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Breakthrough! Saving the vaquita just got one step closer

Thursday, July 2, 2015 0:34
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Remember these little guys? There are only 97 vaquita left in the world and you’ve been part of a global campaign to save them. In fact, in just the last 5 weeks, 100,000 of you have stood up and demanded they be protected. And good news…

Image: Flip Nicklin / Minden Pictures

Your voices were heard!

Thanks to you and the enormous buzz we’ve helped create around the world (here, here, here and here!) the USA and China last week agreed for the first time ever to tackle the smuggling of the totaoba fish, which is another endangered fish caught using gillnets. It is these gillnets that tragically trap and drown the vaquita.

Right now, this is the major threat to the vaquita’s existence. But the totaoba fish is being recognised as a priority by both countries. This is a huge breakthrough to save these species –and many more! Let me tell you why, because…

Saving the vaquita is not a simple, or straightforward story.

Drift-net fisherman in the Gulf of California in Mexico (2006)

Just last year, your help meant we were able to delivered over 480,000 signatures to the Mexican President demanding that their habitat in the Gulf of California be officially protected. And you helped secure that!

But then, we investigated a illegal trade of another endangered fish – the totoaba – which is highly prized in China as a prestigious gift or investment. These fish are often smuggled across the Mexican border into the U.S., where they are then taken by airplane into China, often through the city of Hong Kong. Before the announement between the US and China, things were looking really dire, with the most recent International Whaling Commission report stating that there are less than 97 in the wild.

Campaigners from Greenpeace East Asia and Mexico hold fake dried totaoba

The vaquita have been caught up in an international black market which is decimating their numbers. Protecting the vaquita means protecting the totaoba.

So, what’s next?

Our aim is to shut down the market for totaoba by targetting Hong Kong authorities and demanding they take urgent action. Hong Kong is often seen as a gateway for the trade in endangered species which then find their way into China.

We’ve reached one major breakthrough. Now, we need to close this ugly chapter and safeguard the vaquita’s future: protect their home in Mexico, shut down the trade in Hong Kong, China and the US and ensure the authorities step up to the task. Will you join? 

If you haven’t already, please add your voice here.

Gloria Chang is the Vaquita Project Leader at Greenpeace East Asia, based in Hong Kong


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