Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Letter of Concern

Letter of Concern over Taiwan's Pink 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 Ma Ying-jeou.

To: public@mail.oop.gov.tw

Cc to:
eyemail@eyemail.gio.gov.tw, coa@mail.coa.gov.tw, taiwansousa@gmail.com, comment@wildatheart.org.tw

(For your information the cc recipients are: Premier Wu Den-yih; Minister for Agriculture, Chen Wu-Hsiung; and the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union.)

Also, sign the online petition and view the Taiwan pink dolphin video !


Letter of Concern: - Taiwan Pink Dolphins

RE: The precarious plight of the critically endangered 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 (Taiwan),
President Ma Ying-jeou.

Cc: Premier Wu Den-yih; Minister for Agriculture, Chen Wu-Hsiung; and Matsu's Fish Conservation Union.

Dear Sirs,

As you are aware, the Taiwan pink dolphins, otherwise known as the “eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins” (Sousa chinensis), are in extreme danger of extinction.

This distinct, isolated population was discovered by scientists as recently as 2002. Since then, evidence has been accumulating that confirms the critical state of the population and in August 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed it as Critically Endangered, just one category short of extinction in the wild. The population is restricted to the shallow coastal waters of western Taiwan, between Miaoli County and Tainan County, and the best estimates show that there are less than 99 individuals in the entire population.

Furthermore, there are clear indications that human activities are causing harm to the animals. At the ETS humpback dolphin workshop held in Changhua City in 2007, the following threats were identified by a team of both national and international experts to be the most serious:

-reduced river flow into estuaries;
- habitat loss;
- entanglement in fishing gear;
- industrial, agricultural and municipal pollutant discharges; and
- underwater noise.

Additionally, the dolphins are at risk from live-fire military exercises conducted annually in known pink dolphin habitat.

Three international workshops have now taken place (in 2004, 2007 and 2009) and the plight of Taiwan’s pink dolphins has featured at both the 2007 (Cape Town, South Africa) and 2009 (Québec City, Canada) Society for Marine Mammalogy’s biennial conferences. Numerous recommendations have been made by national and international experts. However, there has still been no mitigation of any of the threats. Instead, the list of industrial development, fishing, geological research and other activities causing each of the threats continues to grow at an alarming rate.

For example, I am aware that several new major development projects by state-owned and private corporations have been approved or proposed for the coastal waters and regions of western-central Taiwan. These include the Hushan Reservoir project, the fourth stage expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park, the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical development, further development of the fourth stage expansion of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant, the fifth stage expansion of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant, two new coal-fired power plants and the Dadu Weir project.

These projects will greatly increase air, water and noise pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation and the demand for fresh water in a region that already suffers from serious pollution, water shortages, ground subsidence due to the overextraction of groundwater and dust problems due to the reduced flow of the Jhoushuei River, all largely due to industrial expansion.

The toxins discharged from some of these facilities will threaten not only the dolphins and other wildlife in the area but also the health and livelihoods of local farmers and fishers. Indeed, reports indicate that the rate of cancer in the areas around the existing petrochemical plant at Mailiao is already six times the national average.

While it was good news that the Taiwan pink dolphins began to feature in the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of development projects in 2007, the impact mitigation measures proposed for the pink dolphins in the EIA reports are meaningless in terms of protecting them. Take, for example, the current plan by Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Ltd. to reclaim more than 4000 hectares of near-shore waters off Changhua County, which will create an enormous obstacle to the dolphins’ north-south movement, effectively splitting the remaining population in two. The suggestion that this immense harm can be avoided by dredging a channel for the dolphins between this artificial platform and the shore has done nothing to ease concerns for the dolphins, as there will still be a substantial loss of important habitat and there is no reason to assume that the dolphins will swim through the channel. According to scientists in Hong Kong, dolphins have stopped appearing in an area of Hong Kong waters where land was reclaimed for the new international airport – despite there being a similar channel between the airport and the coast.

Furthermore, the research that is commissioned and cited by pro-development interest groups is often biased, incomplete or erroneous, while articles published in credible international peer-reviewed journals are often ignored. Wildlife conservation policy must be based on sound science in order to be effective, but the ongoing approval of these development projects based on poor or biased information suggests Taiwan's EIA process may not be fair or credible, and that Taiwan’s government is not serious about protecting the environment.

