Although the biggest threat to the survival of humpback dolphins — a petrochemical complex project — has been halted, environmentalists said during a demonstration held in front of the Presidential Office yesterday that the government is not doing enough to protect the critically endangered dolphin species.
“Many people may think that humpback dolphins are safe now as the Kuokuang Petrochemical project has been halted, but it’s not quite the case yet,” Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Conservation Alliance member Kan Chen-yi (甘宸宜) said.
“President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] once said that he was touched when he received postcards earlier this year from dozens of children saying that they want humpback dolphins to live happily. Well, besides the sensation, we need some action,” Kan said.
Humpback dolphins, also known as pink dolphins, are a species of dolphin living off Taiwan’s west coast.
Already classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered” in 2008, there are only between 80 and 90 humpback dolphins in existence along the coast of central Taiwan.
Originally, Kuokuang planned to build a huge petrochemical complex along the Changhua County coast, which is an important habitat of humpback dolphins. The project was later halted due to strong opposition.
Taiwan Environmental Protection Union’s Changhua Division vice chairman Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said environmental groups have recently found pink dolphins injured by drift nets — a type of banned fishing net.
“Around one-third of pink dolphins had injuries on their bodies. This shows the importance of designating a pink dolphin conservation area along the coast as soon as possible,” Tsai said, displaying large photos of wounded humpback dolphins to the media.
Besides being wounded, many pink dolphins seem to be malnourished, he said.
“If the ocean is unable to feed only 80 dolphins well, that must mean fish populations are dwindling,” he added.
Lin Ai-lung (林愛龍), of the Society of Wilderness, said that if the government had a problem setting up a humpback dolphin conservation area along the coast right away, “it could at least give out tickets to fishing boats illegally using drift nets.”
The Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau and Fisheries Agency said they would take proper measures to tackle such issues “as soon as possible.”
The bureau’s deputy director-general Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志) said the bureau would review the research on the pink dolphin and would undertake related operations before declaring a conservation area. He did not reveal a specific timetable for these actions.
The Fisheries Agency said the Coast Guard Administration has been investigating and punishing any illegal fishing practices, with 50 to 60 cases reported every year, and once the conservation area is declared, it would enforce the regulations and cooperate with authorities promptly.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA