vaquita, marine mammal, extinction, endangered, environment,
Facebook/ Vaquita

One of the most endangered and adorable marine mammal in the world is on the verge of going extinct by 2018. The vaquita porpoise is found only in Mexico's Gulf of California and known as the 'panda of the sea' because of the dark rings around its eyes.

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The word vaquita is Spanish for 'little cow.' Other names include cochito (Spanish for 'pig' or 'sow'), desert porpoise, Gulf of California harbour porpoise, Gulf of California porpoise and gulf porpoise.

The flawed fishing practice is one of the main causes behind the prevailing danger of facing extinction by this rare species. Illegal wildlife trade taking place due to demand for the swim bladder of a really endangered fish called totoaba, which is also endemic to the Gulf of California, is another cause causing the drop in vaquita's population over the past few years.

The vaquitas are listed as one of the most endangered cetacean in the world. They are often killed by gillnets – a type of fishing net which is hung vertically to trap the fish in it by their gills. Gillnets were banned in 2015 for two years.

"Yet again, we bear witness to the devastating impacts of the illegal wildlife trade. But vaquita aren't even the target of this crime - they are innocent bystanders, paying the highest of prices," Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor for Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was quoted as saying by PTI.

An instant and permanent ban on gillnets have been suggested by WWF. They also suggested destroying and removing ghost nets in order to prevent vanquitas and other sea mammals from dying by getting caught in them.

"Having discovered the vaquita less than sixty years ago, we humans have now brought it to the brink of extinction," said Jorge Rickards, acting CEO of WWF-Mexico.

"Their incredibly low numbers are a stark reminder of how our efforts to protect this incredible species and its habitat are falling short. Unless we act decisively today, we could lose the vaquita forever," he added.