Vaquita CPR is the international effort to save the "pandas of the sea," critically endangered and super-cute vaquitas, the earth's smallest species of porpoises. Only 30 are believed to live in their range in the northern Gulf of California.
Via the San Diego Union-Tribune:
The plan is taking place off the coast of San Felipe, a fishing community of some 30,000 residents that has been ground zero for vaquita rescue efforts for more than a decade. People here have been divided on the subject— some working with government and environmental groups to remove totoaba nets and develop sustainable practices, though others have seen the protection measures as a threat to their livelihood.
Since 2015, when President Enrique Peña Nieto came to announce a ban on drift gillnets and other actions to protect the vaquita, fishermen have received compensation not to fish. Last week, Mexico's federal government took it a step further, announcing a no-navigation zone in the vaquita's habitat through Dec. 17 in support of Vaquita CPR.
The lights of San Felipe glimmered like polished jewels as the scientists left in the dark Friday for their first full day of searching. A small crowd gathered on a dock by the expedition's main dormitory and operations center, the cruise ship Pacific Monarch. It was a good beginning, with low winds and clear skies that promised smooth waters as they set off with nets, custom-made stretchers, and special carrier boxes designed to provisionally hold any captured vaquita being brought to shore.