Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year !

Taiwan Humpback Dolphins: courtesy of FormosaCetus

Happy New Year,
and all the best for 2008 !

"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important."
A comment posted on Birdforum by James Owen.


"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important." A comment posted on Birdforum this morning by James Owen.

That was just what I really needed to hear this morning. Thanks, James ! It really puts the emission issue and conservation into a nutshell. It's all choices and how we go about our making choices is what it's all about.

2008 is all about choices. The choices that we make and how our choices will impact on our planet. Jame's comment was in a thread about a couple who are planning on a Big Year of birding. Jetting all over the world to try and notch up as many species as they can in a single year.

Big Years are trying to see as many species in a year as possible. Birders can do them locally, nationally and even internationally. Big Years aren't confined to birders only. It could be a Big year of cetaceans, mammals or even butterflies. The list is endless.

Birding Big Years can be very competitive and books such as Mark Obmascik's "The Big Year" will give one some insight into what a big Year is about. Big Years are what many birders dream about and I know I have. If we look at a Big Year, is it actually nothing more than vanity? Is it just selfless ambition? Well, I guess the choice is yours as to what to make of it.

I also came across this thread on Birdforum this morning, Doing a Bigby - Local Birding 2008, The Big Green Big Year. That sounded pretty good. A Green Big Year ! Doing it on foot locally or under your own steam on a bicycle, canoe or such like. Well, that sounded fun and I need the exercise so I signed up for that one. My Big Green Year in the Huben/Hushan IBA on pedal power.

Well back to choices. In today's Taipei Times the EPA calls on public to celebrate New Year's Eve with environment in mind. Your choice on letting off fireworks tonight and filling the neighbourhood with potassium, aluminum, magnesium, barium, lead, strontium, calcium, sodium, iron and zinc.... and scaring the hell out of the animals in the area.

Also, if you haven't voiced your concern to the Taiwan authorities over the Hushan Dam and the Taiwan pink dolphins, well, that's your choice. Letters helped to create the pressure needed to get the dolphins included in the environmental impact assessment process earlier this year. So often I hear people say we've got our own problems and we need to look at our home issues first. Fair enough, just remember the chances are that many if not all of the components in the computer you're using to read this now where made in Taiwan.

All the best for a Greener 2008 !

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Power firms sign emissions pact

On Friday ten private and public power companies signed voluntary agreements with the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12 million tonnes by 2015. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come. Environmentalists have expressed concerns and understandably so. Taiwan hasn't really shown a desire to cut back emissions to early to mid 1990s levels at all. Talk has focused around 2005 levels and at best the 2000 level. For a country with a per capita emissions rate of three times the world average these proposals by the government and industry just don't make the grade and this isolationist type of thinking poses a real risk of internationally isolating Taiwan further as an emissions bandit as the nations of the world try and clean up.

Taiwan is developing industry that is going to increase the nation's CO2 emissions. Saying that a planned coal power plant that is going to be built was going to use 'technology a' and now it will be built using 'technology b' and that will save 'X' in emissions doesn't get around the fact that the coal power plant is going to be built and it is going to increase emissions.

A real effort to reduce power consumption needs to be made. A change in the nature of future planned industries needs to be considered and the need to change to more environmentally friendly and responsible industry needs to become the focus. Hushan Dam, Dadu Weir, more power plants, steel mills, and plastic plants are not the responsible way forward. Dressing up development that is going to increase greenhouse gas emissions is just greenwashing and sooner or later it will be exposed for what it is.

Also see: MOEA says emissions reduced at 4 local power plants

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dadu Weir Project Public Explanation Meeting Report

Taiwan Academy of Ecology protesting before the meeting over the diversion of water resources for industry, including private enterprises, by the water resources agencies and endangering the livelihoods of the Taiwanese people and the survival of the humpback dolphins.

Water resources official calls Dadu River without a dam “a waste”

On Thursday 20 December a meeting was held in the Town Hall of Hemei Township, Changhua County, to allow concerned parties to hear about why the Dadu River should be dammed and over a fifth of its water diverted for industrial use in Changbin Industrial Park and Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. Repeat meetings were held that afternoon in Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre and the following morning in Dacheng Township.

