Souls of the Vermilion Sea: The Struggle to Save the World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal


Artplosive Connect Talk Series

Documentary Screening & Panel Discussion
Drinks Reception 6:30pm
Screening 7:00pm
Discussion 7:30pm
Close 8:15pm


Souls of the Vermilion Sea, created by Wild Lens, documents the struggle to save two unique wildlife species — the vaquita and the totoaba — both facing extinction largely due to illegal fishing driven by demand for the latter’s swim bladder, also known as maw, in the south China region. Totoaba maw is illegal and can fetch more than US$10,000 apiece on the black market. Netted in the coast of Mexico, it is smuggled through the U.S. into Hong Kong and mainland China. This trade is also driving the vaquita porpoise — the world’s most endangered marine mammal — to extinction, as they get entangled in illegal gillnets.

Known for being elusive and camera-shy, the vaquita has been compared to pandas, and conservationists say there are just 30 left on the planet. Souls of the Vermilion Sea tells the compelling story of the human effort to save these species. Join the screening followed by a discussion on the future of the vaquita and totoaba with Grant Abel, director of Animal Care at Ocean Park Hong Kong, Lorenzo Rojas Bracho, chairman of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, and Kurt Tong, Consul General of the United States.

The panel discussion is moderated by Damián Martínez Tagüeña, Consul General of Mexico. 

Souls of the Vermilion Sea trailer from Wild Lens on Vimeo.


Grant Abel is the director for Animal Care at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. He has 30 years of experience in animal care, particularly involving marine mammals, within zoological settings and field programs. He is an appointed member of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s Marine Mammal Conservation Working Group, and a member of the management team for the Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Reproduction initiative.



Lorenzo Rojas Bracho chairs the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita. He is head of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change. He is author and co-author of over 40 academic texts and technical reports on the vaquita, and part of working groups and committees for the conservation of other endangered cetaceans. 



Kurt Tong is the U.S. Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau. As Chief of Mission, he leads U.S. interagency cooperation with the governments of Hong Kong and Macau on various issues including the expansion of trade and bilateral investment and protection of the environment. He was previously principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State. 



Damián Martínez Tagüeña is Consul General of Mexico in Hong Kong and Macau. With a career as a diplomat, his previous positions include deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Mexico to Austria and permanent mission to the International Organizations based in Vienna, chief of staff of the undersecretary for North American Affairs, and deputy chief of Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Moderator)


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Event Details

Mon 05 Jun 2017
6:30 - 8:15 p.m.
Asia Society Hong Kong Center, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty
Register Now
Asia Society members/ Friends of Mexican and U.S. Consulates: Free admission; Online registration required
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