The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) project has caused a drastic fall in dolphin numbers in the past year – and worse could be to come, says conservation group WWF.
The AFCD’s annual dolphin tracking report shows that the dolphin population in Lantau waters has fallen 60% to just 65.
A WWF statement said:
During the research period, on average only 10 dolphins were found in North Lantau, a drastic decline from 102 in 2003. No sightings were reported in Northeast Lantau last year, which used to be the cetacean’s core habitat, while Northwest Lantau saw an 88% plunge in the cetaceans over the past 13 years.
The percentage of juvenile dolphins dipped to a historic low in the past 14 years, while the percentage of calves was among one of the lowest in recent years. This finding raises red flags on the species’ survival and the suitability of Hong Kong waters for dolphin mother and young.
The green group says airport third runway construction and continued growth in high-speed ferry traffic “will bring further severe and irreversible detriment to dolphins.” The disturbance of the seabed sediment and the heavy noise impact of the construction work and seaborn vessels.
The HZM bridge will not be completed until late 2017 at the earliest. The third runway will require 650 ha of land – four times more than that required for the HZMB. Timetable for the HK$56 billion project has not been set, but it will likely take twice as long to build.
WWF calls for the waters off Tai O to be designated as West Lantau Marine Park. It says the area off west Lantau has become the only area in Hong Kong that dolphins use consistently, and the one place where calves can be found.
It says linking the West Lantau protected zone with current and future marine parks planned for north and southwest Lantau can protect “the remaining prime habitats and travelling corridors of dolphins, help fisheries recover and encourage stakeholders to use marine resources sustainably.”
It also calls on the government to draw up and implement a dolphin management plan and to set a target of designating 10% of Hong Kong waters as marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020.