Vaquita – Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise

What can you do to help?

Vaquita conservation is complex and very dynamic. It involves environmental issues as well as social, political and economic matters.

What can you do to help?
May 18th, 2010 by

Written by Catalina López Sagástegui

We cannot deny the grave situation the vaquita is in, or how difficult it will be to find solutions that will not only save this species from extinction, but allow local fishermen to maintain successful livelihoods as well.

The last five years have been filled with numerous efforts on behalf of governments, conservation groups and fishermen. There is still a lot to be done and there are constantly new opportunities and ways in which we can all help. Each community faces different challenges so whether your interests include the environment, or you would like to work with new business owners there are many ways in which your help can help the communities directly.

Become a responsible consumer – In a perfect world, the Upper Gulf’s fisheries would all be certified as sustainable, but as of today none of them are. We are slowly moving towards that scenario. With NGOs, the government and fishermen are working in collaboration to improve fisheries management and fishing practices. But in the mean time, we can try to become responsible consumers. Buy fish and shrimp directly from cooperatives that actively participate in vaquita conservation efforts. This will create an incentive to stay involved by helping local micro economies thrive. While the region is best known for its shrimp fishery, fishermen engage in a wide array of fisheries that provide great quality products that are harvested responsibly.

Support groups working in the area – There are many groups working on the field and everyone could use your help. Get involved by volunteering or doing internships with NGOs. It is definitely a great way to learn about the region while meeting great people. If you can’t make it to the Upper Gulf, there are other great ways to get involved. Providing economic support to any of the groups involved is great, as is signing petitions and spreading the word about the issues. The most important thing is that you always try to find out exactly how local communities will benefit from your actions.

Support local economies – Now that many of the fishermen are retiring from fishing and starting new businesses, it is important to support them in their new endeavors. If you travel to the area try staying in any of the ecological lodges, or maybe have a nice meal in a restaurant set up as part of the vaquita conservation program. Many of the fishermen are now entering into the ecotourism industry so make sure your sightseeing or fishing trip is set up with one of them. For a list of some of the new businesses in the region you can visit CEDO’s web page, or simply ask around and people will point in the right direction. Remember that the more support these communities receive, the better chance we have of keeping the waters gillnet free.

Ask questions, join the conversation – Vaquita conservation is complex and very dynamic. It involves environmental issues as well as social, political and economic matters. Do not be afraid to ask questions. There are many wonderful people willing to spend time talking about the issues. Whether you want to talk to someone from an NGO about environmental aspects, to a fisherman about fishing and their view on sustainability, or even someone from the government, understanding the situation is the first step towards finding a solution.

Regardless of what your interests might be, the key thing to remember while we embark in any activity is that our efforts will have an impact on the social, political and economic realities of these communities. Every action creates a ripple effect that results in several elements moving or changing, and this is what makes everything so dynamic. Solutions need to be respectful of local traditions and they need to consider both, the environmental aspects and the human aspects. People’s lives are changing as a result of our efforts to save a species, this requires patience. Above all, it requires persistence on everyone’s behalf so the process keeps moving forward.

About Catalina López

Catalina Lopéz Sagástegui has written 12 post in this blog.

A Scholar in Residence at UC MEXUS. She has worked with local fishermen implementing vaquita conservation programs in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico.

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30 Aug 2010 by Kery

Beautifully written. I appreciate that both sides of the story are considered. I think this gives the organization great credibility. I wish there weren’t so many millions of distractions on the Internet, but there are. To make a difference it is vital to catch people’s attention, and that is not easy these days. Once you start that eye-catching campaign with really creative tactics, the word spreads all on its own.


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