The Chinese white dolphin is in danger. The iconic pink-coloured sea mammal, selected as the symbol of Hong Kong’s handover to the mainland exactly 20 years ago, has dropped in numbers in Hong Kong waters to its lowest since population records began in 2003.
Experts warn that this is crucial point in time for the species, as it’s main habitat of northern Lantau Island has been heavily impacted by construction projects.
There were an estimated 188 dolphins in 2003 when records began, with numbers dropping ever since.
From 87 dolphins in 2010-11, numbers fell to 65 in 2015-16 and 47 in 2016-17, which is a sharp 27 per cent drop, according to the latest report by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
The number of babies has also fallen to its lowest – only 17 calves were sighted over the past year.
Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu of the Cetacean Research Project, which conducts the study, said the situation was worse than in recent years and unlikely to improve.
“Numbers drop every year but usually there are at least some bright spots. In recent years for example, we saw dolphins taking refuge further south ... and they were still reproducing,” he said. “There are absolutely no barometers of optimism this year.”
Although work on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is almost done, numbers have continued to drop.
Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Taison Chang attributed this decline to mass constructions underway, such as the third runway.
“The construction has made a lot of noise which has repelled many dolphins. Water quality in northern Lantau where they often traverse has also been massively deteriorated by reclamation. Their habitats in these waters have been affected, so it’s not surprising the number of these dolphins has plunged to their lowest,” Chang told Young Post yesterday.
The high-speed ferries in southwest Lantau have also scared these dolphins off, Chang said. He called for the government to take action.
“The figure will be declining in the following years.We urge the government to set up a marine park in southwest Lantau as a safe haven from the construction. Changing the route of its high-speed ferry service is an alternative way to protect their habitats too” he said.