Saturday, May 26, 2007

Environmentalists give the EPA sixty days to stop Hushan

Taipei-May 24th

An alliance of environmental advocates demanded that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) halt the Hushan Reservoir project within sixty days or face legal action.

See the Hushan Dam Blog for details.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Hushan Battle Hotting Up.

With the EPA minster standing down and the EPA threating legal action against Environmental Impact Assessment Committee member, Robin Winkler, over his alledged comments quoted in Tuesday's edition of the Chinese-language United Evening News the Hushan Dam battle is hotting up. See the Hushan Dam Blog for the latest news on this front in the effort to save the Taiwan Sousa dolphins.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The COA's reply to our letter

This is the reply we have received from Taiwan's Council Of Agriculture in response to our letter of concern over the plight of the eastern Taiwan Strait population of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. We'll leave it to you to decide if they have addressed the concerns outlined in our letter of concern.

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis

Dear ,

Thank you for your concern about Indo-Pacific hump
back dolphin.

Listed below are examples of activities or measures taken in Taiwan to protect cetacean for your reference. These measures include research projects,
rescue and care projects, ecological studies, public awareness campaigns and other projects.

Regarding cetacean-related regulations:

.On July 16, 1981, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced a ban on whaling and no longer issue relevant license.
.The Wildlife Conservation Act was promulgated in
1989 and 23 species of cetacean were listed as endangered species.
.In 1995, all cetacean species were listed as protected species according to the Wildlife Conservation Act of Taiwan.
.Article 16 of the WCA stipulates that protected wildlife shall not be disturbed, abused, hunted, killed, traded, exhibited, displayed, owned, imported, exported, raised or bred, unless under special circumstances recognized in the WCA.

Several universities are commissioned by the COA to carry out cetacean-related projects. From 1991 to 2007, the COA supported over 80 cetacean-related
projects such as population survey, genetic study, rescue and care projects, ecotourism, conservation education, etc. In 2007, Lienchiang County Government sponsors a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) population survey project in Matsu area. The Fishery Agency of COA supports an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin(Sousa chnensis) population distribution survey and monitoring project.

To encourage international experience exchanges, government agencies provide funding to scholars/experts to attend international conferences. In addition, the government agencies also commission or sponsor local organizations to hold international cetacean conservation symposiums in Taiwan. Since 1995, government agencies such as COA, Forestry Bureau, Fisheries Agency, National Science Council, local governments, and public museums have sponsored more than 50 cetacean conservation workshops/symposiums. An international cetacean conservation symposium will be scheduled in October 2007.

To enhance public awareness on cetacean issues, government agencies support NGOs to carry out cetacean conservation promoting activities, tour lectures, conservation workshops, training workshops, photo exhibitions, and other activities. Both public
and private sectors have published books, posters, leaflets, CDs, and other materials to advocate cetacean conservation. Examples are:

.In 1996, 10,000 leaflets and 2,000 posters featuring dolphin and whale conservation were produced.
.In July 1997, a whale poster titled "Song from the Deep: Echoing Through My Soul" and a set of Taiwan Nature Conservation Stamp was published. The stamps featured conservation of eight species of whales and one species of dolphin.
.On academic front, over 47 scientific papers and cetacean conservation articles were published between 1996 and 2004.
.Between 1998 and 2004, the Taiwan Cetacean Society organized over 300 activities or workshops promoting cetacean conservation.
.2007 was announced as "Year of the Dolphin." NGOs were commissioned to organize a series of activities.

Rescue and care of whale and dolphin related matters:

.In 1994, 10,000 copies of whale and dolphin rescue manual and CD were produced.
.From 1990 to 2006, there were 730 whale and dolphin rescue cases.
.To date, more than 18 whale and dolphin rescue and care training workshops were organized with over 2,000 participants.
.In 2006, a database of whale and dolphin rescue cases was established.
.In 2007, a specimen collection, cetacean information and tissue sample exchange network will be established.

Thank you again for your concern about dolphin conservation in Taiwan.

Sincerely yours,

Council of Agriculture

Also see:
Time to send another letter-Our Letter of Response to the Council of Agriculture’s Letter

Scars on a Sousa

In this photo by S.K. Hung: courtesy of FormosaCetus, the scars on this Humpback dolphin show signs of serious mangling by human activities.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Save the Taiwan Pink Dolphin

The Taiwan Humpback Dolphins

The "Mother Sea-Goddess (Matsu) Fish" or the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinesis is grey when born and develops grey-blue freckles during youth. It turns white or pink when fully mature, thus it's other popular name in Chinese meaning "white dolphin" (sometimes called pink dolphin). Local people from fishing villages have named the animal after Matsu, the Sea Goddess, perhaps as result of seeing the humpback dolphins most often around Matsu's birthday in March/April when the seas return to a calmer state. The animals can be found in the temperate and tropical waters off the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. Their preferred habitats are transition areas close to shore, particularly estuarine waters.

