Vaquita – Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise

earthOCEAN launches Vaquita documentary

Documentary and social media website shines a light on the imminent extinction of the Vaquita porpoise in Mexico

earthOCEAN launches Vaquita documentary
August 26th, 2010 by

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA, August 25, 2010 – 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

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.

Johnson notes: “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.

Tim Ragen, Executive Director of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, a supporter of the multimedia project says – “Chris brings an essential, balanced perspective to a complex issue fraught with socio-economic challenges. His efforts will increase awareness of people around the world regarding the plight of this highly endangered species.”

Vaquita aren’t 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.

To watch the documentary online, follow updates about the vaquita, and read blogs from various experts visit the website –

In September 2010, earthOCEAN will freely give DVDs through partners to local communities of El Golfo de Santa Clara, and San Felipe Mexico so people with limited internet access can watch this story, and make a decision about the importance of the Vaquita to the biodiversity of the region.

“Vaquita – Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise” is supported by grants from The Ocean Foundation and United States Marine Mammal Commission with support from scientific and conservation partners – NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in the United States and in Mexico Instituto Nacional de Ecología, Noereste Sustentable, CEDO – Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans and WWF Mexico.

Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation and active in Vaquita conservation for 25 years, says the documentary is “beautiful and made me fall in love with this unique animal all over again.” Spalding expressed that “we have confidence that this film will convince people that this rare and elusive animal is a Mexican treasure worth saving.”
Press Contact:

Steph Johnson

+1 917-805-6925 (New York, NY USA)

About Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson has written 34 post in this blog.

A filmmaker, photographer and digital producer based in Melbourne Australia.


27 Aug 2010 by Ray Ramirez

Hello Chris, I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to be part of the Vaquita expedition . We have always been very impressed with the entire team, and are very happy to see the great amount of effort you and the many scientist involved have put out to the public in order to educate the people living in the area were the Vaquita is found along with the rest of the world. I hope to see you next year if possible when Thomas Jefferson puts together 2011Vaquita expedition.
Take care Capt. Ray Ramirez. Panchovilla


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