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© WWF-Hong Kong

The Pearl River Delta is home to what’s likely the world’s largest population of Chinese white dolphins (Sousa chinensis). Sadly, the population is declining continuously due to human activity, and is currently estimated to number only 2,000 individuals – a critical level that, if current trends continue, puts the species at risk of going extinct locally.
Hong Kong provides a critical part of the home range for the broader dolphin population, but local dolphin abundance here has dropped by over 80 per cent in the past 17 years, threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as dwindling fisheries, marine traffic and other human threats.

WWF and famous local wildlife photographer and filmmaker Daphne Wong recently co-produced the short documentary “Sea of Noise”, taking the audience beneath the waves and visualising how Chinese white dolphins perceive the underwater world with sound. The film details dolphins’ plight living in such noisy underwater through cymatic experiments, underwater footage, animation, stakeholder interviews, and explains current conservation measures, with highlighting the importance of preserving local biodiversity in Hong Kong.

We desperately need to secure a future for the Chinese white dolphin.

 Critical habitats for the dolphins have been identified off Lantau Island, but they are not all under statutory protection.

That’s why we call on the government to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and specifically, to declare a development-free Dolphin Conservation Management Area to protect critical dolphin feeding and socialising habitats in western and southern Lantau waters, by 2024.

We need support from people like you to engage local stakeholders and push the government to implement these management strategies.

By signing our petition, your backing will help strengthen WWF’s dialogue with the government to implement the recommended emergency conservation actions and measures, and to give the dolphin population a chance to stabilise and recover.

© WWF-Hong Kong

Once common in waters off north and northeast Lantau, Chinese white dolphins now rarely frequent the area due to ongoing and proposed construction developments and reclamation works, including reclamation projects to build a third airport runway, the Tung Chung New Town extension, and Siu Ho Wan. Some individuals were found shifting their home range southwards to west and south Lantau waters, which are one of the few remaining core habitats in Hong Kong. However, dolphins off south Lantau also face challenging conditions from boat and ship noise disturbance, and potential ship strikes. Maritime activities along the vessel channels are expected to rise due to marine development projects underway or commencing in the next 10 years.
Rerouting ferries away from key dolphin habitats, setting up a speed restriction zone in south Lantau waters, and reducing ferry operations are three potential measures WWF has been exploring to mitigate the impact of marine traffic. 

The December 2017 upgrading of the Chinese white dolphin’s IUCN Red List global conservation status from near-threatened to vulnerable adds greater urgency to the need for the Hong Kong government to establish additional dolphin protected areas and act on marine traffic mitigation measures.