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Monday, July 21, 2014

Baja California to spend $54,000 on restoring totoaba population; illegally caught totoabas seized near San Felipe

       totoabaBaja California's fisheries and aquaculture agency announced that it is spending 700,000 pesos ($54,000) to help restore the totoaba population in the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez and boost the market for the endangered fish raised as part of scientific studies, El Mexicano newspaper's Ensenada edition reported.

       Commercial fishing of the fish, unique to the upper gulf, has been banned by Mexico since 1975, but it is allowed to be raised in fish farms. Officials said the farm-raised fish can be sold for 200 pesos a kilo ($7 a pound). Totoaba in the Sea of Cortez can reach weights of over 200 pounds.

        Agency director Matías G. Arjona Rydalch said the population restoration program likely will involve the Autonomous University of Baja California marine science department in Ensenada, which is involved in a program involving the reproduction and repopulation of the totoaba.

       Meanwhile, authorities seized six totoabas, seven fillets, 12 totoaba bladders, and large nets with 10-inch mesh and other gear for catching totoabas from a boat being transported on a road near San Felipe. Four men, including one who had apparently been stopped for a similar offense before, were detained. The bladders are considered to be a great delicacy in Asia. Front-page story, El Mexicano Mexicali edition (PDF). Jump

        Notimex quoted officials as estimating the value of the haul at $35,000 to $60,000 

Follow-up story placing black market value at $60,000, El Mexicano, July 23    

NOAA description of totoaba.

Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (has accompanying news release about totoaba bladder smuggling).