INDO-PACIFIC HUMPBACK DOLPHINS, Sousa chinensis

“REPORT OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON CONSERVATION AND RESEARCH NEEDS OF THE EASTERN TAIWAN STRAIT POPULATION OF INDO-PACIFIC HUMPBACK DOLPHINS, SOUSA CHINENSIS

The workshop was held in Changhua City, Taiwan in early September 2007; below is a short summary.

Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) face imminent extinction if measures are not taken to protect them and their habitat from a number of serious threats. The recent demise of the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) in China’s Yangtze River gives a particular sense of urgency to concerns about the fate of Taiwan’s humpback dolphins. The humpback dolphin is a fish-eating mammal that lives in shallow estuaries and nearshore waters and is especially vulnerable because it relies on habitat at the interface of land and sea. Research suggests that humpback dolphins residing in the eastern Taiwan Strait (=waters of western Taiwan) comprise a distinct population of less than 100 individuals.

The eastern Taiwan Strait humpback dolphins were the focus of an international workshop held in ChanghuaCity (Taiwan) on 4-7 September 2007. Participants included local dolphin researchers, conservationists and marine engineers, as well as experts from Canada, the United States, Japan, Brazil, United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Officials from government agencies, representatives of academic institutions and members of local conservation groups provided a grim picture of the state of the coastal marine environment along the west coast of Taiwan. Five major threats were identified: reduced river flow into estuaries, habitat loss, entanglement in fishing gear, industrial and municipal pollutant discharges, and underwater noise.

The expert group called on the Taiwanese government to proceed with a formal and public declaration of important habitat for the humpback dolphins; carry out public and transparent evaluations of existing and planned projects that may have impacts on the humpback dolphins and their habitat; mitigate such impacts using best available methods; prohibit the use of gill nets and trammel nets in nearshore waters; limit tourism focused on humpback dolphin-watching to shore-based platforms (including provision of public access to degraded habitat, thus promoting support for clean-up programs); and disclose pollutant concentrations and other environmental data.Only through the concerted efforts of individuals, organizations, central and local government agencies and industry will the distinct eastern Taiwan Strait humpback dolphins survive.

John Y. Wang, Ph.D.
(Member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group)
FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group
310-7250 Yonge Street
Thornhill, Ontario, CANADA, L4J-7X1
AND
(Adjunct Researcher)
National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
2 Houwan Road
Checheng, Pingtung County, 944, TAIWAN”

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