Mexico, DiCaprio, Slim team up to help endangered porpoise

Peter Castro
June 10, 2017

Mexico's president, its richest man and actor Leonardo DiCaprio signed an agreement Wednesday to try to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

"Now more than ever, the world is looking for bold leadership at every level to tackle climate change and environmental conservation issues", Leonardo said. He called on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to demand action.

DiCaprio met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, on Wednesday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing Mexico to strengthen its legislation surrounding fishing practices in the Gulf of California, Reuters reported.

The Mexican government, tycoon Carlos Slim and USA actor Leonardo DiCaprio on Wednesday unveiled a joint plan to protect a tiny porpoise in the Gulf of California that has become a potent symbol of critically endangered animal species. The agreement states Mexican government officials will crack down on illegal fishing and poaching, ban the use of environmentally damaging fishing nets and restrict access to a specially designated Vaquita reserve.

Pena Nieto said Mexico "understands its responsibility as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world" and would make a "historic effort" to protect the vaquita.

The memorandum includes a permanent ban on fishing nets that often unintentionally trap the animals and an increase in enforcement for such an effort.

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This new agreement is also supported by other organizations, including the WWF, as well.

With this agreement, the Mexican government is committed to stepping up efforts to protect the marine ecosystem of the Californian Bay where the vaquita (Spanish cow) lives, in particular, there are only 30 such marine mammals left in this habitat.

"This action is a critical step towards ensuring that the Gulf of California continues to be both vibrant and productive, especially for species like the critically-endangered Vaquita", Dicaprio continued.

The bladders can be worth thousands to the fishermen who catch them, which has made efforts to regulate totoaba fishing largely ineffective, and authorities are planning to capture the few remaining vaquitas and enclose them in a protected marine sanctuary in hopes of bolstering the vaquita population.

Enforcement against go-fast boats used by illegal fishermen is hard, so the memorandum also includes a prohibition on night fishing and improved entry and exit control in the vaquita reserve. One that could help ensure the vaquita's "prosperous" future.

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