Vaquita Marina rescue program permanently suspended

Vaquita Marina rescue program permanently suspended

Nov 15, 2017

Experts announced on Wednesday November 8, that they have permanently suspended a program to capture and enclose the few remaining vaquita porpoises in Mexico’s Gulf of California, after the one they managed to catch died quickly in captivity. Lorenzo Rojas, the lead scientist in the effort, described what may be the last close contact between humans and the world’s smallest porpoise, of which less than 30 remain. Rojas said he doubts there will be enough of the elusive porpoises left next year to even make an attempt to capture any. “She was adapting, but in a few seconds something triggered in her brain and she just started swimming faster, incredibly fast, like she wanted to fly away from where it was, with no perception of the space, inside where she was,” Rojas said of the adult female captured over the weekend. That vaquita had been taken to a floating pen on the sea where experts had hoped to protect her, but the animal began to act oddly in obvious stress. The only other vaquita captured, a calf, had also quickly shown signs of distress and was quickly released weeks ago. The experts tried to do the same with the adult female, but it was too late. “The vets decided it was time to release her. They pulled her out to sea and they put the animal facing the open ocean, and it started swimming, but it started swimming in a very random way … and the vets decided to bring her up on the boat again,” said Rojas, chairman of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita. “They did CPR for three hours and tried to keep it alive.” The vaquita died about six hours after capture. An autopsy and test were conducted to determine why it died. “But with so few vaquitas left, the ones remaining can’t be put at risk”, experts said. “These tiny porpoises do not respond well to the stress of capture, and not a single additional vaquita should be deliberately put in danger in this way,” the Animal Welfare Institute said. Chillingly, initial results from the autopsy of the dead vaquita showed that she hadn’t had a calf...

Endangered vaquita marina dies in captivity; operation under review

Endangered vaquita marina dies in captivity; operation under review

Nov 6, 2017

A vaquita porpoise captured by an international group of scientists attempting to save the species from extinction has died, prompting a review of the operation launched last month in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California. “The entire rescue team is heartbroken by this devastating loss,” read a statement sent Sunday by VaquitaCPR (Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery), the name of the operation led by Mexico’s Environmental Ministry in coordination with the San Diego-based National Marine Mammal Foundation and other organizations. With fewer than 30 vaquita believed to be alive, the animal’s death is a blow to an intricately planned — and admittedly risky — effort to save the species by attempting for the first time to capture the animals alive and remove them from the wild. The operation was launched in mid-October off the coast of San Felipe in Baja California, enlisting some of the world’s top marine mammal experts. The statement said the dead vaquita had been captured late Saturday afternoon, and described the animal as a mature female who was not pregnant or lactating. The animal had been transported to a floating sea pen off the coast of San Felipe, and placed under observation “and constant care for its health and safety,” the statement said A temporary sea pen named “El Nido” where the captured vaquita was initially taken for care and observation. (VaquitaCPR) Marine mammal veterinarians “noticed the animal’s condition began to deteriorate and made the determination to release,” the statement said. However, “the release was unsuccessful and life-saving measures were administered.” The news of the vaquita’s death came just hours after an upbeat announcement by Mexico’s environmental secretary, Rafael Pacchiano, immediately following the animal’s capture. “It is a great achievement that fills us with hope,” Pacchiano said in a tweet. The secretary said in a subsequent tweet on Sunday afternoon announcing the animal’s death that “we remain committed to saving the vaquita from extinction.” Click here for full article on San Diego Union Tribune...

Researchers in Mexico capture, and then release, Vaquita calf

Researchers in Mexico capture, and then release, Vaquita calf

Oct 29, 2017

Mexico City – Researchers trying to catch and enclose (for protection) the last survivors of the vaquita porpoise species captured a calf but released it because it was too young to survive without its mother. Mexico’s Environment Department said veterinarians determined the calf was too young and experts said it was showing signs of stress after capture. The experts with Mexican-led international effort known as VaquitaCPR still saw hope in the calf’s capture. “The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible,” said Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano. “No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time. This is an exciting moment and as a result, I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita marina from extinction.” Lorenzo Rojas, the lead scientist on the effort, said “while we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture a vaquita.” A photo released by the Environment Department showed the calf swimming in a pen surrounded by team members. The statement did not say how long it was in captivity. The U.S. Navy trained dolphins to help find vaquitas and research boats are searching their habitat, the Gulf of California. It was unclear if the dolphins were even needed; the team said “scientists spotted several vaquitas using visual search methods and acoustic monitoring.” The vaquita population has dropped to less than 30 because of illegal nets set for the totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China. After a health evaluation and the taking of some tissue samples, the calf was returned to the area where it was captured and where several other vaquitas had been sighted. The team did not say whether it had rejoined its mother. The effort started Oct. 12 in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez, and will continue. Once caught, the vaquitas are to be held in protected floating pens with hopes they will reproduce and could eventually be re-released into the wild....

