There are six known species of porpoise in existence today and one such species is the Vaquita porpoise.
Most people were not aware of these creatures until the late 20th century because of their getting entangled in fishing nets and traps.
This problem became a huge concern for environmentalist and other authorities.
These accidental trappings of porpoises are known as “bycatch” and is something that is now being reduced through new methods of acoustic devices to keep these creatures out of these traps.
The Vaquita porpoise or Phocoena sinus stays within the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and is critically endangered.
Because it is so rare and low in numbers the Vaquita porpoise is extremely vulnerable to the dangers of mankind due to these trappings and bycatch issues.
A lot more needs to be done to stop issues of bycatch problems and death of these amazing mammals.
They prefer to swim close to the coast.
Overall the Vaquita Porpoise is predominantly restricted to the Gulf where it is found.
Physical characteristics and Appearance
The word Vaquita means “little cow” in Spanish and porpoise derives from the Latin meaning pig fish.
These porpoises are closely related to the Southern Hemisphere species of porpoise such as the Burmeister porpoise, their closest cousin.
These fabulous creatures are only about 4-1/2 feet in length, weighing around 99 to 110 lbs as adults, with the male being a bit larger than the female.
The porpoise has a triangular fin, chisel-shaped teeth, small flippers and lacks a beak.
Their bodies are stocky like most porpoises but with a darker grey coloring on their backs that gets lighter in color on the sides with a belly that appears white.
The Vaquita porpoise also has a very distinctive face with a black circle around the eyes, striping on the chin area from the flipper to its black-lipped smile.
Diet and Hunting Methods
They are not really selective on the types of small fish and squid they consume as they search along the relatively shallow waters of its habitat, often hunting in lagoons.
They may also use echolocation to locate their prey and may follow distinctive sounds to find particular fish.
Habitat and Migration
Social Structure and Communication
Most of these porpoises swim in groups of 2 – 3 members with groups occasionally expanding to over several dozen porpoises.
The Vaquita porpoise is a very elusive animal that surfaces slowly to take a breath without disturbing the waves.
They are also very shy and tend to avoid contact with boats and people.
Breeding and Reproduction
For vaquita the primary Mating season normally takes place between April and May.
The gestation period (the period from conception to birth) is between 10 and 11 months, normally producing one calf.
Typically, a calf (baby vaquita) will weigh about 17 lbs at birth and range between 28 and 31 inches in length.
After birth the young porpoise is fed milk and nurtured by its mother until it can hunt and survive on its own.
The nursing period generally lasts 6 – 10 months depending on how quickly the child develops and matures psychologically.
The Vaquita porpoises mature between 3 and 6 years of age.
Once mature, the female can give birth once every one to two years or so while she remains fertile.
As far as lifespan is concerned vaquita are believed to have an average lifespan of around 15 – 25 years.
Aside from the threat of being trapped in gillnets used to snare sharks, mackerel, rays and chano, along with other netting devices, the Vaquita porpoise may also be in danger of limited food availability.
Being confined to the Gulf of California, they are vulnerable to climate changes that affect their food supply and possible habit conditions.
As a species these marine mammals are considered critically endangered.