WASHINGTON, March 16, 2017 – Defenders of Wildlife has joined a new campaign to boycott Mexican shrimp until the Mexican government enforces fishing regulations to protect the vaquita, the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean. It is estimated that only about 30 vaquitas survive in their native habitat in the Upper Gulf of California, and female vaquitas only give birth every two years or so. Because of the density of both legal and illegal fishing nets in vaquita habitat, each surviving vaquita has a one in two chance of dying each year.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife senior staff attorney Jane Davenport:

“The vaquita population is in free fall. Drowning in fishing gear is the number one threat driving the species toward extinction. Vaquita habitat is full of illegal gillnets targeting the totoaba, an endangered fish, as well as both legal and illegal gillnets targeting shrimp. But Mexico hasn’t adequately enforced a temporary two-year ban on gillnets in vaquita habitat, let alone moved to implement the permanent gillnet ban vaquitas need to survive. Shrimp boats are still getting caught fishing illegally inside the Vaquita Refuge Area, but get off with no more than a slap on the wrist. The Mexican government is putting shrimp industry profits over saving the vaquita from extinction.

“Time is running out for this tiny porpoise and every second counts. We’re calling on everyone across the United States to stand up for vaquitas and boycott Mexican shrimp until Mexico commits to a total ban of gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California. Only then will the vaquita have a fighting chance for survival.”


  • The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean: it is estimated that fewer than 30 vaquitas are left in the wild.
  • The main threat to vaquitas is death by drowning in fishing gear. The Vaquita Refuge Area is supposed to be protected habitat for the species, but illegal shrimp boats are still caught fishing in the area by the Mexican government and are getting off with minimal consequences.
  • The vaquita has also suffered from the recent demand in China for the swim bladder of the totoaba, an endangered fish that lives in vaquita habitat. Illegal fishing and trafficking of this fish has led to serious population losses for the vaquita and totoaba alike.
  • Drowning in fishing gear kills an estimated half of the vaquita population each year.  Vaquita scientists estimate that unless all gillnets are eliminated from the Upper Gulf of California completely, these rare porpoises will be extinct in less than three years.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.