A study unveiled at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday showed that between 39 and 42 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins inhabit an area of sea near the coast of Yunlin County, but that they were rare near a controversial naphtha cracker.
The meeting was to review a project investigating the ecology of an endangered dolphin species that was commissioned by Formosa Plastics Group Environmentalists have long questioned whether the Formosa Petrochemical’s Sixth Naphtha Cracker plant in Mailiao (麥寮) might cause harm to dolphins in the nearby area.
Project convener Chou Lien-siang (周蓮香), a professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Life Science, said that during boat observations over a distance of 6,609km and spanning 585 hours, the research team spotted Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins on 72 boat trips among a total of 102 trips made in the past three years.
She said the southern part of Yunlin’s coastline, especially near the mouth of Sinhuwei River (新虎尾溪), is a hot spot in which 90 percent of the dolphins were found, with several mother and child pairs.
Chou’s team said dolphins were rarely found in the northern part of Yunlin’s coastline, where the plant is located, and the team suspects that might be caused by the plant’s water emissions changing the pH level of the seawater.
“We discovered that the pH level of the seawater has an effect on the dolphin’s feeding behavior. Therefore, we suggest that the pH level of the nearby ocean area, its habitat, should be maintained above pH8,” Chou said.
“As for noise pollution from boats, we suggest that the speed limit should be under 6 knots,” Chou said.
The meeting concluded that Formosa Plastics Group has to come up with dolphin conservation plans for future expansion projects.
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