As part of a misguided effort to save the nearly extinct Vaquita porpoise, captive dolphins who are kept in captivity by the United States Navy have been transported to Mexico and will begin the process of locating and assisting in the capture of Vaquitas to establish a captive breeding colony, a very dubious proposition.
Over the next month, dolphins called by the Navy “Andrea”, “Fathom”, “Katrina” and “Splash” will be locating the porpoises so that they can be captured and kept in a 46 square-meter seapen in San Felipe, Baja California. Note that these dolphins live in the same Navy facility in San Diego that came under fire recently for its poor treatment of dolphins.
According to Mexico News Daily, only the “less stressed” individuals captured will be taken into captivity – meaning that the scientists involved with this project have every intention to rip families apart, possibly forever. This “conservation” strategy is exactly the kind of damaging approach that doesn’t take the Vaquita themselves into consideration. The increasingly popular Compassionate Conservation movement places the emphasis on every individual’s wellbeing, and would never recommend the separation of close-knit families and friends under any circumstances.
What would help the Vaquita – likely the only thing –is to stop the practices that are killing them: namely, the fishing industry that targets totoaba, an endangered species of fish in “the same boat” as the Vaquitas, and shrimp, the nets for which entangle and kill the Vaquita as bycatch.
The captured Vaquita will be held in captivity for the “long term”, with the stated goal of eventual release after they are bred – which, again, is not ethical, since forced impregnation, for whatever reason, is still a seriously invasive technique for wild porpoises. One must wonder, too, at what point these individuals may suddenly be deemed “unreleaseable”, and sent to an aquarium where they’ll be forced to perform every day. After all, such an endangered species as the Vaquita becomes valuable in their rarity.
The Mexican Government should target the devastating fishing industries that are killing the Vaquita instead of forcing dolphins to do humans’ dirty business.
The International Marine Mammal Project has joined with other organizations in calling on the Mexican government to take action to remove the damaging gill nets and shrimp seine nets from the area.