Recently, I read a news story about a type of porpoise that makes its home in the Gulf of California and is fast approaching extinction. Pictures of these guys can induce an audible or mental “awww.”’ A healthy dose of anthropomorphism as well as dark markings around their eyes and snouts give them the illusion of a Mona Lisa like smile.
In 1997 there were an estimated 500+ porpoises living in their small gulf home; Currently there are less than 40. Have human palates become accustomed to tasty fillets of vaquita? Fortunately no, unfortunately though, vaquitas are simply the underwater collateral of an insatiable Chinese demand for the totoaba, a marine fish whose swim bladder (an organ that regulates buoyancy) is considered to be a delicacy as well as a traditional Chinese wonder drug.
The vaquita’s demise is due to a wall-like gill net dropped in the ocean by fishermen, trapping not only the intended prey but any other unfortunate marine passer-by. So thus begins that economic cycle that can mow down a species:
hungry wealthy buyers
+ hungry profit seeking fishermen
+ inconsistent lack of attention or regulation
=the demise of a fish.
Or the short form of that equation is:
Greed+Entitlement=someone or something is going get hurt. In response to a porpoise’s possible extinction, one may answer (although incorrectly) that there are much bigger fish to fry in the world. True, the problems of the world are aggressively jostling for our attention and care, however the problem of the porpoise (which is us!) is begging us to collectively be and do the thing that we are currently finding extremely difficult: care for that which is small and without a voice.
Smallness is not a quality that is deemed important in a culture that will do anything to feed the hunger for greatness. As the gill net of the desire for greatness is dropped into our society, let us not destroy that which is voiceless small and beautiful.
More Info about the vaquita can be found at these sites:As of 2017 Mexican government officials are working with conservationist and fishermen to address this problem.