Seminar on Wildlife Trafficking

July 7, 2022 - 3:30 PM
Hatfield Marine Science Center
2030 SE Marine Science Dr
Newport, OR
Hatfield Marine Science Center.


Vaquitas.\Photo courtesy of NOAA
The Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Research Seminar Series continues on Thursday, July 7, 3:30 p.m., with a seminar on “Black and Blue Markets: Illegal wildlife trafficking, lack of legal economic alternatives, and the plight of the vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal.”

The speaker is Sarah L. Mesnick of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego.  Dr. Mesnick is an ecologist in the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division.  Her description of her talk

"Black markets for illegal wildlife products are a major driver of declining populations of endangered species and a persistent challenge to conservation. The demand for animals and their parts, or in some cases the incidental takes associated with illegal harvest, results in diminishing populations and possible extinction. Worth tens of billions annually, illegal wildlife trade is often transnational, which adds to the complexity, and danger, particularly when organized crime and corruption are involved. Due to global awareness campaigns, terrestrial examples are well known: elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales. Marine examples are far less well known but cause for concern: both vaquita (99% decline) and Caspian seals (90% decline) are bycatch in a fishery targeting an illegal product sold on an international black market (totoaba swim bladders and sturgeon caviar, respectively). This presentation addresses this conservation challenge for marine mammals by exploring the profitability and other aspects of legal vs illegal trade - blue markets vs black markets – in the upper Gulf of California, Mexico, where the vaquita porpoise lives, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The presentation will review the biology and status of the vaquita, conservation actions, and the impact of distant markets on local economies and ecosystems. The relative profitability and other drivers of illegal vs legal economies are examined from a community point of view, considering not only distributional aspects of profits but also impacts on human and community well-being. The talk highlights the importance of ensuring that conservation policies do not undermine local livelihoods, particularly the ability to conduct legal activities, as conservation programs have had unintended consequences in the region. Illegal wildlife trade must be addressed in a manner that makes black markets less attractive than blue markets through demand reduction at the end market, targeted enforcement along the supply chain, and ensuring economic opportunities for communities. Ongoing efforts with fishermen using gears that are alternatives to gillnets and markets that are interested in sustainable products demonstrate the possibilities of a path forward but remain slow to implement. The situation in the Upper Gulf of California is dire, increasingly challenging, and time is running out. Recent observations of the few surviving vaquitas, including some calves, provide hope that there is still time to save the species. Similar threats to other marine mammals from bycatch in fishing gear and wildlife trafficked species may benefit from experiences, both positive and negative, of the vaquita." 

These talks are now delivered in hybrid fashion.  The events can be attended in person in the auditorium of the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building at the HMSC (2030 S.E. Marine Science Dr), or can be viewed online.

To register for this event online, go here.

Dial-In Information: +1-971-247-1195 US Meeting ID: 945 5573 1151