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Vaquita extinction would be a global ‘shock’; hope would die for elephants and rhinos

Illegal fishing of the totoaba fish in the Upper Gulf of California, which has a very high value on the black market, has caused the death of the vaquita porpoise, as it remains stuck in the nets. Photo: Ernesto Méndez


The disappearance of the vaquita would be the first extinction in the history of a species with the highest levels of protection on a global scale due to illegal trafficking, which would leave other animals, such as the rhinoceros, the elephant or the pangolin, without hope, warned Ivonne Higuero, secretary general of Cites.

Higuero, an environmental economist of Panamanian origin, is the custodian of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), in force since January 1, 1975, made up of 183 parties, (182 countries plus the Union Europea), which today remains one of the most powerful instruments for the conservation of wildlife in the world.

In the history of Cites, it would be the first Appendix I species (with the highest degree of danger) that we would lose in this way due to illegal trade, and we cannot allow that to happen ”, he warned.

In an exclusive interview with Excelsior, recalled that the vaquita porpoise’s protection polygon is small, equivalent to a quarter of the area that the city of Los Angeles occupies, so its disappearance would leave no way out for other animals or plants that grow or live in places much more extensive like the national parks in Africa.

What hope do we have for the other species, if in this small place we cannot keep vigilance to prevent the vaquita from becoming extinct, it would be a shock for the world if that happens, that is why we need the seriousness and commitment of all to be able to overcome this problem, ”said Higuero.


He confirmed that, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Standing Committee to be held from October 5 to 9 in Geneva, Switzerland, was postponed for next year, after the member countries ruled out holding a virtual meeting, before possible connectivity problems.

In this way, the Mexican government bought time to advance in the protection of the vaquita marina and the elimination of the illegal capture of totoaba fish, actions that would be evaluated on this occasion by the representatives of the parties that were scheduled to vote on possible commercial sanctions against Mexico.

In a virtual conversation from the United Kingdom, Ivonne Higuero revealed that the government of Mexico sent in advance the report that was to be delivered to the Permanent Committee in October, so they are in the document review stage to make evaluations, observations and comments, with in order for faster and stronger action to be taken.

He stressed that the Cites understands that there are activities that due to the health emergency could not be doner, as is the case of the meeting between Mexico, the United States and Canada to stop the illegal traffic of totoaba.

In addition, they are attentive to the change of command announced by the Mexican government, so that Semar is in charge of the inspection and surveillance in the region.

There is no doubt that there is illegal fishing, the reports come to us from the NGOs, you see the photographs, what they are putting on all social media, the photographs of totoabas without crop that were thrown near where they were caught, the fishing illegal is not at zero, the same fishermen who are legal are telling us we see that the illegals are still entering and making fun from their boats ”.

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Ivonne Higuero stated that in the protection of the species, the inhabitants of the local communities should be on the side of the preservedn, with incentives that allow them to bring food home, educate their children and raise them up.

In this sense, he said that it is necessary for fishermen in the Upper Gulf of California to have alternative nets, which are sustainable for the environment but allow them to earn enough money to survive.