Chinese white dolphins have not left the Pearl River estuary because of construction on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, according to the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration.

Xinhua reported a person in charge from the administration as saying at an event that ocean development and environmental protection were “unified” with the bridge’s construction. Since 2011, 2060 dolphins were found to be living in the Pearl River estuary area, according to statistics publicised at the Guangdong marine life protection event.

Chinese White Dolphin. Photo: WikiMedia

The Chinese news outlet said that the dolphin is a “Grade 1 National Key Protected Species” in the country and that there is a 460 square kilometre area designated as a national Chinese white dolphin conservation area at the mouth of the Pearl river.

However, in Hong Kong, a total of 65 dolphins were sighted in the West, Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast Lantau regions, according to a report released by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) on dolphin population from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. The number decreased by 22 compared to 87 dolphins in 2014.

The report also said that since construction work related to the bridge began in 2012, “there were dramatic declines in quarterly dolphin encounter rates first in [Northeast Lantau], and subsequently expanded to the entire North Lantau region in the past five years.”

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Photo: hzmb.hk.

See also: Lantau offshore wind farm plan a threat to pink dolphins – NGO

The bridge has been a controversial construction project costing $36 billion on the Hong Kong side. The project has also been plagued by problems including drifting artificial islands, delays, cost overruns, and worker deaths. The government said the bridge will be completed by the end of next year, but critics have said this is doubtful.

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Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.