Mexican Fishermen Burn Boat, Demand Environmentalists Out

3/27/2017 New York Times

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMEXICO CITY — Dozens of fishermen have burned a boat as part of a threat to force out a ship operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Gulf of California.

Sea Shepherd has been removing illegal and abandoned nets that endanger the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise. Illegal fishing for the totoaba, another species, has reduced the number of vaquitas to fewer than 30.

Fishermen in the town of San Felipe painted the name of the Sea Shepherd on an empty, open fishing boat they burned Sunday. They threatened to remove the conservationists’ ship themselves if the government doesn’t.

“Just as they are judging us fishermen, we will judge all the environmentalists,” said Sunshine Rodriguez, a leader of the local fishing cooperative in San Felipe, Baja California. “We aren’t going to just sit around.”

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Mexico suspends imports of Brazilian meat, poultry amid health concerns

3/21/2017 Reuters

poultrychickensMexico has suspended all meat and poultry imports from Brazil since March 19, the government said Tuesday, dealing another blow to the world’s top beef and poultry exporter amid growing concerns about the quality of those products.

Mexico said that owing to the health concerns, it has suspended the poultry imports from Brazil it normally receives, adding that it does not import Brazilian beef or pork products.

Brazilian authorities on Tuesday began scouring meat plants closed after a probe into corruption by health inspectors and the alleged sale of rotten products.

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Before Vaquitas Vanish, a Desperate Bid to Save Them

2/27/2017 New York Times

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SEMARNAT

SAN FELIPE, Mexico — In the shallow sea waters of the Gulf of California swims a porpoise that few have seen, its numbers dwindling so fast that its very existence is now in peril.

Known mostly by its Spanish name, the snub-nosed vaquita is the world’s smallest cetacean, a miniature porpoise with a cartoonlike features and dark smudges around its eyes. The species lives only in the fertile waters of the gulf’s northern corner.

The size of its population has always been precarious, but now voracious demand in China for a fish that shares the vaquita’s only habitat has pushed the tiny porpoise to the brink of extinction.

No more than 30 vaquitas are left, according to a November estimate based on monitoring of their echolocation clicks. Half of the vaquitas counted a year earlier have disappeared.

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An Aquatic Paradise in Mexico, Pushed to the Edge of Extinction

2/22/2017 New York Times

xochimilcoXOCHIMILCO, Mexico — With their gray-green waters and blue herons, the canals and island farms of Xochimilco in southern Mexico City are all that remain of the extensive network of shimmering waterways that so awed Spanish invaders when they arrived here 500 years ago.

But the fragility of this remnant of pre-Columbian life was revealed last month, when a 20-feet-deep hole opened in the canal bed, draining water and alarming hundreds of tour boat operators and farmers who depend on the waterways for a living.

The hole intensified a simmering conflict over nearby wells, which suck water from Xochimilco’s soil and pump it to other parts of Mexico City. It also revived worries about a process of decline, caused by pollution, urban encroachment and subsidence, that residents and experts fear may destroy the canals in a matter of years.

“This is a warning,” said Sergio Raúl Rodríguez Elizarrarás, a geologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “We are driving the canals towards their extinction.”

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Biologists Find Weird Cave Life That May Be 50,000 Years Old

2/17/2017 New York Times

cave-flickr-creative-commonsIn a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese, said Penelope Boston, head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. .

“It’s super life,” said Boston, who presented the discovery Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston.

If confirmed, the find is yet another example of how microbes can survive in extremely punishing conditions on Earth.

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Spyware’s Odd Targets: Backers of Mexico’s Soda Tax

2/11/2017 New York Times

using smartphoneSAN FRANCISCO — Last summer, Dr. Simón Barquera’s phone started buzzing with a series of disturbing text messages from unknown numbers. One said his daughter had been in a serious accident. Another claimed to be from a friend whose father had died — with a link to funeral details.

Yet another message informed Dr. Barquera, the director of nutrition policy at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health, that a Mexican news outlet had accused him of negligence, again with a link. And in more menacing messages, someone claimed to be sleeping with Dr. Barquera’s wife. That included a link to what the sender claimed was photo evidence of their affair.

That same week, Luis Manuel Encarnación, then the director at Fundación Mídete, a foundation in Mexico City that battles obesity, also started receiving strange messages with links. When he clicked, Mr. Encarnación was ominously redirected to Gayosso, Mexico’s largest funeral service.

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WWF Calls for Fishing Ban to Save Last of Vaquita Porpoises

2/6/2017 New York Times

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMEXICO CITY — The World Wildlife Fund on Monday called for a complete ban on fishing in the habitat of the vaquita porpoise, noting an international committee of experts has determined that fewer than 30 of the critically endangered mammals probably remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place they live.

Experts and the Mexican government previously announced a plan to catch the few remaining vaquitas and enclose them in pens for protection and possible breeding.

But the World Wildlife Fund argued that is not the answer for the tiny porpoise, saying in a statement that “the only way to save the vaquita from extinction is for the Mexican government to immediately and indefinitely ban all fisheries within its habitat.”

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