The Dadu River (= Wu River) is the sixth largest river in Taiwan’s and a major source of fresh water for Taiwan’s west coast ecosystems. It feeds the Dadu Wetlands, which were previously listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as being one of Asia’s four major wetlands*. In addition, the Eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis), which occur in the shallow coastal waters along the west coast of Taiwan from the Tongsiao River estuary in Miaoli County to Taisi in Yunlin County, have been sighted in the Dadu River estuary. Reduced freshwater flow into estuaries such as Dadu was identified at the 2nd ETS Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin workshop in September this year as being one of five major threats to the population. Any diversion or impoundment of rivers flowing out to the west coast could, therefore, increase the level of threat of extinction of the population.

At this stage of the planning process, what was presented to the public at the meetings on the 20th and 21st was what is called the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan.” Projects subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are presented to the public and to official review bodies in various forms, including “feasibility plans” such as this, and “Environmental Statements” (ESs) such as those presented to the EPA’s EIA Review Commission. Although the system has the potential to allow all parties to be fully informed of the costs and benefits of a project, it is frequently the case that variation in the sets of documents prepared for review by (and made available to) different stakeholders means that the whole picture is never presented, thereby limiting public participation and the effectiveness of the review process.

On Thursday, in addition to presentations by representatives from Sinotech Engineering Consultants Ltd. and the Central Region Water Resources Office , a simple flier containing maps, photos and a basic explanation of the purpose and advantages of the project was provided to interested members of the public, along with a blank comment sheet. The Public Explanation Meeting and the comment sheet are formalities required by Taiwan’s EIA regulations. Comments provided by the public are supposed to be included in further reports and considered in the further planning stages.

The meeting began with a broad explanation of the project. This included technical aspects, financial costs, benefits to society, the project timescale, compensation for land acquisition, flood control, environmental impacts, funds for environmental enhancement, dust-reduction strategies and prevention of burst pipes. As is customary, vital details were missed out, but members of the audience supplemented much of what had been left out or prompted the presenters for more information.

According to Sinotech, preparatory work, construction and operation tests will span a period of six years from January 2009 to December 2014 and involve an estimated cost to the public of NTD 26.8 billion (USD 824 million). The project is designed to meet the future needs of central western Taiwan’s Changbin and Yunlin Industrial Parks. However, as pointed out by the head of the Central Region Water Resources Office Mr. Jiang Ming-lang (江明郎), it only seems as if the project is targeted towards providing for industry. In actual fact, he said, “if we can satisfy industrial water needs, industry will not need to extract ground water. If they don’t extract ground water, they won’t need to compete with the people [for water resources]. So in the end, although the recipient is industry and not the public, and although it looks like this has nothing to do with the public, industry will no longer need to extract groundwater and so the people will benefit and industry can continue to develop.”

However, as pointed out a member of the audience during the question and answer session, if the water is to be used to meet the expanding future needs of industry for greater water supplies, it will not replace an existing source of industrial water (e.g. ground water) but will rather constitute an additional source of industrial water, doing nothing to address the continuing conflict between water resource users.

Arguments that river impoundment will help mitigate water resource disputes, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion have been used to promote other projects such as the Hushan Dam in Yunlin County (currently under construction), which is also designed to supply water for further development of Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park and hence faces similar criticism. A major concern is that agriculture will lose out to industry as more water is channeled directly to the industrial parks, depleting groundwater resources and failing to produce the glowing win-win results consistently promised by proponents.

Concerns were also raised by members of the public about potential impacts of the river diversion on the Dadu Estuary Wildlife Refuge. Sinotech claimed that impacts on the Refuge have already been minimized by setting the route of the water pipes along the path of an existing road. Also, because the water level would be raised rather than water being directly extracted from the river as happens in some river diversion projects, impacts on the environment would be “minimized”.

However, a deeper concern of many in the audience was the impact of reduced freshwater flow to the estuary. If the plan goes ahead, an estimated daily volume of eight hundred thousand tons of water will be diverted for industrial use, with around six hundred thousand of that being piped south to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. The Sinotech speaker said that after extraction there would still be nearly three million tons per day of water flowing to the estuary, which was “a lot” and therefore the removal of eight hundred thousand tons of water per day would “not impact on downstream reaches”.

If Sinotech’s figures are taken to be correct, however, 8 hundred thousand tons makes up over a fifth of the river’s flow. Several members of the audience expressed concern that little or no explanation was being provided as to how the developers had come to the conclusion that the Refuge would not be negatively impacted by this substantial loss of fresh water input.

