The 2024 annual survey of vaquitas in the Gulf of California resulted in the lowest number of individuals ever seen on record.  Researchers participating in the surveys estimate they saw between six to eight different individuals in the Zero Tolerance Area.

Every year surveys are conducted to estimate the number of individual vaquitas left, the most endangered marine mammal on the planet, in the northern Gulf of California.  Vaquitas, a small dolphin species, live in the northern sections of the Gulf of California, predominantly in and around a section designated as a no fishing zone by Mexican authorities called the Zero Tolerance Area.  While the 2024 vaquita survey resulted in the lowest number of sightings (9) and unique individuals identified (6-8), vaquitas are not restricted to the Zero Tolerance Area and therefore these estimates are considered minimums for the population.  In comparison, during the 2023 survey an estimated 8-13 individuals were identified over 16 sightings.

Though regulations have been put into place to protect the remaining vaquitas, their population is still threatened by entanglement risk in gillnets.  While the government has designated the Zero Tolerance Area as a no fishing zone, enforcement is difficult due to the illegal nature of fishing in the region.

The most dangerous fishing hazard for vaquita is entanglement in illegal gillnet fishing for totoaba, a highly endangered fish.  It is illegal to fish for totoaba, however, the large price fetched by dried swim bladders drives an illegal fishery for them.  In response, the Mexican Navy has sunk hundreds of concrete blocks with hooks designed to entangle gillnets and dissuade their us in the Zero Tolerance Area.

The latest survey results bring into question the effectiveness of current protection measures, though without more extensive surveys it is not possible to determine if the population size has decreased or if the vaquitas have spread farther outsize of the survey zone.