Meanwhile, the death of a female pink dolphin found beached at Sinpu, Miaoli County in September 2009 and the sightings of pink dolphins entangled in fishing gear illustrate the danger posed to the dolphins by certain fishing practices within their narrow, coastal habitat. The new, intensive pair trawling activities permitted from September 2009 in the near-shore waters of western Taiwan, apart from being a serious hazard to the dolphins, are further depleting fish resources for both the dolphins and local fishers in these already overexploited waters. The approval of this kind of fishing, which is known to cause serious, chronic damage to coastal ecosystems and often high levels of cetacean bycatch, indicates a preference for rapid, short-term and unsustainable exploitation and no consideration of the pink dolphins or other wildlife.

Finally, it should be noted that Taiwan is already considered one of the world's leaders in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions and is thus contributing disproportionately to global warming. While many industrialized nations are vigorously working on ways to reduce their emissions Taiwan is increasing its emissions significantly - by up to 43 % if the planned projects go ahead.

All of these projects will have a serious impact on the remaining dolphins by degrading or destroying their already severely degraded habitat, and on countless other species within this extensive coastal area, including humans. We urge that all levels of government in Taiwan take the high risk of extinction of Taiwan’s pink dolphins seriously and give them high priority attention and real protection by actively reducing the threats to them and their habitat, rather than allowing the above-mentioned activities to go ahead.

Yours sincerely,



(Organization, if applicable)

Without Your Help More of This Will Happen !!! So Speak Out !

Her name was Mrs. T to the humans that knew her. She was one of the first Taiwan pink dolphins to be catalogued by researchers. She drowned in September 2009; a victim of entanglement in fishing gear. There are less than 70 of her kind left. [Beached Taiwan Pink Dolphin at Sinpu in Tonghsiao township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 25 September 2009:- Photo Coast Guard Administration]

Taiwan; it might be on the other side of the world but is it so far away? I bet if you look around you'll see quite a lot of what you use was made in Taiwan. Chances are the PC you're reading this on or many of its components come from Taiwan. We're not saying that buying things made in Taiwan is bad. But, collectively as industry along Taiwan's west coast expands in its quest to pump out more goods it's doing a lot of damage to the coastal environment. As top of the food chain on Taiwan's west coast, the Taiwan pink dolphins are doing really badly in their battle just to survive against the human-made industrial onslaught. Huge chemical plants and other industry pollute the seas and reclaim land that was prime dolphin habitat. Beaches are turned into barren concrete jungles. Rivers are dammed degradating estuaries to supply the every growing water demands of industry. Commercial trawlers plunder the inshore waters and their nets pose deadly hazards to the dolphins. The military fires into the remaining dolphin habitat during live-fire exercises. This is just too much for the natural environment. In August 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Taiwan pink dolphins as critically endangered; just one step away from extinction. Unless something is done now to save this unique population of dolphins they will follow in the wake of the dead dolphin in the photo and will swim no more, ever !

Help us save the Taiwan pink dolphins by signing the petition and speaking out !

Sign the online Petion here !

Send this letter of concern to the Taiwan President.

Watch the Taiwan pink dolphin video.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Whales, dolphins and porpoises threatened by over-fishing

Beached Taiwan Pink Dolphin at Sinpu in Tonghsiao township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 25 September 2009:- Photo Coast Guard Administration

"For many years, fisheries activities have increasingly placed pressure on the world’s fish stocks, but a recent scientific report, launched this week by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS), outlines the gravity of the consequences for another group of animals: the toothed whales."

See the rest of this article by the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on their website.

Entanglement is one of the five major threats to the critically endangered Taiwan Pink Dolphins. Last September saw the death by drowning of a Taiwan Pink Dolphin that almost certainly resulted from entanglement in fishing gear.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taiwan needs a government capable of self-reflection

"Taiwan needs a government capable of self-reflection," says Taipei-based lawyer, Robin Winkler; a former Environmental Protection Administration EIA Committee Commissioner and founder of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

In an interview with Bryan Chuang for the industry journal Digitimes [published on 11 February 2010] Robin Winkler shares his thoughts on events surrounding the third phase expansion of the Taiwan Central Science Park which he believes highlights the need for a government that is capable of self-reflection.

