Hong Kong airport criticised for environmental impact of new runway on Chinese white dolphins

  • Only around 40 live in the waters around Lantau island, down from 77 in 2018
  • Unless more urgent measures are taken, extinction is inevitable, says the city's WWF head of ocean conservation
Wong Tsui-kai |

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Only about 40 dolphins remain in the waters around Lantau Island. Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society

The Hong Kong Airport Authority has been criticised by a green group after it released the results of a study on the impact of building the third runway at the airport.

The authority’s study had estimated there were only 40 Chinese white dolphins in the waters around Lantau Island last year, where the airport is located, compared to 77 during the 2018 count.

Chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai of the Advisory Council on the Environment acknowledged it is hard to tell if the measures being put in place to preserve the habitat of the dolphins would work.

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“It is very hard to answer this question,” he said. “However, we think they need to continue to collect data, which will eventually show us how we can create a better marine environment, and not just for the Chinese white dolphins.”

Speaking to Young Post, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society’s (HKDCS) vice-chairman Vincent Ho Chung-shun noted the figures from the government surveys showed a clear downward trend, and said data collection is “very comprehensive”. 

“The first Environmental Impact Assessment from the Airport Authority expected a limited impact, almost like a promise,” Ho said. “But it seems they are moving the goalposts and saying we might not see a full recovery.” 

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Ho pointed out the exact numbers were less important than the obvious negative impact the construction had on the dolphin population around Lantau. “They need to explain why habitats further away are also being affected.” 

He added the predictions of a recovery after construction is done might not be realistic. 

“Unless we take deep, strong, urgent measures, you wouldn’t call extinction a threat, you would call it the most likely outcome,” says Laurence McCook, head of oceans conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.

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