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Wow, Actual Good News: Researchers Spot Super Rare Vaquita Calves in Mexico

There isn't usually much good news about the vaquita. At last count, there were only 30 left in the world.

There isn't usually much good news about the vaquita. At last count, there were only 30 left in the world. The situation is so dire for the tiny porpoises that the government of Mexico, where vaquitas live, has a contingency plan for their survival based on porpoise cloning.

So it's no wonder that scientists headed to the annual vaquita count feeling pretty nervous.

But then, to everyone's surprise, they witnessed actual good news: At least one vaquita calf swimming with its mom. There may have even been two.

For a healthy species, that wouldn't sound like such a big deal. But for such an endangered species, it's a positive sign that the animals are at least healthy enough to produce offspring.

The 3-feet-long cetaceans with cute, rounded heads only live in the Gulf of California. Sadly, they've been victims of years of illegal fishing.

Source: Flickr, SEMARNAT

They get caught in gillnets, a banned kind of net that's used to capture a fish prized for its swim bladder in parts of Asia. The swim bladder trade is connected to international crime, so it's been very difficult for the Mexican government to crack down on it.

Their decline has been pretty rapid, too: In 2011, there were 600 vaquitas in the wild. That number went down to 60 in 2015.

Back to the good news: The researchers were also excited because the sighting suggests that vaquitas can give birth every year, rather than once every two years, which was previously believed.

Sadly, though, it may be too soon to celebrate. The fishing season for that rare fish starts at the end of the year, around the same time that a new government will be coming into power in Mexico. Environmental activists aren't sure how committed the new government will be to saving the vaquitas.

But hopefully this will only be the beginning of good news for this gentle, tiny porpoise.

Add your name right now to make a difference for dolphins, whales and other marine mammals with Oceana.

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