In an effort to save the tiny Vaquita porpoise, the Mexican government has banned fishermen gillnets for the next two years.
Mexico’s undersecretary for the Environment Ministry, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, made the announcement on Friday.
The ban will cover a 5,000 square mile area of the upper Gulf.
Thousands of area fishermen, along with others who make their living from shrimp catches, will be compensated for their lost catch during the two-year ban with subsidy installments. The subsidies are worth $72 million.
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Those affected include 860 licensed fishermen in Santa Clara and about 490 in San Felipe. The subsidy will also include paying for more than 30 inspection patrols and on-going drone surveillance to prevent illegal fishing.
Omar Vidal, the director of World Wildlife Fund Mexico, says they’ve been trying to save the endangered porpoises for more than two decades and adds, “I really think that this is the last chance, and we had better get our act together. I think the government is very serious.”
During this two year ban, researchers will have time to improve vaqita-safe nets that will allow fishermen to catch enough shrimp to generate a sufficient income. Now, local fishermen says the nets do not allow for adequate earning to feed their families.
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Scientists say that there are less than 100 Vaquita left in the Gulf of California, while officials admit that enforcement of the ban will prove to be a big challenge. They say that in the past, they have failed to enforce limits on gillnet fishing with boats sneaking into off-limit areas.
Silvia Díaz of Greenpeace Mexico says, “The federal government’s initiatives are positive, but more is needed.”