Vaquita – Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise

The Upper Gulf in Numbers

Two weeks ago I visited El Golfo de Santa Clara and saw the usual sights of fishermen readying their fishing gear for the upcoming shrimp season.

The Upper Gulf in Numbers
September 26th, 2011 by

According to the latest numbers from SEMARNAT (Oficial Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), since 2007 a total of 247 pangas with 329 fishing permits have been bought out. During the same period of time, fishing gear type has been changed in 250 permits. To achieve this, SEMARNAT has invested $425 million pesos, with an additional $25 million pesos from SAGARPA.

The last official estimate puts the vaquita population at 250 individuals. In 2010 there were three documented vaquita deaths, but on a positive note just a few days ago nine vaquitas were spotted off Rocas Consag. So is the vaquita better off today?

Shrimp fishing in the Upper Gulf of California began on Tuesday September 20th. It is estimated that 46,000 people depend on this activity and are hoping this turns out to be a good season. El Golfo de Santa Clara is expected to produce over 550 tons of shrimp, while San Felipe’s fleet is hoping to reach at least 310 tons. These volumes are based on past productions and do not include the trawling fleet’s catch volumes.

The Upper Gulf’s shrimp is known for its quality and size, making it a popular item among high-end restaurants. This is also the main reason why most of what is produced here is exported and usually has a good price.

During the 2009-2010 season opening price was set at $100 pesos/kg and reached $170 pesos/kg. The 2010-2011 season prices did not disappoint with prices ranging
from $160 – $220 pesos/kg.

So, the next six months fishermen will be busy travelling back and forth in an effort to bring home as much income as possible. Around 674 pangas will be fishing for shrimp this year. El Golfo de Santa Clara has the largest fleet with 423 authorized pangas, followed by San Felipe with 238 pangas and 8 boats. Puerto Peñasco has the least number of permits for pangas with 13, however 64 boats from their trawling fleet are allowed to fish in the region.

I wish I knew whether or not the vaquita was better off today; however after realizing how
much everything has changed since 2007, I remain optimistic.

Two weeks ago I visited El Golfo de Santa Clara and saw the usual sights of fishermen readying their fishing gear for the upcoming shrimp season. It is obvious this small town is, and probably will always be, a “fishing town”. But there was one big difference: the level of awareness regarding conservation and sustainability issues is higher, and it seems like for the first time fisheries management is starting to be addressed from a regional perspective.

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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