Real information on San Carlos Sonora Mexico
In Search of La Vaquita Marina

In Search of La Vaquita Marina

A post card from San Felipe

As someone with a weak spot in their heart for marine mammals(touch a baby sperm whale and see how your heart melts) and who considers themselves slightly green with a tinge of blue to represent the

Emilio gave up commercial fishing Now in school & waiting tables @ La Vaquita
Emilio gave up commercial fishing
Now in school & waiting tables @ La Vaquita

Sea of Cortes in them, the conversation I had this evening with a local fisherman on the malecon of San Felipe is one I won’t soon forget, probably not ever actually.

Getting local commercial fisherman to talk to a “pinchi gringo periodista de Sonora” has not been an easy task. That is why I alloted at least 5 days in San Felipe for this trip. So people could see me walking around town and hopefully get to know me. I hear it all the time now, alli esta el guey de la vaquita. I was hoping someone would finally deviate from their talking points and have enough balls to tell me the truth about what really goes on here. And believe me even poorly educated fisherman not only have  talking points but will stick with them to the bitter end.

San Felipe commercial fisherman talking points go some thing like this. When I ask a local fisherman if

Chalunga his wife & grandson
Chalunga his wife & grandson

he has ever seen a vaquita marina the standard answer is no. I even got a local fisherman named Chalunga, an Osama Bin Ladin look alike with a beard that would put him on a no fly zone in the U.S.A. de volda, to tell me on camera that after 37 years of fishing out of San Felipe he has never seen a vaquita marina. And even though Chalunga was extremely sincere when he told me that I still find it pretty fucking hard to believe. Especially if you walk over to the extrememly hard to find office of CONANP (Mex. national parks service) office and talk to the local representative there. The CONANP guy has on his hard drive hundreds of pictures of vaquita that he has taken over the last 5 years. He even has a video shot by a local commercial fisherman with his smart phone of several vaquita marina swimming around his panga. One of the vaquita swims super fast right up to his out board engine and then swerves away at the last second.

Now, not only do local commercial fisherman say they have never seen a vaquita marina they also often claim, if you ask, that they don’t even exist. Since if you have not seen something therefore it does not exist. Some go as far as to say that the vaquita is nothing more than a conspiracy by the gringos to shut down areas were they like to fish. I finally decided I had to have some talking points of my own and it goes kind of like this.

When a fisherman tells me that vaquita don’t exist because he has never seen one I ask, “But you believe in God don’t you and I bet you have never actually seen God right”? Now the come back I got from the owner of the Huatusi restaurant floored me, he said to me, ” but I feel God”. He had me on that one, commercial fisherman one, pinchi gringo periodista zero. The game just started and I am already down by one.

Fast forward to tonight on the Malecon. I met Jorge a local sport fishing charter operator several days ago on the beach. Jorge is also a commercial fisherman. Actually much like Loreto in Baja Sur, here in San Felipe all the tourist charter pangas commercially fish. Jorge towed the line and gave me all the talking points during that first encounter. I even got some of them on tape.

Now tonight several days & beers later and after a long conversation on the malecon about God and all his creatures, with words and phrases like, no mames, como es possible, vete a la verga la vaquita, no digas pendejadas, etcetera, and a whole shit load of uproarious laughter in between, Jorge finally came clean and departed from the talking points. Not only had he seen vaquita he had actually eaten one once and it tasted damn good to boot.

It was the kind of spontaneous conversation that you could never capture on tape, not in a million years and yet it was the best and most revealing dialog I have had with anyone in this town so far.

commercial fisherman one, pinchi gringo periodista one, GAME TIED

Viva Mexico Cabrones!!  oh yea and I forget the most important part of all, thanks Rosario for you comment, Viva La Vaquita Marina!


11 Responses to In Search of La Vaquita Marina

  1. So how was Jorge’s vaquita prepared? tacos? asado? caldo? inquiring minds want to know. I think Jorge was confused with the mezcal worm. I call BS on Jorge’s story.

  2. I wish it were B.S. Pam but he is not the only one who actually has said that. Why do you think they call them vaquita, the animal looks nothing like a calf if you ask me. Just last night on the bus to Mexicali from San Felipe I met another young shrimp fisherman. I didn’t tell him I was doing a story on anything I just over heard him talking about the price of shrimp so I started chatting with him. He also told me the same thing Jorge did. The meat of a vaquita looks much like a cow, I am sure he got that from older fisherman. He also told me he had seen a vaquita, no bullshit talking points. Two seasons ago he pulled one up dead in his net. They quickly chucked it back in the water. He said is was a beautiful animal, bien bonito and seemed truly sorry that it had died.

  3. LaPamela Jorge was not drinking mescal he was drinking tecate light and yes it was a very interesting and fun dialog. Vincent had real good points as well as Jorge did. One thing Vince did not mention was that the vaquita Jorge ate washed ashore in the malecon years ago… The vaquita was prepared in tacos, asada, virria etc and it tastes like beef. I just hope that Vincent gives us nonbias and honest reports. What I got out of that conversation was that the local fishermen will suffer the consecuences of any new changes or more sanctions inposed by the goverment and if nothing changes la vaquita will go extinct in 10 years like Vincent said. VIVA LA VAQUITA, EL DORADO, LA TATOAVA Y LA CAGUAMA TECATE.

  4. thanks for that Rosado!!! There is a long tradition of vaquita being eaten by locals. My good friend here in San Carlos who is a mammalogist just read my post and told me of other tales of cases when vaquita were taken in nets as incidental by catch in the totoaba fishery and consumed. Certainly over the ages vaquita were eaten by the indigenous people of norhtern baja and who ever was hungry. Lets face it if you and I were starving on a desert island we would eat vaquita marina to!!

