Study: Vaquita porpoise may become extinct

Jan. 16, 2008 at 3:02 PM
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MEXICO CITY, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A Mexican-led team of biologists warn a species of porpoise found in the Gulf of California is about two years away from an irreversible rate of extinction.

Scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration taking part in the study estimate only about 150 vaquita porpoise remain.

The research team, led by Armando Jaramillo of Mexico's National Institute of Ecology, included researchers Barbara Taylor of NOAA and Randy Reeves of the World Conservation Union. The team assessed the number of vaquita based on past estimates of abundance and deaths in fishing nets, together with current fishing trends.

Approximately 30 vaquita drown each year in the Gulf of California when they become entangled in nets set for fish and shrimp. Vaquita are listed as an endangered species by the United States and Mexico and critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.

The researchers cited parallels between vaquita and the baiji, a freshwater dolphin in the Yangtze River that was recently declared likely to be extinct -- primarily from entanglement in fishing gear.

The research is reported in the journal Conservation Biology.

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