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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

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Vaquita Presentation - Dr. Tom Jefferson

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