Meet the Vaquita, the Endangered Sea Mammal With 30 Members Left

With fewer than 30 left in the world, vaquitas could be the latest sea mammal to become extinct, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Proyecto Vaquita Marina
Nearly one out of every five vaquitas (pictured) get entangled and drown in gillnets intended for other marina species like the totoaba, a critically endangered fish also found in the upper Gulf of California, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
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Courtesy of Proyecto Vaquita Marina
Nearly one out of every five vaquitas get entangled and drown in gillnets intended for other marina species like the totoaba, a critically endangered fish also found in the upper Gulf of California, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
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Thomas Jefferson/WWF
On average, females vaquitas tend to be larger than their male counterparts. They mature at a length of 140.6 cm (55.4 in), compared to 134.9 cm (53.1 in) for males.
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Omar Vidal/WWF
In 1997 vaquita abundance was estimated as 567, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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Frederique Lucas/Viva Vaquita!
Vaquita ready to go back into the Gulf waters.
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Tom Jefferson/NOAA Fisheries
The World Wildlife Fund describes the vaquita as the world's smallest cetacean.
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Omar Vidal/NOAA
A man stands behind a vaquita that was killed in a net meant to catch the totoaba fish, which he is holding, in this photo taken in the early 1990s.
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AFP/Getty Images
Picture taken on March 29, 2016, showing fish maws placed in a basket to dry on the side of a main road outside a dried goods shop in Hong Kong. Mexico is fighting to save species ensnared in China black market by hunting for poachers that use banned gillnets to catch totoaba, a critically endangered fish whose swim bladders are dried and sold for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market in China despite an international prohibition. The government beefed up patrols on the upper Gulf of California a year ago because the vast nets have also led to the near extinction of the world's smallest porpoise, the vaquita.
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Omar Vidal/WWF
Scientists found this vaquita stuck in an illegal fishing net during a population survey.
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NOAA Fisheries
Eleven years later, in 2008, the total abundance was estimated to be 245 animals.
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International Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans
A rather calmer marine mammal, they swim at a leisurely pace and avoid boats.
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Paula Olson/Viva Vaquita!
Vaquitas have among the smallest geographical distribution of any of the whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Gulf of California, according to NOAA Fisheries.
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Sea Shepherd
The newborn Vaquita porpoise was photographed in the Gulf of California on March 12, 2017, according to crews of Sea Shepherd vessels patrolling the waters.
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Tom Jefferson/Viva Vaquita!
They live in productive waters which produce fish and shrimp sold for both domestic and U.S. according to NOAA Fisheries.
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Todd Pusser/Viva Vaquita!
Pair of Vaquita surfacing in the calm waters of the Northern Gulf of California.
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Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans
Unlike other porpoises, vaquitas give birth only every other year.
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Thomas Jefferson
The word vaquita is Spanish for "little cow". The vaquita also goes by cochito (Spanish for "pig" or "sow"), desert porpoise, vaquita porpoise, Gulf of California harbor porpoise, Gulf of California porpoise, and gulf porpoise.
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