As for the ETS humpback dolphins, the developers steered clear of the issue in their presentations, and it was once again members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) who raised it. Indeed, the message that resounded after the presentations was that delivered repeatedly and passionately by Mr. Jiang – that leaving the Dadu River without a dam (making it the only major river in the central region without one) would be a “waste”. Of course it is true that all that “extra” water could be flowing into a petrochemical factory or a steel plant to be heated up and contaminated, rather than directly to the sea. However, this overlooks the innumerable uses to which the plants and animals of the west coast are already putting that water - if the river is indeed incomplete without a dam, one wonders what the Dadu River estuary will be without its fish, birds and humpback dolphins.

Due to the efforts first of FormosaCetus and then other members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) proceedings started to include some consideration of the dolphins in 2007. Now, while the Environmental Statement (ESs) produced for some projects might not mention the existence of the population, participation by the MFCU in EIA meetings has led to subsequent versions of some ESs including a paragraph or two on what is known about the dolphins’ distribution. However, these ESs do not generally address the likely impacts on the population, nor do they include the dolphins in any monitoring plans or mitigation strategies.

* Taiwanese official documents claim that Dadu was listed by the IUCN as one of Asia's four major wetlands. We have asked the IUCN to confirm this but no response has been received to date.

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bali climate talks nearly melt down

Another emissions related article appearing in the Taiwan papers today.
See: Bali climate talks nearly melt down in today's China Post.

Government to reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels

The world's dirtiest power plant. Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung, through the haze.

The Government says it will reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels but is this enough? According to the Cabinet's chief technology adviser, Lee Yuan-tseh, the government will seek to reduce the annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Taiwan to year 2000 levels by 2025. This means that the government needs to cut current greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40 percent.

The desire to reduce CO2 levels is good and we applaud that. However, the Taiwan government and EPA haven't exactly got a good track record when it comes to reducing emissions so naturally environmentalists remain sceptical. It's really time for the government and its agencies like the EPA to put the money where their mouth is and do something to demonstrate their sincerity in reducing emissions.

In 1998, the National Energy Conference reached a temporary agreement under which the government would aim to reduce CO2 emissions in the country to year 2000 levels by 2020. This clearly hasn't been happening nor has there ever been a serious effort to do so. Taiwan has the single largest CO2 emitting power plant on the planet. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are three times the world average. We've watched controversial projects of dubious legality such as the Hushan Dam Project steamrolled through the EIA process. These projects are linked to the development of heavy-polluting industry on Taiwan's west coast. These are developments that will raise the country's alarmingly high emissions level even higher. Hushan Dam, a project that is trashing an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and destroying globally the most important breeding area for the Fairy Pitta is going ahead to meet the water demands of more planned heavy industry. The resulting reduction in the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui River Estuary will have dire consequences for Taiwan's extremely vulnerable and unique population of humpback dolphin and will degrade critically important waterbird habitat in Dacheng Wetlands, another internationally designated IBA.

If the government is serious about reducing Taiwan's greenhouse gas levels then in the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN) "The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See Taiwan to push for reduction of CO2 emissions in the Taiwan News.

On a happier note. A more possitive story from today's Taipei Times:
EPA launches campaign to promote 'green hotels'

Monday, December 24, 2007

Emission coverage continues

As the Taiwan media continues its coverage of the CO2 emissions issue we'll continue to link to some of the articles because of their relevance to both the Taiwan humpback dolphins and the Hushan Dam issues.

See 'Low carb' life can keep Taiwan cool and EPA selects 32 finalists in poster contest to promote carbon emission reductions in today's Taipei Times.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

EPA to unveil plan for global body next month

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Winston Dang says the EPA will present a comprehensive plan next month to push for the establishment of a World Environment Organization (WEO). See today's Taipei Times for details.

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Green' action cannot wait for US

See Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) Chair, Gloria Hsu's letter, "'Green' action cannot wait for US" in today's Taipei Times. Gloria urges Taiwan not to drag it's feet on cutting emissions and says that waiting for the US isn't an excuse for Taiwan not to act.

Also see:
Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Emissions talk continues

Hushan, globally the most important breeding area for the rare and vulnerable Fairy Pitta being destroyed to build a dam to supply water for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry in a country which has a per capita CO2 emissions rate three times the world average. The dam will also degrade the remaining habitat of the endangered Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui Estuary.

Talk over Taiwan's CO2 emissions continues. From the standpoint that Taiwan needs to be a UN member to really reduce its emissions to Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh urging presidential candidates to aim at stabilizing CO2 emissions by 2025 at the level it was at in 2000. Environmental Quality Protection Foundation Chairman Liu Ming-lung said he supports Lee's idea of stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at the 2000 level by 2025 but added that when setting goals to reduce carbon emissions, stricter targets are not necessarily good because it might result in negative economic growth.

