Endangered vaquita marina porpoise could be extinct by 2018: WWF

The vaquita marina, a tiny porpoise native to Mexico, could be extinct by next year if urgent action including a ban on gillnets is not taken, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned.

Fewer than 30 of the rare mammals (Phocoena sinus) still live in the wild, all in the upper Gulf of California, the WWF said in a report Monday.

The vaquita population has plummeted 90 percent in less than six years, down from 250 in 2011.

“If we don’t do something today, the vaquita could be extinct by 2018,” said Maria Jose Villanueva, director of strategy and science for WWF Mexico. “Losing it would be like losing a piece of Mexico.”

Villanueva told reporters that the only known threat to the survival of the vaquita—”little cow” in Spanish—are gillnets, long walls of netting hung vertically that trap fish by the gills when they swim through.

The nets are meant to illegally catch totoaba, an endangered fish about the same size of the vaquita.

Deadly gillnets

Smugglers ship dried totoaba swim bladders to China, where they fetch up to $20,000 per kilo. Totoaba bladder is consumed in soup or used for medicinal purposes.

Gillnets also catch a large number species that are not targeted. The WWF says the nets accidently kill some 700,000 marine mammals and birds around the world each year.

Some 374 gillnets have been removed in the Gulf of Mexico between February 2016 and April 2017, but the vaquita population continues to drop—six have been reported to have died this year alone, Villanueva said.

Nets up to two kilometers long have been removed in the area, Villanueva said.

The Mexican government’s two-year ban on gillnet use is set to expire in less than two weeks.

Mexican environmental authorities and conservation groups are working on an emergency plan expected to begin around September to move the vaquitas to a “temporary sanctuary” where they can safely reproduce.

The WWF experts support the measure, despite reservations.

‘Desperate measure’

“We see it as a desperate measure,” said Jorge Rickards, the interim director general of WWF Mexico.

“We consider this a high-risk measure because nothing like this has ever been done before,” he said, fearing the death of even a single vaquita.

Rickards called on the Mexican government for “an urgent plan of action” that includes a permanent gillnet ban in the Gulf of California.

He said the government must also help area residents whose livelihoods depend on fishing.

The Gulf of California, which was officially listed as a World Heritage site in 2005, is a source for half of Mexico’s fisheries production.

A broad array of species live in the area, including over one third of the world’s marine mammal species, five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, and almost 900 fish species, the WWF says.

In its report, titled “Vanishing Vaquita: saving the world’s most endangered marine mammal,” the WWF called on the government to clamp down on the totoaba trade, and to commit to a plan “for the recovery of the vaquita within its natural habitat that includes specific population increases and timelines.”

The conservation group also called on the US and Chinese governments to collaborate with Mexico “to halt the illegal fishing and trade of totoaba” by increasing efforts to “intercept and halt the illegal transport, entry and sale of totoaba products.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-endangered-vaquita-marina-porpoise-extinct.html#jCp

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Only 43 Maui’s Dolphin left in the World!

Only 43 Maui's Dolphin left in the World!

Why this is important

“As citizens from around the world we are horrified that
Maui’s Dolphin could vanish from the face of the earth, we urge you to establish and enforce an immediate, permanent ban on deadly gillnet fishing in New Zealand. As there are only 43 Maui’s left, we call on you to do all you can to save this beautiful species from extinction before it’s too late.”

More information:

Maui’s are known as Hobbits of the sea, they are diminutive aquatic mammals that look like mini‐dolphins ‐‐ and there’s only 43 of them left! But if we act fast, we can still stop this beautiful species from vanishing forever.

They’re dying because they get trapped in “gillnets” and drown, also they are caught by Commercial fishers as by catch. But New Zealand government refuses to save these iconic dolphins.

Together, we can tip the decision in favour of the Maui’s. Let’s show these Ministers that the people of the world care. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone.

China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink

JOAL, Senegal — Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.

“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe.

A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say.

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But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans.

Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidized by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them.

Increasingly, China’s growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels is heading to the waters of West Africa, drawn by corruption and weak enforcement by local governments. West Africa, experts say, now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleet. And by some estimates, as many as two-thirds of those boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws.

China’s distant-water fishing fleet has grown to nearly 2,600 vessels (the United States has fewer than one-tenth as many), with 400 boats coming into service between 2014 and 2016 alone. Most of the Chinese ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in one week as Senegalese boats catch in a year, costing West African economies $2 billion a year, according to a new study published by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

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Part of China’s enormous fishing fleet at the harbor in Zhejiang, China. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

Many of the Chinese boat owners rely on government money to build vessels and fuel their journeys to Senegal, a monthlong trip from crowded ports in China. Over all, government subsidies to the fishing industry reached nearly $22 billion between 2011 and 2015, nearly triple the amount spent during the previous four years, according to Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

That figure, he said, does not include the tens of millions in subsidies and tax breaks that coastal Chinese cities and provinces provide to support local fishing companies.

According to one study by Greenpeace, subsidies for some Chinese fishing companies amount to a significant portion of their income. For one large state-owned company, CNFC Overseas Fisheries, the $12 million diesel subsidy it received last year made the difference between profit and loss, according to a corporate filing.

“Chinese fleets are all over the world now, and without these subsidies, the industry just wouldn’t be sustainable,” said Li Shuo, a global policy adviser at Greenpeace East Asia. “For Senegal and other countries of West Africa, the impact has been devastating.”

In Senegal, an impoverished nation of 14 million, fishing stocks are plummeting. Local fishermen working out of hand-hewn canoes compete with megatrawlers whose mile-long nets sweep up virtually every living thing. Most of the fish they catch is sent abroad, with a lot ending up as fishmeal fodder for chickens and pigs in the United States and Europe.

The sea’s diminishing returns mean plummeting incomes for fishermen and higher food prices for Senegalese citizens, most of whom depend on fish as their primary source of protein.

“We are facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Alassane Samba, a former director of Senegal’s oceanic research institute. “If things keep going the way they are, people will have to eat jellyfish to survive.”

When it comes to global fishing operations, China is the indisputable king of the sea. It is the world’s biggest seafood exporter, and its population accounts for more than a third of all fish consumption worldwide, a figure growing by 6 percent a year.

Buyers and sellers at Zhoushan fish market. China has depleted the seas close to home. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

The nation’s fishing industry employs more than 14 million people, up from five million in 1979, with 30 million others relying on fish for their livelihood.

“The truth is, traditional fishing grounds in Chinese waters exist in name only,” said Mr. Zhang of Nanyang University. “For China’s leaders, ensuring a steady supply of aquatic products is not just about good economics but social stability and political legitimacy.”

But as they press toward other countries, Chinese fishermen have become entangled in a growing number of maritime disputes.

Indonesia has impounded scores of Chinese boats caught poaching in its waters, and in March last year, the Argentine authorities sank a Chinese vessel that tried to ram a coast guard boat. Violent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the South Korean authorities have left a half-dozen people dead.

For Beijing, the nation’s fleet of fishing vessels has helped assert its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. In Hainan Province, the government encourages boat owners to fish in and around the Spratlys, the archipelago claimed by the Philippines, and the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam considers its own.