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77. Vaquita

Phocoena sinus


Mexico’s only endemic marine mammal, the vaquita is considered the most endangered marine mammal species alive.

The vaquita is a slender porpoise with distinctive dark rings around the eyes and mouth. It is the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, and lives in the warm shallow coastal waters in the northern end of the Gulf of California. The vaquita is the only species of porpoise to live in such warm waters, and can uniquely tolerate large fluctuations in temperature. Although vaquita have never been hunted directly, populations are declining as a result of incidental mortality in fishing gear called ‘gillnets’. The Mexican Ministry of Environment declared a Vaquita Refuge which contains approximately 80% of all verified vaquita sightings positions, with the local state governments providing compensation to local fishermen affected, though the population continues to decline. A recent study has estimated that the population is only 30, highlighting the urgent conservation attention they need.

  • Order: Cetartiodactyla
  • Family: Phocoenidae
  • Population: 30
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 120-150cm
  • Weight: 55kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.21 (?)
ED Score: 10.48 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Vaquita’s have the most limited distribution of any marine cetacean. They are only found in shallow waters at the northern end of the Gulf of California, from Puertecitos, Baja California Norte, north and east to Puerto Pelfasco, Sonora. They are most commonly found around the Colorado River delta.

Habitat and Ecology

This species inhabits shallow, murky lagoons along the shoreline where there is strong tidal mixing, convection processes and high food availability. Individuals are generally seen traveling alone or in small groups of 1-3 individuals, although they are sometimes observed swimming in groups as large as ten. They feed primarily on bony fish and squid which are found at or near the bottom of the sea.

Find out more

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Habitat change Extreme temperatures Fishing Disease Energy

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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