According to Taiwan's Department of Health Taiwan was ranked 22nd in the world in terms of total CO2 emissions in 2005. That is unacceptable to the health of the people of Taiwan and all life that we share Taiwan with. On that reason alone something drastic should be done. Stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at 2000 levels isn't enough and using the UN card as an excuse to act doesn't help the people of Taiwan. The whole world needs to change and so does Taiwan. If we don't, then nature will change us. Do we really want to build more dams and factories to further pollute our environment, destroy our health and drive species like the Taiwan humpback dolphins and numerous others over the brink into extinction?

"Many of us wonder whether human beings, one of ten million or more species on earth, have the right to destroy such a large proportion of what are as far as we know our only living companions in the universe." Ed Wilson & Paul Erlich

Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Also see:
Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Government urged to take action on emissions

Another article urging Taiwan to take action on against its high level of CO2 emissions. See Government urged to take action on emissions in the Taiwan News. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and at 12 metric tons of CO2 annually per person it's three times the global average of 4 tons per person. Recently Nature magazine named Taiwan's Wuchi power plant in Taichung as the world's highest CO2 emitting coal-fired power plant. Taiwan seems to be forging ahead with developing more heavy industry that will substantially raise the country's level of CO2 emissions. This development will also directly impact very negatively on Taiwan's unique and extremely vulnerable humpback dolphins and many other Red List species which include the Fairy Pitta of Hushan.

Also see Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

The Dadu River Estuary

The Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency will be holding three Public Explanation Meetings on the 20th and 21st December (see below) in the Changhua area for the feasibility/planning of the proposed Dadu Weir which would reduce the flow of freshwater into the Dadu (Tatu) estuary. The "Matsu's Fish Conservation Union" will be holding a protest to coincide with the Public Explanation Meetings to raise awareness of the negative impact that the Dadu Weir would have on the unique and extremely vulnerable Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Dadu estuary and how this project will supply water to further develop Taiwan's heavy industry in a country where the per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and no meaningful plan seems to exist to try and reduce these emission levels.

Developers notice:
"Dadu Weir Project Feasibility Plan” Local Public Explanation Meeting

1. Premise for the Meeting

The Wu River catchment has plentiful water resources and is the main source of water for the Central Region [of Taiwan]. However, because the downstream reaches are polluted by municipal waste the water is of poor quality and the rate of water resource use is low.

The Water Resources Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs once planned to build Guosing and Jianmin Reservoirs in the upstream reaches of the Wu River, neither of which went ahead because of many factors. After considering the critical nature of the water resources situation in the Changhua/Yunlin area and the needs of future industrial development, the Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency took precautions and devised the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan” [大度攔河堰可行性規劃] in order to use the Wu River resources effectively, suggesting that the priority be to develop Dadu Weir to provide 800 000 tons of water a day industrial use, 300 000 tons per day of which would be supplied to Changbin Industrial Park, with the remaining 500 000 tons per day and Jiji Weir on the Jhuoshuei River to be used together to supply industrial water to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park.

The estimated cost for the “Dadu Feasibility Plan” project is about 26.8 billion New Taiwanese Dollars. It is planned that in 2009 and 2010 the project will be designed and land acquired, and estimated that in 2011 work will start, and that in 2014 it will be finished, providing sufficient water for industrial use. In addition to promoting industrial development, this can also reduce groundwater extraction, to alleviate the problem of continued ground subsidence.

2. Basis and Purpose for the Meeting

According to Article 10 Item 1 of the EPA’s Standards for Environmental Impact Assessment of Development Activities [開發行為環境影響評估作業準則], before a developer makes and delivers its Environmental Statement to the EPA for review, it must hold at meeting to allow the public to participate and express their opinions.


20.12.2007 10am: Hemei Township, main auditorium on the 4th floor of the town hall.
20.12.2007 2pm: Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre Briefing Room.
21.12.2007 10am Dacheng Township Town Hall 3rd floor Big Meeting Room.

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung. The world's greatest CO2 emittions coal power plant

In the wake of the Bali Conference Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Deputy Minister Chang Feng-teng has said that the nation's most urgent environmental issue is to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls. Is this just more empty words from the government or are they really going to do something this time?

Taiwan is arguably the third highest per capita CO2 emitter on the planet. With projects like the Hushan Dam going ahead and others like the Dadu weir (consultation to take place 19-20 December)set to follow in order to supply the water needs for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry one wonders how on earth Taiwan is going to be able to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls? The recent track record of Taiwan's EPA doesn't inspire confidence that the EPA has any real commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

In the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Netwok (TEAN)"The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See: Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA in today's Taipei Times.

