Under 30 vaquita porpoises live in the wild — but Donald Trump’s administration may be violating federal laws that could protect the animals, according to a lawsuit recently filed by conservation groups and reported on by Mother Jones. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) staff attorney Giulia Good Stefani said in a statement that the lawsuit “might be the vaquita’s last chance.”

Gillnet, gillnets, net, perch, fish, fishing

Will vaquitas vanish forever? Environmental groups are concerned they might, and the NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, and Animal Welfare Institute are calling out Trump’s administration for failing to protect what the World Wildlife Fund calls the world’s rarest marine mammal. The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.” The vaquita can drown in gill nets, which are used to catch seafood, but the Trump administration has not banned seafood harvested with these nets in the Gulf of California, the sole habitat of the vaquita.

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Gill nets kill around 50 percent of the vaquita population every single year — and, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the creatures might even go extinct next year if fishing practices aren’t changed. Mexico also hasn’t permanently banned all gill nets in the Gulf of California, though scientists have recommended they do so. And Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program director, Susan Millward, said the United States is “a leading importer of fish products caught in the upper Gulf of California.”

The groups that filed the suit are calling for an immediate US ban on seafood imports that come from the upper Gulf and Mexican shrimp, hoping such a move would pressure Mexico to completely ban gil lnets in the vaquita’s habitat. Millward said, “The U.S. seafood market should not be contributing to the extinction of a species.”

+ Center for Biological Diversity

Via Mother Jones

Images via Wikimedia Commons and NOAA Restoration Center, Chris Doley