After several years of observation and research, the FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group have found that the animals living along Taiwan's west coast differ considerably from their counterparts elsewhere and are likely a distinct subspecies. This would raise their level of importance at least to that of the Formosan landlocked salmon Oncorhynchus masou formosanus, which appears on Taiwan's currency, and on the conservation of which the government has lavished much money and attention. Officials are not doing nearly enough for the animal given the fact that a very optimistic estimate of the number of these dolphins is no more than 150, with the actual number being most likely about half that number. There is a high likelihood that Taiwan's entire population will become extinct within the next few years if threats to their survival are not greatly and immediately reduced.

The dangers facing the humpback dolphins are inter-related and straightforward. Simply put, their homes are being destroyed. Habitat is disappearing through so called "land reclamation" projects while the quality of water in which they live and feed has become degraded to the point where there is insufficient food. Over-fishing and unsustainable fishing practices are taking their toll, and many of the animals observed are injured, apparently the victims of hit and run by fishing or other vessels or entanglement in fishing nets. At the same time their echolocation abilities are impaired or threatened by noise generated from factory and coastal construction, offshore windmills and so on.

That the humpback dolphin's numbers have been reduced to less than 150 is due in part to their limited and rapidly disappearing habitat. It is believed that they may only be found within the area less than five kilometers from the shoreline running along the west coast of Taiwan from Miaoli County in the north to Chiayi County in the south. This happens to be an area of some of the most intense existing or planned development in Taiwan, development that competes directly for land, water and other resources with the dolphins.

Examples of this development include the 2000-plus hectare offshore petrochemical plant operated by Formosa Plastics in Mailiao, Yunlin County with another petrochemical plant planned for the neighboring township, Taisi, in a joint venture dominated by China Petroleum Corporation. Meanwhile, in the Taichung Harbor Industrial Park the first stage of the state-owned China Steel Affiliate, Dragon Steel, is in operation and a major expansion plan has been approved by Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs; Formosa Plastics is also hoping to get into steel production, and the MOEA has approved its application for a steel plant next to the abovementioned new petrochemical plant in Taisi. The Taiwan Power Company plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the Jhangbin Industrial Park, less than 20 kilometers from Asia's largest such plant in Longjing, Taichung County, while a consortium between JP Power and local companies is applying to build its own coal fired plant next to the TPC facility. All of these are located right in the center of the land adjoining the dolphin's home waters.

Then there are the continued land "reclamation" projects begun two decades ago and which have already decimated the majority of the coastal area that serves as the dolphins' home. The Taichung Port, the Changhua Offshore Industrial Park, the planned new offshore park further south in Changhua, and the petrochemical factory-related reclamation projects in Yunlin County will all hasten the reduction of their habitat.

Fishing, recreational and commercial port construction and expansion plans are also in the works for Changhua and Chiayi Counties, while a number of factories and waste processors have recently gotten the go-ahead to relocate or consolidate their operations in the Taichung Harbor and Jhangbin Industrial Park (e.g. Taiwan Fertilizer, VACRS Waste Treatment).

Several reservoirs and other waterworks are also in various stages of planning and construction, including the Hushan Dam Project,and the Tadu and Babao Weirs, which will increase the diversion of fresh water away from the dolphins' habitat and into factories. These factories, while depleting vital sources of fresh water, will also discharge waste water into the ocean. Current methods of treatment of such waste water, and assessments of proposed projects, do not address the full impact of the discharges on temperature, salinity, and other factors affecting life in the area. These problems, in addition to noise and vibration generated by construction and factory operations, and the off shore wind stations planned by Taipower and private companies, are all part of the rapidly accumulating threats to the dolphins' survival.

Indeed, the connection between the humpback dolphin's decline and Taiwan's west-coast industrial development appears to be so strong that the health and stability of this dolphin population could be taken as a key indicator of Taiwan's shortsighted and unsustainable economic development.

A number of NGOs concerned with long term economic development have formed the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union, an alliance to lobby the government, educate the general public, raise money and take other actions to support initiatives to save Taiwan's humpback dolphins from extinction. This alliance has learned from Canadian, Hong Kong, U.S. and Taiwanese scientists working with the FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group that a panel of experts from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) that recently met in San Diego has agreed that Taiwan's humpback dolphin should be listed as "critically endangered", the same category as the Yangtze River Dolphin Lipotes vexillifer which became functionally extinct in late 2006.

