Chinese white dolphin

Greens exaggerating impact on dolphins, says expert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 January, 2007, 12:00am

The impact on the Chinese white dolphin from a liquefied natural gas terminal on South Soko Island is being overstated by some environmentalists, says a leading expert on dolphins.

Thomas Jefferson, a US marine biologist who has been involved in local dolphin research for more than 10 years and was hired by CLP Power as a consultant for the LNG project, said fears over a permanent and severe impact on the dolphins were not justified.

It was also highly unlikely the project would lead to many dolphin deaths, he said.

Without naming names, Dr Jefferson criticised some groups for exaggerating the impact, which should be short-term and confined if proper mitigation measures were in place.

'I do think some groups in Hong Kong are overstating the risks and potential environmental damage to dolphins. There are suggestions the project might cause extinction of the species, and this is definitely not the case,' he said.

'If they take a fair look at the scientific information, they will realise that there are no reasons to worry.'

The LNG project will involve building three storage tanks, a processing plant and a jetty on South Soko, with a 38km submarine pipeline to link the island and Black Point power station.

As to the other site option at Black Point, Dr Jefferson said it was not necessarily a better location as dolphins also used the surrounding waters. He said many other experts might initially believe Black Point could be a logical option, but there were other considerations to be taken into account, like the impact on human activities.

Dr Jefferson said a one-year survey plus 12 years of continuous research showed South Soko was not a prime dolphin habitat, though they used the waters seasonally.

He admitted, however, there would be disturbances to dolphins during construction of the terminal, while some might simply avoid the site.

Dr Jefferson said the impact was not as severe as suggested by some environmentalists who might not have a full understanding of mitigation measures.

'They are sort of looking at what they see as very negative impacts on the environment, some of which are based on, perhaps, not a full understanding of mitigations CLP Power has proposed. And they are exaggerating that the impact will be more severe than it really will be,' he said.

Citing an aviation fuel project on Sha Chau, he said the number of dolphins returning to the site after completion of the project was the same as before construction.

Dr Jefferson, said although he was concerned with the cumulative impact of various infrastructure projects in the area, people should look carefully at the benefits of this particular project as it was essential for improving air quality.