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Vaquita Presentation - Dr. Tom Jefferson
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Vaquita Presentation - Dr. Tom Jefferson


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Slides from Dr. Tom Jefferson's vaquita presentation at El Dorado Ranch, San Felipe, Mexico 6/25/10

Slides from Dr. Tom Jefferson's vaquita presentation at El Dorado Ranch, San Felipe, Mexico 6/25/10

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  • 1. ¡Viva Vaquita! Can We Save the World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal Species? Thomas A. Jefferson Cetos Research Organization, San Diego, CA
  • 2. Acknowledgements
    • EDR for inviting me here
    • Main research collaborators: T. Kieckhefer, T. Nowlan, S. Spencer, J. Muskus, and L. Rojas-Bracho
    • Team Vaquita : A. & S. Baldridge, S. Eastham, D. Glim, T. Kieckhefer, D. Kutz, R. Puckett, R. Rodriguez, Maris Sidenstecker I, Maris Sidenstecker II
    • General support: H. Chan, SWFSC staff
    • Many volunteers
    • Funding sources and SEMARNAT
  • 3. Funding Sources Anonymous Foundation
  • 4. Talk Outline
    • History of marine mammal extinctions
    • Background on the vaquita
    • Brief summary of our 2008 photo project
    • Education/public awareness efforts
    • What you can do and concluding thoughts
  • 5. Steller’s Sea Cow - EXTINCT The last individual killed in 1768, 27 years after discovery
  • 6. Northern Elephant Seal - RECOVERED Reduced to about 50 individuals near turn of the 20th Century
  • 7. Gray Whale - RECOVERED ENP Stock twice reduced to near extinction, but has since recovered
  • 8. West Indian Monk Seal - EXTINCT Wiped out by sealing and collections for museums in the 1950s
  • 9. Baiji - EXTINCT Declared extinct in 2006, as a result of habitat destruction
  • 10. Take Home Message
    • We have had mixed success at saving endangered marine mammals
    • We’re pretty good at saving them from direct hunting
    • We don’t have a very good a record when the problems are varied and involve habitat destruction
  • 11. Six Species of Porpoises - Four Species of Phocoena Spectacled Porpoise Harbor Porpoise Burmeister’s Porpoise Vaquita
  • 12. Two Species in Other Genera - Dall’s and Finless Porpoises Dall’s Porpoise Finless Porpoise
  • 13. What’s a Vaquita?
    • The vaquita is a small porpoise in the family Phocoenidae.
    • It is one of only seven species of true porpoises.
    • It is found in a tiny area in the extreme northern Gulf of California.
    • It is a unique species, with a body shape and color pattern unlike that of any other.
    • It has a tall dorsal fin and a beautiful color pattern, with dark eye rings and lip patches.
    • ‘ Panda of the Sea’.
    A. Robles
  • 14. Vaquita Facts
    • Vaquita means “little cow” in Spanish.
    • At about 5 feet (1.5 m), the smallest cetacean.
    • Lives only about a 4 hour drive from San Diego.
    • Give birth only every other year.
    • Live to be about 20-21 years old.
    • Never been held in aquaria.
    • Rarest and most-endangered marine mammal.
    • Fate is tied to that of the upper Gulf ecosystem.
  • 15. Species Only Described in 1958
  • 16. Vaquita Distribution Most restricted distribution of ANY marine cetacean < 4,000 km 2 (1/4 the size of the LA area)
  • 17. Shallow Depths San Felipe Occurs only in the shallow (10-50 m) depths of the northern Gulf of California
  • 18. High Productivity San Felipe Vaquita habitat is highly productive
  • 19. The Problem - Gillnets
  • 20. The Solution - Remove Gillnets
    • Plan to compensate gillnet fishermen for giving up gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s range.
    • Done through a ‘buy-out’ program, a ‘rent-out’ program, and the development of alternative fishing gear.
    • We applaud Mexico for these efforts.
    • However, recent economic events have slowed progress.
    • The vaquita does not have time to wait…
  • 21. History of the Population
    • Vaquita abundance - solid line
    • Capture history of totoaba - circles
    • Number of gillnet pangas - squares
    • Est. annual vaquita mortality - triangles
    Source : Jaramillo-Legorreta 2008
  • 22. Latest Abundance Estimate
    • Tim Gerrodette (SWFSC) has generated a new estimate from the 2008 Jordan survey data
    • Best estimate is 250 individuals
    • This does NOT indicate an increase in abundance
    • Decline rate can not be estimated accurately, but its clear a decline has occurred since 1997
  • 23. Mexico’s Large Gillnet Fleet
  • 24. Shrimp Trawling
  • 25. Among Highest Conservation Priorities of All Mammals Vaquita Source : Isaac et al. 2007 - “ Mammals on the EDGE…”
  • 26. Existing Photos - Dead Porpoises A. Robles A. Robles
  • 27. Best Photos Before 2008 - Blurry, Grainy Images G. Silber G. Ybarra Only previous photo to show a vaquita face
  • 28. October 2008 - San Felipe Photo Expedition
  • 29. David Starr Jordan
  • 30. After 18 Frustrating Days… Success! - High-Quality Photos
  • 31. Then… 13 Sightings in 13 Days! Rocas Consag San Felipe Colorado River Delta When seas were calm, and we searched the right area, we found vaquitas
  • 32. All Sightings in Vicinity of Rocas Consag Vaquita Rocas Consag
  • 33. Rocas Consag This island can be seen from anywhere in the range of the species 87 m (285 ft)
  • 34. The Importance of Calm Seas Beaufort 0-2/3, average Beau 0.92
  • 35. Photo-identification IS Possible
  • 36. Four Individuals IDed Nicola Mid-nick Top-nick Fingertip
  • 37. Enforcement Both Navy and PROFEPA were out in force
  • 38. The End?… Hopefully Not for the Vaquita!
  • 39. 2010 Field Work in Mexico
    • We have been conducting field work on the vaquita since 7 June 2010
    • We hope to build up our photo-identification catalog
    • Only a single sighting of vaquitas
    • We have done some local education/awareness work as well
  • 40. Creation of New Website
  • 41. Sea Otter Classic Booth
    • Viva Vaquita booth at SOC April 16-18, 2010
    • 40-50K people attended the event
    • Great opportunity to preach beyond the converted
    • Come by and support us next year!
  • 42. Education and Public Awareness
    • Special Issue of Whalewatcher
    • Popular/newspaper articles
    • Booths at other outdoor/environmental events
    • Series of lectures and school programs
    • Printing and distribution of brochures
    • Adopt-A-Porpoise program
    • Any other ideas?
  • 43. What you can do...
    • Tell all your friends and family about the vaquita.
    • Vote for politicians with a good environmental record.
    • Support the economy by traveling to Mexico.
    • Don’t buy shrimp or fish caught with gillnets.
    • Write your elected officials and tell them to help.
    • Write letters to Mexico’s Ministry of Environment.
    • Send vaquita drawings to the United Nations.
    • Donate to NGOs with Vaquita Recovery Funds!
  • 44. In 5 or 10 years, will the vaquita still be here? Illustration by Uko Gorter
  • 45. Visit to learn more about how you can help… ¡Viva Vaquita!