EarthOCEAN, a media company that uses cutting-edge new media technologies to communicate science, environmental and wildlife topics in ways that inspire and inform, has debuted a ground-breaking documentary film that investigates the imperiled status of the world’s rarest porpoise. The film entitled, ‘Vaquita – Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise’, is available online at www.vaquita.tv.
Tucked away in the northern extremities of the Gulf of California in Mexico, lives the entire world population of the Vaquita porpoise. Its range is the smallest of any marine mammal – living in an area less than 40 square miles.
Filmmaker Chris Johnson of earthOCEAN had unprecedented access for three years to one of the world’s most grave marine conservation stories. In 2008, he joined the international scientific effort – Expedition Vaquita – to find and document any remaining animals in the region. He interviewed international conservation groups and met with local fishermen to find out what solutions, if any could be found in time.
Chris Johnson explains: “We had two goals for the project – the first was to film and photograph the elusive Vaquita porpoise and document the people racing to help it survive. The second and most important, was to create a much-needed tool for outreach efforts to communicate scientific findings and conservation recommendations for the Vaquita, while addressing the challenges for people in local communities.”
In recent years human pressures have taken an enormous toll on the desert porpoise. Gill nets – nearly invisible fishing nets set in the water like curtains and often left unattended by coastal fishers primarily fishing for shrimp – are the greatest single cause of Vaquita mortality. Vaquita become entangled and drown when they accidentally swim into the nets.
Vaquita are not the intended target of any fishery, they are merely the bycatch of local fishers trying to earn a living and feed their families. For the fishers of El Golfo de Santa Clara, San Felipe and Puerto Penasco, the Vaquita is collateral damage.
The Vaquita is sliding ever closer to the edge of oblivion where it is on course to join its cousin; the Baiji. The Baiji, also known as the Yangtze River dolphin, lived only in China in the Yangtze River. In 2007, it is the first cetacean species to be declared extinct in modern times, as a direct result of human activities.