Vaquita Marina

Photo credit Paula Olson, permit Oficio No. DR/488/08 from the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)

Conservation Status

IUCN: Critically Endangered  |  CITES: Appendix I ESA: Endangered

State of the Species

Image of a graph depicting the decline of the Vaquita population

Source: CIRVA 8, Aquarium of the Pacific 

The vaquita is the most critically endangered cetacean in the world and can only be found in the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California, Mexico. This porpoise population is in rapid decline as a direct result of the animals being caught in fishing gillnets.  The latest data estimates the population to have less than 30 individuals and the vaquita is in severe risk of going extinct.

The Need for SAFE

  • Between 2010 and 2014 alone, three AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums reported taking part in a variety of field conservation projects benefiting vaquitas. Over those five years, the AZA community invested over $50,000 in vaquita conservation. See AZA's Conservation and Research Database for more information.
  • Most projects were associated with obtaining visual (photo and video) records, assessing wild populations, and conducting conservation education programs.
  • A primary threat to vaquitas is entanglement in gillnets, used for capturing fish and shrimp. Collaborative projects between AZA-accredited institutions that raise awareness about this issue and engage the public in marine mammal conservation help ensure a future for this highly endangered porpoise.

Despite the tremendous efforts AZA members and partners have committed toward saving the vaquita, the species is still declining at an alarming rate and there is a clear need to approach conservation differently.  AZA SAFE provides a new approach for collaborative conservation.  Using a One Plan approach,  conservationists working to save a species work together to identify and prioritize the conservation needs of a species and then develops a 3-year Conservation Action Plan (CAP).  Each AZA SAFE Conservation Action Plan includes specific projects, goals, and actions that will address the needs of each species.

Learn more about the individual projects that comprise the AZA SAFE Vaquita Conservation Action Plan.

AZA Animal Program Leaders 

Marine Mammal TAG Chair:  TBD
Marine Mammal TAG Vice Chair:
Marine Mammal TAG Education Advisor: Ann Quinn, SeaWorld San Antonio

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