Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.
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Jacques Cousteau called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, ‘the aquarium of the world’. It is home to one of the most critically endangered species on earth. The vaquita is a small porpoise facing total extinction, whose numbers have dwindled to less than a dozen. In particular, the vaquita get caught in the nets used to catch totoaba. Casting nets for this large marine fish is illegal. But the totoaba’s swim bladder is believed to have potent medicinal properties in China, and sells for thousands of dollars in a trade controlled by Mexican organised crime. So efforts to save the vaquita have brought conflict to poor fishing communities in northern Baja California – people who often rely on an illicit income from totoaba. On New Year’s Eve, 2020 one fisherman was killed and another seriously injured in an altercation between local boats and an NGO ship patrolling to stop the sinking of illegal nets that kill the vaquita. Linda Pressly reports from the coast of Baja California on a dangerous clash of interests. Can the vaquita be saved? Producer: Michael Gallagher Producer in Mexico: Ulises Escamilla Haro (Image: Illustration of a vaquita in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Credit: Greenpeace/Marcelo Otero)