This is a tale of two animals - the vaquita and totoaba. One, the world's smallest marine mammal and the other an enormous fish. Both of them ares steps from extinction.
There are only 30 vaquita left in the wild today. Their numbers have plummeted 90% since 2011, and through no fault of their own. The cetaceans aren't eaten by locals, their skin isn't prized by fashion houses or used in traditional medicine. Rather they are caught as bycatches in gillnets set out to catch fish catch one fish in particular - the totoaba.
The totoaba was once an abundant catch in the Gulf of California but over the years their numbers too have crashed. Now their very existence hangs in the balance. The protected totoaba is now the central character in a multinational trafficking scheme. It is hunted in the Gulf of California, shipped through the United States and sold on the black market in China, not for its meat, but for its bladder which is used in "medicinal" soup. The dried bladders sell for up to $30,000 EACH!
Action must be taken now to stop the extinction of these two incredible species. In recent years the US Justice Department has refused to give the harshest sentences to those caught participating in the trade. In fact, in the most famous case, in 2014 was only sentenced to a one year sentence out of a total of 20 possible! That is unacceptable.
All three nations, China, Mexico and the US need to work together to end this disaster. But as Americans we can ask our government to take the plight of the totoaba and vaquita more seriously. Sign the petition and tell the USJD you want a crackdown on the illegal smuggling of totoaba bladders and harsher sentences for those caught!
Dear United States Justice Department,
Our country plays a central role in the trafficking of the totoaba. By allowing smugglers to cross our borders - and when caught - avoid real punishment we are telling them we aren't serious about protecting endangered species. It is time to crack down on totoaba bladder smugglers so we can save both the totoaba and the vaquita from extinction.