Hong Kongs unique pink dolphins are facing a new threat of decimation as Hong Kong readies to expand its international airport along with a major new bridge project.
Conservationists fear that this species of dolphins will soon dwindle away and become extinct. Though they have sought to raise the issue with authorities, industrial development seems to have gained priority over preserving the dolphins.
The Chinese white dolphin — popularly known as the pink dolphin due to its color — draws scores of tourists daily to the waters north of Hong Kong's Lantau Island, according to an AFP report. They are now threatened afresh by the planned construction of a third runway at Hong Kong's busy Chek Lap Kok airport.
"We think that if that project goes ahead, then it will probably drive the dolphin away from Hong Kong waters," said Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, who has been going out to sea at least twice a week to monitor dolphin activity for almost 20 years.
"In some ways it seems like we are pushing them closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and if we're making that final push, they will be gone forever. I think now is the time to get our act together," AFP said. Hung says there are only around 60 dolphins left in Hong Kong waters — a drop from 158 in 2003.
"The dolphin decline is caused by a number of factors, including overfishing and environmental pollution ... but I think the major contribution is coming from the increase of high-speed ferry traffic," Hung said.
The construction of a 50 km bridge linking Hong Kong to the gambler's paradise of Macau is the second threat to the pink dolphins. According to AFP, the bridge looms on the horizon behind the village of Tai O, on the western tip of Lantau, from where dozens of dolphin tours go out daily.
"Since the construction of the bridge in 2012 the situation has worsened," says Hung, who blames land reclamation encroaching on dolphin habitats and continuing construction creating disturbance.
Dolphin-watching accounts for 10 percent of Tai O's tourism business.
According to the government, the potential impact the proposed third-runway could have on the pink dolphins had been "properly assessed and addressed."
"To compensate for the permanent loss of Chinese white dolphin habitats arising from the land formation works, the designation of a new marine park of approximately 24 square kilometers in the waters north of the third-runway project has been proposed," an agriculture, fisheries and conservation department statement said.