September 17, 2008

Taiwan Urged to Take Action to Protect Endangered Coastal Dolphin

Text of report in English by Taiwanese Central News Agency website

[By Elizabeth Hsu]

Taipei, Sept. 17 (CNA) - A Canadian scientist dedicated to the preservation of aquatic mammals urged the Taiwan government Wednesday to take immediate action to protect an isolated and endangered population of dolphins that is found only in the eastern Taiwan Strait.

Peter S. Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada, made the call at a press conference held in Taipei by Taiwanese environmental protection advocates, including Legislator Tien Chiu-chin of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Ross is currently on a visit to Taiwan to attend the two-day 2008 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Roundtable Meeting on the Involvement of Business/Private Sector in Sustainability of the Marine Environment, which opened Tuesday in the capital city.

Along with other international and local cetacean scholars, Ross organized the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group to provide expert advice, guidance and scrutiny on conservation issues concerning Taiwan's remaining Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, known by the scientific name of Sousa chinensis.

The dolphins, which are white in colour and endemic to Taiwan, were discovered in 2002 off the west coast of the island. In August, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) listed the species as critically endangered after research found that the population of dolphins had dropped to less than 100.

Ross said the species might soon become extinct if it is not properly protected.

There will be no vibrant economy if the oceans are not healthy; and there will be no healthy oceans if there are no healthy dolphins, the scientist said, referring to the plight of the coastal dolphins as a signal from heaven to the Taiwanese people.

Ross urged the Taiwan government to list the dolphin's habitat as a preservation zone as soon as possible and to prohibit any kind of development there.

In Taiwan, the humpback dolphins are called "Matsu Fish" by local fishermen because they usually are seen between March and April off the western coast when the northeasterly monsoons weaken and the birthday of Matsu, the goddess of the Sea, is celebrated in Taiwan.

Originally published by Central News Agency website, Taipei, in English 1101 17 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.