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Mingpao: HKIA admits new runway will affect habitats of white dolphins

Ahead of a study on the environmental impacts of the proposed Third Runway Project to be completed by the end of the year, the Hong Kong Airport Authority has released its findings on the potential impacts to the Chinese white dolphin population native to the Pearl River Estuary.

The study finds that reclamation works for the new runway will affect the usual movement patterns of the dolphins which forage around the waters off the Brothers Islands and Northwestern Lantau Island.

HKIA’s analysis claims that the population density and numbers of the dolphins in the areas north and west of the airport can only be classified as ‘medium’ and ‘low’. Overall data indicates a continual decline in the numbers of the white dolphin in the waters around the airport, with a longitudinal study released by HKIA yesterday finding that, within the waters of the proposed reclamation project, in the past year, a total of 215 dolphins were tracked in 62 pods, with each pod numbering 1 to 14 dolphins.

Additionally, the number of dolphins tracked in the areas north and west of the airport was recorded at an average of 11 dolphins per 100 km2, lower than the numbers of 67 and 44 dolphins per 100 km2 recorded by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department off the coasts of northwestern and western Lantau Island respectively.

Chinese white dolphin sightings in Hong Kong. The proposed reclamation area is shown to be a hotspot for the dolphins. (Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society)

The HKIA, however, admits that if the project receives the go-ahead, the channel used by dolphins for moving between the waters of Long Kwu Chau and the Brothers Islands will be obstructed by the reclamation area jutting out into the channel, forcing their movement paths north.

To compensate for the potential  damage caused to the dolphins’ habitat, the HKIA is suggesting the creation of a 650-acre marine park, equivalent to the area of the reclamation site, by linking the airport’s restricted maritime zone and the waters off Sha Chau and the Brothers Islands. The marine park will enforce restrictions on vessel speeds and fishing activities, in the hope of aiding the conservation of the white dolphins.

The HKIA’s proposal has been blasted by a senior official of WWF Hong Kong as ‘develop first, conserve later’ and putting the carriage before the horse, ultimately unable to account for the damage that the project will cause to the dolphins’ habitat.

The Chinese white dolphins, spotted in the waters of Hong Kong. (Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society)

The HKIA also said that they found no rare species of corals or marine organisms near the northern seawall of the airport. Experts have advised that the project should utilize non-destructive excavation methods for reclamation to reduce marine pollution and negative effects on ecology.

30 Nov 2013



【明報專訊】機場管理局 就興建第三條跑道,年底前將完成環評報告,昨日則率先公布針對中華白海豚的影響。顧問研究承認,填海工程將會影響白海豚慣常移動路徑,令白海豚往來大小磨 刀洲、大嶼山西北面及西面等鄰近覓食區時,要把路徑北移;機管局研究稱,機場西與北的海豚密度和數量只屬中等及低,未來將興建海岸公園作補償。環團批評, 機管局「先發展、後保育」,是消極及本末倒置,未能減低工程對白海豚造成的影響。


整體數據顯示,中華白海豚數量自2001年在機場海域附近呈下跌趨勢。機管局昨日公布為期一年的中華白海豚追蹤研究,表示在第三跑道將來填海水域附 近,追蹤到62組共215條海豚,組群的海豚數量介乎1至14條,即平均為每組3.5條。在機場西面及北面,每100平方公里錄得約11條海豚,較漁護署 數據在大嶼山西面與西北面發現,每100平方公里錄得的67及44條為少。


機管局強調,日後第三跑道的位置,現時白海豚的密度及數量只屬中等及低,但承認跑道工程動工後,白海豚慣常來往龍鼓洲、大小磨刀洲等通道,將被突出 的新陸地阻礙,要改為北移。為作補償,機管局建築工程環保事務總經理李仲騰表示,機管局建議把現時的機場海事禁區、沙洲海岸公園,以及日後大小磨刀洲海岸 公園範圍連接起來,建成更大的海岸公園,總面積估計不少於650公頃,以加強保育鄰近棲息的中華白海豚,範圍相等於填海工程的面積。海岸公園會令捕魚和船 隻行駛均有限制。



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