Ziggy “Starfish” and the spiders from Mars

Ziggy “Starfish” and the spiders from Mars

Oct 28, 2017

It is important not to buy dry starfish or handicrafts made from them. It is best to enjoy them in their natural environment…. QUINTANA ROO — NOt many people know that one of the strangest animals in both their behavior and physiology is the starfish. There are just over 1900 species of this animal distributed around the world. They can live from the intertidal zone to 6,000 meters deep exclusively in marine waters. And every type of starfish has characteristics totally different from each other. The most common species in Quintana Ro is, the star cushion (Oreaster reticulatus), that measures from 30cm up to 50cm from tip to tip, It is considered an adult star from the maximum radius of 12 cm and its coloration at this age is red, pink or orange, whereas the young ones have greenish colors and spots that helps them to camouflage. Most stars are made up of a central part surrounded by 5 arms that have the facility to regenerate if they are severed or injured. Its hard structure is formed of calcareous plaques, a kind of calcium, which has holes through which the gills leak, to extract oxygen from the water, allowing them to breath. These types of stars can’t breathe out of the water. They are found mainly on sandy, muddy surfaces, in marine grasslands or near mangroves, the latter shelter commonly used by younger starfish. Its displacement is totally out of this world, because inside its hard structure, they keep a vascular system that pressurized, they have hundreds of small feet full of water that allows them to move. In the case of the cushion star, it is a slow and exclusively underwater movement. They eat small invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks and they even eat other starfish! To do this, they remove their stomach as it has surmounted their prey, releasing their gastric juices to be able to digest the soft tissues. On the other hand, the main predator in adulthood are humans and in some areas Triton snails. However, in the young age, they have many more predators, for example, seagulls or large fish. And finally their reproduction is also totally different for the different species, there are some...

There’s a new sanctuary for the preservation of the Vaquita Marina

There’s a new sanctuary for the preservation of the Vaquita Marina

Oct 21, 2017

After the number of individuals of the world’s most rare marine mammal reached 30, several preservation efforts have been set in place to provide a safe environment for the vaquita porpoise. This endangered species, found only in Mexico’s Gulf of California, was led to the brink of extinction as it got caught in the gillnets illegal fishermen use to catch another rare species, the totoaba – highly valuable in the Chinese market due to its alleged medicinal properties. Given the critical situation, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto decided to impose a permanent ban on this type of nets. Yet this is not the only measure taken. On October 5, the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano, informed dolphins from the U.S. Navy had been deployed to locate the vaquitas in an operation seeking to find and guide the remaining specimens into a marine sanctuary in San Felipe, Baja California. Once there, several scientists and experts will analyze the feasibility of the vaquita repopulation at the Vaquita Care Center, comprised of laboratories and offices where scientists will also go through the data gathered from the search & rescue operations, set to conclude on November 11. At the sanctuary, the vaquitas will be monitored for the next 48 hours to assess their overall health and vital signs, and following the medical “check-up”, the remaining specimens will be moved to a  45-meter radius enclosure. “The Marine Station of Search, Rescue, and Surveillance in San Felipe is an unprecedented effort undertaken by the Mexican Government to save an endangered species”, said Mr. Pacchiano at the sanctuary’s opening act, which is a fundamental part of the Vaquita Preservation, Protection, and Recovery Program (Vaquita CPR). “The Nest”, as the sanctuary is called, was moved months ago from Ensenada in the Baja California Peninsula by a ship from the Museum of the Whale, and stands ready to receive the first vaquita specimens. All fishing and touristic activities will remain restricted in the area until December 17, 2017. Source: El...

New York restauranteur pleads guilty to conspiring to smuggle endangered sea life from Mexico

New York restauranteur pleads guilty to conspiring to smuggle endangered sea life from Mexico

Sep 30, 2017

The owner of two Chinese restaurants in New York pleaded guilty Friday in San Diego federal court to conspiring to smuggle 250 pounds of black abalone and sea cucumber, both protected species, through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Alan Ren, 48, of Northport, N.Y., admitted to driving a minivan from Mexico to the port of entry in February 2016 with the seafood hidden in three suitcases and a black plastic bag, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He said the 83 pounds of black abalone and 172 pounds of sea cucumber were to be delivered to others in the U.S. Three months later, he produced two receipts from a vendor in Ensenada that falsely claimed to be the invoices for the seafood. After an investigation, an indictment was filed in April. Black abalone is found off the shores of California and Baja California. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office) Black abalone is an endangered species found off California and Baja California, and it is illegal to harvest in California. The species was hard-hit by a disease called Withering Syndrome in the mid-1980s, reducing the population by more than 80 percent, authorities said. The form of sea cucumber in the conspiracy — Isostichopus fuscus, the only type of sea cucumber found in Mexico — is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, and requires a permit to export into the United States. Ren admitted he did not have the proper permits to import or export the seafood, or to act as a commercial importer of fish or wildlife, prosecutors said. As part of his plea agreement, Ren agreed to pay $16,600 restitution to Mexico for the exported goods. Ren’s alleged passenger, Wei Wei Wang, 37, of Taiwan, is awaiting trial. Ren has stated that he hired Wang to handle the finances of his seafood business. During an interview with federal special agents at the port, Wang said Ren was her boyfriend and wanted to buy the sea cucumber as gifts for the Chinese New Year for friends and family in Los Angeles and New York, according to a transcript. Wang was arrested in New York in April at an airport...