Presidential Letter on Vaquita

Excelentísimo Señor

Peña Nieto

Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Los Pinos, México


Excelentísimo Señor

Martinez y Martinez

Secretario de Agricultura,

Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural,

Pesca y Alimentación


December 22, 2014

Excelentísimo Señor Presidente, Excelentísimo Señor Secretario:

The Society for Marine Mammalogy has contacted the Government of Mexico 5 times since 1998 with the concerns of our member scientists regarding the decline of the vaquita – we are now more concerned than ever about the plight of Mexico’s unique porpoise. With likely fewer than 100 vaquitas remaining, any further delays in management action by the responsible Mexican agencies greatly increase the chances of losing this species forever. The Society for Marine Mammalogy is the world’s largest professional group dedicated to the study of marine mammals, with a membership of approximately 2,000 scientists from 60 countries. Our goal is to facilitate the understanding and conservation of marine mammals and the ecosystems that support them.

The latest scientific assessment of the vaquita’s numbers and population trend was made public in July 2014 in a report of the fifth meeting of the Comité International para la Recuperación de la Vaquita) (CIRVA 5). Recent photographs ( are consistent with reports that extensive illegal fishing is continuing. This evidence, together with the recent confiscation of hundreds of illegal totoaba swim bladders in Mexico City, demonstrates that enforcement to stop illegal gillnet fishing has not improved as expected and as promised, although it was good to see the enforcement success in confiscating the swim bladders. Without doubt, the critically endangered vaquita is being seriously affected as long as gillnet fishing is allowed to continue.

I understand that there are plans for more surveys, and that the Mexico Senate passed a Point of Agreement that such surveys be carried out. It is unclear what the need for this is given the CIRVA (Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la VAquita)results presented to the Comisión Asesora de la Presidencia de México para la Recuperación de la Vaquita in late July. Based on those results it was agreed that CONAPESCA’s reviewers would promptly formulate their specific questions and concerns and transmit these to CIRVA’s designated representative (Dr. Barbara Taylor). Since then, Dr. Taylor assures me that she has received no response from CONAPESCA. The CIRVA recommendations are the result of robust scientific studies using acoustic monitoring and visual line transect surveys, which were determined by CIRVA to be the most appropriate techniques for assessing this species. I would add, that the credentials of the individuals involved in the fieldwork, analyses, and interpretation of the data place them among the world’s best in their fields and therefore the scientific basis for the CIRVA recommendations is sound.   Thus it seems unlikely there should be a scientific need for further documenting the status of the vaquita. However, we understand there may be other reasons for Mexico wanting to conduct further surveys. Insofar as additional surveys are to take place, the Society offers its services to conduct an independent review of the survey design and methodology with a team of international scientists to ensure that the best possible scientific approaches are used for this extremely rare species that will be even more challenging to study now than it was a few months and years ago, before the recent and ongoing explosion of illegal totoaba fishing in the upper Gulf.

In summary, I strongly urge your administration to make an immediate announcement on a gillnet fishing ban, strengthened enforcement that is critical for the ban to be successful, and a program to compensate the people whose livelihoods will be affected.


Nick Gales

President, Society of Marine Mammalogy



Sr. Ing. Juan José Guerra Abud

Secretario de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales

Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines # 4209

Jardines de la Montaña, Tlalpan,

México, D.F. 14210



Sr. Rafael Pacchiano Alaman

Subsecretario de Gestión para la Protección Ambiental

Av. Revolución 1425,

Col. Tlacopac San Angel,

Alvaro Obregon,

Distrito Federal,

México, C.P. 1040


Sra. Senadora Ninfa Salinas Sada
Presidente de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca

Cámara de Senadores
Senado de la República

Centro Histórico Ciudad de México,

México, D.F. 06010



Sra. Diputada Lourdes Adreiana Moreno López

Presidente de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente

Cámara de Diputados

Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro E. “F”, 3° P,

Av. Congreso de la Unión #66, Col. El Parque,

México D.F., 15969



MenC. Luis Fueyo MacDonald

Comisionado Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)

Camino al Ajusco 200 Col. Jardines de la Montaña

Delegación Tlalpan

México, D.F. 14210



Lic. Mario Aguilar Sanchez

Comisionado Nacional de la CONAPESCA

Av. Camarón Sábalo S/B Esq. con Tiburón

Fracc. Sábalo Country Club

82100 – Mazatlan, Sin.