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  IOL 20 Nov 06
Pink dolphin tumbles off Taiwan

By Ralph Jennings

Taipei - A dolphin that lives along the west coast of Taiwan is declining to dangerously low numbers because of over-fishing and pollution, local environmental researchers said on Monday.

The number of pink Pacific humpback dolphins had declined off Taiwan over the past three years to an estimated 120, the Formosa Cetus Research and Conservation Group and the Wild at Heart Legal Defence Association found after three years of study.

Illegal fishing is netting dolphins for high-end meals in central Taiwan, the two groups suspect.

They say untreated wastewater from a reservoir plus hundreds of coastal factories are killing off small estuary fish that draw dolphins to the Taiwan coast.

"The population is very small and therefore predisposed to being vulnerable to any form of exploitation - direct, indirect, intentional or unintentional," said John Wang, co-founder of the conservation group.

"Given the state of western Taiwan and the continuing destruction with little to no mitigation of existing serious threats, population size can only decrease."

Pink dolphins are also found in small populations off the coast of China, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Hong Kong Dolphinwatch has been working since 1995 to increase the public awareness of their plight. The total population remains a mystery although researchers in Hong Kong say pink dolphins are common in the Pearl River Delta, where they number about 1 200.

Due to a lack of research, there is no way to know what the Taiwan dolphin population was in 2002, but the ocean was generally healthier then, said Yang Shih-chu, a director with the conservation group, which works with the National Museum of Marine Biology in Pingtung County.

In 1996, police and Taiwan's Council of Agriculture found about 10,540 kg of meat from the legally protected species in two southern counties.

Dolphin fried with ginger still turns up in restaurants of west-central Taiwan.

Related articles on Wild shores and dolphins with links to dolphin sightings in Singapore
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