Title

EVIDENCE THAT A RESTORED COLORADO RIVER DELTA IS CRITICAL HABITAT UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE VAQUITA MARINO (Phocoena sinus) AND ITS IMPLICATIONS IN THE LEGAL,ECONOMIC, AND SOCIAL POLICY IN THE COLORADO RIVER

Date of Award

3-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Department

Interdisciplinary Studies

First Reader/Committee Chair

Collins, Kimberly

Abstract

The Vaquita marino (Phocoena sinus) is the smallest, most recently discovered, most limited in its distribution, and most highly endangered of all the Cetaceans. Two risk factors have been identified in the Vaquita’s conservation; mortalities due to bycatch in the artisanal fishing fleet in the Upper Gulf of California, and environmental disturbance. The habitat disturbance risk factor is a direct result of the desiccation of the Colorado River Delta because of extensive water diversions form the Colorado River by the dam system within the United States. Significant disagreements exist as to the relative impacts of the two risk factors and how a conservation plan should be developed. This paper utilizes existing data in the literature to display that in fact there is no correlation between the impact of bycatch, and that the Vaquita’s population is depressed because a critical portion of its ecosystem, the Colorado River Delta has been destroyed. This paper argues that a restored Colorado River Delta is critical habitat for the recovery of the Vaquita under the Endangered Species Act and that the ongoing diversion of water from the Colorado River Delta by the US dam system is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The violation of the Endangered Species Act through the destruction of the Colorado River Delta can have significant economic and social impact in the Western United States.

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