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How To Save The Most Endangered Marine Mammal In The World

The vaquita is a porpoise that is native to the Gulf of California. They're susceptible to getting stuck in fishing nets that are banned in Mexico.
Posted at 7:06 PM, Oct 23, 2017

The Mexican government is in the middle of a $100 million effort to save the most endangered marine mammal in the world — a porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California called the vaquita. There are less than 30 of them left in the wild, and scientists only captured the first live one recently. 

The capture was part of a plan to temporarily move the porpoises to ocean sanctuaries while conservationists try to remove dangerous fishing nets from their natural habitat.

But first they have to find the mammals. This can be tough, and not just because there are so few of them. Scientists go out to look for them on boats, but if winds get as strong as 9 miles per hour, it's hard to see past the sea's surface.

They also use acoustic monitoring systems to listen for vaquitas' calls. When researchers combined both methods, they were able to spot several of the rare mammals. 

But keeping them healthy for translocation is a whole other issue. Marine biologists said in the end, they weren't able to move the vaquita calf they captured because it was showing signs of stress. 

The plan is only in its second week, so biologists are focused on locating and rescuing as many vaquitas as they can. From there, they'll determine whether it's appropriate to house vaquitas in ocean pens, or if they'll need to build more long-term housing.