Taiwan's Wuchi Power Plant - the world's dirtiest

Taiwan's coal power plant at Wuchi, Taichung being named by Nature magazine (Vol 450/15 November 2007, p 327:- Graphic detail Countries with highest CO2-emitting power sectors, Tonnes per year) as producing the largest amount of CO2 emissions of any power plant on the planet prompted a member of the environmental impact assessment commission that is reviewing a private power plant project in eastern Taiwan to write an article that appeared in the local press. Our heart goes out to those few commissioners of conscience who try and raise the real issues while participating in the window dressing exercises of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency/Developer/Elected Representative clique. We have created an incredible nearly unstoppable pollution generation monster through a simple, three-step process:

1) Privatize energy generation, but keep distribution with the state-owned Taiwan Power Company

2) Taiwan Power is legally required to buy all energy generated, regardless of need

3) Keep the people in the dark as to where the money and energy are going and as to the true costs

Sixty years of isolation under the Chinese KMT rule and for the last eight years under the Taiwanese DPP rule, are taking their toll.

See: CO2 for Taiwan pollution forever

Also see:
Taiwan Power Plant Tops in Carbon Output, Group Says

Monday, December 17, 2007

The environment must come first

As the world's eyes have been on Bali, take a moment to consider that Taiwan isn't there. Consider that Taiwan ranks amongst the highest per capita CO2 emitters on the planet but the world's not talking to them. See the Taipei Times's editorial "The environment must come first."

More animal rights or just more talk?

On Friday the legislature overhauled the Animal Protection Act. This is indeed a good step in the right direction but given that Taiwan's previous legislation on animal protection wasn't that lax one asks if this was just another case of window dressing. The real test will be to see if it gets enforced. While they're talking about animal protection how about something more for Taiwan's pittas and pink dolphins?

See: Lawmakers pass overhaul of law on animal rights

The 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

We've just returned from the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference offered on opportunity to help raise international awareness of the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins and other related Taiwan issues like the Hushan Dam project. We'll be posting more on the conference shortly.

See, Cape Argus: Loss of 'goddess' a grave warning sign

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Taiwan's Pink Dolphins make it into India's Central Chronicle

An Indian daily newspaper, Central Chronicle, recently ran an article titled Rare dolphin faces extinction on the plight of the Taiwan pink dolphins. Great to see the issue making the papers in other Asian countries.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Formosa Plastic Group's Yunlin Steel Mill Needs More Review

The FPG plant at Mailiao, Yunlin

See former Environmental Impact Assessment Committee member Lee Ken-cheng's article titled Formosa Plastic Group's Yunlin Steel Mill Needs More Review for some further insight into the Mailiao and Hushan Dam development issues.

Taking the plight of the Taiwan pink dolphins abroad - The 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

View of Cape Town, host city to the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

The Society for Marine Mammalogy will be holding the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals from 29 November to 3 December, 2007, in Cape Town, South Africa. Matsu's Fish Conservation Union members will be present. Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, will have a booth at the conference. Also, FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group will be doing two presentations on the Taiwan pink dolphins. In addition to this the steering committee that was established at the Second International Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters of western Taiwan will be meeting to work on the establishment of an international working group of scientific experts whose mandate will be to provide independent advice on ETS humpback dolphin research and conservation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Protesters accuse the EPA of protecting big business

Recent violent events at EPA meetings highlight some worrying incidents in the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins vs further industrial development of the Yunlin County coastal area have resulted in accusations that the EPA is protecting big business. Probably the most worrying incident was the apparent assault of former EIA Assessment Committee member and Taipei based lawyer, Robin Winkler, at an EPA meeting when he left the meeting room to get some water. This followed an earlier incident on the floor during the same meeting. The actions by the EPA in the wake of such incidents appear wholly unsatisfactory and there are serious concerns amongst environmentalists that such indifference could be interpreted as a message that violence against environmentalists is acceptable. We would urge the EPA to speak out against these recent events and make a clear statement that violence against environmentalists will not be tolerated.

Also see:

Environmental activists denounce EPA

Second Investigative Hearing into Assault Against Wild at Heart Director at Meeting Involving Humpback Dolphins

Kaohsiung's air gets worse

A short piece from yesterday's Taipei Time's Taiwan Quick Take section. See Kaohsiung's air gets worse. The recent poor air quality in the Kaohsiung area largely blamed on existing west coast industry....and the government and developers are planning more.

