Foreword -- "Goodbye Baiji" -- Prologue -- The dead girl -- Resource extraction -- Chasing a myth -- Tangled agendas -- Death, drugs, and accountability -- Pirates on patrol -- Searching for Vaquita -- Hearing is believing -- Science in the sea -- Witnessing extinction -- Saving Bigfoot -- Sending out an SOS -- Meet the totoaba -- Last-ditch effort -- Hope is a life raft (with a persistent leak) -- Epilogue
"In 2006, the last of China's Yangtze river dolphins--baiji--succumbed to extinction, and la vaquita marina, a diminutive porpoise endemic to the Upper Gulf of California, quietly and without fanfare inherited the title of world's most endangered marine mammal. Unlike many other critically endangered species, the vaquita is not hunted. Nor is its habitat disappearing or degraded. The species is even protected by law. Why then have its numbers plummeted to near extinction when few humans have seen it live in the wild? The answer lies in a shadowy mix of international cartels, fishermen entrapped by politics and culture, and an unlikely fish called the totoaba. In this haunting story, Brooke Bessesen sets out to Mexico's Upper Gulf region to untangle the intricacies of the biology, acoustical science, and international intrigues behind the vaquita's decline. She interviews townspeople, fishermen, politicians, scientists, and activists, teasing apart a complex story filled with villains and heroes, a story whose outcome is unclear. When diplomatic and political efforts to save the little porpoise fail, Bessesen follows a team of veterinary experts in a binational effort to capture the last remaining vaquitas and breed them in captivity--the best hope for their survival"--Dust jacket flap.