MEXICO CITY, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Mexico plans to set up three fish farms in a bid to save the endangered vaquita porpoise from extinction, the government said on Friday.
Only around 30 vaquitas are left in Mexico's Gulf of California, where illegal fishing for totoaba, a marine species that is also endangered, has decimated their population, said experts.
"We will not let our guard down in saving the vaquita," Environment Minister Rafael Pacchiano said in a statement.
The three proposed totoaba farms are part of a larger strategy to bring the vaquita back from the brink of extinction, the ministry said.
Vaquitas are accidentally caught in fishing nets designed to capture totoaba, whose bladder, believed to have aphrodisiac properties, can sell for up to 60,000 U.S. dollars per kilo on the black market, according to the government.
The farms aim to curb illegal fishing while still allowing local communities to make sustainable use of the natural resource.
The government also plans to extend the vaquita's protected area, where fishing and sailing are banned, by another 750 square kilometers, and step up surveillance and patrols of the area with the help of the marines.
In addition, it will extend compensation payments to fishermen who use methods to protect the vaquita, the ministry said.
An earlier attempt in October to catch vaquitas to breed in a designated refuge was abandoned after two of the species caught died in captivity.
The plight of the vaquita gained global attention in June, when actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio met with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto to campaign for stronger protection measures.