The Vaquitas habitat is in shallow coastal waters that can only be found in the northern parts of the Gulf of California, in Mexico. Vaquitas live on a territory of only 900 square miles, which is the smallest area occupied by a whale species. Their diet consists mainly of ocean fish such as the Gulf croaker fish & the Bronze-striped grunts.
Gulf croaker fish are a species of marine ray-finned fish belonging to the family Sciaenidae and is closely related to the black drum (Pogonias cromis), the silver perch (Bairdiella chrysoura) and the spot croaker (Leiostomus xanthurus). The Bronze-striped grunt is a demersal species that occurs on sand and rubble at depths of 5-30 meters. Vaquitas are non-selective predators. They are also known to eat squid. Vaquitas are very important for controlling the fish so the ocean does not overflow with marine life.
Vaquitas are somewhat stocky with a characteristic porpoise shape and dark grey backs and pale grey sides, blending into white on the underside with highly conspicuous large black rings around its eyes and mouth. Vaquitas don’t have a snout, unlike other marine mammals, and are easily confused for dolphins.
The Vaquita is the smallest porpoise in the world that belongs to the Cetacea genus. Their scientific name is Phocoena Sinus. They are most often found close to shore in the Gulf’s shallow waters, although they quickly swim away if a boat approaches. Little is known about the reproduction of Vaquitas but researchers believe it is probably similar to that of Harbor Porpoises. If that is true, then sexual maturity is reached at three to five years of age and the gestation period is probably about 11 months. Vaquitas live alone unless they have a calf, Meaning they are less social than other porpoise species. They are the only species belonging to the porpoise family that live in warm waters.
Vaquitas tend to die after getting accidentally caught in gill nets. Gillnets are a fishing net that is hung vertically so that fish get trapped in it by their gills. They were banned in Mexico in 2017. Vaquitas have never been hunted directly, but their population is declining, largely because of animals becoming trapped in illegal gill nets intended for capturing the totoaba, another large critically endangered fish of the drum family endemic to the Gulf.
In July 2016, President Barack Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico announced bilateral collaboration measures to protect the vaquita. As a follow up to this meeting and to the recommendations, CIRVA presented in its vaquita report, Mexico’s National Institute of Fisheries (INAPESCA) and WWF Mexico established an international committee of experts to further develop and urgently implement vaquita-safe fishing technologies.
We can save the Vaquita! Together we can protect the Gulf of California World Heritage site, home to the critically endangered vaquita. You can help by donating money to the World Wildlife Federation. Whenever you see someone using a gillnet, remember to call 911 so that Vaquitas have a thriving population. (I have a link below to WWF)