Leonardo DiCaprio, Mexico in push to save vaquita porpoise
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a committment Monday to increase efforts to save the vaquita marina porpoise, burying the hatchet in a Twitter feud over the endangered species.
In May, DiCaprio asked his millions of Twitter and Instagram followers to sign a petition calling on Pena Nieto to do more to protect the world's smallest porpoise, which is on the verge of extinction.
The smallest member of the porpoise family is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Unsustainable and illegal fishing practices have caused a dramatic decline in the vaquita's population. Fewer than 30 vaquita may be left in the wild and without immediate action, they face imminent extinction. Join me and @World_Wildlife and let President Peña Nieto of Mexico know that we demand action to protect the vaquita today. Link in bio.
The Mexican president responded with what was, for him, an unprecedented flurry of 7 tweets in English defending his government's efforts to save the estimated 30 vaquitas that remain.
.@Mexico has focused all its efforts to prevent the extinction of this species.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
Since Feb/2015, we have eliminated one of its main causes of death: the shrimp and scale fishery, establishing a two-year ban on the area.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
Our government has also extended the protection zone to a surface three times larger than the original.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
.@SEMAR_mx -Mexico's Navy- has more than 300 marines, 15 boats and unmanned aircraft systems watching over this area.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
Mexico's government is making a major effort, doing what should have been done decades ago to save the Vaquita Marina.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
Visit https://t.co/yhTPVC4sby to learn more about Mexico's efforts to protect the Vaquita.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
The two were all smiles, however, as they shook hands and signed a deal in which Mexico promised to protect the marine ecosystems of the Gulf of California and in particular the vaquita, which is found only there.
A México le complace tener el apoyo de Fundación Di Caprio y Fundación Carlos Slim; la suma de esfuerzos siempre trae mejores resultados. pic.twitter.com/VAXAw8kbyS— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) June 8, 2017
The plan is backed by DiCaprio's foundation and that of Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim.
Slim – the world's sixth-richest person, according to Forbes magazine – also signed the deal.
"Now more than ever, the world is looking for bold leadership at every level to tackle climate change and environmental conservation issues," DiCaprio said in a statement.
"This action is a critical step towards ensuring that the Gulf of California continues to be both vibrant and productive, especially for species like the critically endangered vaquita."
Now more than ever, the world is looking for bold leadership at every level to tackle climate change and environmental conservation issues. I am honored to work with President Peña Nieto (@EPN) to ensure the future viability of marine life in the Gulf. This action is a critical step towards ensuring that the Gulf of California continues to be both vibrant and productive, especially for species like the critically endangered #vaquita. My foundation, @LeonardoDiCaprioFdn, and I look forward to continuing to work with President Peña Nieto, our NGO partners and the local communities in the Gulf to reach greater progress on these important issues. Link in bio to learn more.
Pena Nieto said Mexico "understands its responsibility as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world" and would make a "historic effort" to protect the vaquita.
Under the deal, Mexico will impose a permanent ban on gillnets in the vaquita's habitat. The nets – used to catch another species, the totoaba fish – have contributed to wiping out the vaquita.
Mexico also pledged to develop new fishing gear and techniques for local communities.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) praised the "landmark agreement."
The environmental group has warned the vaquita risks going extinct in 2018.
The threat is fueled by demand for totoaba swim bladders in China, where they are considered a delicacy and can fetch $20,000 per kilogram.
WWF called on Mexico to go further by launching coordinated efforts with China and the United States to end the illegal totoaba trade. – Rappler.com