76,300-hectare habitat to be built for humpback dolphins

76,300-hectare habitat to be built for humpback dolphins
Taiwan is setting up its first marine wildlife sanctuary, in a bid to protect its dwindling population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Forestry Bureau yesterday announced that a habitat for the wild Chinese white dolphin, a species of humpback dolphins in danger of extinction, is scheduled to be built covering 76,300 hectares along the West Coast.

According to the bureau, this is the first habitat designed to protect wild marine animals in Taiwan.

The Forestry Bureau said that this habitat, which will run along the coast of Miaoli County, Taichung City, Changhua County and Yunlin County, will be officially launched within 30 days.

Based on research conducted by National Taiwan University professor Chou Lien-siang, there are less than 100 Chinese white dolphins left around Taiwan, the bureau said.

According to the bureau, the coastline from Miaoli County to Yulin County will be divided into four areas for the Chinese white dolphins.

Once the coastline is officially designated as a habitat for wild Chinese white dolphins, all construction and land developments along the coast will have to pass environmental impact assessments (EIA), and developers will be required to apply for permits from the local governments, the bureau said.

If people who are responsible for construction or developments along the coast fail to apply for an EIA, they will be fined between a minimum of NT$300,000 (S$12400) and a maximum of NT$1.5 million for violating the Wildlife Conservation Act.

As for current developments or construction projects that might threaten the survival of Chinese white dolphins, companies in charge should propose a contingency plan, the bureau said.

According to the bureau, anyone who trawls within three nautical miles of the dolphin habitat will be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000.

Huge Step in Conserving Dolphins

Matsu-based Fish Conservation Union's Gan Chen-yi yesterday said that planning a habitat for Chinese white dolphins is a huge step in conserving the endangered species.

After the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant was built, Gan said, the habitat of Chinese white dolphins was severely polluted, leading to a decrease in their numbers.

Taiwan Academy of Ecology Secretary-General Tsai Chih-hai said that the government should consider the original environment and habitat of Chinese white dolphins before planning a protected area for them.

According to Tsai, there are many industrial areas along the West Coast and all the wastewater being discharged into the sea affects the survival of Chinese white dolphins, so the government should establish a better management system to control wastewater discharge.

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