In San Felipe in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico, the vast majority of the residents of the coastal community fish for a living.

Trouble is, the gillnets they’ve used for generations to sustain themselves have largely contributed to the decimation of the highly endangered vaquita porpoise, which only lives in that particular area of the ocean. Only 30 individuals of the little marine mammal remain.

Extinct in 2018?

The vaquita’s perilous situation has been on the Marine Institute’s radar for some time.

Staff from the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources have been visiting the region since 2004; in 2015 the issue became so dire that an international group called the Expert Committee on Fishing Technologies was formed.

Dr. Paul Winger, director of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resourcesat MI, through his membership on the committee, helped spearhead a project to invite a delegation of experts from Mexico to visit St. John’s.

Their aim? To test and refine alternative fishing gear in MI’s flume tank in an attempt to develop new ways to catch shrimp in the Upper Gulf of California.

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