Save Taiwan's pink dolphins!

 

WATCH THE NEW SHORT FILM! (CLICK HERE to view 8.5-minute film)

To view the petition letter, click on LETTER to the left of this overview.

Taiwan's pink dolphins (otherwise known as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Matsu's Fish, or Chinese white dolphins) are resident along a narrow strip of waters off the west coast of Taiwan. They are so close to shore that they can be seen from the land. But being so close to the densely populated and heavily industrialized west coast also means that they are being subjected to toxic pollution, underwater noise, boat and net collisions and entanglement, land reclamation, and alteration of the estuaries that support rich ecosystems - and food. They are now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Matsu's Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) is a coalition of Taiwanese NGOs that are fighting the further destruction of the dolphins' habitat. Read the petition and watch the short film to learn more, and please sign the petition to help MFCU tell the government of Taiwan that there should be no more harassment, land reclamation, toxic pollution or other destructive activities, because these dolphins can't take it any more.

Please also feel free to copy, paste and personalize your letter, and send it directly to the President of Taiwan and other government officials at the email addresses below.

Please also copy or blind copy us on your email so we can keep track of how many people are sending letters. We can use this information when we tell the government how many people are paying attention to this issue.

Send letters to:
President Ma Ying-Jeou: public@mail.oop.gov.tw
Premier Wu Den-Yih: eyemail@eyemail.gio.gov.tw
Minister of Agriculture Mr. Chen Wu Hsiung: coa@mail.coa.gov.tw
Copy your letter to:
taiwansousa@gmail.com

Thank you very much for your support!

Christina MacFarquhar
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association

Dear Sirs,

As you are aware, the Taiwan pink dolphins, otherwise known as the eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis), are in extreme danger of extinction.

This distinct, isolated population was discovered by scientists as recently as 2002. Since then, evidence has been accumulating that confirms the critical state of the population and in August 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed it as Critically Endangered, just one category short of extinction in the wild. The population is restricted to the shallow coastal waters of western Taiwan, between Miaoli County and Tainan County, and the best estimates show that there are less than 99 individuals in the entire population.

Furthermore, there are clear indications that human activities are causing harm to the animals. At the ETS humpback dolphin workshop held in Changhua City in 2007, the following threats were identified by a team of both national and international experts to be the most serious:

-reduced river flow into estuaries;
- habitat loss;
- entanglement in fishing gear;
- industrial, agricultural and municipal pollutant discharges; and
- underwater noise.

Additionally, the dolphins are at risk from live-fire military exercises conducted annually in known pink dolphin habitat.

Three international workshops have now taken place (in 2004, 2007 and 2009) and the plight of Taiwan%u2019s pink dolphins has featured at both the 2007 (Cape Town, South Africa) and 2009 (Quebec City, Canada) Society for Marine Mammalogy%u2019s biennial conferences. Numerous recommendations have been made by national and international experts. However, there has still been no mitigation of any of the threats. Instead, the list of industrial development, fishing, geological research and other activities causing each of the threats continues to grow at an alarming rate.

For example, I am aware that several new major development projects by state-owned and private corporations have been approved or proposed for the coastal waters and regions of western-central Taiwan. These include the Hushan Reservoir project, the fourth stage expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park, the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical development, further development of the fourth stage expansion of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant, the fifth stage expansion of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant, two new coal-fired power plants and the Dadu Weir project.

These projects will greatly increase air, water and noise pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation and the demand for fresh water in a region that already suffers from serious pollution, water shortages, ground subsidence due to the overextraction of groundwater and dust problems due to the reduced flow of the Jhoushuei River, all largely due to industrial expansion.

The toxins discharged from some of these facilities will threaten not only the dolphins and other wildlife in the area but also the health and livelihoods of local farmers and fishers. Indeed, reports indicate that the rate of cancer in the areas around the existing petrochemical plant at Mailiao is already six times the national average.

While it was good news that the Taiwan pink dolphins began to feature in the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of development projects in 2007, the impact mitigation measures proposed for the pink dolphins in the EIA reports are meaningless in terms of protecting them. Take, for example, the current plan by Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Ltd. to reclaim more than 4000 hectares of near-shore waters off Changhua County, which will create an enormous obstacle to the dolphins%u2019 north-south movement, effectively splitting the remaining population in two. The suggestion that this immense harm can be avoided by dredging a channel for the dolphins between this artificial platform and the shore has done nothing to ease concerns for the dolphins, as there will still be a substantial loss of important habitat and there is no reason to assume that the dolphins will swim through the channel. According to scientists in Hong Kong, dolphins have stopped appearing in an area of Hong Kong waters where land was reclaimed for the new international airport %u2013 despite there being a similar channel between the airport and the coast.

Furthermore, the research that is commissioned and cited by pro-development interest groups is often biased, incomplete or erroneous, while articles published in credible international peer-reviewed journals are often ignored. Wildlife conservation policy must be based on sound science in order to be effective, but the ongoing approval of these development projects based on poor or biased information suggests Taiwan's EIA process may not be fair or credible, and that Taiwan%u2019s government is not serious about protecting the environment.

Meanwhile, the death of a female pink dolphin found beached at Sinpu, Miaoli County in September 2009 and the sightings of pink dolphins entangled in fishing gear  illustrate the danger posed to the dolphins by certain fishing practices within their narrow, coastal habitat. The new, intensive pair trawling activities permitted from September 2009 in the near-shore waters of western Taiwan, apart from being a serious hazard to the dolphins, are further depleting fish resources for both the dolphins and local fishers in these already overexploited waters. The approval of this kind of fishing, which is known to cause serious, chronic damage to coastal ecosystems and often high levels of cetacean bycatch, indicates a preference for rapid, short-term and unsustainable exploitation and no consideration of the pink dolphins or other wildlife.

Finally, it should be noted that Taiwan is already considered one of the world's leaders in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions and is thus contributing disproportionately to global warming. While many industrialized nations are vigorously working on ways to reduce their emissions Taiwan is increasing its emissions significantly - by up to 43 per cent if the planned projects go ahead.

All of these projects will have a serious impact on the remaining dolphins by degrading or destroying their already severely degraded habitat, and on countless other species within this extensive coastal area, including humans. We urge that all levels of government in Taiwan take the high risk of extinction of Taiwan%u2019s pink dolphins seriously and give them high priority attention and real protection by actively reducing the threats to them and their habitat, rather than allowing the above-mentioned activities to go ahead.

Thank you for your consideration.
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