About a meter and a half long at most, and never much over 50kg, the light grey vaquita is indeed tiny by cetacean standards. The animal tended to avoid boats, an unusual trait for a porpoise and one that made it harder to study. This shyness, however, hasn't kept the species from becoming endangered - in fact, nearly extinct.
Many animals have been killed accidentally in gill nets. The Gulf's ecology has suffered due to overfishing and agricultural runoff, and the surviving porpoises' food supply is dwindling. The authoritative global source on species status, the Red List of Threatened Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), lists the animal as “Critically Endangered.” This, alas, is an understatement. The vaquita, at this writing, is in terrible straits. The Mexican government sponsored the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (or the Comite Internacional para la Recuperacion de la Vaquita (CIRVA)), estimated the animal’s numbers had dropped from 245 individuals in 2008 to a mere 97 in 2014. The species’ future rests with no more than 25 females of reproductive age. Restrictions on gillnet fishing haven’t been enough to stem the decline, and the species doesn’t exist in captivity. It may not exist at all by 2020.
In 2006, China's freshwater baiji Lipotes vexillifer was declared extinct (a lone individual was videotaped sometime later, but there is, sadly, no doubt the species is beyond hope). Scientists led by Samuel Turley wrote, "This represents the first global extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years, only the fourth disappearance of an entire mammal family since AD 1500, and the first cetacean species to be driven to extinction by human activity."
Unless the call for immediate and drastic action is heeded, the vaquita will be the second cetacean species to be driven extinct by human activity.
I wish I could be optimistic that humanity won't let another cetacean vanish. Sadly, I'm not.