Equipe Cousteau welcomed Opel / Vauxhall Project Earth in Mexico

30 September 2011

From July 14 to August 4, 2011, the Opel / Vauxhall Project Earth expedition took a group of young students and scientists for a unique voyage to four vulnerable and endangered regions of the world. The team visited four organizations which work to protect habitats and endangered species, and helped the scientists in their work. Equipe Cousteau has been choosen together with three preeminent environmental organizations: WWF Canada, The Rain Forest Foundation US and The Jane Goodall Institute. The expedition explored the Arctic, a National Park in Tanzania, the Gulf of California (Mexico) and the rain forest in Panama.

The project aimed to present major threats to our environment as well as practical solutions for sustainability and conservation. Back in their country, the participants from all over Europe commited to act as ambassadors of the preservation of these fragile ecosystems threathened by human activities.

Equipe Cousteau and its scientific partners of the Mexican consortium Oceanides Conservación y Desarrollo Marino, highlighted to the expedition team the threats to the Gulf of California porpoise, an endemic species of the region and the most endangered species of marine mammal in the world. Meetings with the scientists have been organized by the Cousteau team members Noémie Stroh and Faustine Martinez during a conference held at the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education (CICESE).

The leading mexican scientists, Dr. Lorenzo Rojas Bracho and Dr. Armando Jaramillo, marine biologists specialized in marine mammal sciences, presented the Vaquita or Gulf of California porpoise and its critical situation. Although the species is protected by the Mexican government, there are only 150 individuals left. Equipe Cousteau works with Dr. Rojas and Dr. Jaramillo to track the abundance of the population and its movements. These information are essential for any conservation plan to evaluate progress and predict the success or failure of a given action.

The Opel Project Earth participants then had the privilege to accompany the scientists during their work inside the Vaquita Refuge area where gill-nets, the main threat to vaquita, are prohibited. They helped the scientific team in the implementation of an acoustic detector network that will record sounds emited by the porpoise.

The participants of the Opel / Vauxhall Project Earth are now aware that the protection of the vaquita is a symbol for the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico, but could also serve as an example for the preservation of many other dolphin and porpoise species facing the same threats around the world.