Vaquita porpoises live in one tiny corner of the ocean known as the Gulf of California. Nicknamed “the panda of the sea” for the distinct dark marks around their eyes and mouth, these porpoises are the smallest and most endangered cetacean in the ocean.
Nearly one in five vaquitas perish after becoming entangled in plastic gillnets. Overfishing of the totoaba fish is the main reason why vaquitas are so critically endangered today. The totoaba is also critically endangered so international trade has been banned. However, continued demand for their swim bladders, which can sell for $4,000 a pound, has led to illegal fishing operations in the vaquita’s habitat.
With as few as 10 vaquitas left, researchers say it’s possible for these porpoises to go extinct in our lifetime. We cannot afford to have even one more of these animals become entangled in plastic fishing gear. Their story is just one more heartbreaking example of why an urgent and proactive solution to plastic pollution and other man-made threats is crucial to the future of this planet.