A guide to calculating the carbon dioxide debt and payback time for wind farms

A paper on calculating the carbon dioxide debt and payback time for wind farms makes some interesting reading.

Also of interest:
CO2 Emissions Profile of the U.S. Cement Industry
Supplementary memorandum by The British Cement Association

Thursday, November 15, 2007

APEC meeting on the marine environment: time to recognise the value of a dolphin

Effluent flowing into the mouth of the Dadu River, Taichung.

How can coastal industrial development and protection of the coastal environment coexist? This was the one of the main themes addressed at the “8th APEC Roundtable Meeting on the Involvement of the Business/Private Sector in Sustainability of the Marine Environment”, held in Taipei from November 6-8.

A range of presentations by delegates from industry, government and academia highlighted once again the enormous impacts of industrial development on the coastal and marine environment, including a sobering talk by a resident of Tuvalu, an island nation currently experiencing gradual inundation due to the rising sea level. Some contributions also reinforced the call for attention to a few of the threats to Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins Sousa Chinensis identified at the Second International Workshop on Conservation and Research Needs of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the Waters of Taiwan, held in Changhua County in September this year. Meanwhile, examples of conservation and pollution prevention and response measures were provided by delegates from Hong Kong, Korea, Canada and the Philippines.

One off-the-cuff remark made during a talk by an official from the Construction and Planning Administration about a possible industrial development in Changhua County hinted at yet another project that bodes ill for Taiwan’s humpback dolphins. The proposal for Dacheng Industrial Park, a controversial project for which virtually no information is publicly available, signals the potential arrival of yet another source of pollution to this area (within the humpback dolphins’ confirmed range) as well as meaning bad news for the Dacheng Wetland (also spelt Tacheng), an internationally recognised Important Bird Area (IBA).

Considerable discussion focused on the conservation of the humpback dolphins and other marine mammals. Citing the UN’s designation of 2007 as the “Year of the Dolphin”, participants included in their recommendations to APEC that whale-watching be promoted, that collaborative scientific research be carried out on the stock of cetaceans and that Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin protected areas be established in the APEC region. These recommendations came directly from some of the conclusions of a symposium held in Taichung City in October, which attempted to address some of the issues affecting Taiwan’s humpback dolphins.

The idea of setting up a protected area in which the humpback dolphins of western Taiwan can be free of human interference is certainly attractive – but is Taiwan in a position to do so effectively? While major parts of the dolphins’ range have now been confirmed by scientists, sightings outside of this range and a lack of data for winter distribution suggest that more information would be needed before the dolphins’ entire range and the importance of particular areas for feeding, breeding, calving and other purposes could be determined. If a marine protected area (MPA) for the dolphins were to exclude an area vital to their survival or one which currently forms a passage between two important areas, or to fail to include a buffer zone large enough to protect against the far-reaching impacts of noise pollution, their effective protection could be severely compromised, while the existence of an MPA might give the dangerous public illusion that sufficient measures were being taken.

What this means is not that protection is impossible or premature. On the contrary, the major threats to Taiwan’s humpback dolphins have already been identified and readdressed by cetacean experts in 2004 and 2007, and the process of reducing or eliminating some or all of these threats could start at once. An end to the pretense in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports that the dolphins do not swim in waters slated for large-scale industrial development; considerable and swift reduction of the impacts of these developments; and the prohibition of the use of gill and trammel nets in the dolphins’ known range – these and other measures identified in 2004 and 2007 are most likely to have direct positive impacts on the dolphins’ chances of survival.

Of course this will not happen without much negotiation and some disagreement, as highlighted by the physical violence which occurred during an EIA meeting in the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) last Thursday, sparked by an argument over whether or not the dolphins swim in the coastal waters near the planned site of Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG) steel plant, which is located within the confirmed range of the dolphins. The commercial interests of corporations such as FPG, as well as the livelihoods of fishermen and others who use the coastal and upstream areas affecting the dolphins, are indeed all factors that must be addressed by the relevant government agencies and the general public. But they must be addressed quickly, as denial and delay will rob all stakeholders of the chance to agree on a way forward before it is too late.

