Vaquita

Vaquita in the northern gulf of California.

The vaquita — a species of porpoise — is facing extinction, and may even be completely extinct within the near future.

Which is why the Aquarium of the Pacific launched a campaign to bring awareness to the cause and hopefully open up dialogue with other groups to help save the species.

The campaign is called 1 Million Cards, and zoos and aquariums around the world will be collecting postcards with messages directed to recently elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, asking him to take action against the illegal fishing practices that have taken the vaquita to the point of possible extinction.

Practices that threaten vaquita livelihood have been deemed illegal in previous years, including imposing a two year ban on gill nets in 2015. But the bans would need to become permanent and more humane fishing gear must be developed to prevent the remaining vaquita from becoming entangled in nets, aquarium officials said.

The estimated remaining 30 vaquita are located along the Northern Gulf of California in Baja, Mexico, which means that it's imperative that the Mexican government takes more action, officials added.

“We are at the most critical point in the vaquita porpoise’s conservation history. Right now, there are very few vaquitas left," Dave Bader, director of education at the Aquarium of the Pacific, said. "We have an opportunity to protect them, but we can only do that with the continued support of the Mexican government."

To participate, Aquarium visitors can write responses on a 1 Million Cards postcard —available at the aquarium —with messages directed to saving the near extinct vaquita. The plan is to have the cards hand delivered to the Mexican Consulate in San Diego sometime at the end of January, according to a release.

The 1 Million Cards campaign is one of many educational campaigns the aquarium has launched in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of the vaquita.

The aquarium is a part of the Vaquita SAFE initiative that partners with zoos and aquariums across the country to educate the public on the cause as well as encourage policy and legislation that benefit wildlife safety. More campaigns and educational opportunities for the public will be announced in 2019.

But consistent action to make sustainable choices daily can make the most significant impact on protection of ocean wildlife, aquarium officials said. That includes purchasing sustainable seafood options by being more mindful of fishing practices, as well as supporting companies and restaurants that sell seafood from environmentally responsible sources. 

More information about the 1 Million Cards campaign and the aquarium's various conservation initiatives can be found at aquariumofpacific.org/conservation.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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