Monday, August 23, 2010

MFCU Press Release

The following MFCU press release highlights the issue of non peer reviewed science that the [Taiwan] Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and so-called developers like Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan Power Company and Kuokuang Petrochemical seem so keen on favouring while ignoring the credible peer reviewed publications, findings and recommendations of both local and international experts.

Press conference

Time: Monday 23 August 2010 10 am
Place: NTU Alumni Association Conference Rm 3C
No 2-1 Chin-nan Rd. Sec. 1 Taipei

The conservation of the unique Taiwan population of the Indo Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis), also known as the “pink dolphins”,“Chinese white dolphins” or “Matsu’s Fish”, has long been the focus of attention of international scientists and conservation organizations. However, none of the relevant environmental impact assessment reports for development projects in or near the dolphins’ habitat has been approved by the international community of cetacean experts, nor have survey and research teams hired by the developer published on the impacts of the project in international peer-reviewed journals.

One has to wonder: does this group of researchers that takes on almost all the research projects from both government and industry really understand the pink dolphins? Or are they just lending their “academic credentials” as a stamp of approval for the development projects?

The team, lead by someone once given the title in the media as “Dolphin Mama” due to her very public position on conservation, has benefited from a slew of research projects ever since the pink dolphins started gaining public attention due to the research activities of international scientists (starting in 2002), the highlighting of the issue to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) by local environmentalists (starting 2005), three international conferences and workshops convened in Taiwan (2004, 2007, 2009) by the aforementioned scientists and environmentalists, the formal petitioning to the Executive Yuan in January 2008, the establishment of the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Working Advisory Group (ETSSTWAG) which has offered assistance to Taiwan’s government, industry and researchers (January 2008), the declaration by the IUCN that the unique Taiwan population is critically endangered (August 2008) and a number of internationally published and peer reviewed journals and reports appearing nearly every year since the population was scientifically confirmed by a team of international scientists in 2002.

However, although the Dolphin Mama has been receiving research projects from government agencies (Forestry Bureau, Fisheries Agency) as well as developers (Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan Power Company and Kuokuang Petrochemical) since 2005 including what is estimated to be well over 100 million NT$, however the results of the studies have not been been subject to peer review by cetacean experts.

This inevitably brings up questions and concerns over the quality of the research and the reports. Most recently the group, in representing Kuokuang Petrochemical developer, all but ignored what the international community believes to be the major impact of the project on the dolphins – land reclamation. Instead the group has been devoting itself to raising a number mitigation measures such as luring the animals to go around the construction site by feeding them fish and proposing many more research projects and other studies, while giving short shrift to the opinions of the international community and even making claims of “politics” playing in the decisions of the IUCN which resulted in this unique population’s designation of CR or critically endangered, the last step before “extinct in the wild”.

By refusing to stand up for the dolphins and insisting on rigorous scrutiny of the impact of the reclamation on their habitat, these “experts” are not only abdicating their duties as scientists, they also appear to be abandoning any idea of conservation for the dolphins.

At the press conference we will announce a recent international publication that discusses the serious impacts of the Kuokuang project on the survival of this population of dolphins. We have also invited Taiwan’s “teacher of teachers” when it comes to cetaceans, Professor YANG Hong-chia, who recorded sightings of the Indo Pacific humpback dolphins in Taiwan waters as early as 1963. Professor YANG will talk about how the deteriorating condition of our oceans around Taiwan for the past fifty years affects the Taiwan pink dolphins.

Host organizations: Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association Taiwan, Taiwan Academy of Ecology, Taiwan Sustainability Union, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, Wild Bird Society of Yunlin, Changhua Coastal Protection Union), & Changhua County Environmental Protection Union.

Contact: GAN Chen-yi 0928926180

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