Taiwan’s critically endangered pink dolphins

The first scientific study of Taiwan’s pink dolphins (Sousa chinensis), otherwise known as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins or, locally, as “Matsu’s Fish”, was carried out in 2002. But FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group have already shown that the population, which is resident in shallow waters along Taiwan’s west coast, is tiny (less than 70), isolated and distinct from other pink dolphin populations in the region – and in serious trouble.

In August 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the population as Critically Endangered. In fact, all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are protected under Taiwanese law. But legal protection is meaningless without action, and this population will edge closer and closer towards extinction as long as Taiwan’s government allows the degradation of the dolphins habitat to continue.

(Tip: Go to Google Earth and zoom in on Taiwan’s west coast to get an idea of the extent of artificial modification that has already occurred there.)

The main threats to the dolphins are:
1. Loss of habitat (through land reclamation)
2. Water and air pollution (dolphins are air-breathing mammals)
3. Interactions with fishing gear (cetaceans can get entangled in fishing nets and drown or suffer injuries)
4. Underwater noise (dolphins depend on sound for survival)
5. Reduction of freshwater flow into the estuaries within their habitat (freshwater and sediment from rivers help to make estuaries some of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world)

Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union is a coalition of six Taiwanese not-for-profit, non-governmental grassroots organizations established in January 2007 to push for action to protect Taiwans pink dolphins and west coast environment. The member groups are: Taiwan Academy of Ecology; Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association; Taiwan Environmental Protection Union; Changhua Coast Conservation Action; Taiwan Sustainable Union; and Wild Bird Society of Yunlin.

Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union does what it can with very limited resources, in the face of overwhelming government support for even more industrial development and destructive fishing practices within the dolphins’ 200 km-long coastal habitat. So far we have succeeded in pushing the government to hold interagency meetings to address the issue, to consider the dolphins in Environmental Impact Assessments for development projects, and to act with greater caution when planning major industrial expansion within the area. Whenever someone is preparing to make a decision that may impact the population, we’re up in Taipei monitoring proceedings, delivering the latest scientific information and lobbying for real public participation, including participation by the people who will be directly affected by increasing pollution levels along Taiwan’s west coast.

But although the government is now paying attention, if we don’t maintain pressure – international pressure – to reduce human impacts, those projects will still go ahead and the dolphins will continue on their current path towards extinction.

We urgently need donations to support our lobbying, educational and protest activities and the essential long-term dolphin monitoring project that provides information on how the dolphins are doing. We are currently fundraising for the 2010 pink dolphin monitoring project and for 2010 campaign funds. Your donation will be greatly appreciated, wisely spent and will help us protect these beautiful dolphins as well as countless other lives and the integrity of the extensive ecosystem that supports them.

Donations to MFCU can be made via its secretariat, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

For more information, please write to: comment@wildatheart.org.twor visit our websites:
MFCU (English): http://taiwansousa.blogspot.com
MFCU (Mandarin): http://twsousa.blogspot.com
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association:http://en.wildatheart.org.tw

To receive updates and help spread the word, join our Facebook group “Save the Taiwan Humpback Dolphin”.

Hanji Version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_UQgu…