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Idaho Filmmaker Warns Rare Sea Mammal's Time Is Running Out

Wild Lens

Local filmmakers, who are making a movie about the plight of a critically endangered sea mammal, say there are now likely less than 25 of the animals left in the Gulf of California.

Boise filmmaker Matthew Podolsky started documenting the story of the small, dolphin-like vaquita over two years ago. Since he learned the animals were dying in gill nets he’s been telling their story in short films. He’s watched the number of remaining vaquita continue to drop each year.

“Nobody has given up hope. There is absolutely still hope,” says Podolsky.

Fisherman accidently kill vaquitas as they illegally fish for another sea creature, the totoaba, which brings a huge price in Asia. Mexico outlawed gill net fishing for totoaba to try and save the vaquita, but Podolsky says that isn’t working.

Mexico and conservation groups have planned a last ditch effort to save them later this year by rounding up those left in sea pens and breeding them in captivity.

“This is a last ditch effort to save the species and if this effort fails, I think we are most likely looking at the extinction of the vaquita,” Podolsky says.

Podolsky says the vaquita could be extinct within a year. He says people in Idaho have learned about the vaquita thanks to his films and have come to care about the animal. He says the vaquita’s plight is indicative of a larger issue.

“There are lots and lots of species that are on the brink of extinction. The vaquita are just one of many. If the vaquita does go extinct, it will not be the last species to go extinct,” Podolsky says.

Podolsky’s company Wild Lens is hosting a city-wide event in Boise on Saturday as part of International Save the Vaquita Day. There will be screenings of his film "Souls of the Vermilion Sea" and a march through downtown Boise to highlight the vaquita’s plight.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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