Vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California

Dr. Adrián Fernández
Presidente, Instituto Nacional de Ecología
Av. Anillo Periférico 5000
Col. Insurgentes Cuicuilco
Delegación Coyoacán
México, DF 04530

April 22, 2010

Dear Dr. Fernández:

The Board of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) has been following with great interest recovery efforts undertaken by your Government to conserve the highly endangered vaquita (Phocoena sinus) in the Upper Gulf ofCalifornia. As you know, elimination of by-catch is the only approach that will ensure the survival of this endemic species. Since 2007, the Government of Mexico has invested an unprecedented level of funding to eliminate bycatch. The conservation actions taken to date, including buyouts,enforcement of areas closed to fishing, and development of alternative fishing gear, hold great promise to reverse the population decline of this species.

Critical to any conservation program is a monitoring scheme that will allow evaluation of the success of management actions taken over time. We believethat the time has come to implement an effective monitoring program to allow assessment of the efficacy of the critical measures taken to date. Recently the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE) convened a workshop to guide the design of such a monitoring scheme. The Report of the Workshopdetails a monitoring plan within the vaquita refuge, including a budget, timeframe and other actions. The Report has been reviewed favorably by several distinguished members of the SMM and by other scientists.

The Board of the SMM considers the scheme outlined in the WorkshopReport to be an effective means of monitoring the vaquita population. Due to the very small size of this population, it is clear that monitoring methods must achieve an unprecedented level of sampling precision. Achieving this level of precision will require a significant investment of funds, but we note that the cost will be small in comparison to the investment already committed to theconservation program and insignificant in relation to the potential ecological and societal costs of losing this iconic species. The Board of the SMM therefore, fully supports the workshop recommendations; we believe that these measures are a feasible means of monitoring this very small population of vaquitas.

Once again, the Board of the SMM offers to your Government its expertise in working towards the conservation of Mexico’s only endemic marine mammal species. Areas in which the Society could potentially assist your Government include:

  • Brokering partnerships with NGOs to assist with the cost of the monitoring
  • Assisting with the development of gear refinements with the aim of reducing bycatch in the areas open to fishing.

The Society looks forward to assisting the Mexican government in its internationally significant endeavors to save the vaquita.


Signature - Andrew J. Read

Andrew J. Read
Society of Marine Mammalogy


Dr. Eduardo Peters R
Director General de Ordenamiento Ecológico y Conservación de los Ecosistemas
Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE)

Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho
Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE)

Lic. Jorge López Vergara
Cargo: Oficial Mayor del Ramo