On Borrowed Time

Illegal fishing of protected totoaba fish in Mexico’s Gulf of California and their subsequent trafficking and retail as part of transnational organised crime are responsible for the rapid decline of vaquitas, the world’s most endangered marine mammal.

Vaquitas are ensnared in illegal gillnets set to catch totoaba and now only about 10 remain after a decade of relentless totoaba poaching and trade.

This latest EIA investigation reveals that the market in China for dried totoaba swim bladders, or maw, on popular social media channels remains active and is increasing on WeChat. In 2023, the activity and quantities of totoaba maws advertised on WeChat and, by extension, in China exceeded those of previous years, indicating that wildlife traffickers have resumed business as usual since the COVID-19 pandemic.

EIA’s investigation suggests a thriving and opportunistic network of traders and consumers willing to participate in the illegal trading of totoaba maws. Despite this, enforcement action, as measured by the number of seizures of totoaba maws, declined significantly in 2023.