By Karen Lane –
July 27, 2018
Photo by Paula Olson / NOAA
Great news was reported yesterday after U.S. Court of International Trade orders the Trump Administration to ban seafood imports from Mexico that are caught with gillnets, in order to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.
Sadly, scientists believe that the vaquita population has dwindled from 567 in 1997 to only 15 remaining in the wild today, which has created an urgency to protect them from going extinct in the wild.
According to Viva Vaquita, an organization that aims to promote awareness and conservation for the endangered propoise, its fate is tied to that of the upper Gulf of California ecosystem and is one of the rarest and most-endangered mammal species in the world.
Mexico has continued to fail to ban all gillnets permanently in the vaquita habitat, despite scientific evidence showing the damage they are causing to the dwindling species.
Unfortunately, gillnets are commonly used by commercial and artisanal fishermen. Gillnets are vertical panels of netting normally set in a straight line that are made of transparent monofilament line, so fish and other animals are unable to see it before becoming entangled.
Often times other larger ocean animals that are not targeted by fisherman become entangled in the netting, including whales, seals, sea turtles, seabirds and sharks, many of which are also threatened or endangered by extinction.
All of this evidence makes it more apparent as to why the ban of these gillnets is so crucial.
Natural Resources Defense Council stated, “A ban on gillnet-caught seafood from Mexico’s Gulf of California is the life line the vaquita desperately needs,” said Giulia Good Stefani, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who argued the case before the Court. “Collectively, our organizations have spent over a decade working to save the vaquita—and never has extinction felt so close—but now, the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise has what may be its very last chance.”
The ruling follows a lawsuit filed in March by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, and it affirms Congress’ mandate under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act that the United States should protect not just domestic marine mammals, but foreign whales, dolphins and porpoises as well.
Mexico must meet these standards that have recently been implemented, and failure of the Trump Administration to enforce the ban would be a direct violation of a federal judge’s order.
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