The Supreme Administrative Court recently decided to cancel the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the third phase expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park (hereafter “third expansion”), and now businesses invested in the expansion project can no longer pull out or forge ahead with the development. This case highlights problems with the EIA process, and makes us wonder if the government believes it has the responsibility to self-reflect. If the National Science Council (NSC) and government officials decide not to abide by court decisions, how can ordinary citizens be expected to follow the law?

EIA for new development projects evaluates impacts that the development could have on three levels: social environment, natural environment, and economic environment. The first and second phase developments of the Taiwan Central Science Park all quickly passed EIA, but the third expansion EIA took much longer for two main reasons. The first is that EIA for the third expansion plan came during the first time conservationists actually sat on the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, and during the EIA process, those committee members were more insistent on clarifying aspects of the project than their predecessors had been for the earlier projects.

The second reason EIA for the third expansion took so long to pass is that it came against an important backdrop. In 2005 the World Economic Forum (WEF) published the environmental sustainability index (ESI), which included 146 countries.

Evaluating the ability of a country to sustain itself in terms of natural resources, economic structure, ocean resources, population pressures, government honesty, and other aspects, Taiwan was ranked 145.

Taiwan's EIA Committee considered the WEF report a serious indictment and took a particularly cautious approach in evaluating the third expansion. At the time, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) put strong pressure on the EIA Committee because the case had been dragging on for too long. Without passage of EIA the NSC could not begin construction, and that affected the businesses that planned on setting up shop in the science park. Members of the Legislative Yuan and county legislative council members persistently lobbied the administration, demanding that construction on the expansion project begin as soon as possible.

Environmental Impact Assessment Requires Complete Information

During EIA for the third expansion, the EPA already had the latest air pollution report for central Taiwan, and as EIA commissioners we needed that information to assess how building a new factory in the region would impact the environment. But the EPA insisted that the report had not yet undergone the official publication process and thus could not be used as background information for the EIA. We were expected to use data from five years earlier, resulting in relying on background data that departed significantly from the actual situation.

Actually, people could accept development plans such as nuclear power plants and the Su'Ao-Hualien Highway, but only if complete information is made available and civil society has a chance to participate. The third expansion included two sites, Hou-li and Chi-Hsing Farm. During the EIA, environmental information was insufficient and the people were deprived of the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.

The Supreme Administrative Court has already ruled, but the NSC has determined there is no need to halt construction and development continues. This act makes the people wonder if the NSC intends to engage in the common but illegal practice of proceeding with a prohibited act, later coming up with some way to obtain retroactive legality through e.g., lobbying legislators or an executive action. Here we have an Administrative Court decision calling into question the reasonableness and legitimacy of the third expansion. Taiwan has a constitution, we have laws and we have administrative regulations, all with different levels of authority. If Taiwan puts policy at the highest level of authority, it is a throwback to authoritarian times. No matter what passes the Legislative Yuan or what the law says, if the executive wants something to happen it will make it happen. This violates the basic principle of rule by law.

Presently the businesses invested in the third expansion are stuck in limbo, but actually the court decision did not require developers to halt or continue construction because that is a decision for the EPA and National Science Council. The EPA has already stated that the decision to halt construction lies with the NSC. The NSC should ask itself: Is the court decision to cancel EIA on the third expansion justified? Should the NSC apply for government compensation on behalf of invested businesses?

Taiwan Needs a Government Capable of Self-Reflection

Once an incinerator project in Lin-nei Township, Yunlin County was already 98% completed when administrative permits for the project were cancelled by the court. The developer ultimately decided to not complete the remaining 2% of the project, and the government was left to compensate and clean up. Regarding controversy surrounding halting construction on the third expansion, it's as if you originally planned to drive from Taipei to Kaohsiung and upon entering the highway discover you're going the wrong way. Would you keep driving all the way to Keelung?

