From above, the Sea of Cortez is a picture of serenity: turquoise waters lapping against rose-tinted bluffs and soft sand beaches. But down below, beneath the water’s surface, a war is raging. Each year, typically between late November and May, huge gillnets — some stretching more than 600 meters (2,000 feet), or the length of five and a half football fields — are dropped into the waters to catch totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi). This critically endangered species is illegally fished for its prized swim bladders, which can fetch prices between $20,000 and $80,000 per kilo in China. While gillnets are highly effective at catching totoaba, they also catch just about everything else, including another critically endangered species: the vaquita (Phocoena sinus). The vaquita is a bathtub-sized porpoise with silvery-gray skin and panda-like eyes that lives exclusively in a small section of the northern Gulf of California, close to the town of San Felipe in Baja California, Mexico. Right now, experts say there may only be about nine vaquitas left, despite the Mexican government spending more than $100 million to aid its recovery. “The vaquita issue, in my opinion, is an example of epic, epic failure of conservation,” Andrea Crosta, executive director of Earth League International (ELI), an NGO that investigates wildlife crime, told Mongabay in an interview. “I don’t think rhinos and elephants combined have $100 million … and yet the vaquitas went from a few hundred individuals to … nobody knows how many now. Probably 12, 10, maybe less.” But…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer