Mexico, US, Canada To Protect Endangered Porpoise

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Officials from Mexico, the United States and Canada are teaming up in a plan presented Tuesday to protect the vaquita marina, a highly endangered species of porpoise in the upper Gulf of California.

Canadian and U.S. experts will join their Mexican counterparts in studying the rare animal and working to convince fishermen in Gulf communities to abandon fine-mesh gill nets and other techniques that threaten the species.

As part of the effort, a U.S. research ship has begun setting out a network of acoustic monitoring devices in the Gulf of California in a bid to determine the number and location of surviving vaquitas. Researchers hope to finish collecting initial data by December.

The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which is helping coordinate the effort, said only about 150 of the elusive vaquitas remain in the wild, and as many as 40 are killed each year by fishing nets.

"Unless concrete conservation actions are taken, the effective size of the population ... may fall to just 50 adults in the next two years," the commission said in a statement.

The plan calls on the United States and Canada to encourage investment in fishing communities to create other jobs for residents.

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