The Vaquita is the smallest of all cetaceans, and is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world – along with whales, dolphins, seals, manatees, sea otters – with less than 100 of them on the planet. Mexico is testing the use of unmanned drones to help protect the critically-endangered Vaquita from being killed by illegal fishing activities in the Gulf of California.
The Vaquita is a species of porpoise that could die out by 2018 if no urgent action is taken. They were once plentiful in the upper Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California. However, now they are on the route to extinction because of illegal fishery for totoaba, a big croaker that is prized for its swim bladder, which is valued in the Chinese market as an ingredient in medicinal soup. The nets used to fish Totoaba can trap tiny porpoises too. According to CIRVA’s report, traditional fishing methods and gears, like gill-nets used to trap shrimp, is also putting the vaquita at high risk. Mexican and international environmental organisations like IUCN, WWF, and Greenpeace have called for “Save the Vaquita” campaigns.
Well, recently there has been some good news for the vaquita! The Mexican government has just presented a draft proposal for a ‘Law Agreement’ that would close gill-net and other fishing activities in the vaquita’s habitat for two years starting from March 2015. Yet, many green groups are worried about how the government can monitor fishery activities on the ground. The Mexican authority is considering the use of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, to take pre-programming actions like a remote-controlled flying camera, to have permanent aerial patrols in the fishery ban area.
Drones can be used wisely in many areas. When illegal logging and many wildlife crimes are taking their toll on the planet, civilian use of conservation drones to take video footage for conservation-related applications in developing countries can help monitor crimes at the spot with minimal financial cost and in a safe manner.