Vaquita Dolphin, Gulf of California Harbor Porpoise
Cochito, Vaquita
(Phocoena sinus)

Vaquita Dolphin, Phocoena sinus: First reported scientifically in 1958, the Vaquita Dolphin remains perhaps the most elusive marine mammal in the ocean, with pictures of live animals virtually nonexistent. The Vaquita Dolphin is a shy loner, avoiding social groups with the exception that mothers and calves (one per year, arriving in late March) stay together until the calves mature.

The Vaquita Dolphin is stocky with a blunt head and no beak. The body is dark grey on the back and white below. The large pointed flippers have dark stripes. Calves tend to be darker than the adults. The Vaquita Dolphin has a short, triangular, wide-based dorsal fin, 22 to 28 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw, and 21 to 25 in the lower jaw. It has a dark eye ring and lip patches, and feeds primarily on fish and squid.

The Vaquita Dolphin is actually a porpoise and a member of the Phocoenidae Family. Porpoises are smaller and more agile than dolphins and have more triangular dorsal fins and no beaks.

The Vaquita Dolphin is the world’s smallest porpoise, under 5 feet in length and less than 120 pounds, with females larger than males. It is found only at the mouth of the Colorado River in the extreme northern portion of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

The Vaquita Dolphin is listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

The Vaquita Dolphin is the most endangered porpoise in the world and is in imminent danger of extinction. At least 30 to 40 are killed annually in fishing nets targeted for totoaba, sea bass, shrimp, rays and sharks. The best estimates suggest that fewer than 600 exist today and the population is decreasing by 15 percent each year.

Vaquita Dolphin Photo 1

Vaquita Dolphin, Phocoena sinus: Endangered Vaquita Dolphin killed in commercial fishermen's nets, northern Sea of Cortez, Mexico. An estimated 567 of them were estimated to be remaining in the fall of 2001. Photo courtesy La Jornada, Mexico City.

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