Major maneuvers in Mexico to save the guinea pig in the Pacific Ocean


At the instigation of the United States and Leonardo DiCaprio, the military fleet is trying to prevent the rare whales that remain from dying in the fishermen’s nets.

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A dead guinea pig after being caught in illegal fishing nets.

AFP / WWF / Omar Vidal

The Army verifies that fishermen have valid permits to catch approved fish.

The Army verifies that fishermen have valid permits to catch approved fish.


The fishing vessels sail at dawn from the port of San Felipe.

The fishing vessels sail at dawn from the port of San Felipe.


A boat, a plane, fast interceptor boats: The Mexican fleet maneuvers in the Bay of Baja California to avoid the extinction of the most endangered marine mammal in the world, the guinea pig in the Pacific, under pressure from the United States and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

From dawn, off the town of San Felipe, sailors hunt illegal fishermen around the “zero tolerance zone”, the sanctuary of the “vaquita marina” (“the little sea cow”, its name in Spanish). Phocoena sinus is the smallest whale in the world (1.5 meters, 50 kilos), and also the most endangered, so much so that environmentalists feared its extinction this year.

Less than 20 people

There would only be between six and 19 individuals left, threatened by suffocation in the fish nets in search of another highly coveted species, the totoaba fish.

From dawn, sailors and officials check that the fishermen have a valid license to fish for approved species, such as corvina. “They look at us every day,” said one fisherman, Roberto Lopez. “They have to go beyond the Malecon (pier), from there many boats sail without permission”. The fleet says it has recovered 70 nets since the start of the year, compared to 172 throughout 2021.

It’s almost time for optimism among the players in this “miracle operation”, during a sea voyage arranged in late March with the press, including AFP. “We are seeing a dramatic reduction in illegal fishing nets,” Sea Shepherd CEO Chuck Lindsey told AFP.

“The last three or four months’ efforts mean that the ‘vaquita’ has a chance to survive like never before in recent decades,” added the representative of the US NGO working with the Mexican Navy.

The conservation of the Pacific guinea pig has become a diplomatic issue. In February, the United States officially asked Mexico to launch “consultations” on this endangered species. Washington wanted to ensure that Mexico City “meets its environmental obligations” under the Mexico-US-Canada (EUMC) Free Trade Agreement. Mexico has promised coordinated action to save the species.

DiCaprio produced a film about it

Another American has taken to heart the cause of the “vaquitas,” which can only be found off the coast of the Sea of ​​Cortes, about 500 miles southeast of Hollywood: Leonardo DiCaprio. The actor in the movie “Don’t look up” on climate change denial has produced a movie about the fight against the extinction of “vaquitas” and totoabas, “Sea of ​​Shadow”.

“When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese smugglers join forces to poach totoaba fish, their criminal methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region,” the film’s pitch reads.

In August, the actress accused the Mexican government of wanting to remove the Pacific guinea pig protection zone, in response to press reports.

The sea panda

“Miracle Operation” was launched in 2015 to save the little silver-colored whale that can be easily recognized on the dark circles around its eyes and mouth, which also gave it the name sea panda.

The population of “vaquita” has dropped drastically because the species has been the side victim of fishing for the totoaba fish, whose “fin bladder” sells for up to $ 8,000 per kilogram in China because of its supposed virtues.

The Vaquita Marina has been considered an endangered species since 1996, and in 2019, UNESCO added the Gulf of California to its World Heritage List.


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