Why This One Dead Sea Creature Is Such a Big Deal

Only about 30 vaquita are left, with another carcass found in Gulf of California
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
Why This One Dead Sea Creature Is Such a Big Deal
File photo. The vaquita get trapped in fishing nets and drown.   (AP Photo/C.Faesi/Proyecto Vaquita)

Not even military dolphins could save this vaquita. The carcass of one of the endangered porpoises, whose Spanish name translates to "little cow," was discovered floating near the Baja California shoreline Sunday in the latest blow to a rapidly diminishing population, NBC Los Angeles reports. The vaquita was found by the Farley Mowat ship, part of the Sea Shepherd group's conservation campaign for the marine creature. Mexican officials were called to pull the dead animal from the Gulf of California, and it's now frozen and awaiting a necropsy to figure out what caused its demise. Just last week, a newborn vaquita was found washed up on a beach in northern Mexico, per Phys.org.

While finding two of any type of animal dead within a week may not seem significant, it is when there are so few left in existence: The World Wildlife Fund—which calls the "critically endangered" vaquita the "world's most rare marine mammal"—points to a 2017 survey that says about 30 are left, about half the number in 2016. The vaquita often die when they get caught up and drown in fishing nets meant for the totoaba, a highly coveted fish in China that shares the same exclusive living space in the Gulf of California. Rep. Tom Gloria is spearheading efforts in the Golden State to save the vaquita, recently introducing a bill to criminalize possessing or selling fish trapped in those waters using the special gill nets. (On the flipside, here's some positive animal news.)

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