Probe in death of finless porpoise

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am

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Marine biologists are investigating the death of a finless porpoise found washed onto a public beach at Cheung Chau yesterday afternoon.

The 1.5-metre porpoise, with minor wounds on its body, was spotted at about 3pm at Tung Wan.

Dolphin experts from Ocean Park were called to identify the species and determine a possible cause of death. But this will require laboratory tests, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, who saw photos of the carcass, said it was probably a juvenile finless porpoise.

'It is peak season now for finless porpoises to visit the waters of south Lantau and Lamma. So it is not surprising to see some of them getting stranded,' he said.

According to the department, there are at least 200 finless porpoises in Hong Kong waters, but there could be more because it is difficult to survey them.

Hung said at least 10 finless proposes were found stranded each year, and sometimes as many as 20. 'It drew public attention this time as it was washed onto a beach. But there could be a lot more that have gone unnoticed somewhere.'

Hung said it was difficult to tell what caused the wounds. It may have been caught and strangled in fishing nets, or dashed against rocks as it was being washed ashore.

While there was heavy marine traffic nearby, Hung believed there was little chance that it was killed by a moving vessel as its body was found intact.

Hung said it was an isolated incident and there was no connection with the waste incinerator project near Shek Kwu Chau in South Lantau. But he stressed this work site was a key habitat of the finless porpoise.

Many residents on Cheung Chau and Lantau oppose the incinerator project and one islander is considering launching a judicial review.

1,000

The number of finless porpoises left in the Yangtze River in the mainland. There were about 2,700 in 1991 and fewer than 1,800 in 2006