Small Porpoises, Big Efforts
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The dolphin-like vaquita porpoises are the rarest sea mammals in the world, numbering about 10 in the wild.
Found only in Mexico’s Gulf of California, their minuscule numbers have sparked fears that the creature is on the brink of extinction. It has been labeled the world’s most endangered creature.
Or is it?
Scientists studied DNA samples of the marine creatures caught between 1985 to 2017 and used a computer algorithm to determine how their population could change over the next five decades.
They found that the vaquita was not “genetically compromised” as previously believed and could bounce back from near extinction.
“They have a very high chance of making it over the next 50 years if they receive complete protection,” said co-author Jacqueline Robinson.
Robinson warned that human activity could be the animal’s ultimate demise.
Her team explained that vaquitas are accidentally caught in large, weighted nets – known as gillnets – used by fishing communities.
Removing gillnets from their habitats could help but past efforts to impose fishing regulations have resulted in tensions between conservationists, locals and governments.
“It really comes down to our choices and actions in terms of giving the vaquita the best chance at surviving,” Robinson added.