Pink dolphins spotted just 3 times this year, conservationists say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 11:17am

Just three sightings of Chinese white dolphins have been recorded in the waters off northeastern Lantau so far this year, in another worrying sign of the toll that major infrastructure works are taking on them, conservationists say.

Their numbers had dropped off significantly since construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge began in 2012, Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Samuel Hung Ka-yiu said.

"There are three reasons for their disappearance: they've died, they've moved or they're giving birth to fewer calves," Hung said. He believed the construction nuisance had forced most of them to waters further west.

The estimated total number of the species, also called pink dolphins, in Hong Kong waters shrank from 158 in 2003 to about 61 in 2012. The society found in a December poll that 75 per cent of 1,007 residents saw the dolphin as a "priceless" asset of the city.

Watch: What is causing the demise of Hong Kong's pink dolphins?

Dredging and piling created a lot of underwater noise, which disrupted dolphins' ability to navigate and communicate, Hung said. "Barges also remain parked out in the harbour, creating sediment blooms and disrupting their food supply."

Meanwhile, an environmental impact assessment for the airport's planned third runway, also at Lantau, is expected to be released next week.

The report was highly likely to suggest merging and expanding a proposed marine park with the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park as a way of "compensating" for the loss of dolphin habitat, WWF-Hong Kong assistant conservation manager Samantha Lee Klaus said. "We don't even know if any dolphins will be left in northeast Lantau by the time construction starts in 2016."