On September 4, the presidents of Mexico and China, Enrique Peña Nieto and Xi Jinping, reiterated their commitment and support to international efforts to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.
The presidential meeting in Mexico came on the heels of the first Mexico-China-US meeting on combating the illegal trade in totoaba, held in Ensenada, Mexico last month.
The trilateral meeting agreed to set up an enforcement task force, dedicated to strengthening cooperation and coordination of efforts to stop the illegal trafficking of totoaba fish maws.
It is estimated that fewer than 20 vaquita remain and its extinction has been predicted by next year unless significant steps are taken to protect it.
The vaquita is not hunted in its own right – it is effectively suffering collateral damage as bycatch in illegal gillnets set for the totoaba fish, the dried swim bladders of which are highly sought-after in China for traditional ‘medicine’.
Clare Perry, EIA Oceans Campaign Leader, said: “This top-level commitment is good news and it comes not a moment too soon.
“All the evidence points to ongoing illegal totoaba fishing and trafficking of totoaba swim bladders to consumer markets in China, putting the vaquita at imminent risk of extinction, and yet there are almost no visible seizures of these illegal products let alone prosecutions and dismantling of the criminal networks involved.
“The taskforce needs to be up and running and getting results without delay if the vaquita is to have a chance of survival.”
• Find out more about the plight of the vaquita and EIA’s work to expose the illegal trade in totoaba in the reports Dual Extinction and Collateral Damage; you can also explore our interactive map of illegal trade seizures of totoaba swim bladders here.