Activist warns time running out for Hong Kong’s pink dolphins

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 11:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 9:42pm

Video: The SCMP takes a look at the conditions the pink dolphins face in the Pearl River Delta until 2016.

Dr. Samuel Hung, doesn’t mince words when it comes to discussing Hong Kong’s declining Chinese White Dolphin population.

“Ultimately, you have to blame the Hong Kong government,” he said.

 The 38-year-old Hong Kong biologist and director of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society is leading a grassroots campaign to preserve Hong Kong’s dolphin population.

Hung, who has been advocating the cause of the pink dolphin - as they are known locally – for over a decade, says the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project, to be completed in 2016, will severely affect the city’s unique marine life.

The ongoing underwater construction in the Pearl River estuary is significantly disturbing the dolphins’ vital hearing function used for orientation. “You can imagine that with the bore piling activities that will be going on for the next three years the dolphins will be disturbed constantly. And, some of this work will also go on at night as well,” said Hung, speaking from a chartered boat in West Lantau, which he uses to regularly survey dolphin behavior.

Hung and a few young researchers point out dozens of drilling and boring platforms scattered around them. “You can see all these tugboats that are being set up to construct the bridge pier that is supported by pylons and they have to drive the pylons into a rock pile to anchor the bridge itself,” he said.

He said the city’s administration, in its eagerness to complete the massive infrastructure project, is neglecting conservation concerns. “The Hong Kong government is not dealing with the marine traffic problem,” he said. “They’re telling the public if the dolphins go somewhere else then it’s OK, but that’s not the case.”

Hung is opposed to the construction of the bridge, but says it is unavoidable. “It has to be built,” he said. “They just don’t really want to [hinder] development.” He said he believed his cause could be helped best by working within the system.

His NGO receives approximately HK$1 million per year funding from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Hung also features in one government-sponsored video in which he said the damage to wildlife would be mitigated.

“I accept money from the Hong Kong government. But it doesn’t mean I will hold back [on my views on the pink dolphin],” he said. “We can’t change the fate of the bridge,” he said, but “if we are not able to implement enough conservation measures, the [our dolphin population] will never recover.”