Mexican scientists see off the vaquita

Mexican scientists see off the vaquita

The vaquita, a small porpoise on the verge of extinction, is still hanging in there, said scientists on Wednesday who had spotted about a dozen specimens of Mexico's panda of the sea on an expedition in May.

The vaquita is the smallest porpoises, similar to dolphins, with shorter beaks and more rounded bodies.

They perish in nets used to illegally catch totoaba, large fish whose swim bladders - organs used to control buoyancy - are believed in China to hold medicinal powers.

Scientists conducting a survey of the vaquita's endemic range in the Gulf of California off Mexico's north coast have spotted between 10 and 13 of the porpoises last month.

We estimated that the sightings included 1 to 2 calves, and there was a 76 per cent probability that the total number seen, including calves, was between 10 and 13 individuals, the NGO Sea Shepherd said in a statement.

Since the search was in a small portion of the vaquitas' historical range, 10 to 13 is considered a minimum estimate of the number of vaquitas left.

The exact same number was expected in October 2021.

All vaquitas sighted in May appeared to be healthy, the report said. The vaquita is a threat to the world's most endangered cetacean, the group of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Vaquitas, a grey-colored porpoises, are called pandas of the sea for their rings around their eyes.