published : 2023-12-10

Mexican Startup Accused of Illegally Selling Health Drink from Endangered Fish

Advocates say Totoaba fish export is only legal if the fish is bred in captivity

A Mexican startup employee holding a sachet of the health drink made from totoaba fish [taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV].

Environmental watchdogs have raised accusations against a Mexico-based startup for violating international trade law.

The startup, called The Blue Formula, has been selling a health supplement made from endangered totoaba fish to several countries, including the U.S. and China.

Concerns have been raised that the company could be selling fish that is illegally caught in the wild.

The product, described as "nature's best kept secret," is a small sachet of powder containing collagen taken from the fish and designed to be mixed into a drink.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, any export for sale of totoaba fish is illegal, unless bred in captivity with a specific permit.

Commercial import of this protected species is also illegal under U.S. trade law.

Cetacean Action Treasury, an environmental watchdog group, first pointed out the company's violations in November.

A group of environmental activists protesting against the illegal sale of endangered totoaba fish [taken with Nikon D850].

Now, a coalition of environmental charities, including The Center for Biological Diversity, National Resources Defense Council, and Animal Welfare Institute, has filed a written complaint to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The advocates argue that the fishing for totoaba is endangering the vaquita porpoise, which is an endangered species.

The Blue Formula claims to operate sustainably by sourcing fish from Cygnus Ocean, a farm with a permit to breed totoaba, and using their profits to release some farmed fish back into the wild.

However, the environmental groups have found that Cygnus Ocean does not have a permit for commercial export of their farmed fish.

They also suspect that the company and farm could be used as a front to launder wild totoaba due to the lack of enforcement of traceability.

Gillnet fishing for wild totoaba is illegal and is a major threat to the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

There may be less than a dozen vaquita porpoises left in the wild.

A close-up shot of a vaquita porpoise, one of the critically endangered species affected by the illegal fishing [taken with Sony Alpha A7 III].

The demand for totoaba bladders, which are sold as a delicacy in China, is the driving force behind illegal gillnetting.

The Blue Formula's supplement is priced at just under $100 for 200 grams.

In October, significant amounts of totoaba bladders were seized by customs in Arizona and Hong Kong.

The seizures highlight the ongoing issue of illegal trade in totoaba and the need for strict enforcement of regulations.

The impact of this illegal trade extends beyond the endangered totoaba fish and threatens the existence of the vaquita porpoise.

It is crucial that immediate action is taken to address these violations and protect endangered species.