CEC receives submission on the vaquita porpoise under USMCA/CUSMA Chapter 24

Montreal, 12 August 2021—Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Investigation Agency filed a submission with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) under the provisions of Chapter 24 of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA/CUSMA). The Submitters assert that Mexico is failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws to protect the vaquita porpoise.

The Submitters assert that “the Mexican government is failing to effectively enforce several environmental laws and as a result has caused the near-extinction of the vaquita porpoise.” Approximately only 10 vaquita remain. The submitters assert that vaquita populations have been declining over the years due to the gillnets used to fish totoaba, an endangered fish threatened by illegal fishing and sold in international markets.

The vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is the world’s smallest cetacean and the most endangered marine mammal. The vaquita has the smallest range of any whale, dolphin, or porpoise, and only lives in a small 1,500 square-mile area in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California, near the town of San Felipe. The totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) is a large, schooling marine fish whose habitat partially overlaps with the vaquita. According to the Submitters, Mexico is not effectively enforcing the General Wildlife Law (Ley General de Vida Silvestre) and federal regulations governing fishing within the vaquita’s habitat, including regulations that prohibit the use of gillnets and the capture of totoaba.

The Secretariat will review the submission and determine whether it meets the requirements of USMCA Article 24.27(2) and (3). To learn more, please consult the registry page for the submission SEM-21-002 (Vaquita Porpoise).

CEC - Vaquita

Submission asserts failure to enforce environmental law in Mexico with respect to the protection of the nearly extinct vaquita porpoise