Researchers just confirmed the sad news that only around 10 vaquita porpoises remain in the wild. Unless immediate steps are taken, these sea creatures will undoubtedly become extinct over the next few years.

Vaquita porpoises are among the ocean’s smallest cetaceans and they only reside in the northern Gulf of California. The update on population numbers comes after news of the first vaquita death this year. Scientists are expected to release more information on that front later this week.

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The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita is leading the charge in preventing these beloved creatures from becoming extinct. The conservation group challenged the president of Mexico, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, to put a stop to gillnet fishing in vaquita habitats in hopes to boost population numbers.

“One of Earth’s most incredible creatures is about to be wiped off the planet forever,” Sarah Uhlemann, the head of the Center for Biological Diversity, explained. “…Time is running out for President Lopez Obrador to stop all gillnet fishing and save the vaquita.”

Gillnet fishing practices are the biggest threat to the vaquita and other marine wildlife, including the totoaba, another endangered species. Mexican has attempted to curb gillnet fishing but has yet to initiate any plans that work. Vaquita population declined a staggering 50 percent last year alone.

The highest estimates put the number of vaquitas at 22, while some researchers say that number could be as low as six.

Mexico has passed laws that outlaw the use of gillnet fishing. Enforcing those laws, however, has been the challenge. Last year, conservationists uncovered over 400 gillnet rigs in the vaquita’s habitat, and their efforts to remove them were met with violence.

Unless Obrador and his administration does something fast, the vaquita will be killed off before his term is up.

Although the numbers are alarmingly small, scientists believe there is hope for vaquita porpoises. Fortunately, the remaining vaquitas are still having babies and remain healthy, which are the two main elements for recovering an endangered species that is one the verge of extinction.

Via Eco Watch

Image via Paula Olson