Groups petition to save coral

NO TRANSPLANT::Environmentalist groups disagree with the MOEA about transplanting a coral habitat that overlaps a site where CPC Corp plans to build a natural gas terminal

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 3

Environmental groups yesterday petitioned the Council of Agriculture (COA) to protect the first-level endangered coral Polycyathus chaishanensis from CPC Corp, Taiwan’s (CPC) development project in Taoyuan’s Guanyin Industrial Park, by designating its habitat as a conservation area.

The coral’s habitat overlaps with CPC’s planned site for its third liquefied natural gas terminal, on which construction was originally scheduled to begin in August. The terminal is to supply natural gas to Taiwan Power Co’s Datan Power Station from July 2022.

Due to the project’s ecological conflict, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) last month said the ministry would consider the Port of Taipei in New Taipei City’s Bali District (八里) as an alternative site for the terminal.

However, Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said in a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan on Thursday that the project would remain at the same location while the coral would be transplanted elsewhere.

Transplanting coral “is almost impossible” given its particular living requirements, Academia Sinica biologist Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said, adding that the ministry should weigh its statement against scientific evidence.

No study has proved that transplanting coral is feasible, he said, whose own study, “Unprecedented calcareous algal reefs in northern Taiwan merit a high conservation priority,” was accepted by the journal Coral Reefs in August.

Receiving the group’s petition on behalf of the council, Forestry Bureau’s Conservation Division director Hsia Jung-sheng (夏榮生) said she could not comment on Shen’s remark, as the ministry had not presented any plan regarding transplanting the coral.

The bureau would protect the coral in line with the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), she said, adding that the Taoyuan City Government is dealing with the conservation area issue and would announce a decision soon.

According to the act, those who hunt or kill protected species face fines between NT$200,000 and NT$1 million (US$6,584 and US$32,921) along with a prison term of between six months and five years.

Shen had been misled by Taiwan Wetland Society researchers, Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) said, adding that they had said local wildlife was sparse to cover up for CPC, who had commissioned their research.

The project passed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 1999, but CPA was required to file an environmental difference analysis with the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), as it had not started construction three years after passing the EIA.

The EPA in June convened an ad hoc committee to review the report, but asked CPC to present a strategy to minimize the project’s impact on the local ecosystem.

The company has responded by filing a strategy report with the EPA, which is to convene another review meeting later this month.