The environmental groups making up the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) are hoping that their participation in the festival will raise awareness of the critically endangered population of humpback dolphins that live in a narrow stretch of coastal waters along Taiwan’s west coast.The previous post has some video of the dolphins right offshore from the largest single carbon polluter in the world, a powerplant in Taichung. Wild at Heart observes:
The dolphins are thought to have been named “Matsu’s fish” by coastal communities because they are more easily spotted from around the third month of the lunar calendar and have therefore been said to be surfacing to wish Matsu a happy birthday. The waters of the Taiwan Strait generally become calmer at that time, and therefore the pale pink dolphins are less likely to be confused with the white foam of breaking waves.
The pilgrimage will take place a month after the Taiwan government held its second meeting to discuss the numerous threats to the population brought to public attention by MFCU. The meeting was seen as a great disappointment by the conservationists, who say that the government has failed to take even the most basic steps such as designating the dolphins’ critical habitat and inviting the team of researchers who have been studying the dolphins since 2002 to join the closed-door discussions.
At the meeting, some felt that the Fisheries Agency was pitting fishermen against the dolphins by suggesting that measures to reduce dolphin entanglement in gillnets would ruin the livelihoods of fishermen. MCFU members argue that the dolphins, being at the top of the food chain, are an indicator of the health of the coastal waters and that their dwindling numbers and sometimes emaciated appearance reflects the poor state of the environment and the unsustainable nature of the west coast fisheries.
“We shouldn’t make the humpback dolphins out to be the enemy, we need to see them as an opportunity,” says Mr Binghen Chen of MFCU.
The procession begins at 23:00 this Saturday (21 March) at Tachia Chenlan Temple and will travel to temples in Dadu Township (大肚鄉), Changhua City (彰化市), Beitou Township (北斗鎮), Hsichou Township (溪洲鄉), Hsiluo Township (西螺鎮), Yuanchang Township (元長鄉) and Singang Township (新港鄉), where a birthday ceremony will be held at 8:00 on 25 March. On the return journey to Tachia, the pilgrims will also pass through Huwei Village (虎尾鎮), Pitou Township (埤頭鄉), Yungchin Township (永靖鄉), Yuanlin Township (員林鎮) and Cingshuei Village (清水鎮).
Due to their limited staff, MFCU are asking the public to help during the procession. Should you wish to participate, please contact MFCU for the schedule and guidance regarding certain practices which should be observed during this important religious festival (including sticking to a vegetarian diet throughout the event).
The dolphin is one of the island's most unique animals. You can contribute to Wild at Heart's work on its preservation by visiting their donor page and leaving a few dollars.
The online database Carbon Monitoring for Action lists the plant number one in the world for CO2 emissions, which total nearly 30 million tons a year.
Also along the coast adjacent to the population's habitat are the Mailiao (Formosa Plastics) Power Plant and the Changgong Power Plant. Mailiao is listed as the fifth largest CO2 emitting coal-fired power plant in the world and Changgong looks set to join the leaders.
National Taiwan University climatologist Hsu Kuang-Jung said at a press conference in late 2008 that "if expansion plans go ahead Changgong will be awarded fourth place".
Among the five major threats to the dolphins, which are now estimated to number less than 100, is the pollution of air and water from the countless factories, farms, cities and power plants along this intensively industrialised coast.
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