Vaquita Conservation

Facilitating an international collaboration to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction.

Vaquita Porpoise
The NMMF is a key partner in VaquitaCPR (Conservation, Protection, & Recovery), a consortium comprised of marine mammal scientists, veterinarians, and biologists from around the world that came together to attempt to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction. In 2017, the VaquitaCPR team set out on a bold rescue mission aimed at temporarily protecting vaquitas under human care until their natural habitat was safe for them to return.

Vaquitas have been drowning at alarming rates in gillnets for shrimp and finfish. The government of Mexico banned gillnet fisheries; however, the vaquita porpoise continues to be a victim of bycatch, due to illegal fishing for the totoaba. The swim bladders from the totoaba fish are highly valuable in Chinese markets. Along with the totoaba and masses of other marine life, vaquitas get entangled in these nets and drown.

Read the details of the VaquitaCPR rescue plan here, and the scientific paper that summarizes how the project went and lessons we learned as we continue our work to save the world’s most endangered marine mammals.

In the wake of VaquitaCPR field operations, the team launched Project Esperanza with an aim to provide the species with a chance at survival, while also supporting the good work of local fishers and organizations working together to make a difference. Project Esperanza supports the multi-institutional gillnet removal efforts and acoustic monitoring efforts in the Upper Gulf of California, and is urgently working to raise global awareness of the vaquita crisis.

To learn more about the VaquitaCPR conservation efforts, please visit:

Sea of Shadows

VaquitaCPR’s conservation efforts are featured in the new National Geographic documentary, Sea of Shadows. From executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio and director Richard Ladkani, also known for The Ivory Game, Sea of Shadows follows undercover investigators, scientist, journalists, and the Mexican Navy on their desperate last-minute effort to rescue the Earth’s smallest whale from extinction. The documentary crew spent a month filming with the VaquitaCPR team in San Felipe, Mexico to capture every possible moment of the ground-breaking conservation effort.