A conservation group has criticised the government’s long-term strategy for ensuring the survival of Chinese white dolphins – a species local to Hong Kong waters.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society said Monday that it did not believe that the measures proposed in the government’s Sustainable Lantau Blueprint would be effective in conserving the animals.

Conservationists holding signs with the slogans, “Reclaim the habitats of dolphins” and “Re-route the high -speed ferry!” Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

The Society said in a statement: “The [conservation] measures described in the Blueprint are nothing new – they have no real conservation value. The questionable efficacy of the measures has been sugarcoated by superficial claims.”

According to a report by the Hong Kong Cetacean Research Project, the combined estimate number of Chinese white dolphins in 2016 over four surveyed areas was 47. This marked a sharp decline from estimates in previous years.

The report said that special attention should be paid to the southwest Lantau area because of its growing importance as a habitat for the dolphins.

Marine parks 

The government unveiled its plan for the future direction of development and conservation of Lantau on June 3. It was proposed that four marine parks be designated in Lantau waters.

However, according to the Society, two of these parks seek only to compensate for the construction of the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport and the Integrated Waste Management Facility.

Press conference. Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

A similar initiative was undertaken by the government in December 2016 with the establishment of the Brothers Island Marine Park. The park was designated a marine park by the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department to facilitate the conservation of Chinese white dolphins, during the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

The Society cast doubt on whether dolphins would still use North Lantau as a habitat in light of disturbances caused by development and high-speed ferries.

See also: Guangdong official denies dolphins disappearing due to bridge construction

Chinese white dolphin and calf. Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Included in the Society’s alternative proposal are the diversion of the high-speed ferries’ routes to avoid important dolphin habitats, the monitoring of marine traffic in south Lantau, and the connection of the proposed marine parks such that they may be maximally effective.

In addition to this proposal, the Society is launching its Saving the Handover Mascot campaign, which includes a call to the government to review its “insufficient” policies in the Sustainability Blueprint.

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.