ALFREDO AZCARATE VARELA
THE BAJA POST/EDITOR
A fishing “ghost net” measuring up to 700 hundred meters (about half a mile) long, was taken out of the Sea of Cortez waters by the ship NARVAL, which started operating again on September 12, after a long hiatus due to the COVID19 pandemics, and re-took its job, which is to protect the totoaba and marine mammals such as the vaquita, dolphins and others, from these fishing devices, that threaten their lives.
These nets are designed to catch Totoaba, which is an endemic species of the Sea of Cortez, and poachers are after the so called “buche” (the fish swimming bladder) which is highly priced in southern Asia, mainly in China, making it a big illegal business, a racket that yields millions of dollars up to the point where the bladder has been called the “marine cocaine” for its high profitability.
Since NARVAL started operating almost 5 years ago, its crew has extracted one thousand 300 kilometers meters (a little shy of a thousand miles) of fishing nets saving the life of hundreds of mammals and fish, marine species that are in danger, including the almost extinct “vaquita” and leaving thousands of pounds of totoaba abandoned since the illegal fishermen only take the “buche” and leave the rest, mostly on the sea shore at abandoned spots.
These “ghost nets” are used and then left behind in the sea, making it a mortal trap for vaquitas, sharks, dolphins, turtles and marine wolves, among other species, the NARVAL crew also seeks vaquitas in order to monitor and keep track of their population and trying to take samples of tissue from a living organism, in order to conserve their DNA genetic data.
On October 2016, NARVAL started participating in the GHOST NET REMOVAL PROGRAM within the Biosphere Reserve in the high Gulf of California in a joint effort where several private and public organizations participate such as the Whale and Marine Science Museum, SEASHEPHERD, ABC Fishing, altogether with Government instances as: the Federal Environmental Protection Attorney, the National Fishing Commission, the Commission for Protected Natural Areas, the Navy the Army and the National Guard among others.