Conservation Status: IUCN Red List - Critically Endangered
Threats to survival: Accidental catch in nets intended for fish and shrimp
Understanding Conservation in the Upper Gulf
Our Community Engagement team is collaborating with our partners, as well as students from Mexico and San Diego, to gather information on historical conservation initiatives in the upper Gulf of California, Mexico, where the vaquita is found. Despite past efforts to preserve the species, the vaquita population continues to decline, with fewer than 100 individuals remaining. A better understanding of past activities and their impact on local communities will inform and enhance the success of our current and future work. Using social science research methods, surveys are being conducted with local people. Results will be shared with collaborators and the community to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our combined efforts. Because the main threat to the vaquita stems from fishing as a livelihood, involving local people in the development of conservation solutions is essential.
Ridge to Reef Initiative
We are partnering to implement education initiatives in the communities of San Felipe, El Golfo de Santa Clara, and Puerto Peñasco. The Ridge to Reef initiative is a curriculum developed specifically for Baja California that covers marine, desert, and montane ecosystems. Focal species include the vaquita, the California condor, bighorn sheep, and the peninsular pronghorn. Our methods are collaborative and encourage local teachers to provide input, giving them ownership and information that suits their needs. Teachers participate in training workshops and are supported in creating projects with their students that result in observable changes in their communities, including recycling programs and school nurseries. In addition, they are given access to technologies utilized in conservation science, including microscopes, binoculars, and camera traps.
Building Capacity for Locally Sustainable Conservation
Our ultimate goal is to build local capacity for program oversight and management. To this end, our work has a strong training component for Mexican nationals who live and work in areas surrounding the upper Gulf of California and Baja California, Mexico. Our local education coordinator oversees a cadre of Mexican university students who assist in conducting interviews among community members. Local program leaders assist in creating locally and culturally relevant materials and being integrated into the community are less disruptive and elicit results that are more representative of the norm. These roles also serve as jobs and provide income in a climate where economic incentive and clear benefit to the community is essential in conservation efforts.