Monday, November 10, 2008

Dolphins spotted by fishers off Tongsiao Village, Miaoli

The following story appeared on a Yahoo News page [in Chinese] here in Taiwan:

[Summary Translation]

Dolphins spotted by fishers off Tongsiao Village
Yang Yirouh reporting from Miaoli County, Tongsiao Village

Fishers have reported seeing Pink Dolphins in the Baishatun area off the coast of Tongsiao Village. The sightings by the fishers have been welcomed by people in neighboring villages who believe the dolphins could bring tourism and associated development.

The happy fishers, who face the strenuous work on the seas, were not tired at all after having seen the rare dolphins.

One fisher laughed as he said they used to not like dolphins because of the damage caused by the animals to their nets and that they would chase the fish away. But seeing a pod of the animals along the west coast was really a rare moment and a very lucky one at that.

This particular fisher had placed nets about one nautical mile [1.852 km] from the shore and in addition to seeing the dolphins his catch of fish was a good one leading the fishers to agree with those who say the dolphins are harbingers of good fortune.

Fishing within a kilometre of the shore at Mailiao. Nets are a major threat to the dolphins.

It is always good to hear of sightings of these rare dolphins. Indeed, with the right controls, the dolphins do have tourism potential. Because of the dolphins critically endangered status all viewing would need to be done from shore. Offshore viewing would pose too much of a risk to this small and unique critically endangered population.

Scaring on a pink dolphin: Photo courtesy and copyright FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group

Fishing is amongst the five major threats that these dolphins face. With a total population of around seventy-five individuals the loss of a single dolphin per year, particularly females of breeding age, through by-catch would be catastrophic for the population and would more than likely seal their functional extinction. If we are to save these unique animals from extinction fishing within 4km of the shore within the dolphins little remaining habitat between Miaoli and the Yunlin-Chiayi border will have to be disallowed. Scars and actual sightings of ropes on animals are a strong indication that fishing practices are impacting very negatively on the dolphin population.

Pink Dolphin with a rope around it. The red and black flags or "high flyers" as they are called, mark the ends of a gillnet. The rope looks as if it is likely the leadline of a gillnet: Photo courtesy and copyright FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group

Additional threats include so-called development. Reclamation work, particularly around Mailiao and Taisi on the Yunlin coast is destroying habitat at an alarming rate. Other planned projects further up the coast will have a similar impact. The degrading of estuarine habitat through the damming of rivers which reduces the flow of freshwater into valuable wetland and coastal habitat has had an impact. The Hushan Dam Project will undoubtedly have a very negative impact on the already struggling Jhoushui River Estuary once construction of this highly controversial dam is completed. In addition, the development of both onshore and offshore Reclamation work at the Formosa Plastics Plant in Mailiao, Yunlin County.

It is time for the authorities to take a serious look at what they are doing to the West Coast. The dolphins are a top predator and umbrella species. Is the total collapse of the West Coast ecosystem really within our long-term interests? Are we not just giving a few very wealthy and greedy businesspeople a licence to rape the coast and we as the people will be burdened with the costs of this destruction for generations to come?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw those dolphins.