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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Can Dolphins Save Vaquita Porpoises from Extinction?

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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We knew dolphins were clever, but not everyone is aware that some had enrolled in the Navy and are tasked with searching for underwater mines and detecting enemy divers. Now they and their San Diego-based trainers are preparing for a new challenge: locating the few surviving vaquita, the smallest porpoise, in Mexico's upper Sea of Cortez.

The vaquita population has dwindled over the past two decades, with probably fewer than 60 of them surviving today. They've fallen victim as by-catch of rampant illegal fishing for totoaba (a large bass) whose swim bladders, when smuggled from Mexico into China, fetch anywhere from $100 to $1000 + from wealthy Chinese gourmands, who believe it has anti-aging benefits....


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