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Tri-National Agreement to Protect Endangered Totoaba

August 31, 2017

A permanent ban on gillnet fishing went into effect in the northern part of the Sea of Cortés earlier this year in an attempt to not only stop illegal totoaba fishing but also protect the endangered vaquita.

Baja California, Mexico - At a meeting last week in Ensenada, representatives of the Mexican, Chinese and United States governments agreed to create a tri-national task force to combat the demand and illegal trafficking of the endangered totoaba fish, whose bladders are considered a delicacy in Asia.

The representatives agreed to investigate the routes and methods used in the trafficking of the fish bladders, which some believe also have medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.

Illegal gillnet fishing of the prized species in the Sea of Cortés has drastically reduced their numbers. A permanent ban on gillnet fishing went into effect in the northern part of the Sea of Cortés earlier this year in an attempt to not only stop illegal totoaba fishing but also to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise, which are on the verge of extinction largely due to the unauthorized gill nets used to catch totoaba.

The objective of the trilateral meeting was to coordinate the capacities of each country and develop a shared strategy to combat the illegal practice. Topics included the sharing of information and knowledge about totoaba trafficking, illegal shipments, seizures and current investigations.

During the talks, the Chinese government reported it was conducting inspections of key markets, taking steps to improve law enforcement and raising awareness among citizens regarding the fish species and its protected status.

The United States is involved because much of the totoaba is moved from Mexico to China through U.S. territory. Its representatives reported on that country's efforts to combat the illegal trade.

Mexico and China will formalize the agreement next week in China during a visit by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Sources: Reforma • Mexico News Daily