In DepthConservation Biology

After failed rescue effort, rare porpoise in extreme peril

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Science  17 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6365, pp. 851
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6365.851

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Last month, the Mexican government and an international team launched a last-resort plan to save the vaquita, one of the world’s smallest and most endangered cetaceans. With fewer than 30 vaquitas remaining, the group gathered on the shore of the Gulf of California in northern Mexico to try something unprecedented: Capture some of the porpoises, which grow to just 1.5 meters long, in a bid to breed them in captivity. At first, the $5 million effort—named VaquitaCPR—went better than expected, but then a female vaquita died while the researchers were trying to release her. VaquitaCPR leaders abandoned the rescue until an external review examines the circumstances of the death. But the risk of losing another may be too great for a second try. Instead, whether the vaquita, whose population has dropped 90% in the past several years because of illegal fishing net, survives another year now depends on clearing its waters of these nets.