Poaching, not shrimpers, threaten vaquita

Published by FiskerForum, 02-04-2017 · info@fiskerforum.dk

The calls by several NGOs for Mexican shrimp to be boycotted as part of an effort to save the beleaguered vaquita, a species of marine mammal endemic to the Sea of Cortez, are misplaced and harmful and likely to contribute to the vaquita’s extinction rather than prevent it. The vaquita population is thought to have dropped to as few as thirty animals remaining in the wild.

According to the National Fisheries Institute, the NGOs in question have admitted that illegal netting for totoaba in the Sea of Cortez is the primary reason for the vaquita population’s decline, not shrimping which is well regulated and points out that the handful of shrimpers apprehended harvesting illegally demonstrates that enforcement efforts are working. All Mexican shrimp vessels are required to be outfitted with real-time satellite monitoring systems to prevent entry into protected areas.

Totoaba swim bladders fetch extremely high prices on Asian markets, and the high values involved mean that highly organised poaching of the also-endangered totoaba continues despite the extensive efforts of the Mexican authorities to stamp it out. The threat to the vaquita population is a side effect of totoaba poaching, as they are caught in the nets set for totoaba, and drown.

‘We support and encourage robust enforcement of these restrictions by Mexican authorities,’ stated John Connolly of the National Fisheries Institute.

‘We support specific, concentrated efforts to mitigate the impact of commercial fishing on the endangered vaquita. Efforts to ensure targeted exclusion of gill nets in legally protected areas are the types of responsible means of addressing this issue we continue to support.’

He commented that targeting legally sourced Mexican shrimp for a boycott in a misguided attempt to draw attention to this issue is unfortunate.

‘This strategy seeks to disadvantage some of the most committed supporters of legal, sustainable shrimp harvesting. If illegal fishing is negatively impacting efforts to protect vaquita then support for increased enforcement is what’s needed, not a boycott on those already doing the right thing.’

Source: National Fisheries Institute

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