Thu, Sep 18, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Action needed to preserve rare dolphin, scientist says

‘MATSU FISH’ Research shows that less than 100 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins remain. The dolphins, first discovered in 2002, are only found in the Taiwan Strait

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

A Canadian scientist dedicated to the preservation of aquatic mammals urged the Taiwan government yesterday to take immediate action to protect an isolated and endangered population of dolphins that is found only in the eastern Taiwan Strait.

Peter Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada, made the call at a press conference held in Taipei by Taiwanese environmental protection advocates, including Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇).

Ross is visiting Taiwan to attend this year’s two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Roundtable Meeting on the Involvement of Business/Private Sector in Sustainability of the Marine Environment, which opened on Tuesday in Taipei.

Along with other international and local academics, Ross organized the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group to provide expert advice, guidance and scrutiny on conservation issues concerning Taiwan’s remaining Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, known by the scientific name of Sousa chinensis.

The dolphins, which are white in color and endemic to Taiwan, were discovered in 2002 off the west coast of the nation. Last month, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) listed the species as critically endangered after research found that the population of dolphins had dropped to less than 100.

Ross said the species might soon become extinct if it is not properly protected.

There would be no vibrant economy if the oceans are not healthy, and there would be no healthy oceans if there are no healthy dolphins, the scientist said, referring to the plight of the coastal dolphins as a signal from Heaven to the Taiwanese people.

Ross urged the Taiwanese government to list the dolphin’s habitat as a preservation zone as soon as possible and to prohibit any kind of development there.

The humpback dolphins are called “Matsu Fish” by local fishermen because they are usually seen between March and April off the western coast when the northeasterly monsoons weaken and the birthday of Matsu, the goddess of the Sea, is celebrated in Taiwan.

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