Winter Springs, FL
2023, Senior, Art
Climate Hero: Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change in Mexico
My work and creative process were inspired by the plight of the vaquita. There are estimated to be only ten of them left. Through my research, I've learned lots of things about the vaquita's dilemma. Firstly, the basic cause of their endangerment is an illegal fishing practice called gill netting. Secondly, the true cause is much deeper than that: illegal gill netting only exists because it's so effective in catching the totoaba fish, which is highly sought after for its swim bladder. But its swim bladder is actually useless, essentially serving a placebo effect in a variety of homeopathic remedies. So in the end, vaquitas are needlessly dying and critically endangered because human greed is driving demand for the swim bladder of a fish that doesn't even offer any medicinal benefits. The unnecessary and gross endangerment of the vaquita has opened my eyes to how important it is to spread awareness at the root of an issue, which is exactly what Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho does. He is working to make the existence (and quick lack thereof) of the vaquita known to the Mexican people and their government. His goal is to get legislation passed for greater protection and to actually enforce the law there, so both the totoaba fish and vaquita populations can bounce back and thrive. People like Dr. Rojas-Bracho, who focus on saving even the smallest and least known creatures in our ocean, give me hope for the future and encourage me to remember that it takes all of us to make a difference.