There is no time, or reason, for the Taiwan government to delay in taking immediate action to save Taiwan's humpback dolphin from the same fate. We have therefore drafted a Letter of Concern to demand that all branches of the government make a concerted effort beginning with the following measures:

1. The Executive Yuan should immediately convene a national conference on protecting species, habitat and biodiversity.

2. The Executive Yuan should immediately direct subordinate agencies to evaluate possible impact on the survival of Taiwan’s humpback dolphins by all development projects, and to make the viability of the humpback dolphin a priority in all relevant proposals.

3. The Executive Yuan should immediately direct all relevant agencies to come up with the strictest guidelines possible under existing law, to protect areas inhabited by the humpback dolphin.

4. The relevant agencies of the Executive Yuan should immediately draw up and submit to the legislature conservation plans for this animal, and the Legislative Yuan should approve these allocations at the next opportunity.

5. Judicial and prosecutorial officials should take immediate steps to investigate and prosecute infractions of relevant laws in ways that may adversely affect the humpback dolphin habitat, including prosecution of illegal cooperation between business and officials leading to habitat destruction.

Finally, we insist that government officials in the Executive Yuan, legislators and businesses abide by the letter and spirit of the Basic Environment Act, including the requirement that considerations of the environment shall take precedence over the economy, and we remind you that this is not only to protect the "environment" but it is also to protect the long term viability of economic development.

Alliance members: Taiwan Academy of Ecology, Taiwan Sustainable Alliance, Yunlin Wild Bird Society, Changhua Ocean shore Protection Alliance, FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group, Taiwan Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association
Further information is available at:

The IUCN, founded in 1946, the IUCN currently has more than 980 members in 140 countries. The Union's mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The organization's Red List classifies threatened species as follows:

· Extinct (EX)
· Extinct from the Wild (EW)
· Critically Endangered (CR)
· Endangered (EN)
· Vulnerable (VU)
· Near Threatened (NT)
· Least Concern (LC)
· Data Deficient (DD)
· Not Evaluated (NE)

Also see:
West Coast Industrial Development Leaves Endangered Dolphins Little Breathing Space
Update on the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins
Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop (2007) - Press Release
The Cost of Taiwan's Development
Questions of Water Conservation
Taipei Times's Groups rush to aid of dolphin by asking for government help

West Coast Industrial Development Leaves Endangered Dolphins Little Breathing Space

In 2002, the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Sousa chinensis won official recognition as a resident of Taiwan, leaping out of relative obscurity and onto Taiwan’s endangered species lists. Despite its proximity to the heaving west coast human population, its presence had gone unnoticed by most local people, and the stretch of coastal waters in which it swims, between the Mailiao and Changpin Industrial Parks, had never before been thoroughly surveyed for cetaceans.

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins: FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group

The home of the Taiwan humpback dolphins has changed immensely in recent decades from that in which its ancestors thrived: from the coal-fired power station at the mouth of the Dadu River, an army of pylons marches out across the plain and charges up the hill to fuel the campaign to keep Taiwan lit up, cooled down and churning out the goods; smoke stacks punctuate the flat landscape at Mailiao, nurturing the yellowish haze that floats lazily northward on the light breeze; human and industrial waste flow untreated into the sea, under the surface of which plump, farmed oysters swell on a maze of wires; and out there on the not-so-distant horizon, fishing boats trawl unchallenged far closer to shore than written law permits.

Mailiao Industrial Park, Yunlin County: Wild at Heart

But it is not in the nature of these dolphins to migrate, even despite these increasingly unpleasant circumstances. And besides, the foul effluent that swirls in the waves even provides them, via their undiscerning prey, with nutrients in these increasingly barren hunting grounds.

“They're pink? Is that because of the pollution?” is the most common response.
No, they are simply pink, with some dark grey spots left over from infancy. From the cement shoreline, the bright humpbacks of adults can be seen arching slowly and curving smoothly back under the surface, once, twice, and then deep down to look for food. Mothers are accompanied by their smaller, darker calves, with whom they will maintain a strong bond for three or four years.

“They sometimes come much closer to land,” says a fisherman on the pier by the power station. “In fact, they used to come all the way down this channel here – until it was blocked off with this cement wall.”

One little obstruction - it surely won't make that much difference. But what about all the other areas along this stretch of coastline that man is 'reclaiming' from corners of the ocean that only he believes ever belonged to him? In some places at Mailiao, where dolphin sightings were marked on the map only two years ago, there are now no longer waves, only the flat, characterless plains that will soon serve as the grazing grounds of a steel plant and an oil refinery.

