China: Endangered Dolphin Meat For Sale From Street Vendors

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China: Endangered Dolphin Meat For Sale From Street Vendors

A young Chinese White Dolphin was chopped up and sold for meat on the streets of Zhuhai city, in Guangdong province earlier this year. The species is affectionately referred to as the ‘Panda of The Sea’ and is listed as ‘endangered’, under first level protection.

Outrage spread quickly across Chinese social media as the photographs were shared far and wide. The level of outrage across China caused Zhuhai officials to investigate the situation.

Officials released a statement saying the dolphin was found by three fisherman who claimed it was already dead. The fisherman said part of the dolphin’s body was rotting, so they cut off the rotting part and set off to sell the main body and head of the dolphin.

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The endangered dolphin being cut up for meat on a public street.

When questioned by police the fishermen said they took home the remaining pieces of dolphin meat which didn’t sell, and they ate it. For investigative purposes, police removed the remaining bones for further investigation. The first found record about this kind of dolphin in China dates back to Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Endangered Chinese White Dolphin Under Threat

The endangered Chinese White Dolphin has been under successive threats for some years. “First it was the airport, then the bridge linking Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau. Following that, a third runway for the airport. Now the Chinese White Dolphin could be facing a new threat: a massive, state-owned wind farm project just a few kilometers away from Hong Kong waters,” said Ernest Kao.

The wind farm is only 2.5 kms away from the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin Nature Reserve, and near a planned marine park near south Lantau Island. After the 37 turbines were erected, their noise would still be carried underwater by their metal columns, said Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu.

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A post on Chinese social media about the endangered dolphin.

The Guangdong Electric Power and China Southern Power Grid, argue that noise from piling works would be kept at a “safe threshold” of 160dB and would not cause dolphins in the protected areas “much harm”.  [End of report.]

The numbers of Chinese White Dolphins have dropped to a new low, since population records began in 2003. Experts warn of a “critical juncture” in the species’ existence in Hong Kong waters, as it’s besieged by multiple infrastructure projects in its main habitat of northern Lantau Island.

Dwindling Numbers Of Chinese White Dolphins

From 87 dolphins in 2010-11, numbers fell to 65 in 2015-16 and 47 in 2016-17, a sharp 27 per cent drop, according to the latest report by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The biggest drop was recorded in southwest Lantau.

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Chinese White Dolphin in Hong Kong waters.

Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu of the Cetacean Research Project, said the alarmingly low numbers of Chinese White Dolphins was partly due to high-speed ferries from Hong Kon’s airport’s Sky Pier being diverted through core dolphin habitat and on-going construction works.

“Reclamation destroys dolphin foraging habitat and marine traffic increases the collision risk. Also, the underwater noise generated inhibits their echolocation capability,” Samantha Lee, WWF Hong Kong’s conservation manager for oceans, said. “These disturbances threaten the survival of the remaining dolphins.”

Hong Kong’s existing marine parks are failing to attract dolphins. “We’ve reached a critical juncture. It’s now life or death for [the dolphins],” Hung said. Read more: no optimism for survival of Chinese White Dolphins in Hong Kong waters.

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