EIA joins call for trade sanctions against Mexico to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise

Sanctions should be put in place to pressure Mexico to save the vaquita porpoise, whose population is estimated to have dwindled to just 10 remaining animals.

The vaquita is not being hunted in its own right but is dying in illegal gillnets set to catch totoaba fish, an endangered species whose dried swim bladder is prized in China.

The tiny porpoise species is found only in the upper Gulf of California and is the world’s most endangered marine mammal; sonar surveys suggest as few as 10 remain.

Gillnets are the main cause of vaquita deaths (c) Chris Johnson

But despite repeated promises for decades, the Mexican Government has failed to stop the use of deadly gillnets that are entangling, drowning, and killing these porpoises.

EIA and three partner organisations – the Center for Biological Diversity, the Animal Welfare Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council – today urged the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to suspend trade in hundreds of Mexican wildlife and plant species and products, including reptiles, orchids, spiders, sea cucumbers and certain shark species, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Clare Perry, EIA’s Ocean Campaign Leader, said: “The Mexican Government has had ample notice and time to heed CITES’s warnings and recommendations but has failed to remedy its CITES violations regarding the totoaba and vaquita.

Vaquita (c) IUCN-CSG

“Time is running out for the vaquita and there is no reason for CITES not to act now with the strongest measures possible.”

As well as urging CITES to action, the groups have also asked the US Government to maintain its ban on Mexican seafood, including highly lucrative trawl-caught shrimp imported from the vaquita’s habitat.

A third letter sent today requests that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee maintain its classification of the vaquita’s habitat — part of a designated World Heritage site — as “in danger,” along with requiring the Mexican Government to submit a detailed management plan.


• EIA’s campaign to save the vaquita from extinction has sought to urge Mexico to take action against gillnet fishing and has exposed the illegal trade in dried totoaba swim bladders into China. Find out more in our reports.