(KGTV) – A few hours south of the border, below the surface of the Sea of Cortez, a war is being waged over a fish called the “cocaine of the sea.”
It’s so valuable that fish trafficking is controlled by organized crime. In 2017, Kimberly Hunt of ABC 10News reported how cartels were poaching this illegal fish called Totoaba and in the process wiping out other marine species and bringing the world’s smallest whale, the Vaquita, to the brink of extinction.
The sea bladder of the Totoaba is cut from fish and smuggled into China where it is considered a delicacy with medicinal properties.
Poachers in Mexico get about $4-5,000 for each Totoaba, and in China, conservationists tell us the bladders cost $40-70,000 each.
Fishermen in the Sea of Cortez illegally fish Totoaba by casting huge fishing nets. When the nets are hauled in, other marine species are caught and die as bycatch. Among them is the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.
Despite years of efforts by American NGOs, the US government, and the Mexican government, traffickers continue to fish, traffic to China, and earn millions of dollars a year.
Today, there are less than 10 Vaquita left on earth. And, just last week, the vote of an international committee dealt a blow to the endangered Vaquita.
Last week, an international committee gave the green light to the commercial breeding and trade of captive-bred Totoaba, and in doing so may have condemned the last remaining Vaquita porpoises to extinction.
CITES, the Committee on International Trade in Endangered Species, voted to allow a Mexican aquaculture company to market farm-raised Totoaba, despite efforts by the United States and Israel to deny the request.
This now opens international trade in Totoaba for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Andrea Crosto, the founder and executive director of Earth League International, who has fought illegal Totoaba fishing for 7 years, tells me that not only does this complicate law enforcement against poached Totoaba in the Sea of Cortez, but it will also increase the demand for the Wild Fish and seal the Vaquita’s fate.
“It’s the final nail in the Vaquita’s coffin,” Crosto said.
“There are only 8 to 10 left in the wild. The very last Vaquitas on earth. And apparently the Mexican government and the fishing industry in Mexico really want the Vaquita gone, it would be easier for everyone. world.”
In the past year, the Mexican government also lifted the ban on fishing in the Vaquita Refuge. The Sea Shepherd currently has two ships in the gulf, fighting fishermen on the water.
Crosto says Earth League International is the only organization on the ground, on earth, trying to combat Totoaba poaching by targeting the traffickers themselves.
As his organization collects information and provides it to law enforcement, Crosto says traffickers continue to make millions. Calling the certain fate of the Vaquita an epic failure of conservation.
“We put in over $100,000,000 over 12 years. The US government, the Mexican government, big NGOs, a lot of money, and we couldn’t save the world’s rarest marine mammal that lives 5-6 hour drive from Los Angeles.”
“The Vaquita doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere, the Congo jungle, it’s around the corner. I’m in LA, you’re in San Diego and yet we couldn’t save it, we couldn’t save it. couldn’t save the Vaquita,” Crosto said.
The Sea Shepherd crew still has some hope. He reports having seen a calf among the 7 or 8 adults counted in the fall. A baby, while facing hostile domestic waters, gives hope.
If you would like to make your voice heard, we provide email and phone numbers below for agencies that may affect the laws and enforcement of Refuge Vaquita.
Here is the link to Earth League International:
Check the list below for actions you can take to help the Vaquita:
1. CONTACT US Mexican and Chinese government authorities and demand an end to the illegal totoaba trade which is accelerating the disappearance of the vaquita:
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Official residence of Los Pinos, Molino del Rey s/n,
Collar. San Miguel Chapultepec, Distrito Federal. CP 11850
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources – Email: [email protected]
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America
3505 Place Internationale, NW
Washington, DC 20008 USA
Email: [email protected]
2. DONATE for Earth League International and Operation Fake Gold, at https://earthleagueinternational.org/donate/. Our team of secret investigators and criminal analysts could put an end to the totoaba cartels and international traffickers responsible for the decline of the vaquitas and the destruction of the Gulf of California.
3. RAISING AWARENESS. Share this video of Dr Jane Goodall as she joins ELI and others fighting to save the vaquita.
Click here for more information to help the Vaquita and watch a message from Dr. Jane Goodall.