Event Spotlight: Vaquita Hacks

The Vaquita, a small porpoise native to the Gulf of California, is one of the most critically endangered species in the world — there are currently estimated to be roughly 10 or less individuals remaining. One of the key drivers of Vaquita extinction is the fishing of the Totoaba, a fish prized for its swim bladder, often called “the cocaine of the sea”.

Andrea Crosta, executive director Earth League International — an organization focusing on stopping environmental and wildlife crime “by merging the worlds of conservation, intelligence, analysis, whistleblowing and media production”) — embarked on a mission to save the Vaquita, and were featured in the National Geographic documentary Sea of Shadows in the process.

Earth Hacks teamed up with The Conservation Project International (TCPI) and The Countering Wildlife Trafficking Institute (CWTI) to host Vaquita Hacks, the first hackathon in the world dedicated to Vaquita conservation. The organizers worked closely with Earth League International to identify gaps in the solution space and create challenges to solve them, spanning three tracks:

  • Wildlife Crime Law Review
  • Science and Geographic Analytics
  • Public Engagement and Civic Action

Over 100 participants from 13 different countries attended Vaquita Hacks, which featured a keynote speech (and a lot of friendly slack messages) from Andrea, along with talks by

  • Dr. Meredith Gore, University of Maryland
  • Dr. Dan Morris, Microsoft
  • David Alvarez, Esri
  • Al James and Dr. Alastair Jamieson, Ometria
  • Matthew Andersen, USGS
  • Shamini Jayanathan, Foundry Chambers
  • Alexander Rhodes, Mischcon

Leading up to the hackathon, TCPI and Earth Hacks also hosted a screening of Sea of Shadows, featuring a Q&A session with former Sea Shepherd scientist Volcy Boilevin, who was also a mentor at the hackathon.

While the Science and Analytics projects are still under review, and the legal solutions are currently being drafted into a whitepaper to be shared with policymakers (!), you can check out the work from the Public Engagement and Civic Action teams on TCPI’s website soon.

You can also check out all the recordings from the hackathon here.

Take a look at some of the other press coverage the hackathon has gotten:

https://ali.fish/blog/worlds-first-hackathon-to-save-the-vaquita

https://edtechnology.co.uk/international/hackathon-bids-to-save-worlds-rarest-marine-mammal/

https://www.thestudentpocketguide.com/2020/10/trending/save-vaquita-hacks/