among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. on environmental issues of continental concern.

Specifically, the petition claims the Mexican government, “ignores laws requiring effective environmental impact assessment, protection of endangered species, and conservation of coastal ecosystems,” according to a statement from Earthjustice. Continue reading

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