Taipower coal-fired power plant at the mouth of the Dadu River: Wild at Heart

There is plenty more of this to come, along with the new factories, desalinization plants and wind turbines, and as far as the developers are concerned it would be preferable not to introduce these hundred or so likely victims into the environmental impact assessments and the consciousness of people who might care. But thanks to those who took the time to look, others at least now have a chance to start watching, and thinking.

Voice your concern over the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins with a Letter of Concern to the Taiwan Government.

Also see Update on the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins for an update on developments since the writing of the above article.

Click to read detailed bilingual reports on Taiwan's Humpback Dolphins.

Letter of Concern

For the Current Letter of Concern Click Here !!!

This letter campaign below has ended. Please Click Here For the Current Letter Campaign !!!

Letter of Concern over Taiwan's Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins - your help is needed!

How to send:

Please feel free to write your own letter or cut and paste the following letter and add your name, location and organization (feel free to add your own comments), and email it to President Chen Shui-bian.
To: ,

cc to: , , , , , , , , ,

(For your information the cc recipients are: Premier Chang Chun-hsiung(Confirmation email will be sent--respond by clicking the left icon), DPP-Frank Hsieh, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen, Department of Investment Services, Council of Agriculture, Forestry Bureau, Fisheries Agency, Environmental Protection Administration, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan National Coalition Against the Hushan Dam.)


Letter of Concern: - Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis

RE: The precarious plight of the eastern Taiwan Strait population of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters off Central Western Taiwan.

The President of the Republic of China,
President Chen Shui-bian.

Cc: Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, DPP-Frank Hsieh, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen, Department of Investment Services, Council of Agriculture, Forestry Bureau, Fisheries Agency, Environmental Protection Administration, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan National Coalition Against the Hushan Dam.

Dear Sir,

As you are aware, the eastern Taiwan Strait population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters off central western Taiwan is in serious danger of extinction.

It was discovered in 2002 by Dr. John Y. Wang and his international colleagues working with the Formosa Cetus Research and Conservation Group and National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (Taiwan). Since then, evidence has been accumulating to confirm the critical state of the population. The population appears to be unique and restricted to a small area of coastal waters in central-western Taiwan and the best population estimate show that there are roughly only about 100 individuals in this population. Furthermore, there are clear indications that human activities are causing harm to the animals. This population is facing many threats to their continued existence. Of these, the following were identified to be the most serious: entanglement in fishing nets, reduction of freshwater flow to the estuaries upon whichthey are dependent, degradation of coastal water habitats, and pollution from several sources including heavy industry, agriculture and untreated municipal sewage.
However, there has been little to no mitigation of these threats.

We have been interested in the plight of this dolphin population since its discovery and especially after the report of the 2004 international workshop on this population. This population has also been gaining wider attention in Taiwan and internationally.

We were very pleased to learn that Taiwan's Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are now considered regularly in the EIAs of development projects. However, it has also come to our attention through local environmental groups that the EIA process is not always based on a precautionary principle towards wildlife or the environment and that the process or its commissioners may be influenced by political, economical or other pressures. Furthermore,the "research" that is cited by pro-development interests is often biased, of very low quality or erroneous. Approving development projects with EIAs that are based on poor or biased research suggests Taiwan's EIA process may not be fair, credible or serious about conservation. Environmental and wildlife conservation must be based on sound science.

We are aware that several major development projects by state-owned and private corporations have been proposed for the coastal waters and regions of central-western Taiwan. These include: the Chinese Petroleum Company's petrochemical plant in the coastal waters off Yunlin County, the Hushan reservoir project on the middle to upper reaches of the Joushuei River, which also threatens the most important breeding area of the protected Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, the Formosa Plastics Group's steel factory in the coastal waters of Yunlin County, an offshore industrial park in Yunlin County, an offshore wind farm in Changhua County, a coal-fired power plant by TaiPower in the Changbin Industrial area in Changhua County, a coal-fired power plant in Taichung Harbour area.

Although we applaud your government's search for renewable energy sources such as wind power, the erection of the turbines should not overlook the impact such machinery may have on local wildlife such as birds, bats and the dolphins. The energy development plans also appear to be confusing with both wind farms and high-polluting coal-fired power plants being proposed simultaneously. Taiwan is already considered one of the world's leaders CO2 emissions and thus contributing disproportionately to global warming but there appears to be little to no plans to reduce the CO2 emissions but rather the new industrial proposals only moves Taiwan in the direction of contributing even greater amounts of CO2 to our planet. All of these projects will also have a serious immediate impact on the remaining humpback dolphins of Taiwan by degrading or destroying their already limited habitats. We urge that all levels of government in Taiwan take the high risk of extinction of these dolphins seriously and encourage the authorities responsible to provide high priority attention and real protection to these and other wildlife and their environment.

Yours sincerely,



(Organization, if applicable)