With a body length of only about 1.20 m, the vaquita or California porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is not only one of the smallest porpoise species, but also the whale species with probably the smallest distribution area. Vaquitas are found exclusively in the northernmost part of the Gulf of California in shallow coastal waters and lagoons. In these nutrient-rich areas, they feed on smaller fish, as well as squid and crustaceans. In total, the distribution area extends to only 4,000 km² and thus an area only slightly larger than that of the island of Mallorca.

Ordnung: Cetacea (Wale)
Familie: Phocoenidae (Schweinswale)
Kalifornischer Schweinswal  Phocoena sinus
Vaquita porpoise
Größe: < 1,50 M
Gewicht: < 50 kg
Tragzeit: 10-11 Monate
Generationszeit ca. 10 Jahre
Verbreitung: Mexiko, nördlicher Golf von Kalifornien
Lebensraum: flache Küstengewässer (< 40 m)
Bestand: vom Aussterben bedroht (ca. 10 – 13 Tiere – Stand: Juli 2023)

Vaquita porpoise Vaquitas California porpoise phocoena sinus
© Jörg Mazur

The body of the vaquitas is gray in color, with the distinct dark gray to black coloration in the mouth area and the dark ring-shaped coloration around the eyes distinguishing the vaquita from the other porpoise species.
It has an unusually large dorsal fin (fin) for porpoises.

Vaquita underwater Phocoena sinus California porpoise Vaquita marina porpoise

With a population of only about 8 remaining animals (as of May 2024), the vaquita is the most endangered porpoise species. IUCN Red List
Illegal gillnet fishing, in particular, kills too many of the few remaining vaquitas year after year, and the establishment and monitoring of protected areas is urgently needed.

The latest population censuses from 2024 show that the population of the vaquita has declined again with about 6 – 8 animals. However, all animals are healthy and a young animal has also been sighted.

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You can find more information about our species conservation project and the rescue of the vaquita here:

SOS Vaquita

YAQU PACHA Project Vaquita

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