VaquitaCPR Operation: SatFi and UHF

This is a a picture of a vaquita. They are critically endangered. There are estimated to be fewer than 30 remaining vaquita in the world. Steve and I maxed our resources within our own companies and are working to support the IT and communication efforts of this initiative in October, as volunteers. Given the high number of natural disasters around the world, and especially impacting the US, Mexico and the Caribbean, the tech companies and other orgs that could have, or planned to, contribute, are tapped out in helping with foundational human survival and recovery efforts. At this time, VaquitaCPR is short $500k of their operational plan. However, with the funding they have, this amazing team developed a first class operation in San Felipe, Mexico,  in partnership with leading marine mammal biologists and researchers.
To supplement their baseline IT plan, we consulted across several groups to identify the next level communications plan to further support this operation. Communications are obviously critical across the 8 vessels involved in this rescue and recovery effort. All funds they raised through VaquitaCPA are going directly to the protection and catch of the remaining vaquita, so they are not able to fund further IT operational levels. Steve and I are contributing 4 UHF digital radios ourselves, because they have encryption, which means that the 200+ other fisherman and boats in the Sea of Cortez will not hear of the operation, which could potentially impact the saving of the vaquita in the excitement of folks trying to watch, or worse, people could identify the patterns of Vaquita, who are co-located with the totoaba bass fish. Vaquita are bycatch, and drown in the nets of the illegal fishing of the totoaba.

In addition to 4 more UHF radios that are needed for the operation (4x$350 per radio=$1,400), we are attempting to set up a Satellite WiFi system (MCD-4800 wifi access point, called "the football") that is transportable, and for usage across the vessels to send data/video over the Sea of Cortez to support the location, catch and save effort for a month. This will help share the acoustic team's data files, communications, and possibly even video capture of the vaquita that would help monitor, or resolve, animal health during the operation. The Ground Control team that manufactures the BGAN Sat Terminal  will rent a unit for a reduced rate of $50/day, for a month, and there are a variety of levels of gig service plans.
Based on funding and contributions, I have added to the total goal above the ability for the team to have unlimited data connection wifi at the rate of $4,145 for the month. If we can't reach that, even 1gig at $1,135 will assist the effort. 2gig is $2,145. We will see how far we can get this week. 

We are headed to San Felipe to meet with the team next Friday-Sunday to support as much of the effort as we can, with or beyond the 4 UHF radios that we can supply.

Kristina Martz, Executive Operations & Board Liason ([email redacted]) for the National Marine Mammal Foundation, requested that Steve and I go forward with purchase/rent of the communications equipment ourselves, and they will process each of our donations for tax credit in November. This will help us to move operations faster, as they start in 2 weeks. If everyone donated to their overall NPO site (linked above), the equipment would require a PO from their organization, shipment to the main NMMF location in CA, transfer through customs - and we might not make the deadline to get the equipment there to support the team. We know that everyone has given and given to so many organizations this year, but we would truly appreciate it if you could help us make this last effort happen, or share this information with others who can partner or support. Hopefully this supplemental tech work will have an impact to save the few remaining vaquita. 

Background and Detail:
VaquitaCPR - Consortium of Public Private Partners
(Link to VaquitaCPR Main Page Above)
The Phase 1 Operation that was proposed by leading marine biologists and scientists was accepted, approved and funded, based on the CIRVA Proposal, and starts in mid-October. It goes for one month, closing just after the start of the illegal Totoaba fishing season, which is projected to drive the vaquita to extinction, after the remaining population of 200, decreased to 30 in the last two years .  The countries and teams driving the effort, as well as the conservation organizations involved, truly see this operation as the last effort to save the vaquita.  

The vaquita is considered the most endangered of 129 extant marine mammal species. It has been classified as one of the top 100 evolutionary distinct and globally endangered (EDGE) mammals in the world. The vaquita is an evolutionarily distinct animal and has no close relatives. These animals represent more, proportionally, of the tree of life than other species, meaning they are top priority for conservation campaigns. The EDGE of Existence Programme is a conservation effort that attempts to help conserve endangered animals that represent large portions of their evolutionary trees. The U.S. government has listed the vaquita as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. It is also listed by the IUCN and the CITES in the category at most critical risk of extinction.

The US and Mexican Navy's are collaborating with the consortium in various ways. The US Navy squadron of dolphins is ready to locate the elusive vaquita, after having been trained to locate harbor porpoises in San Diego. Pretty amazing to have a cousin of the species participate to help save them. 

VaquitaCPR is led by Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Center, and the Chicago Zoological Society are assisting with coordination of the effort.

Key collaborators in Mexico include the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), the Mexican Association of Habitats for the Interaction and Protection of Marine Mammals (AMHMAR), Baja Aqua Farms, and Acuario Oceanico.

Additional United States collaborators are Duke University and the Marine Mammal Commission, with NOAA Fisheries providing technical expertise. European collaborators include Dolfinarium Harderwijk, Aarhus University, and Fjord&Baelt.  Support and expertise has also been offered from Dolphin Quest, SeaWorld, and the Vancouver Aquarium.

Thank you for your time.
Melanie Rohr
Steve Farmer

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Melanie Rohr 
Gilbert, AZ
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