    The real point I was trying to make is that the local fisherman have been purposely not telling me the truth. I understand why. They have their interests of course but I seek the truth here at San Carlos tv, what ever that may be. I have my opinions and they always come out in my work but I try to report the verifiable facts of the issues along with my opinion. The whole trip was great in San Felipe and I enjoyed the town especially the conversation that night, it is scenically beautiful area but it will be less beautiful if La Vaquita Marin become extinct!

    In the end I feel the government Conanp, in particular, has completely failed to convince the local fisherman why it is in their best interests to save La Vaquita. If the government continues to fail to convince the fisherman then the Vaquita will cease to exist.

  5. My bad, OK Jorge ate a vaquita and it tasted like veal. I find it reassuring that the vaquita would have died anyway because it washed up on the beach itself. Slowly but surely, I the reader, am getting the information that should have been presented to me in the first place. Vince usually gives us the whole story so that was what I was after, so I was just teasing him. Thanks to the comments for bringing us readers to the light of things.

    Rosado, if you only knew what I knew (and Vince could tell you) the fishermen have every reason to be untrusting of los extranjero ambientalistas (and the Uncle Tom locals they use) who come in, micro manage then start to take over their livlihoods through the legislative back door via their defacto positions as advisors to inept/corrupt government oficials. Public consent will get manufactured through expensive and entertaining outreach campaigns paid for by foreign interests. Mucho, mucho meetings will happen. Thousands of rules will creep in and all your fees will increase. Legal permits will become more difficult than ever to obtain for the ribereño. After all this, the p*nche madre ambientalistas will put their backpacks back on again and leave town while the fishermen will be left to drown in endless regulations and fees. I know because we’ve been living it for years. The ambientalistas are putting a block between us and our government and it isn’t necessary. We don’t need them to communicate with our own government we can make agreements ourselves directly and yes, we even have the capacity to be responsible and transparent in our work. Stop the manipulation. VIVA LA PESCA

  6. The only thing I might add Pam is that if some one does not step in, who ever that will be you will have another mammal going extinct, in plain site. Up in San Felipe you don’t see much of a presence of NGO’s so I don’t think the same dynamic that you have seen in Loreto is actually taking place in San Felipe, or at least not on the same scale, that I don’t know for sure. I do think anyone with an education would agree that the environment in the northern gulf would be better off with vaquita swimming in it and not extinct. You are correct about rules, the fisherman up there are pissed off completely about the areas that have been closed off because of the vaquita refuge and the biosphere reserve. Those rules weren’t made by a bunch of gringos though they were made by Mexicans and Mexican biologists.

    In 1999 there were estimated to be over 500 vaquitas, now there are perhaps 150. The fisherman are the only ones who can save them now and so the government better start reaching out to them and convincing them that more biodiversity is better than less and that after all a vaquita marina has as much right to exist as any mammal especially us homo supposedly sapien ones.

    Thanks for the comments!!!

  7. An uphill battle trying to convince fishermen to look ahead even 5-10 years when they live from paycheck to paycheck.
    Just think how difficult it has been to stop US loggers from clear cutting timber lands that destroys habitat for 100s of plant and animal species.
    And its far easier to monitor loggers than it is fisherman.

  8. Maybe, just maybe the lack of flow from the Colorado River has something to do with the decline in the Vaquita populations???? Before demonizing fishing it may be best to look at the situation at all angles. Do you think fishermen want any marine life form to be extinct from their doing? The answer is no, they do care and they know more than given credit for. VIVA LA PESCA

  9. I wish I could tear down the Glenn Canyon damn and put all the water back into the Colorado River Delta but that is not going to happen and actually all the scientists I have spoken with are all convinced that the decline of La Vaquita has little or nothing to do with habitat degradation, especially in the form of less water from the Colorado.

    Now the Totaoba may be a different story. I tried to get some sport fishing captains to talk to me about totoaba but they all didn’t want to talk in front of the camera. What they want up there is to be able to fish totoaba for the sport fisherman. Which I think is a great idea. I personally think that Conapesca should allow sport fisherman to have a catch and release totoaba fishery. It would bring more money to the area and I think allow some commercial fisherman the chance to exploit sport fishing and commercially fish less.

    Pam I am not demonizing fishing, I am simply reporting what all the experts are saying. Commercial fisherman, riberenos and the gill nets they are using are driving Vaquita into extinction. All the evidence points clearly to this and it is undeniable. What is also undeniable from my stand point is that many commercial fisherman up there do not care if Vaquita go extinct. I certainly did not speak with all the fisherman in San Felipe, I am trying to raise more funds to go back, but the ones I spoke with do not care about Vaquita.

    VIVA LA PESCA but also VIVA BIODIVERSITY and in turn VIVA LA VAQUITA MARINA. All those things have existed together for eons they should continue to exist.

  10. […] Most of the older Mexican fisherman I spoke with really do want the vaquita to go extinct. The sooner the better as far as they are concerned. That way they can go back to fishing anywhere they like, like the good old days. It occurred to me then that the government had failed miserably in convincing local fisherman that it was in their benefit to save vaqutias from extinction. I asked the young handsome fisherman why they called la vaquita (little cow in spanish), la vaquita. He told me it was because the meat of a vaquita looked very much like the meat of a real vaca or cow. I heard the same exact thing from Jorge, a sport fishing operator on the malecon just the night before. Jorge finally admitted that not only had he seen a Vaquita but he had actually eaten one and they tasted damn good as well.  The vaquita had washed ashore on the beach and it was quickly put on the grill. I wrote more about that conversation on what a vaquita tasted like at the following link back in Oc… […]

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