FOCENA OF THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA or VAQUITA
Common name: Gulf of California porpoise or Vaquita
- Body length: 1.2 - 1.5 m
- Weight: 30 - 55 kg (females are larger than males)
- Lifespan:21 years
- Sexual maturity: 3 - 6 years
HABITAT AND GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
There Phocoena sinus, also known as Gulf of California porpoise or vaquita it has a very limited territorial distribution in fact it is found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California, in Mexico, in the shallow waters (within 40 m), near the shore.
Its peculiarity compared to all other porpoises is that it lives in warm waters, with temperature ranges between 14 ° C in January and 36 ° C in August.
There Phocoena sinus it is the smallest of all the different species of porpoise: 1.2 - 1.5 m in length and the females are generally slightly larger than the males.
The pectoral fins are slightly larger than the other members of the family as well as the dorsal fin is larger and more arched.
The coat is dark gray which gradually tends to become white as you move to the ventral part. The head is rounded, devoid of rostrum (the classic pointed snout typical of dolphins), with black-rimmed eyes as well as lips and with a wider muzzle than in other porpoises.
CHARACTER, BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL LIFE
There Phocoena sinus it is not a sociable animal and tends to shy away from any type of boat. It is an animal that does not make itself heard: when it rises to breathe it does so silently, almost touching the surface of the water and then disappears under water for a long time.
It is basically a solitary animal or at most it lives in small groups of 3 individuals.
There are not many observations about this species as it has not been studied much despite its lack of territoriality which would imply greater ease of study.
It is thought that there are slight seasonal movements from north to south during the winter period and vice versa but always along the Gulf of Mexico.
COMMUNICATION AND PERCEPTION
Phocoena sinus as well as the others belonging to the family, they emit numerous sounds and are equipped with an echo-locator, located in the head (which works like a sonar) used to navigate and to locate the prey.
The remains of food found in the stomach of Phocoena sinus indicate that it feeds on species of fish and molluscs living in relatively shallow waters, small fish and squid being its main food.
REPRODUCTION AND GROWTH OF THE SMALL
In Phocoena sinus It has been observed that males tend to mate with as many females as possible and for this reason, given that they have very intense sexual activity, the testicles are particularly large, the largest of the genus.
The mating period is between mid-April - May with a gestation that lasts about 10 months at the end of which a single puppy is born with a length of 60-70 cm. The young is weaned at about one year of age and sexual maturity is reached at 3-6 years of age, both in the male and in the female.
STATE OF THE POPULATION
There Phocoena sinus is classified in the IUNC Red list (2009.1) among animals at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR).
The IUNC estimates that the population in 1997 was 567 and considers that it has continued to decline since then as the main cause of its death, being entangled in fishing nets, has not ceased, indeed it is constantly increasing. In addition, the accidental deaths due to pleasure boats continued (also in continuous rise). Against all this, he estimates that today the number of adult individuals has dropped to 250 specimens.
The Mexican government has taken a series of measures to protect these cetaceans: a large part of the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to most of the population of Phocoena sinus it has been declared a nature reserve and fishing is carried out under strict control with the prohibition of adopting certain fishing nets, potentially dangerous for the porpoise, as well as a series of plans to raise the awareness of local populations.
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ECOSYSTEM IMPORTANCE
There Phocoena sinus, due to the fact that it lives close to the shore, it is considered a nuisance cetacean as it gets entangled in fishing nets and nets placed to protect the beaches against sharks.
- Image taken from CMS - Whales & Dolphins;
- image taken from Explorers Club.