PRESS RELEASE: Conservation Groups Push Harder for Government Action to Save Dolphins

Taipei, Taiwan – February 26, 2009 – Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, a public interest organization dedicated to protecting Taiwan's natural environment, will be participating in a protest held by eight Taiwanese conservation NGOs to decry the lack of government action to address well-publicized threats to Taiwan's critically endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis). The protest will be held on Thursday, February 26, 2009 shortly before a closed-door meeting to be convened by the Biodiversity Division of the National Council of Sustainable Development.

The meeting will be only the second to be held since the government agreed more than a year ago to formulate a humpback dolphin conservation action plan and hold multi-stakeholder discussions to facilitate implementation. With no action plan in sight and no remedial action having resulted from the first meeting, NGOs insist that the government must do better.

Although NGOs have provided many detailed scientific documents describing the state of the population, the coordinates of their habitat and the main threats they face (entanglement in fishing gear; air, water and noise pollution; habitat loss; and reduction of freshwater flow into estuaries) government agencies still cite a lack of data as standing in the way of decisions, while simultaneously failing to invite key local and foreign dolphin experts who could offer the most up-to-date data on the population and help formulate effective solutions.

Wild at Heart has pointed out that, despite the apparent consensus that data on the dolphins are vital to assessing the types of action needed, the research team that has been surveying the dolphins since 2002 has been excluded from the Division's meetings. Additionally, while the Environmental Protection Administration has been discussing the possibility of a meeting of experts regarding the dolphins, government financial support for any of the foreign experts nominated by Taiwan's leading environmental groups to attend any meetings of this type have been paltry at best.

The government has only offered foreign dolphin experts subsidies for transportation in Taiwan and a NTD 2,000 (USD 62.50) attendance fee. This suggests the government’s unwillingness to invest any money in this issue, especially in light of its eagerness to spend millions each year to bring foreign business interest groups to Taiwan.

"We are deeply disturbed that the government has chosen not to invite some of the most relevant experts on Taiwan's humpback dolphins for discussions on conservation strategies," says Christina MacFarquhar, spokesperson of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association. "This strongly suggests a lack of seriousness on the part of the government about obtaining a true understanding of the nature of the peril these dolphins are facing."

NGOs are calling for immediate official designation of the population's habitat, the drafting and rapid implementation of a conservation action plan, funding of transportation for experts they have nominated to participate in discussions, and frequent meetings to be held and made open to the public.

Participating NGOs:
Taiwan Academy of Ecology, Taiwan Sustainable Union, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Wild Bird Society of Yunlin, Changhua Coastal Conservation Action, Matsu's Fish Conservation Union (Planning Office) and Taiwan Friends of the Global Greens (Planning Office).

About Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association:
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association is a public interest organization dedicated to promoting efforts to restore a healthy relationship with nature. The association, established in August 2003, works for the purpose of restoration, conservation and preservation of the Taiwan's fragile environment. Wild at Heart is also the secretariat for the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union. For more information please visit www.wildatheart.org.tw.

For Press Inquiries, Contact:
Christina MacFarquhar
(886-2) 2382-5810

 

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