Searching for the Elusive Vaquita
The past couple of days have been extremely consuming, with having to get meet up with the local conservation group National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and local fishermen that have been hired to assist in the deployment of acoustic monitoring devices. What needs to be known is that when a meeting time is confirmed, you must add at least one hour. This concept is very similar to “island time”, which is heavily used in Hawaii. Nonetheless, we all convene, load the panga, and head out into the reserve to deploy more sea pods.
The water continues to be calm and pleasing, but the lack of wind and the giant smile of the sun offer a little discomfort, as the heat and humidity slather you with their embrace. This is soon forgotten once you realize how pristine and beautiful this area is. We ran into a massive grouping of roughly 500 common dolphins feeding that enjoyed surfing in our wake. It was quite a spectacle. Preceding this we headed up to the craggy face of the only island in the reserve that I mentioned in a previous post as Jagged Rock. Locally it is called Isla Consag, named after the Jesuit Missionary Fernando Consag. This not only sounds more romantic, but it has rich history to go along with it. Consac is coated in a bleached shell of guano shellac then layered with a variety of marine life species. At the base of Consag lies a rookery with hundreds of California sea lions barking and woven into this pinniped pile is a colony of hundreds of brown pelicans. Above the rookery, the rough edges are speckled with blue-footed and brown boobies while Magnificent frigates swirl in the thermals. This island is a pile of life that you can’t take your eyes off of. Now of course during all my previous tours in the vaquita refuge we were scouting for vaquita. The visual conditions were perfect for sightings, but our eyes never locked onto a vaquita surfacing. I sometimes feel taunted as I think vaquita are deliberately gasping for air when I am turned in the opposite direction. I will say though, we did see a fin whale, which is my first experience witnessing such a colossal creature.
Every day thus far has been an amazing experience for me, while pursuing this story. The people of San Felipe have been so generous and open about all that is happening concerning the vaquita. I am extremely thankful for all of their warmth and knowledge. Bonds have definitely been made.
Tags: acoustic monitoring, gill nets, gulf of mexico, isla conag, Mexican fisherman, Mexico, sea of cortez, Souls of the Vermilion Sea, Vaquita, vaquita conservation, vaquita recovery, vaquita research, vaquita sighting