US Navy Dolphins Will Be Used To Track Endangered Vaquita Porpoises

Posted: Jan 5 2017, 1:51am CST | by , Updated: Jan 5 2017, 2:05am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

US Navy Dolphins will be Used to Locate Endangered Vaquita Porpoises
Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

Navy trained dolphins join the effort to save endagered vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise and rarest marine mammal

For decades, US Navy dolphins have been used to detect underwater mines and intruders. Now, these trained marine animals have been assigned to another massive task: locating the last few members of an elusive and critically endangered species, vaquita porpoises. The aim is to capture and conserve the dwindling population of the rarest marine mammal.

Dolphins will be deployed in the Gulf of California in what represents the final hope to save vaquita porpoises from being extinct. 

The dolphins's ability to detect and find targets at depth or in murky water is something even technology cannot replicate but it is useful for defending coastal zones. Their ability to track propoises is also proven.

“Their specific task is to locate”vaquitas, which live only in the Gulf of California. They would signal that by surfacing and returning to the boat from which they were launched.” Jim Fallin of the US Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific said.

A latest survey estimates that there are just 50 vaquitas left in the world and they are only found in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. Their population has plummeted from 245 in 2008 to just a few dozen today. Without prompt and concerned efforts, vaquita’s are likely to go extinct by 2020.

A primary threat to vaquita is fishing nets. They are often caught and drowned in gillnets during illegal fishing in marine protected areas within Mexico's Gulf of California. The demand for totoaba, a fish endemic to the Gulf, has also substantially increased their risk of extinction.  

In 2015, Mexican authorities have banned the use of gillnets within the vaquita’s range in order to save them from further decline. They have also decided to remove those ghost” fishing nets from the vaquita’s habitat that had been dumped or lost at sea. Drones with high-resolution cameras have also been used to stop illegal fishing in the Gulf.

The participation of US Navy dolphins in this large scale effort is currently in the planning stage. When implemented, it will likely produce desirable results.

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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