On this year’s Ocean Day, June 8, the desperate race to save the world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita, from extinction highlights the complexities of one key aspect of ocean conservation—poaching and wildlife trafficking—and the challenges of reconciling global and local governance in environmental protection. An effective solution to poaching and trafficking of the vaquita requires addressing a wide range of related problems: illegal fishing in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, organized crime and internal migration, Mexico’s troubled law enforcement sector, international smuggling networks, and rising demand for animal parts for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Implementing effective solutions to all these issues has proven enormously difficult, and time looms critically over the fate of the vaquita. Its extinction would represent the first extinction of a marine mammal since the 1970s.


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