Sightings of Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong waters have become rare in recent years, with some experts saying that marine construction projects may have contributed to the species’ falling numbers.
Only one rare Chinese white dolphin was spotted off northeast Lantau in 2014, down sharply from 20 in 2001, Singtao Daily reported.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in the sightings, according to the latest Dolphin Monitoring report published by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
According to the report, apart from the one sighting off northeast Lantau, there were 36 sightings in the west waters of Lantau and another 24 in the northwest waters in 2014.
That takes the total to 61 for the year, compared to 62 in 2013.
In 1997, the Chinese white dolphin was chosen by the former British colonial administration as its official mascot during Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese rule.
Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said sightings of the rare dolphin species could become even rarer once construction work begins on the planned third airport runway next year.
The ongoing construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the high-speed ferries that ply regularly from the airport’s SkyPier have driven Hong Kong’s aquatic symbol to the brink of extinction, he said.
As the new airport runway will result in construction work in the Lantau area to stretch until 2023, it could have a huge adverse impact on white dolphin population, Hung said.
The government has planned to designate northeast waters of Lantau as a marine park once the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is completed. But Hung doubts if there will be any white dolphin left by then.
To ensure a sustainable ecology, the government should launch a study on the accumulated impact from construction in Lantau, he said, also calling for tighter limits on the numbers as well as permitted speeds of airport jet ferries.
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