ENDANGERED PINK DOLPHINS IN HONG KONG

Have you ever heard about the Chinese White Dolphins, known worldwide as Pink Dolphins? Have you ever seen them? If not, you may not be able to make it.

These beautiful animals live in the Pearl River estuary, placed between the islands of Macau and Lantau near Hong Kong. They are also in terrible danger of extinction. “In 2015, there were 65 Chinese white dolphins (CWD) using Hong Kong waters including Southwest Lantau, West Lantau, Northwest Lantau and Northeast Lantau.” the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society told Actus, and added that in 2003, there were 158. These numbers demostrate how serious the issue is.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society was founded in 2003 to protect dolphins, whales and porpoises on Hong Kong’s coastline. It was the first association to work to preserve these species in the area and is still the only one dedicated to this cause.  Why is this happening though? Is it possible to stop it and revert the situation?

Industry in this area is so important and there is huge activity in the territory. Because of this, the environment, including the water, is heavily polluted. The main causes highlighted by the experts are: overfishing, pollution, marine traffic, habitat loss and coastal development. Because of these, habitats are being seriously damaged and causing dolphins’ deaths.

Hong Kong is one of the most important harbours in the world. As a result, the third runway of the International Airport is going to take up 650 hectares of where the dolphins live when built. “The government has been sponsoring the monitoring study, to their credit, and they have a conservation program in place. But we need more marine protected areas and regulations on vessel traffic and fishing,” Samuel Hung Ka-yiu told National Geographic last May.

The Marine Conservation Officer in Hong Kong’s City Hall, NG Wai-Chuen, told Actus: “The designation of a 2,400 hectare marine park in North Lantau waters has been recommended as a compensation measure, tentatively scheduled for 2023 to tie in with the operation of the three runway system. In addition, various construction phase mitigation measures such as minimising the number and frequency of working vessels, imposing a speed limit to vessels in important dolphin area.”

So, what can be done to revert the situation so far? Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society is undertaking different projects to save them “It is difficult to single out a main task to do conservation. We do education to raise public awareness and when it comes to public consultation of the reclamation projects, we urge the public to voice out for the dolphins. We also advise the government on the establishment of marine parks.”

They have been taking care of and studying these dolphins for around 20 years, and they encourage people to do what they can. “The public could show concerns on CWD and give pressure to the government when reclamation projects that would impact CWD are proposed. They would voice out for the dolphins and show objection to those projects to stress the government to reconsider the projects. Besides, the public can learn to admire the natural beauty of CWD and understand the importance of having a healthy ecosystem.”

To protect them, it is important to stop certain constructions in the area. “In theory, if the projects violate the environmental permit which was issued under the EIA system before the start of the projects, the projects need to stop. However, the Environmental Protection Department which is the enforcement body monitors the projects loosely. The policy of the present government also favours development than conservation. Apart from violation of the environmental permit, it is also possible to stop the projects by putting the case on court. Judicial review could be carried out to challenge the issue of the environmental permit. “

Despite HKDCS’s thoughts, the Hong Kong Government told Actus about their commitment to the cause “Continuous effort has also been put in for better sewage treatment disposal such as the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) and other sewage treatment works, which would benefit the

CWD by improving the water quality of their habitat.”  They also downplayed the issue: “At regional scale, the dolphins in Hong Kong represent a few percent of the entire Pearl River Delta CWD population, the size of which was estimated to be about 2500.”

These magnificent creatures have been living here for hundreds of millions of years and now, because of people’s behaviour , they may be next to disappear from the face of the earth. They are special due to the pink color shown of their skin, which is produced because of environmental conditions such as water temperature and food. In fact, new born CWDs are grey and they don’t become pink until later on in life.

As well as these dolphins, the entire ecosystem in this water is dying. “As the top predator in the food chain, the decline of the abundance of CWD in the area indicates the unhealthy ecosystem,” said HKDCS to Actus Magazine.

This society welcomes people from other countries to spread the word. “We have overseas reporters to interview and film. Through these, we talk about the conservation issue of CWD.” After finding out what is going on with these animal species, it is important to do something to help them. Stand and act.

How can I get involved?

There are several ways to help them which are needed right now!

The first one, could be to sign in order to stop these massive constructions and to protect some areas from the vessels’ traffic which is causing severe injuries in their skin. You can do it in platforms like forcechange.com:

forcechange.com/98419/save-chinese-white-dolphins-from-extinction/

Besides, it is important to aware other people about this fact and sharing it in your social networks. Thirdly, you can join active organitzacions like HKDCS to do pressure or activities like World Ocean Day to preserve the oceans from pollution.

Together we are always stronger, join the petitions! Keep yourself updated in this issue in the Hong Kong Dolphins Conservation Society webpage: hkdcs.org.

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