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They Were Out to Save a Critically Endangered Porpoise. But Instead, They Found This…

One February day, a crew from Sea Shepherd—a marine conservation organization—were sailing in the teal waters of the Gulf of California. They were in the Vaquita Refuge, named after a severely endangered species of porpoise that live in the area. The animals have been drowning after getting caught in gillnets, which are meant to entangle fish by their gills. These illegal contraptions are often used to capture another endangered species called the totoaba—fish that have been widely prized on the Asian black market for their swim bladders. Unfortunately, vaquitas are common victims of these nets, too.

So freeing these entangled vaquitas was the “porpoise” of Sea Shepherd’s outing (sorry). But they found something else: a female humpback whale trapped in a gillnet, instead.

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With help from the Mexican Navy and Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), the crew spent four hours cutting the whale loose from the gillnet, finally freeing her.

The undoubtedly happy whale then swam free, while the humans who saved her cheered and exchanged high fives.

While this situation had a happy ending, the overall story is far from over. Estimates indicate that only about 100 vaquita porpoises remain, and illegal gillnets continue to threaten them. While you can’t go out and rescue these magnificent creatures yourself, you can reduce gillnet usage.

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A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.