Chinese white dolphin numbers remain critically low WWF-Hong Kong urges adoption of new technology for enhanced monitoring around construction sites | WWF Hong Kong

Chinese white dolphin numbers remain critically low WWF-Hong Kong urges adoption of new technology for enhanced monitoring around construction sites

Posted
11 July 2018


The number of Chinese white dolphins (CWD) estimated  in Hong Kong waters from April 2017 to March 2018 totalled a mere 47, according to a government survey released today. The record low figure is the same as 2017 estimates and highlights the urgent need for the government to improve monitoring around construction sites for Third Runway and the upcoming Tung Chung New Town Extension project as well as establish the West Lantau Marine Park to conserve remaining core habitats.
 
Currently, marine construction activities that are dangerous to dolphins must be stopped when they are sighted within construction areas. Dolphins spend the majority of their time underwater and can easily swim, undetected, into construction zones. During the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project, a real time acoustic monitoring device was deployed to monitor the presence of Chinese white dolphins. Dolphins were detected several times inside the project area and marine construction was temporarily halted, preventing any potential injury to dolphins. The shut downs were temporary and easily managed with the alert system in place. Dr. Lindsay Porter, Senior Research Scientist, University of St. Andrews said, “Such systems are widely used elsewhere and provide a new layer of protection to the dolphins from construction activities. The Government should consider adopting this technology in existing and upcoming construction sites by making it a compulsory part of environmental mitigation within the EIA framework. This will considerably reduce risks to dolphins and porpoises.”
 
The report emphasized that most dolphins could be found in West Lantau throughout the monitoring period over the past four years, since the construction of Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macao Bridge heavily deteriorated the north Lantau habitats. Teresa Ma, Project Officer, Oceans Conservation, WWF-Hong Kong said, “The latest Chinese white dolphin number prompted an urgent need to protect prime habitats and travelling corridors in west (Tai O) to southwest Lantau (Fan Lau) with the establishment of the West Lantau Marine Park, and a core dolphin conservation zone around Tai O, with no coastal development and regulations on traffic and human activities such as dolphin watching and commercial fishing.” 
 
WWF is currently expanding its acoustic monitoring study of Chinese white dolphins and finless porpoises to cover Tai O and other Chinese white dolphin and porpoise habitats. The data gathered will be used to lobby the government for the establishment of more marine protected areas.