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LCQ12: Protection of Chinese White Dolphins

    Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting today (April 18):


     It has been reported that the carcass of a Chinese White Dolphin was found off the Butterfly Beach at Tuen Mun in February this year. As no visible injury was found on the dolphin, hence it is not ruled out that its death was caused by excessive accumulation of heavy metals in its body. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council, in each of the past three years, of the number of carcasses of dolphin found (including the above dolphin carcass) in Hong Kong waters, the month and district in which such carcasses were found, the estimated age and cause of death of the dolphins, the estimated number of dolphins in Hong Kong waters, and the specific measures taken by the Government to protect the habitat of the dolphins in Hong Kong waters?


Madam President,

     About 200 Chinese White Dolphins are found in Hong Kong waters, mainly distributed in the western waters of Hong Kong near the Pearl River Estuary.

     The number of stranded Chinese White Dolphins found in Hong Kong over the past three years is as follows:

Month  2004  2005  2006  Total
*****  ****  ****  ****  *****
Jan      -     1     -     1
Feb      2     1     1     4
Mar      1     -     -     1
Apr      2     -     -     2
May      -     2     -     2
Jun      -     2     -     2
Jul      2     6     2    10
Aug      -     1     -     1
Sep      -     -     1     1
Oct      -     -     -     0
Nov      -     -     -     0
Dec      3     -     1     4
Year    10    13     5    28

    These stranded Chinese White Dolphins were mainly found in the waters and along the coast of Lantau Island, Tuen Mun, Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau. Of the above 28 cases, 12 dolphin carcasses were over 2 metres long, which were adult dolphins with estimated aged over 14 years old; 3 were 1.5 metres to 2 metres in length, which were young dolphins with estimated aged between 1 to 14; and 13 under 1.5 metres long, which were baby dolphins with estimated aged below 1. As most dolphin carcasses were badly decomposed when discovered, the cause of death could not usually be determined.

     AFCD has previously analysed liver tissue samples of 25 Chinese White Dolphins and the results indicated that the level of heavy metals contaminants in them was all at a normal level.

     There was no visible injury on the carcass of the Chinese White Dolphin found off the Butterfly Beach at Tuen Mun on 19 February this year. As the dolphin's carcass was already decomposed when discovered, its cause of death could not be determined upon investigation by the dedicated officers of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. AFCD had also analysed tissue samples of the dolphin. The results indicated that the level of organic contaminants in the dolphin's body was at a normal level and this was not the cause of death.

     The Government, with reference to the previous scientific studies on dolphins, has developed a Conservation Programme for the Chinese White Dolphins and adopted the following measures to protect dolphins and their habitat:

(1) monitor the number of dolphins and their distribution on a long-term basis;
(2) assess the heavy metals and organic contaminants accumulated in the bodies of dolphins;
(3) establish and manage marine parks to protect Chinese White Dolphins and their habitat;
(4) monitor works projects that may affect dolphins and their habitat according to the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance to protect the marine environment from impacts of these projects;
(5) raise public awareness of dolphin protection through publicity and education;
(6) co-operate with the Guangdong authorities to jointly protect the Chinese White Dolphins in the Pearl River Estuary.

     In addition, the AFCD commissioned the City University of Hong Kong to conduct a two-year study on the heavy metals and organic contaminants in the dolphins' bodies in late 2005, with the objective of assessing the ecological risk of Chinese White Dolphins in Hong Kong. The study is expected to complete by end of this year and its findings will help us acquire more information about dolphins.

Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Issued at HKT 13:25


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