A research suggests that the few surviving specimens of the vaquita marina are reproducing; he also proposes that they have evolved ways to avoid gillnets that would have otherwise decimated the species.
The University of St Andrews recalls previous projections, which indicate that the most threatened marine mammal in the world is already could be extinct.
The study recovered by the Scottish university, published in recent days in academic journal Endangered Species Research documents high levels of illegal fishing within the small territory of the cetacean in our country, which puts the survival of the species at greater risk.
The researchers estimated that between seven and 15 individual vaquitas were seen in 2019, and between five and 13 in 2021, with calves sighted in both years.
The University, also collaborating with the article, reiterates that previous research estimated the presence of less than 20 vaquitas in 2018, and that the population decreased by around 50 percent per year.
Given the almost certain increase in the number of gillnetswhich are known to be the only threat to the endemic species of Baja California, highlights the academic document, “Watching these survivors seemed miraculous.”
For his part, the Lead author of the research, Dr Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, said: “Finding any vaquita in the area is a surprise, given the rapid declines detected in previous surveys. These survivors are the future of a species endemic to Mexico and must be protected”.
The article details that For the investigation, an established method was used, called “expert elicitation”to determine the number of individual vaquitas seen, in multiple surveys between 2019 and 2021.
The study explains that The use of this method is due to the fact that there is not enough information available to determine a total population size. more accurate, in part, he says, because the crews of illegal fishing vessels have damaged and stolen acoustic monitors that could provide more detailed and long-term data.
“The surveys concentrated on the 12 by 24 kilometer area where almost all detections have been made of vaquitas in recent years”; Experts add that the number of items seen can be taken as an estimate of the minimum size of the population.
Until fishermen can make a living without using gillnets, extinction is inevitable the academic document states.
The scientists emphasize that the only way to help save the species is to prevent them from settling gillnets, in the area where the small porpoises are found.
Experts focus on fishermen, who small scale use gill nets to catch shrimp and fishbut the nets can also trap and drown the vaquita.
In the same sense they said that there are alternative fishing gears, which would not entangle the vaquita, “but require additional investment, effort and application to implement them. None of these alternative fishing gears were observed to be used in recent surveys.”
Professor Len Thomas, from the Center for Research in Ecological and Environmental Modeling (CREEM), University of St Andrews, Scotland, who carried out the expert elicitation, together with Cormac Booth from the Marine Mammal Research Unit ( (SMRU) Consulting, associated with the University, said: “In the absence of direct data on quantities of interest, obtaining experts is the next best alternative to provide quantified.
what else draws attention to what has been proposed by scientists, is the identification of clues that suggest that some of the remaining marine mammals, in danger of extinction, they may have learned to be more wary of gillnets.
They noted that during an effort in 2017 to capture and protect some animals that remained in captivity noted that some vaquitas seemed to avoid gillnets; they bore scars from previous encounters with nets that they have survived.
The Dr. Barbara Taylor, co-author of the article, expressed that “in all probability, we still have one last chance to save the vaquita”, at the same time she said: “Give these animals a chance and they can survive.”
Taylor noted, “If you kill 99 percent of the animals, the one percent that’s left is probably not random.”
The expert said that previously proposed models do not necessarily take into account the intelligence of vaquitas, they may have learned to escape from gillnets.
Thanks to the intelligence of the speciessaid the researcher, could help prevent the extinction of it a little more of time.
At the same time, he recalled that the vaquitas are not far from disappearing, because gillnets are still the main means of making a living in nearby cities, and even protecting the small area where the vaquitas remain seems to go beyond application capabilities.
“Until fishermen have access to and training in alternatives to gillnets, the extinction of the vaquita is guaranteed.”
Finally, the main author of the article, Rojas-Bracho added: “I have said several times that cows are very clever and that if we stop killing them they will recover. Mexico has all the ingredients for actions management, to prevent this species from becoming extinct and, in the long term, it recovers”.