A man who allegedly harassed dolphins with his yacht off Yilan County has been fined NT$20,000 for breaching the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), the first such case in the nation, the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) said yesterday.
In August, a group of tourists on a whale-watching boat reported seeing the man speeding up his vessel toward a group of dolphins near Turtle Island (Gueishan Island, 龜山島).
The dolphins, who were swimming near the surface, dived deeper, as they were seemingly scared by the yacht, the tourists reported at the time, with one of them later handing video footage of the incident to the Yilan County Government.
After an investigation by the Yilan District Prosecutors’ Office, the man was fined NT$20,000 and prosecution of the incident was deferred, the OCA said in a news release.
He contravened Article 42 of the act, which forbids harassing or abusing protected wildlife, it said, adding that all whales and dolphins are protected under Taiwanese law.
It is the nation’s first such case that resulted in a penalty, the OCA said.
The video provided by one of the witnesses was of great help to the investigation, it said, adding that in many reported incidents, the evidence is insufficient and alleged perpetrators cannot be prosecuted.
The OCA last month held a meeting with conservationists, prosecutors, and coast guard and government officials to discuss how to identify and collect evidence in alleged cases of marine wildlife harassment.
Nearly 30 of the world’s more than 80 whale and dolphin species have been reported in the waters near Taiwan, with the best season for watching the animals from April to October, the OCA said.
According to OCA guidelines, ships engaged in wildlife-watching should travel at a slow and steady speed.
Vessels should maintain a distance of at least 50m from the mammals and a distance of at least 300m to nursery groups of whales or dolphins, the guidelines say.
When seeing dolphins riding bow waves of their ships — which allows the dolphins to swim at higher speeds — vessels should keep a steady pace and not change direction abruptly, to avoid scaring or harming the animals, the guidelines say.
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