The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Save The Whales are celebrating the talents of Memuco, prominent Mexican artist. Memuco will receive the "Héroe del Medio Ambiente" ("Environmental Hero") award. He is the first artist to receive this award.
His art speaks for endangered species, and we became acquainted with him through our work with the vaquita. This animal is very close to his heart as it is associated with his hometown of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. He paints endangered animals, the environment and a new character called "the silent one."
Memuco explains that this was a story he invented about the offspring of Catrina (or Lady Death) and El Nahual, a powerful being in Aztec mythology that could shift its shape into different animals. So, of course, this little girl has much love for animals and connects with them very easily - but her mother gave her the mandate to go out and "put to sleep" every last animal of the most endangered species. The mandate also included that she had to play with them and make sure that when put to sleep, these animals where happy and full of love.
There was nobody better for the job than her daughter. But for every animal she put to sleep, the daughter would cry. She would make no sound; only tears would come down and leave black streaks on her face. There is no cetacean that represents México more than la vaquita, and there is nothing that represents extinction like the tears of the Silent One.
We are very fortunate to have Memuco come to Monterey and inspire many people with his beautiful and timely work.
Come and celebrate ocean conservation and Latin American cultural tradition at the 11th annual Fiesta del Mar event.The day will include live music, cultural dance, bilingual feeding shows, crafts for kids and Save The Whales' vaquita display.
Status of Vaquita
No one knows for sure but we guess that there are as little as 55 vaquita left and as many as 82. Not many, and the number of breeding females is of primary importance. Unlike other cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) the vaquita gives birth every two years. They live only in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Their numbers were low enough when they were caught as bycatch in the shrimp industry. A new and dangerous threat surfaced a few years ago. This was the growing demand for the swim bladder of a large fish, the totoaba, itself an endangered species. Its bladder is prized in China as an aphrodisiac and can fetch thousands of dollars on the market. The vaquita is now a victim of bycatch in this devastating fishing operation.
Mexico promised to fight back in December 2014, and placed a ban on gill net fishing for two years and worked out a compensation plan for fishermen.
The Mexican Government, in collaboration with the US Government (NOAA) biologists, are conducting a new survey with the vessel R/V Ocean Starr in the northern Gulf of California to estimate the current abundance of the vaquita.The survey began on September 27, 2015. Viva Vaquita! lead scientist, Tom Jefferson, Ph.d and Tom R. Kieckhefer, M.Sc, Save The Whales educator, are also in the Sea of Cortez searching for the elusive vaquita.
Something Miraculous Happened
The 2015 Vaquita Expedition reports that on the fifth day they saw three vaquitas. What makes the story more impressive, the Mexican officials saw them too. We hope this remarkable and inspirational event is a portent of things to come, and the little vaquita keeps working its magic.