Mexico is infamous for its drug cartels that spent years not only terrorizing local residents but also amounted vast fortunes of money from illegal trade. With cocaine being stamped down on (though not entirely out of the picture by any means) these unethical yet lucrative businessmen are intent on finding the next big item that they can stronghold. Enter the fishing areas of Mexico and a specific Chinese remedy. The cocaine in this instance is the dried fish bladder of a rare fish called the Totoaba, and the fish itself is the coca leaf, a natural part of the eco system, but once harvest on mass and processed it becomes a money making scheme that hundreds have jumped aboard.

Fish Is Big Money

It may seem bizarre that the innards of a fish are so highly coveted, when the fish you buy at the supermarket is usually already freed of all the nasty bits and pieces that often would do you more harm than good. First of all this isn’t the actual functional bladder of the fish, it is its swim bladder which is an organ that helps keep the animal afloat. Secondly odd parts of animals are often deified by eastern mythology, with several poaching spots around the globe centered on obtaining ingredients for these non-scientific healing ingredients. Rhino horn, shark fin and surprisingly tiger penis have all been under the same process and can no doubt be found down a dodgy market or two somewhere. Finally, its not the logic behind the element that makes money, it’s the demand and that’s what the fisherman of Mexico are honing in on. Just think of caviar, simply fish eggs, but treated as something much more as it is world renowned for its desire as a luxury culinary dish. The swim bladders of the Totoaba have been known to have a price tag of $6500, which is enough for any lowly fisherman to want to snatch up.

The Big Issue

As you can imagine, a market for a piece of fish alone, may not cause much of an issue except this fish as previously mentioned is already rare. Fishing can take its toll on the populations of even the most prolific species but the Totoaba are already dwindling which is why the government is trying to step in. On top of this another rare species the Vaquita, which is the worlds smallest porpoise, is also under threat. Because of the fishing methods used to catch Totoaba, the damage to this equally endangered species is now becoming a by-product of the demand and is bringing them dangerously close to eradication.

The Takeaway

These issues may not make any difference to your fishing trip but its worth keeping in mind a couple points. Firstly, stick to line fishing, baiting animals one at a time does significantly less damage to the fish, especially if you are returning them afterwards. Secondly be aware that there are some unsavoury characters out there trawling the waters, if you see something suspicious make sure you call it in. And of course, always carry a form of communication with you, these scary guys trying to get rich quick don’t like competition so be careful.