Friday, 10 June 2016

Conservationists debate how to save Mexico's vaquita porpoise

Report recommends breeding the endangered species – which is the world’s smallest porpoise – in captivity, but some experts disagree

Associated Press in Mexico City
Monday 6 June 201623.13 BST Last modified on Tuesday 7 June 201614.47 BST

Mexican authorities should consider trapping some of the few remaining vaquita marina porpoises in order to attempt breeding the endangered species in captivity or semi-captivity, conservationists have recommended.

The vaquita is the world’s smallest porpoise, and only around 60 remain in the Gulf of California, the only place in the world they live.

The report by the International Commission for the Recovery of the Vaquita says offsite – “ex situ” – conservation should be considered. That could mean putting the dolphins in breeding pens, either in coastal waters or elsewhere.

Some experts oppose that, saying efforts to capture them could kill the few vaquitas left. The commission, known by its initials in Spanish as Cirva, acknowledged the risks involved. Nobody has ever kept vaquitas in captivity, much less bred them.

“While recognizing the risks and complexities of such an approach, Cirva concluded that fieldwork to determine the feasibility of ex situ conservation actions for the vaquita is warranted,” according to the report. “Cirva agreed unanimously that capture of all remaining vaquitas is not a viable conservation strategy for vaquitas, which must, first and foremost, be protected in their wild habitat.”

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