S3 E4: The Vaquita (with Barbara Taylor & Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho)


We talk to Dr Barbara Taylor (USA) and Dr Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho (Mexico), who together lead the global efforts to save the Vaquita from extinction.

Vaquitas, a tiny and beautiful porpoise, are found only at the top of the Gulf of California and hold the unfortunate distinction of being the world’s rarest marine mammal (possibly the rarest of any mammal species). There may be as few as 6 animals left alive.

The story of the Vaquita’s precipitous decline from its discovery in 1958 is as tragic as it is complex. In a fascinating conversation we learn about the Vaquita’s biology and how gillnetting has driven the species to the very edge of extinction. We also discuss why illegal fishing – fueled by organized crime and a demand in East Asia for the swim bladder of the Totoaba fish – is so difficult to prevent. But Barb and Lorenzo offer some optimism for the future: there may be more Vaquitas hiding in the Gulf of California and it is not to late to save the species.


There is a lot more information online.

Viva Vaquita is a coalition of scientists, educators and conservationists who strive to increase attention on the Vaquita. They host an International Vaquita Day every year to update folks on the latest situation.

There are several documentaries about the Vaquita story including Sea of Shadows which you can find here https://www.vaquitacpr.org

The IUCN’s Cetacean Specialist Group website has all recent Vaquita survey reports (with 2024 coming soon) as well as reports from the recovery team (CIRVA).

If you would like to help save the Vaquita you can donate money to – or volunteer to join – Sea Shepherd the conservation society who are doing very important work in the Gulf of Mexico to help tackle the illegal fishing that is killing the species.

If you want to check whether the seafood you eat is sustainable then you can visit Seafood Watch even if they do not as yet carry information about the fisheries that most impact the Vaquita.

Jon’s report on joining the 2024 Vaquita Survey with Barb and Lorenzo is here.

Finally here is the Guardian article on the 6 million antelope migration in South Sudan that Charles mentions at the start.

Cover art: Barb, Lorenzo and a model Vaquita with Consag Rock in the background.