Rescue program for vaquita porpoises suspended

MEXICO CITY — A program aimed at capturing the last remaining vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California and maintaining them under human care has ended, it was reported Nov. 8. The announcement was made after a captured vaquita porpoise died shortly after it was placed in captivity.

Less than 30 vaquita porpoises remain on Earth, according to scientists tracking the species.

The same scientists said the porpoises are elusive enough – and the population diminished enough – to raise doubts of whether they could ever be saved.

Other efforts to save the species, however, could still be pursued, according to news reports.

The vaquita most recently captured by scientists was reportedly taken to a floating sea pen, with hopes of protecting her. Things did not work out, however, as she died about six hours after her capture.

Experts began conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Attempts to protect the remaining porpoises might react similarly, leading experts to believe any further captures of vaquitas would be risky.

“These tiny porpoises do not respond well to the stress of capture, and not a single additional vaquita should be deliberately put in danger in this way,” the Animal Welfare Institute was quoted as saying in the Associated Press.

A common reason for the declining populations of vaquita porpoises, according to news reports: illegal gillnet use.

A report from the Associated Press was used in this story.

NOAA Fisheries photo

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