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Lusa - Business News - Macau: Resumption of maritime links with HK threatening dolphins - researcher

Hong Kong,China,Jan.23,2023(Lusa)-The resumption of maritime links between Macau and Hong Kong will further threaten the survival of Chinese white dolphins in the Pearl River Delta region, according to a Portuguese researcher.
Trips by fast boats between the Macau peninsula and Sheung Wan, in central Hong Kong, resumed on Thursday after a hiatus of almost three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is bad news for the dolphins, lamented Vienna Mak Hei-man, the deputy director of the Hong Kong Dolphin Protection Society (HKDCS), after collecting equipment deployed at sea to detect sounds of the mammals near Tuen Mun, in the northwest of the region.
The researcher stressed that the route taken by the vessels "cuts in half" an area that is "an important habitat" for white dolphins, between the southwestern tip of Lantau Island and the Soko Islets in southern Hong Kong.
The interruption of maritime links between Macau and Hong Kong from February 2020 had allowed the animals to return "much more frequently" to Soko, "a very good place for dolphins to socialise and feed their young," she pointed out.
The year 2020 saw a "very significant" increase in white dolphin activity, including on the part of larger groups - something that left Vienna Mak Hei-man, who has been researching these mammals for almost a decade, "very hopeful".
But the number of dolphins spotted during regular HKDCS research trips fell from 52 in 2019 to 37 in the first year of the pandemic, before rising to 40 in 2022 - still a long way from the all-time high of 188 recorded in 2003.
"Large marine mammals need more time to react" to the impact of human activity, including the construction of large infrastructure and land reclamation projects offshore, the researcher stressed.
She lamented the fact that the Hong Kong authorities had rejected a proposal, made back in 2017, to divert the boats' route south, something that would "cost the operator perhaps an extra 10 minutes of travel and a little more fuel."
Sea connections between Macau and Hong Kong are run by Turbojet, part of the group of companies founded by Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who died in 2020, and which encompasses 13 casinos in Macau and, in Portugal, the Estoril and Lisbon casinos.
The Hong Kong Marine Department responded to the researchers' proposal that taking the route further offshore, into more turbulent waters, "could make the travel experience more uncomfortable for passengers," she recalled.
Her hopes for the dolphins took another hit with their near disappearance from the waters north of Lantau Island, due to work on the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which began in 2009.
"If nothing is done urgently, it will be very difficult to maintain the current population" of the animals, she warned. "The government keeps proposing more landfill projects and more bridges. This kind of construction is not sustainable."


Agency : LUSA

Date : 2023-01-24 10:15:00


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