Mexico bans drift gillnets in Gulf of California

Environmentalists hail decision as a victory for the vaquita porpoise.

BAJA CALIFORNIA — The use of drift gillnets in the Gulf of California have been permanently banned by the Mexican government, according to multiple news reports. Banning drift gillnets from the body of water also known as the Sea of Cortez is seen as a step in the right direction to aid the recovery of vaquita porpoises.

The Mexican government approved a temporary ban on drift gillnets in early 2015. Mexican Pres. Enrique Pena Nieto’s June 30 decision made the ban permanent, essentially rewarding the lobbying efforts of Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, billionaire Carlos Slim and several environmental groups.

An estimated 30 vaquita porpoises exist in the world – all of them apparently residing along Baja California’s east coast. Drift gillnets are considered the main culprit in causing the vaquita porpoise to become an endangered species.

Mexico’s decision to permanently ban drift gillnets was welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund, with the environmental advocacy group hailing the move as a possible “turning point” for vaquita porpoises.

“Mexico just enacted the permanent gillnet ban it committed to earlier this month in the effort to save vaquita,” a World Wildlife Fund tweet stated.

“Provided the ban is fully enforced/accompanied by fishing alternatives for local communities, today could mark a turning point for vaquita,” read another World Wildlife Fund tweet.

The Washington Post reported Mexico is the first country to institute a ban drift gillnets while also establishing monitoring measures and deeming any transport of the gear into the Gulf of California.

Fisherman will also be required to report any lost gear found in regulated waters, according to The Washington Post’s report.

Drift gillnets are commonly used by commercial fisherman to make large prize catches. However many fish species are unable to see drift gillnets in the water, causing them to be caught in the gear – often with morbid results.

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