It was my last afternoon in San Felipe and I was on the bus to Tijuana. Earlier in the day the head guy at PROFEPA totally blew me off for our scheduled interview. I believe he purposely left town so as not to be interviewed. PROFEPA is Mexico’s version of fish and game and they are responsible for protecting Vaquita. I can now fully understand why he did not wish to speak with me. According to CIRVA, the Committee for the Recuperation of Vaquita, PROFEPA, has completely bungled the job. The 5th CIRVA report can be downloaded here, and if you read it closely you will see that it is actually a fairly scathing indictment on PROFEPAS performance. PROFEPA didn’t even show up at the meeting CIRVA held in Ensenada in early July.
As I sat on that bus to Tijuana I overheard a conversation from the passenger sitting across the isle from me. He was talking to the one of the bus drivers about the price of shrimp. I would have never guessed this kid was a shrimp fisherman. He was in the prime of his life, a good looking kid with chiseled features and a strong chin, he was in his late 20’s or early 30’s. Most of the fisherman I spoke to were much older than he and it was then that I realized I should have spoken to many more younger up and comers. He told me the price of shrimp just recently went up in san felipe from 180 to 200 pesos a kilo.
So I asked this young shrimp fisherman if he had ever seena vaquita. I was expecting the same old answer I had got dozens of times before. I was expecting a strong no. To my delight he quickly answered yes. Two seasons ago they pulled a dead one up in their shrimp net. He said they wanted to save it but of course it had already drowned. He said it was bien bonito, a beautiful animal. They threw it back into the ocean asap. He told me if they had been caught with it they would have been put in jail.
I wonder if they were fishing somewhere were they were not supposed to be, like within the vaquita reserve.
I should have thought to ask but this kid had already been straight with me and told me the truth so I didn’t want to press the subject. I had been lied to by so many fisherman over the last 5 days that this kids admission of fact was a wonderful breath of fresh air to me.
So please take a look at the Video above and feel free to leave a comment below.
The future is grim for vaquita and although time is certainly running out at least it is clear what has to happen now if the species is to be saved. There is no confusion over what has to happen, it is really quite simple. No more gill nets allowed and the Mexican Navy is going to have to patrol the waters between San Felipe and Puerto Penasco 24/7 with several boats and some damn powerful radar. It will have to be zero tolerance now for the illegal totoaba fisherman zero tolerance for any type of gill net and trawl nets only for the shrimp fishery. As far as corvina and sierra go it is anyone’s guess how they will fish for them but it is now more clear than ever.
The extinction of the gill net in the upper gulf is now the only thing that will save la vaquita from the same fate.
Most of the older Mexican fisherman I spoke with really do want the vaquita to go extinct. The sooner the better as far as they are concerned. That way they can go back to fishing anywhere they like, like the good old days. It occurred to me then that the government had failed miserably in convincing local fisherman that it was in their benefit to save vaqutias from extinction. I asked the young handsome fisherman why they called la vaquita (little cow in spanish), la vaquita. He told me it was because the meat of a vaquita looked very much like the meat of a real vaca or cow. I heard the same exact thing from Jorge, a sport fishing operator on the malecon just the night before. Jorge finally admitted that not only had he seen a Vaquita but he had actually eaten one and they tasted damn good as well. The vaquita had washed ashore on the beach and it was quickly put on the grill. I wrote more about that conversation on what a vaquita tasted like at the following link back in October on our other web site Sancarlos TV.
WorldsAquarium will be interviewing scientists and government officials frequently over the next month since the first of September may be a very important date. It will be the date the Federal Government in Mexico City decides the fate of Vaquita by agreeing or not to ban gill nets from the northern gulf.
We would like to thank Lorenzo Rojas Bracho, Armando M. Jaramillo and Tom Jefferson from vivavaquita.org