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Today marks the official start of production on our newest documentary project,Souls of the Vermilion Sea!  This film will document the effort to save the Vaquita from the brink of extinction over the next several years, and Wild Lens producer/director Sean Bogle is currently on the road, heading towards San Diego, then onto the Northern Gulf of California (also known as the Vermilion Sea) in Mexico.

The Vaquita is the world’s smallest species of cetacean (the group that includes all whales, dolphins and porpoises) and it is also the world’s most endangered marine mammal with less than 100 individuals remaining in the wild population.  This elusive species wasn’t even discovered by scientists until the 1950s, and has been in steady decline ever since due to the use of gill nets for the shrimp fishery in the Northern gulf.  The Vaquita becomes entangled in these nets and drowns.


Dead vaquita in net. Photo credit: Alejandro Robles


In recent years however the Vaquita’s rate of decline has skyrocketed as a result of the increased demand for totoaba swim bladders.  The Totoaba is a fish species, also considered endangered, that is harvested solely for its swim bladder, which can sell for upwards of $10,000 in China and Southest Asia.  This huge reward has dramatically increased the fishing effort within the Vaquita’s range and has lead to a crash in the population.

Scientists estimate that unless dramatic action is taken, the Vaquita will be extinct by 2018.  Luckily the Mexican government appears to be taking this issue very seriously, with a plan to impose a 2-year-ban on the use of gill nets for fishing throughout the Vaquita’s range.  Will this be enough to save the species?  This is the question that we will explore in Souls of the Vermilion Sea, a film that we will be shooting over the next three years in hopes of documenting a dramatic recovery for the Vaquita.

We’ll be asking lots of big-picture questions in this film that reach far beyond the small region in Mexico’s Vermilion Sea that is home to the Vaquita.  How does global trade impact wildlife populations?  What can people do to truly have an impact on wildlife trade issues such as this one?  What impact will increased species extinctions have on our ecosystems across the globe?  Can we find a model for approaching complex wildlife trade issues through the example of the Vaquita?  These are questions that we will be seeking answers to over the next three years as we dive into the world of Vaquita conservation.

Of course film projects like this cost money, and we’ll be launching a kickstarter campaign in support of this project on June 1st – in just under two weeks!  This means that we’ll be reaching out to all of our fans and supporters to contribute to, and become a part of, this new project in whatever way you can.  We hope that you’ll see the value in bringing this unique story to a wider audience and join us in this exciting first stage of production!

Title photo credit: Tom Jefferson

Photo by Paula Olson.

Photo by Paula Olson.

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