A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

What’s a “vaquita?”

That’s not the straight line to a bad joke. While you may never have heard of the animal, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach will join zoos and aquariums across the nation Saturday to raise awareness of the plight of the small mammal.

The vaquita is the world’s most endangered marine mammal, and the aquarium wants you to know what steps people can take to help prevent it from going extinct.

The vaquita is a rare species of porpoise found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California. Growing only to a length of about 55 inches, the vaquita is the smallest cetacean — whale, dolphin or porpoise — on the planet.

According to the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, only about 60 vaquitas are left, a decline of more than 92 percent since 1997.

International Save the Vaquita Day is designed to spread a message of conservation by teaching people about the little-known marine mammal, encouraging donations to conservation efforts and supporting efforts to stop illegal fishing.

“We need to eat more of the right types of seafood to save marine species and support human and ocean health,” according to Kim Thompson, manager of the aquarium’s Seafood for the Future program.

Aquarium of the Pacific will offer activities and education booths to teach visitors more about the vaquita’s plight.

Part of that effort will be to call on Mexico to extend a gillnet fishing ban enacted last year and to enforce regulations cracking down on illegal fishing. The Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita estimates that without such actions, the vaquita could be extinct within five years.

Aquarium officials said an initial step people can take is to support businesses and restaurants that sell seafood from environmentally responsible sources, information on which can be found online at www.fishchoice.com.

People can also sign a letter of support for the vaquita at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ website at https://www.aza.org/vaquita- letter.

International Save the Vaquita Day activities will be held at the aquarium, 100 Aquarium Way, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Additional information on the vaquita is available on the aquarium’s website at www.aquariumofthepacific.org/seafoodfuture.

— City News Service

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