Vaquita conservation management and action has been largely ineffective at controlling vaquita mortality in gillnets.
Until recently, measures to address the primary vaquita threat of bycatch have been inadequate, incomplete or not enforced.
Early efforts include the creation of the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and the Refuge Area for the Protection of the Vaquita in 2005. Gillnet fishing in the Refuge Area was officially prohibited, but there was little enforcement as the refuge did not cover the entire vaquita range and the ban was widely ignored. Gillnet fishing continued unimpeded; the number of pangas (traditional fishing boats) doubled from 2005-2007, and illegal fishers outnumbered legal fishers.
Over the past five years the Government of Mexico has increased efforts to protect the vaquita, investing more than $30 million in conservation efforts including a compensation scheme (‘rent-out’, ‘buy-out’, and ‘switch-out’) to eliminate gillnetting and industrial trawling within the Refuge, but the vaquita continued to decline.
• Image | Paula Olson, NOAA
• Sources | (Barlow, Rojas-Bracho, Piña, & Mesnick, 2010; EIA, 2016)