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Experts urge more protection for rare dolphins

2013-07-21 09:15 Xinhua Web Editor: Wang Fan

The Chinese white dolphin population is increasing in waters in southern China, but pollution and illegal fishing mean more protection efforts are needed, according to experts.

Wu Haiping, an academician with the Qinzhou-based Beibu Gulf Chinese White Dolphin Conservation and Research Center (CWDCRC), has been keeping records of the rare creature in the Sanniangwan Bay.

"If marine pollution is not curbed, the dolphins might still be endangered," Wu said.

Dubbed the "giant pandas of the sea," Chinese white Dolphins, which fall under China's first-class animal protection category, are mainly scattered in a few coastal areas in the country and exist only in small numbers.

Only about 800 Chinese white dolphins existed in 2011, making them even more rare than the giant panda, according to the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin National Nature Reserve.

The dolphins have a low reproduction rate and high requirements for their marine environment. Female dolphins only give birth every three years, and the calves have only a 20 percent chance of survival, according to experts.

Investigations jointly conducted by China's State Oceanic Administration and the Guangxi Science and Technology Department found that the number of Chinese white dolphins near Qinzhou Port's Sanniangwan Bay stood at about 140 in 2012.

Lin Zhiyong, director of Qinzhou's aquaculture, animal husbandry and veterinary bureau, said that maritime pollution does pose a threat,especially when monsoons from the southwest carry floods of trash into the waters of the bay, including soda cans, beer bottles, plastic bags and water lettuce.

Lin said the Sanniangwan Administrative Committee dispatches cleaners to collect the rubbish on a daily basis, but the pollution is periodic and difficult to tame.

He added that illegal fishing activities in the Sanniangwan Bay are another major problem threatening the dolphins, and electrical and bombing fishing methods will inevitably hurt the mammals.

Lin said the local fishery administration has tightened control over such activities, but the randomness of the fishing makes it difficult for authorities to completely stamp it out. In addition, such fishing is usually conducted underwater, allowing illegal fishermen to easily evade patrol staff, he added.

Research conducted by the CWDCRC shows that some dolphins have had scratches or traces of blood on their bodies, possibly caused by illegal fishing activities or because they were hit by boats or ships.

Other factors such as underwater noises and frequent tours by visitors endanger the animals as well, Lin said.

Wu Haiping suggests that the government enhance the promotion of dolphin preservation by allocating more funds and by boosting people's awareness about protecting endangered species.

"A more comprehensive protection mechanism should be established to curb illegal fishing, control marine pollution and set up visiting regulations," Wu said.

A researcher surnamed Yang with the CWDCRC has urged greater understanding of the mammals and their living environment and dangerous factors surrounding the dolphins.

"Only in this way can we truly keep the Chinese white dolphins from going extinct," Yang said.

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