Learn about vaquita conservation efforts on 60 Minutes on Sunday, May 22, 2016.

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) annually awards the Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award to an individual who has been a leader in translating principles of conservation biology into real-world conservation. Preference is given to employees of government agencies or individuals who have spent at least part of their career in public service. Dr. LaRoe was chief scientist for NOAA’s coastal zone management program, a founder and former director of the Coastal Society, and a principal author of the National Wetland Classification system. Past recipients have included leaders in a wide range of disciplines.

This year, the award will be given at the North American Congress of Conservation Biology (NACCB; www.scbnacongress.org ) held in Madison, Wisconsin from July 17 to July 20, 2016. The award will be given to Dr. Barbara Taylor of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center to recognize her outstanding career achievements in translating conservation science into real-world conservation efforts, most recently in the case of vaquita conservation.

The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), or Gulf of California harbor porpoise, is one of the rarest and most endangered marine mammals in the world.  The vaquita, which is Spanish for “little cow”, is especially vulnerable to drowning in gillnet fishing nets. Recent surveys document that only around 60 vaquitas remain. Results of the acoustic monitoring between 2011-2015 showed an 80% decline over that period. Results from the acoustic monitoring prompted the emergency 2-year ban of gillnets that began on May 10, 2015. Although almost no gillnets were seen on the survey between October and early December, 42 illegal totoaba gillnets were recently removed by the Sea Shepherd in collaboration with the Mexican Navy. 3 vaquitas died in March from gillnet entanglement.

At 8 pm on Sunday, May 22, 2016, the program 60 Minutes will air a segment on vaquita. The crew came to San Felipe and interviewed Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho and Barbara Taylor during the 2015 vaquita survey. They also filmed the presentation of the SMM Conservation Merit Prize and interviewed Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Rafael Pacchiano afterwards in San Francisco. Most importantly, they filmed vaquita themselves. The program will be available after May 22 on http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/preview-the-last-vaquitas/

SCB, led by its Marine, Latin America and Caribbean, and Asia sections, has worked for several years to advance vaquita conservation. More information can be found on SCB’s vaquitawebpage, and via the following policy statements from 2015 and2012.

See also this video, and articles in the LA Times, and CNN.