Endangered vaquita marina porpoise could be extinct by 2018: WWF

The vaquita marina, a tiny porpoise native to Mexico, could be extinct by next year if urgent action including a ban on gillnets is not taken, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned. Fewer than 30 of the rare mammals (Phocoena sinus) still live in the wild, all in the upper Gulf of California, the WWF said in a report Monday. The vaquita population has plummeted 90 percent in less than six years, down from 250 in 2011. “If we don’t do something today, the vaquita could be extinct by 2018,” said Maria Jose Villanueva, director of strategy and science for WWF Mexico. “Losing it would be like losing a piece of Mexico.” Villanueva told reporters that the only known threat to the survival of the vaquita — “little cow” in Spanish — are gillnets, long walls of netting hung vertically that trap fish by the gills when they swim through. The nets are meant to illegally catch totoaba, an endangered fish about the same size of the vaquita. — AFP