Tue, Jul 04, 2017 - Page 4 News List

US mulls listing Taiwanese dolphin

Staff writer, with CNA

A US federal agency responsible for the management and protection of living marine resources has proposed listing the Taiwanese humpback dolphin as an endangered species in response to a petition by conservation groups.

“We have determined that the Taiwanese humpback dolphin has a high risk of extinction throughout its range and warrants listing as an endangered species,” the US National Marine Fisheries Service said on Monday last week.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians last year petitioned the US government to protect the dolphin (Sousa chinensis spp. taiwanensis), which the groups say has a population of less than 75 and is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Today’s decision is an important step in preventing the extinction of this critically imperiled dolphin and getting it on the road to recovery,” Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement jointly released by the groups.

“We urge the Fisheries Service to quickly finalize these essential protections and work with our Taiwanese allies to address the serious threats to the dolphin’s survival and recovery,” she said.

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, said in the statement that the listing will “promote stronger protection for the population by Taiwanese authorities, hopefully in cooperation with US input.”

Taiwanese conservation groups have long criticized the government for not protecting the dolphin. They have called for the establishment of an ocean commission to manage and protect Taiwan’s marine resources.

The Taiwanese humpback dolphin, a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, is found in shallow waters off the western coast of Taiwan throughout the year.

The dolphin is dubbed the “Matsu fish” (媽祖魚), because it is often spotted around the birthday of sea goddess Matsu (媽祖) in the spring when the ocean is calm.

Habitat destruction caused by land reclamation, pollution and fresh water diversion were cited as major threats to the species, as well as bycatch, entanglement in fishing nets and vessel collision.

The service turned down a petition to protect the dolphin under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, because it deemed the dolphin to be no different from the Chinese white dolphin that frequents China’s coastline.

Since then, new taxonomic studies have shown that the Taiwanese humpback dolphin is a distinct subspecies with behavioral differences and is geographically isolated from the Chinese population.

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