Friday, March 4, 2011
March 4, 2011 : Vaquita
The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is a rare species of porpoise. It is endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California. Estimates of the number of individuals alive range from 100 to 300. The word "vaquita" is Spanish for little cow.
Other names include Cochito, Gulf of California Harbor Porpoise, Gulf of California Porpoise, Gulf Porpoise, Hafenschweinswal, and Marsouin du Golfe de Californie.
The Vaquita has a classic porpoise shape (stocky and curved into a star shape when viewed from the side). It is the smallest of the porpoises. Individuals may grow up to 150 centimetres (4.92 ft) in length and weigh up to 50 kilograms (110.2 lb). They have large black eye rings and lip patches. The upper side of the body is medium to dark grey. The underside is off-white to light grey but the demarcation between the sides is indistinct. The flippers are proportionately larger than in other phocoenids and the fin is taller and more falcate. The skull is smaller and the rostrum is shorter and broader than in other members of the genus.
The Vaquita is one of the top 100 EDGE Species, meaning "Evolutionarily Distinct, Globally Endangered". Evolutionarily distinct animals have no close relatives and represent proportionally more of the tree of life than other species, meaning they are top priority for conservation campaigns.
On October 28, 2008 Canada, Mexico, and the United States, under the jurisdiction of the NAFTA environmental organization, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, launched the North American Conservation Action Plan (NACAP) for the Vaquita. The NACAP is a strategy to support Mexico’s efforts to recover the Vaquita, which is considered the world’s most-endangered marine mammal. The U.S. government has listed the vaquita as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.