Vaquita are critically endangered, and there may be as few as 12 animals still in the wild. Between 2011 and 2016, the population dropped by 90%.
The swim bladder of the totoaba is a delicacy in China, so despite the fish’s protected status, an illegal fishery is thriving in the Gulf of California. Vaquita are caught in these illegal gillnets, causing immense harm to their population. With their numbers hitting such tragically low numbers, breeding rates are also greatly reduced, making recovery even more difficult.
Despite a number of emergency efforts to curb the illegal use of gillnets in the vaquita’s range, their numbers have not rebounded and they are still in steady decline. Captive breeding programs are in development, though this is a difficult task due to the elusive nature of this porpoise and their poor track record in captivity.