Vaquita : habitat, classification, population, breeding

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Infraorder: Cetacea

Family: Phocoenidae

Genus: Phocoena

Species: P. sinus

Scientific name: Phocoena sinus

This is a very interesting animal. Adult Vaquita weighs 60 to 120 pounds and range in length from 4 to 5 feet. Adult females are slightly taller than males. But its growth indicators are low. Like dolphins and other marine animals, they need levels to breathe from time to time.

They have no noticeable beaks so they are clearly different from dolphins. Vaquita’s body is mostly dark, with light skin and deep skin, and dark circles around the eye sockets and around the mouth. The species is currently on the brink of extinction, and is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List; the steep decline in abundance is primarily due to illegal hunting. [1]Vaquita: Phocoena sinus – ScienceDirect

Some other Vaquita facts

  • Vaquita has a number of records, including the smallest breasted breast and the smallest ancestral boundary.
  • Dark-colored eyes are a prominent feature of animals and are quickly used in the wild for their shaping.
  • Vaquita’s voice is very loud which they use to communicate. This sound also helps them find their habitat and prey.
  • They have large dorsal fins so that they can dissipate the heat caused by hot water
  • This species does not migrate


Vaquita has the world’s rarest marine animal. They are found only in the Carthage Sea Shelter, a saltwater basin at the northern tip of the Gulf of California. It derives its civilization from the strong currents found in the Pacific Gulf.

Population estimate

  • Scientists from the United States and Mexico spent a few days in 1997 riding 170-feet motoring in a 165-foot-deep body of water to try to count vaquitas. He estimated that the total population was 567.
  • IUCN compiled fisheries data in 1997 using other counts. And it is estimated that at the beginning of the twentieth century, the population of Vaquita maybe five 5000.
  • It is virtually impossible to determine the exact number of Vaquita in the Gulf. But scientists have a number of ways to track and estimate their numbers. Overall numbers have fallen sharply over the past few decades.
  • The population was estimated at 200 in 2008. But this population will be less than 30 in 2016. And by 2020 it will be about ten.


Vaquita is a common carnivore like many dolphins.  It targets much local fish. Local fish species are a big part of their diet. Vaquita feed on squid crabs and small fishes also. They are believed to be nonselective feeders.

Security status of Vaquita

It is at high risk of extinction. Dependence entirely on accidental deaths in fishing nets designed to trap other animals. Vaquita has not been targeted recently or historically by commercial fishing. The Mexican government has protected the endangered species of fish. But the demand for the aerial bladder of animals in Asian markets has fueled the illegal fishing process.

Vaquita – International cooperation to promote safe fishing

  • In July 2016, President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced bilateral cooperation measures to protect the vaquita, following the meeting and the recommendations made in CIRVA’s own Vaquita report. The National Institute of Fisheries (INAPESCA) and WWF Mexico have set up an international committee of experts to quickly implement Vaquita-safe fishing technologies.
  • The committee advises the Mexican government to improve fishing techniques that are not harmful to Vaquita, including those developed jointly by INAPESCA and WWF Mexico in recent years. [2]Saving the Vaquita: Immediate Action, Not More Data (


The mating of vaquitas occurs in spring or early summer and is born after about 11 months of gestation.  Small vaquitas calves are reared for several months. The calf grows to about 70 cm. Females give birth to a calf about every two years.  Calves weigh about 20 pounds at birth.  It is protected by female until they are able to save themselves.

Ecological importance of Vaquita

  • They are present in their natural habitat as both predators and prey. Hunting for shark family members, vaquita serves as an important source of food for leading predators.  On the contrary, they feed on the animals below them in the food chain – such as small fish, squid, and crustaceans and help control these populations.  A healthy Vaquita population balances the Gulf of California ecosystem by balancing the populations of other animals in an interdependent food web.
  • There is no other station that makes such a noise. That’s why researchers have taken advantage of this feature to create devices that capture these sounds. And these sounds are used for sonar. [3]The Ecological Role of the Vaquita, Phocoena sinus, in the Ecosystem of the Northern Gulf of California | SpringerLink

For image thanks to: [4]By Paula Olson, NOAA –, Public Domain,

Written by: Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Ahsan

Reviewed by:
Dr. Muhammad Tahir Ph.D. (PU)
Post Doctorate

American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA


1Vaquita: Phocoena sinus – ScienceDirect
2Saving the Vaquita: Immediate Action, Not More Data (
3The Ecological Role of the Vaquita, Phocoena sinus, in the Ecosystem of the Northern Gulf of California | SpringerLink
4By Paula Olson, NOAA –, Public Domain,