New York, May 22 (PTI) The world’s most endangered marine mammal – known as the ‘panda of the sea’ – may go extinct by 2018 if no action is taken to save them, warns a new report which estimates that fewer than 30 individuals may be alive today.Also Read - Texas Border Crossing Where Migrants Made Camp to Reopen

The mammal, named vaquita porpoise, is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California. Also Read - This Luxurious House Built in The Middle of a Desert Costs a Whopping Rs 12.9 Crores | See Pics

Unsustainable fishing practices and illegal wildlife trade driven by demand for the swim bladder of a critically endangered fish also endemic to the region, the totoaba, has caused the vaquita population to plummet in recent years. Also Read - Viral Video: Good Samaritans Pull Elderly Couple From Burning Car, Netizens Hail Them as Heroes | Watch

Listed as the most endangered cetacean in the world these mammals are often accidentally killed in gillnets which were banned for two years in 2015.

“Yet again, we bear witness to the devastating impacts of the illegal wildlife trade. But vaquita aren’t even the target of this crime – they are innocent bystanders, paying the highest of prices,” said Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor for Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

WWF has recommended an immediate, permanent ban on gillnets and remove and destroy ghost nets, to prevent the vaquita and other marine species from being caught.

“Having discovered the vaquita less than sixty years ago, we humans have now brought it to the brink of extinction,” said Jorge Rickards, acting CEO of WWF-Mexico.

“Their incredibly low numbers are a stark reminder of how our efforts to protect this incredible species and its habitat are falling short. Unless we act decisively today, we could lose the vaquita forever,” Rickards said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.