After two weeks of intensive treatment for COVID19, Paco Valverde, Marine Biologist and vaquita conservation specialist, passed away 31 July 2020, at the age of 48. Paco Valverde, dedicated his life to saving vaquita-the smallest marine mammal in the world and the most endangered.
The vaquia, literally called a “little cow,” is an endangered porpoise species which makes its home on north end of the California Gulf (Cortez Bay, Vermilion Bay). The vaquia is the smallest of all the cetaceans alive. They are currently on the verge of extinction and a recent study reports their population is estimated at 10-15. The sharp decline in abundance, is mainly due to the illegal fishing of totoabas bycatch in gillnets.
Paco had been working as a marine biologist for the National Commission of Mexico on the Upper Gulf of California and the Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve for more than 15 years. The area is part of a World Heritage site which was designated for its outstanding marine biodiversity and habitats in 2005.
Paco Valverde has played an instrumental role in stepping up efforts to counter illegal totoaba fishing and protect the vaquita. He coordinated routine surveillance activities, and conducted regular vaquita monitoring. His family also helped remove gillnets left in the Sea of Cortez and support a full ban on gillnets in the Baja California region.
Paco supported “WildAid” with many film shoots, including a vaquita video, “Porpoises in Peril,” a film that helped spread awareness of the plight of vaquitas worldwide.
Close friend and working colleague Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho Paco said this about Paco on Facebook. “We have all learned no one is indispensable. This might well be real. Our Captain Paco is still indispensable and irreplaceable. This won’t be any other Paco”. He is represented well in Brecht’s dedication poem:
“There are men who fight one day and are good.Courtesy – Facebook
There are men who fight one year and are better.
There are some who fight many years and they are better still.
But there are some that fight their whole lives,
these are the ones that are indispensable.”
Paco’s commitment to the Upper Gulf and enthusiasm have been unprecedented and his loss will be felt far and wide.