In practice, EIA examinations result in one of three outcomes: "Development not permitted", "Conditional Approval", and "Enter Second Phase EIA". The third expansion should have entered a second phase EIA. Currently all work on the third expansion is illegal, it has not passed EIA, and all development permits are void because the EIA was cancelled. It's as if this plan had never been permitted in the first place. If the NSC and government officials decide not to abide by the court decision, how can ordinary citizens be expected to follow the law? Throughout all of this I have not observed any government organs with the ability to self-reflect; there is no trace of acknowledgment that “maybe all those farmers, environmental groups, academics, lawyers and justices are on to something?”

Government officials often say that the third expansion will bring many employment opportunities and significantly increase GDP. Actually, during the EIA process questions of employment are addressed under the heading of "social impacts". I must point out that although the new development will create some employment opportunities, it will also sacrifice agriculture and small factory employment opportunities. Government must not only consider large corporations and ignore the value of small businesses. Furthermore we can't help but wonder what kind of work will be offered by these so-called new employment opportunities.

Regarding big electronics corporations, they often seem to offer more employment opportunities to foreigners. In the past, 5~6% of the workforce at the Hsinchu Science Park was of foreign background, now it's probably more. As businesses hope to continue opening Taiwan to foreign labor, will such a policy actually increase employment opportunities in Taiwan? Taiwan, like the USA, has long been brainwashed into thinking that expansion of agriculture is undesirable, whereas factories are obedient and easy to manage. Therefore we want more factories and fewer farms.

GDP Growth Comes at a Cost

During the third expansion EIA examination I asked government officials, since the government's Industrial Development Bureau owns over 1000 hectares of undeveloped land, why must an industrial park be built in the green fields of the Hou-li and Chi-hsing Farms? The officials told me that businesses want to build factories there. Since the government cooperates with business in zoning for science parks, why doesn't the government also cooperate with business to secure for them additional methods and policies? For example, transportation to the highly underutilized but already built Chang-bin Industrial Park is inconvenient, so why doesn’t the government consider addressing that problem? Now, the developer wants a particular plot of land, so the government gives it to them while other tracts remain unused.

In addition to importing over 98% of its energy resources, how much of Taiwan's food supply must be imported? Should Taiwan only focus on developing industry, while overlooking food production? Taiwan's manufacturing industry is increasingly concentrated, increasingly similar to that of South Korea. The petrochemical industry, LCD industry, and semiconductor industry all exhibit this phenomenon.

Taiwan government officials have been calling for a "low carbon economy", but that is not really relevant to addressing emissions unless and until there is consideration of a cap on total of emissions. You can't simply consider only the energy and emissions of a single industry. For example, green energy is supposed to comprise 12% of Taiwan's installed electricity capacity, but as Taiwan expands the use of solar and other renewable energies, thermal power plants are still being built. Only if Taiwan sets a limit for annual emissions would a renewable energy policy have any significance.

Taiwan's land is being continuously opened up for development because it is said that it will encourage economic growth, but is economic growth always a good thing? Many countries are finally discovering that GDP was never meant to be anything more than a reference tool. Is simply referring to GDP growth enough? Media once surveyed happiness levels in all different parts of Taiwan and found that people in Penghu are the happiest. Even though Penghu is an outlying and relatively poor island, Penghu's people are still very happy. GDP comes at a cost, but regarding this our government reports only the perceived benefits of a project rather than giving the whole picture and letting the people make up their own minds.

The government hopes to improve the investment environment to attract foreign investment, but foreign investment isn't necessarily a good thing. Taiwan's government should resolve to attract good foreign investment. And what do good foreign investors like? They like freedom, democracy, rule of law, and high environmental quality. And what do bad foreign investors like? They like no regulation; if pollution control laws and basic labor protections are abolished they will immediately invest in Taiwan and establish factories. Myself included, many foreigners very much like Taiwan. When I began working in Taiwan I appreciated the quality of life and developed concern for Taiwan's society and environment. While the government pursues economic development, it really must pay attention to these related concerns of deeper significance.

In university Robin Winkler studied sinology and law. He is an American IPR lawyer and founder of Winkler Partners. He is currently devoted to the environmental protection movement and was an EIA commissioner for the examination of the third phase expansion of the Taiwan Central Science Park.