Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ministry of National Defense responds on bombardment of dolphin habitat

In response to the letter on 16 June 2009 from Wild at Heart expressing concern over the bombardment by Taiwan’s military of critically endangered humpback dolphin habitat off the coast of central Taiwan the Ministry of National Defense has notified Wild that it has asked a number of departments within the MND, including the command headquarters of the army, navy and airforce to review the materials concerning the welfare of dolphins and the livelihoods of fishers and respond to the Department of Resources MND by 30 June 2009.

Photo: Eastern Taiwan Strait (=western Taiwan) humpback dolphin

In the meantime Wild has arranged to meet with representatives of the MND to discuss the matter of impact mitigation and explore possibilities of introducing best practices and alternatives to these exercises.

Also see:

Taiwan military fires directly into critically endangered humpback dolphin habitat 17 June

Military Exercise at Daan River Mouth 4 June

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Concerns over boat-based Pink Dolphin watching

It has come to the attention of the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) that the Taiwan Cetacean Society would appear to be advocating boat-based dolphin watching of the critically endangered Eastern Taiwan Strait Humpback Dolphins. Both local and international cetacean experts at the Second [2007] International Workshop on Conservation and Research Needs of the Eastern Taiwan Straight Population of Indo-Pacific humpback Dolphins advised that boat-based dolphin watching of the Taiwan Pink Dolphins wasn't appropriate given their extremely threatened state and only land-based dolphin watching should be permitted and encouraged. The MFCU shares these views and actively promotes land-based dolphin watching of these critically endangered dolphins to help raise awareness of the plight of these unique dolphins. We strongly urge the Taiwan Cetacean Society to reconsider and the Taiwan authorities to act on the advice of cetacean experts and ensure that boat-loads of dolphin watchers aren't permitted near these dolphins poised on a knife edge between survival and extinction.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Taiwan military fires directly into critically endangered humpback dolphin habitat

Kyodo News reported today:

“Taiwan's military fired grenades and mortar shells into a key habitat for endangered dolphins during live-fire exercises Wednesday, an environmental protection group said.

A dwindling population of Chinese white dolphins [humpback dolphins] was at risk from howitzers in the Da-an River Estuary on Taiwan's west coast, a major habitat for the dolphins, the Taipei-based Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association said.

''The military is not showing any regard for the welfare of this critically endangered group of dolphins,'' said Christina Macfarquhar, a researcher at Wild at Heart....(Click here for the full article)

[Other than the fact that the military was firing in that area, equally disturbing was the military’s response to questions from Kyodo...]

“...Asked for comment, military media liaison officer Col. Ben Wang confirmed the exercises, saying shells had been fired into the water.

But he said he was unaware of concerns about the dolphins.

''Taiwan has Chinese white dolphins?'' he said.

''This isn't the first time we've conducted these exercises -- these are regular maneuvers,'' he added.

Macfarquhar said the military had participated in Cabinet-level meetings on protecting the dolphins, ''so they should be aware of this issue.''

''The fact that they're firing shells right into the habitat shows how much attention they've paid to it,'' she added.



Note from Wild:

In fact, the National Council for Sustainable Development (under the Executive branch of the government) has now held two interagency meetings on “Action to Protect Taiwan’s Humpback Dolphin Population” (on 29 August 2008 and 26 February 2009) and representatives from the Ministry of National Defense attended both of them and made statements suggesting that military units were being required to reduce the impact of live firing exercises on the dolphins. But judging by today’s display this does not include avoiding firing right into their habitat.

The exercises, which were scheduled for 8.00 am to 10.30 am this morning and 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm this afternoon, were to be carried out between the Daan River estuary and just south of the Dachia River estuary (see map and weapon details in the official notice (Chinese)). Both of these estuaries are located within the dolphins’ narrow, restricted coastal habitat (see map).

Similar live firing exercises in May caused great concern amongst fishermen worried about the impacts of in these areas on coastal and estuarine ecology and on their livelihoods – estuaries are one of the most productive types of ecosystem in the world.

After receiving information about the activities yesterday, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association faxed an urgent letter of concern to the MND, calling attention to risks to the dolphins and to fisheries. This morning, after firing had already started, the MND called to say that it did not accept faxes and to send a paper copy. The exercises continued as planned (we will post a video soon).

Wild and the other members of Matsu's Fish Conservation Union will be working with the Ministry of National Defense and the National Council for Sustainable Development to try to prevent further direct military attacks upon the dolphins.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Open Letter to Dr. Jane Goodall at 2009 International Forum on Sustainable Development

The Formosa Plastics Plant at Mailiao, Yunlin County, is typical of the heavy industry that characterises the west coast, home of the critically endangered Taiwan Humpback Dolphins.

Today is the opening day of the 2009 International Forum on Sustainable Development being held in Taipei. Amongst the foreign attendees is the world-renowned conservationist and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, the United Nations Ambassador for Peace. Pan Han-shen, secretary-general of Green Party Taiwan has sent an open letter to Dr. Goodall concerning the plight of the critically endangered Taiwan Humpback Dolphins. The open letter has been published in today's Taipei Times.

Also making the papers today was news that yesterday the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)Committee decided that Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co's plan to build an industrial park on reclaimed land in Changhua County needs to undergo a more thorough second-stage environmental impact assessment (EIA). See today's Taipei times for the story: Petrochemical project needs second-stage EIA.

Our colleagues at Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association posted a great piece on the 2009 International Forum on Sustainable Development titled Sustainability? The Art of Hypocrisy Reaches New Heights.

Taiwan Humpback Dolphins in the waters off Taichung county.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Military Exercise at Daan River Mouth

A 155mm howitzer crew prepares to fire their gun out to sea in a live-fire exercise in Taiwan's Matsu Islands.

It has come to our attention that Taiwan's Air Force and Army held a live-fire military exercise in early May at the mouth of the Daan River with targets being well within 3km from shore (some as close as about 1 km from shore). The Daan River mouth is a location where the IUCN Red-listed critically endangered Taiwan Humpback Dolphins have been seen and recorded on quite a few occasions. It is very disappointing to learn that the military did this without any consideration for the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins especially since they had undertaken in an earlier meeting to take into account the critically endangered population of Humpback Dolphins when conducting exercises along the west coast.

Missiles were fired at targets from helicopters and possibly from other sources. According to locals, the exercise was planned to last for ten days but after local fishermen protested, it was reduced to three days and then finally to a single day. Even a single day of blasting the known habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan Humpback Dolphins has got to be seen as grossly irresponsible and dangerous.

The main stimulus for this exercise was to burn off excess money and weapons nearing their expiry date. The military could have reduced their impact on dolphins considerably by just moving the exercises approximately 10km out to sea or only north to Hsinchu where artillery exercises often fire into waters where the critically endangered dolphins have not been seen or recorded.

Also see:
Taiwan military fires directly into critically endangered humpback dolphin habitat