Hong Kong's third runway proposal

Airport Authority signs up dolphin activist for third runway assessment

Dolphins' champion reluctantly accepts brief to help Airport Authority's marine assessment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 10:57am

A vocal opponent of the third runway proposed for Hong Kong International Airport says he agreed reluctantly to help the Airport Authority in carrying out its marine ecology assessment because the authority could not find any local experts for the task.

"Actually I do not want to do it. But they cannot find a local expert to do it so I decided to take part," said Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

"Taking part in it does not mean I endorse this project," he added.

The authority has secured two international experts Tom Jefferson and Bernd Würsig - both teachers of Hung - to join the assessment but also needed to find a local expert who could afford more time, Hung said.

"Taking part in it does not mean I will stop challenging this project," he added.

The authority had adopted three methods to track dolphin activities in the area around the proposed reclamation area, said Peter Lee, its general manager of environment projects.

In one of those methods, marine experts take a small vessel four times a month on average to identify possible dolphin activities. In another, experts make use of four sets of devices to observe from the land dolphin activities five days a month.

"The advantage of this method is that it is fully non-invasive to dolphin activities," Lee said.

Hung has been helping the authority with these two methods.

In the third, five acoustic devices have placed under the water to identify dolphins by tracking their sounds. These three methods have been adopted in phases since October.

Apart from these assessments, marine experts have also begun other surveys including coral, the marine benthic area - the lowest part of the sea from the shore to the depths - and the areas between high and low tide.

Lee said these studies would help the authority find out whether improvements were needed to the third runway proposal but could not say what these might be.

This part of the assessment is expected to be finished in September or October next year.

The authority said the total study area for dolphin activities covers 3,000 hectares.