World's tiniest porpoise set to go extinct

Posted at 8:15 PM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 23:15:43-04

SAN DIEGO -- The world’s smallest porpoise is on the verge of extinction.

There are only about 50 vaquita left in the northern most tip of the Gulf of California, about 200 miles from San Diego, according to NOAA. Vaquitas are small porpoises with big eyes and a permanent grin. None have ever survived in captivity, and their numbers keep dwindling.

Poachers are killing the vaquita in the process of actually targeting another endangered fish, the totoaba.

“It's a large sea bass that only exists in the Gulf of California,” Mike Osborn with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, said. “One of the hottest commodities out of Mexico right now, and again something that's heading to Asia for the food trade." 

Fishermen get several hundred dollars for them. In Asia, they sell for tens of thousands.

”There was a similar fish that used to live off the coast of Asia, but they fished it out, it's gone,” Osborn said.

Fisherman use nets to catch the totoaba. Unfortunately, the vaquita also gets caught in them.

Despite Mexico banning net fishing where the totoaba and vaquita live, wildlife and customs officers are still finding poached totoaba bladders coming across our border.