Friday, August 15, 2008

Major environmental group declares Taiwan Sousa Dolphins endangered

Reuters reports on recent developments in dolphin conservation here in Taiwan....

An environmental group on Wednesday called on Taiwan's government to protect one of the most endangered dolphins in the world, a day after a world conservation body listed the animal as "critically endangered".

The International Union for Conservation of Nature assigned the status to the Eastern Taiwan Strait Humpback Dolphin, known locally as Matsu's Fish or the Chinese white dolphin, on its 2008 "red list" of endangered species, according to the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

Only about 100 of the dolphins, Sousa chinensis Eastern Taiwan Strait, are believed to exist in the wild, said Christina MacFarquhar of the association.

Pollution and fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, were among the main threats.


The IUCN, the world's largest conservation network, said on Tuesday a review of cetaceans -- about 80 types of whales, dolphins and porpoises -- showed almost a quarter were in danger, mostly small species.

Wild at Heart, the local conservation group, has long worked on this issue. Their blog observes:

Due to being isolated from other populations of the same species, Taiwan’s “Matsu’s Fish” (Sousa chinensis), also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin or Chinese white dolphin, has evolved in a way that distinguishes it from other populations. It is now recognized by the international cetacean science community that Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins constitute a unique population.

Because of the serious level of threat to this population, local and international experts formed the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group (ETSSTAWG) on 8 January 2008. The following day, Taiwanese environmental groups presented a petition to the Executive Yuan, requesting the government to draft a conservation plan within two months. Regrettably, after half a year of efforts by those environmental groups, the government has still not proposed a conservation plan, instead expressing plans to open up the coastal waters within three nautical miles of the shore to drag-net fishing, which will thoroughly destroy the near-shore ecology.

While the government continues to evade its responsibility to protect the environment, the threat to the survival of Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins is nevertheless receiving increasing international recognition. On 12 August (GMT), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which comprises 70 countries, over 1000 societies and over 10 000 scientists, has assessed Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins to be Critically Endangered (CR), the highest level of threat to a species or population.

In response to the IUCN announcing Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins as Critically Endangered, Taiwanese environmental groups are holding a press conference to raise the attention of the government and public to the fact that the conservation of Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins has already become the focus of attention of international conservation organizations, and is a responsibility that the government has no choice but to face.

Save the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins also contains further information and links, including videos, of these beautiful animals.

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