Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society Press Release (September 19, 2017)
Comments on EIA of the Fuxiang Island reclamation from China Cetaceans Alliance
Referring to the environmental impact assessment report for the Fuxiang Island reclamation. China Cetacean Alliance has the following concerns on the impact the project will bring to Chinese White dolphins(CWD) in the area:
- The EIA report only reviews a one-year study data
Not enough literature review is done in the EIA so the detailed distribution and abundance data of CWD around the reclamation site is absent. Surveys should be done instead to find out the baseline data before construction and monitor the variation of distribution and abundance of CWD during construction.
- Close to important CWD habitat and potential blocking off traveling corridor of CWD
Although the proposed reclamation site is 15km away from the national CWD reserve, it is still close to area where CWD regularly sighted according to 2014 studies stated in the report. And according to the study in 2011(1), the western side of the reclamation site is also an important habitat for the CWD in Pearl River Estuary (PRE). The proposed reclamation site is possibly a crucial traveling corridor between EPRE CWD and WPRE CWD. Therefore a reclamation situates in the corridor may result in a block off of the communication between two big social groups.
- Water quality deterioration is a problem!
In the report, it mentioned the particulates in water will increase during construction but CWD will not be affected as they mostly use echolocation instead of eyesight. The only impact will be affecting the food source of CWD, and this can be a huge problem. Besides, the sewage disposal from the reclamation site, during the dredging process, long settled pollutants will be dug up and spread in the water body again. The toxins will accumulate in every level of food chain and finally come to the top predator in the region, CWD. In the long-term monitoring of CWD in Hong Kong, a high rate of premature death of dolphin calf is found and it is possibly the result of high concentration of pollutants found in their food source.
- No mitigation measure is suggested during the construction period – not a single measure is suggested in the report to mitigate the impact brought by the project during the construction. Only one procedure is suggested to address the construction noise, i.e. a 5 minutes scan will be done everyday before the start of work to see if there is dolphin appears near the site. However, if a dolphin appears in the middle of day, there is no procedure to stop any construction process. Dolphins are acoustic animals so noise pollution will have a huge impact on them. It will not only affect their hearing but they may try to avoid certain area in the habitat and this leads to a temporary habitat loss.
- Impact during calving season
Some sensitive processes will be avoided during calving season of CWD. But it is not clear that which process should be stopped. The vessel traffic around the work site will substantially increase no matter which process of work is being done. Large number of vessels will also bring noise disturbance or even risk of collision to CWD. A complete stop of construction work during calving season will be a more ideal measure.
- Cumulative impact is not considered
35 hectares may not sound like a huge piece of reclamation, but if we put all the surrounding development projects in consideration, e.g. Hengqien island reclamation, wind farm construction in Zhuhai Guishan Hai, 3RW construction in Hong Kong, one more project can multiply the impact on the already deteriorating habitat of CWD. A thorough cumulative impact assessment should be done to reassess the impact of the project to the nearby marine environment.
- Chimelong is expanding with a CWD conservation centre while doing reclamation in CWD habitat
A conservation centre for CWD just opened last year in Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. It is so ironic that Chimelong is now proposing a reclamation project which will surely bring some impact on the long-term survival of the population of CWD in the PRE.
- Chen, Tao, et al. “Distribution and group dynamics of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the western Pearl River Estuary, China.” Mammalian Biology-Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 76.1 (2011): 93-96.