On April 13, 2017, the Mexican government announced that it extended fishing restrictions in the upper Sea of Cortez through the end of May 2017. The federal government originally established the fishing restrictions for two years to protect the endangered vaquita, a small porpoise that holds the undesirable title of “the most rare marine mammal” on the planet.
Vaquita inhabit an area surrounded by three fishing villages. The biggest threat to the vaquita are gillnets, which are predominantly used by fishermen in the area. The vaquita share its home with the also endangered totoaba, a fish that is subject to human poaching due to the high price tag on its swim bladder, which is considered a delicacy by certain cultures. Proximity to the fishing villages combined with an increase of totoaba fishing diminished the vaquita population from 60 individuals two years ago to an estimated 30 individuals as of today.
In response, LDF Grantee Sea Shepherd Conservation Society launched the campaign Operation Milagro III (Operation Miracle). Sea Shepherd teamed up with the Mexican government to protect the vaquita by patrolling the waters for poachers. Operation Milagro III consists of two brave crews that embark on saving the vaquita as well as help other animals that get caught in the gillnets. The crews have endured dangerous confrontations from poachers but heroically pursue their mission. Since December 2016, the crews have pulled over 100 illegal gillnets.