[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Chemical plant threatens Taiwan's dolphins


(Focus Taiwan News Channel)

Petrochemical project likely to harm dolphin habitat: report
2011/12/26 18:46:46

Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) An evaluation commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday the expansion of Formosa Petrochemical Corporation's plant on Taiwan's southwest coast was likely to have a negative impact on an endangered species of dolphin.

The environmental impact assessment review suggested that the firm's plant in Yunlin County could be the cause of relatively low pH levels off northern Yunlin that were seen as affecting habits of the Chinese white dolphin, which was classified as critically endangered in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

According to a 2010 Scientific American online article, the number of Chinese white dolphins, also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, in Taiwanese waters was estimated to be less than 100.

Speaking at a report review meeting, Professor Chou Lien-siang, a representative from the Society of Wildlife And Nature, the group that conducted the assessment, said researchers spotted schools of Chinese white dolphins 118 times off Yunlin's coast between 2009 and 2011.

Most of the time, they were seen in the south -- an important breeding area -- and only three times were they spotted in the north, where the petrochemical plant is located, Chou said.

The ocean off the northern Yunlin coast was tested as having a pH level of around 7.5, which affected the dolphins' feeding habits, Chou noted, adding that a pH level of slightly above 8 is ideal for dolphins.

"In addition, noise pollution from boats also disturbs the dolphins. We suggest boat owners keep their speed below 6 knots. Moreover, sand dredgers have an especially negative influence on the dolphins' habitat and we should monitor such vessels more closely," Chou said.

Echoing Chou's comments, the evaluation committee added that further research should be undertaken to study how much underwater noise disturbs the marine mammal's ability to communicate.

At the end of meeting, the petrochemical firm was asked to submit a proposal that addressed the issues raised in the evaluation. (By Hsu Chih-wei and Kendra Lin) enditem/npw


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