Monday, November 13, 2017
On Mexico's Endangered Vaquita Porpoise, Corruption and Crime
Carlos Loret de Mola A. (www.carlosloret.com)
The first time I heard about the vaquita porpoise I thought it was a purely
environmental issue. After spending several weekends in San Felipe, Golfo de Santa Clara, Mexicali, Tijuana and Ensenada (all
within the area of influence of the topic), I know it's a portrait on a scale of all of Mexico's problems:
organized crime, corruption, poverty, political conflicts….
Vaquitas are endangered
and they only exist in Mexico. There are less than 30. They have been killed mainly because they are trapped in the nets of
totoaba fishermen. Totoaba, a fish measuring the same as the vaquita.
Totoaba fishing is prohibited
but many people do so. It turns out that the Chinese think the "buche" (swim bladder) of the totoaba is
an aphrodisiac, and on the black market they can pay up to US$100,000 apiece. Of that money, some US$4,000 will reach the
fishermen. Compare this with the US$25 they receive per kilo of shrimp.
The illegal market of
swim bladders, according to information from federal intelligence, has been linked with that of the drug [market]: they share
trafficking routes and corruption. Sometimes by land to Mexicali or Tijuana, and from there to Chinese communities in the
USA and then to China itself; or through Mexico City by air or Manzanillo by boat to reach Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing.
Apparently, leaders of fishermen in the communities of San Felipe and Golfo de Santa Clara are coordinated with representatives
of the Chinese mafia in Mexico to move the merchandise.
To prevent illegal totoaba fishing,
about three years ago the federal government banned all fishing in the area. To try to calm the anger of fishermen, they were
asked how much they earned and they are given that money monthly.
But anger continues. Many
fishermen complain that leaders named by the government to distribute these compensations are people who do not fish. That
has led to problems of ungovernability in the area and protests that have turned violent.
fishing also continues: there are those who go by the system, and those who, seeing an opportunity, do not reject extra money.
As usual, many just want to fish lawfully and they are not doing well financially.
pressure cooker, an international group of prestigious environmentalists, grouped together by SEMARNAT, rose daily at 3 am
for three weeks, readied their equipment and went to sea at very slow speeds looking for a barely 17-centimeter fin, which
is all the vaquita shows when it comes up to breath.
They wanted to locate, catch and bring [vaquitas]
to a reproduction refuge to save the species. And they captured two: one was too young and released; and the other died after
being released and a struggle to revive it for three hours. Veterinarians, environmentalists and officials wept. And the rescue
operation is, for now, suspended.
But not the rest: the challenge to save [the vaquita] and the political
and criminal conflicts that surround an issue in which the Mexican government has $2 billion pesos [US$ 104.6 million] involved.
crimen y armas por la #VaquitaMarina," by Carlos Loret de Mola, Nov. 9, 2017, http://www.carlosloret.com/; translation by MexiData.info