THE BAJA POST
Many citizens, young and old, rich and poor, Mexican and foreign have been arrested in possession of totoaba bladders, a species which traffic is a market that yields huge profits to criminal groups who fish them and then take the bladder and leave the rest of the fish adrift in the Sea of Cortez within the Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta to China, in something that has become a trade worth millions of dollars so many people deem it easy to take a chance and try to smuggle the product, mainly to take it to China.
One kilo of the totoaba bladder in Asia as pricey as or even much more expensive than a kilo of cocaine, also known as buches, they have been the subject of disputes between criminal groups of poachers fishing in the towns of the Gulf of Santa Clara and in San Felipe, Baja California.
They are highly valued and consumed in gourmet soups by elites in China. However, the fishing nets used in the region not only catch the totoaba but also the vaquita, an endangered cetacean endemic to the Upper Gulf of California.
One kilo of swim bladder is priced at 5 thousand US dollars in Mexico, and its price is between 10 thousand and 15 thousand US dollars in the United States, but when they get to China, their price might go up to 60 thousand dollars. However, anglers say that the price has dropped to 3 thousand because of a drop in the demand of this delicacy and it has come as low as 3 thousand dollars.
San Felipe Anglers are stranded, they cannot fish because of the illegal totoaba bladder trafficking, and because they allegedly have endangered the vaquita marina, a marine mammal which is in danger of extinction and that has caused San Felipe economy to take a big fall.
There was a Federal aid for San Felipe anglers, granted by President Peña´s administration, but the new Federal Government hasn´t done much for them, they are going through difficult times, since the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) has been working for years in order to reestablish the totoaba population and a Totoaba fishery in San Felipe might be feasible.