Finally, a vital element of this process will be a high level of transparency in terms of all information relating to past and present projects and pollution affecting the counties in whose coastal waters the dolphins swim. This applies not only to impacts on the dolphins but also to impacts on the human residents of these counties. Too often, the concealment of the toxicity of effluent (e.g. the TAIC pollution disaster in Tainan) and the composition and concentration of emissions has led (and will continue to lead) to the slow poisoning of unsuspecting local residents. Although possibly better than many other government agencies, the EPA is known neither for its encouragement of public participation nor its timely provision of this type of information. However, if any balance is to be brought to the debate over the need for protection of the dolphins, the link between their health and that of the local people (and all others in Taiwan and abroad who consume food grown or harvested in the soil and water in these areas) must be recognized, and not hidden behind blinkered forecasts of the doom that will befall the Taiwanese people if GDP has to make way for more holistic and honest measures of welfare.

Indeed, it is links such as that between business and its effects on human and “environmental” health and wellbeing, and that between human and other species’ wellbeing, that could lend a meaningful, productive edge to these APEC roundtable meetings. Until serious talk begins on integrating health and other forms of capital (other than financial) into national accounting, protection of the home of the humpback dolphins and other species will continue to be seen as a hindrance, rather than a facilitator, of economic wellbeing in the Asia Pacific Region.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

146 wind turbines in dolphin waters

The inshore waters around Changbin Industrial Park, near Lukang, Changhua County is known humpback dolphin habitat. It is arguably the best site for land based observation and forms critically important habitat for the species. 244 wind turbines are to be erected in the area (23 have already been erected). Of those, 146 will be erected in the shallow inshore waters that are frequented by the dolphins. What effect will the noise from this "green energy" project have on the species? With less than a hundred of these unique dolphins left, will this push them over the edge beyond the point of no return? Isn't green energy about saving our planet? Knowingly creating noise that harms and destroying the habitat of a unique marine mammal species that in all likelihood will result in its extinction doesn't quite fit the green profile, does it?

See Changhua builds turbines in today's Taipei Times.

Also see:
The impact of wind farm construction on the Humpback Dolphins

Monday, November 12, 2007

EPA and supporters celebrate 9th year of green lifestyle

Farmer burning waste

The headline EPA and supporters celebrate 9th year of green lifestyle in today's Taipei Times caught my eye. I had a look and read how the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and thousands of environmental volunteers in a number of cities and counties yesterday celebrated the EPA's ninth year of its Low-carbon Lifestyle Program.

While I'm all for programs and efforts to reduce carbon levels and applaud and encourage any such effort I couldn't help thinking that this was just another green-washing type drive to lay a smoke screen over the EPA's reluctance to really make a concerted effort to do something concrete to address the issue of Taiwan's carbon emissions problem.

I dread October and November each year because I know that that is the time that countless farmers burn their fields and every piece of garbage and unwanted vegetation they can rake together. For about eight weeks my nose constantly runs, I cough and get headaches. The washing smells like a bonfire and the house gets full of ash. I can't see the buildings just a few hundred meters down the road. I wonder if I'm the only one in Taiwan that feels this way? Why should we put up with this? Burning trash is illegal! This happens openly and what do the authorities do? Nothing, it would seem !

I mentioned this to a friend living in another county. He said that perhaps it was only a problem in my area. I replied saying I didn't think so. In the weeks that followed I travelled the length of the country from Taipei to Kenting. And from the train and bus window I could see fire after fire after fire for weeks on end stretching from north to south along the western coastal plain. I wonder how much carbon is emitted from the this uncontrolled burning? We haven't even got to the factories, and the cars.

The EPA seems set on trying to help pass projects like the Hushan Reservoir to get those west coast development projects off the ground. Sure, money will be made in the short-term but what about the environment and all of creation that has to live, eat, drink and breath the pollution? How much will we have to pay to clean up the mess we are making for a quick buck?

Come on EPA. Let's get real and really do something about Taiwan's carbon emissions and do your bit in creating a real Low-carbon Lifestyle program for all of Taiwan.

Taipower through the haze, Wuchi, Taichung

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Green Party Taiwan to enter the legislative elections

The Green Party Taiwan (GPT) announced yesterday that it has named five candidates for January's legislative elections.

See today's Taipei Times for the story.

The 2007 Taipei Birdfair

Wild at Heart stand

The annual Taipei Birdfair took place over the weekend in Guandu, Taipei. The event was hosted by the Wild Bird Society of Taipei. Taiwan's various bird societies were well represented. Other organisations and groups were also present. These included Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute, and Shei-Pa National Park amongst others.

2007 Taipei Birdfair

Several foreign birding groups and NGOs were also present. These included the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines; Chengdu Bird Watching Society, China; Hong Kong Bird Watching Society; Wild Bird Society of Japan; Tourism & Wildlife Society of India; BOCA, Australia; Bird Conservation Society of Thailand; and The Ocean Conservancy, California, USA.

Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin, both members of the Taiwan National Coalition against the Hushan Dam and Matsu's Fish Conservation Union, had stands presenting the Hushan Dam - Fairy Pitta issue as well as the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins.

Wild Bird Society of Yunlin stand.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Taipei Birdfair

Hushan Dam construction site.

If you're in the Taipei area this weekend (3-4 November, 08:00-17:00) Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin will be at the 2007 Taipei Birdfair in the Guandu Nature Park* telling visitors about the Hushan Dam, Taiwan humpback dolphin, and other environmental issues.

*There will be shuttle buses running from the Guandu MRT Station to the Birdfair. There will also be stands at the Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden but the main events will be at Guandu.

Taiwan's Pink Dolphins in CSI's Whales Alive !

Cetacean Society International's (CSI) October 2007 newsletter, Whales Alive !, features an appeal for help for the Taiwan pink dolphins.

See CSI's newsletter, Whales Alive! (Taiwan's Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins after the Can CITES Survive the Solomon Islands? article)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Canadian scientists race to save Taiwan's rare pink dolphins

Read the Vancouver Sun's article on the Taiwan humpback dolphins.

Canadian scientists race to save Taiwan's rare pink dolphins

**What should be noted when reading the article is that this scientific work is to try and establish the uniqueness of the Taiwan humpback dolphin population and not to establish a unique new species. Possibly in years to come this work will help in the classification of the Taiwan population as a distinct subspecies of humpback dolphin.

Also see:
Trent University Scientists Working to Save Remaining 100 Humpback Dolphins in Taiwan

Group of Canadian researchers in race to identify pink dolphins as unique

Taiwan's Pink Dolphins in the Canadian Media Again

Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop - Press Release

And even more windfarms

Star Energy Corp has won the NT$3.2 billion (US$98.2 million) bid to provide wind-power generation facilities to Taiwan Power Co. See yesterday's Taipei Times for the story.

The extent of windfarm construction along Taiwan's west coast is alarming. While we support and understand the need for cleaner energy, we are alarmed at what appears to be the exclusion of consideration of the impact that such windfarms will have on coastal Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and humpback dolphin habitat.

Also see:
The impact of wind farm construction on the Humpback Dolphins

CEPD Approves Wind Farm Plans

Sonar And Seismic Noise

More offshore wind farms

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Formosa spending again

The Formosa Plastics Group proposed investing NT$706.8 billion (US$21.7 billion) in Taiwan over the next five years, yesterday. See today's Taipei Times for the story. Given the state of Taiwan's natural environment is this investment at all? What are the long term costs to Taiwan's environment and all who live here? It would seem that for now the glitter of gold blinds us to the growing typhoon on the horizon.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More on the Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

They say they're not there? A humpback dolphin in the inshore waters around the Formosa Plastics Plant at Mailiao, Yunlin County: Photo courtesy of FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group.

The Taiwan EPA's Environmental Impact Assessment Commission held the 156th meeting on 1 October 2007. Two cases reviewed are of particular interest to those concerned with the plight of the humpback dolphins living along the coast of western Taiwan. Namely, the coal fired power plant in Taichung next to the Wu (Dadu) River estuary, and the Formosa Steel Plant next to the Formosa Plastics Plant which abuts the Jhuoshui River estuary.

Although several commissioners questioned the power plant's viability in light of central Taiwan's already exceeding its emissions limit, the chair (Minister of the EPA, Winston Dang) quickly gave the project approval. The plant must still go through a competitive privatization procedure at the end of the year before it can be finalized. The Formosa Steel Plant had been recommended by the previous commission for a second phase evaluation, however, the EPA has announced that the commission chose to go against that recommendation and instead instructed the EIA department of the EPA to put together another subcommittee to review the case as part of the first phase process. Second phase EIA's are considered more stringent and require considerably more public participation. The developers claimed during the meeting that there are no humpback dolphins off the shore of Yunlin despite environmental groups having passed out posters to the commissioners showing dolphins against the background of Formosa's Yunlin petrochemical plant.

Also see:
Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

Chairman of the Natural Trail Society of Taiwan has a point

Lin Shwu-ying, the chairman of the Natural Trail Society of Taiwan, speaking on his book titled Stories of 22 Communities which tells the stories of how twenty-two communities were able to improve their environment. Lin said that development projects such as the petrochemical plant that CPC Corp, Taiwan has proposed building would damage the coastline on the west coast. He also said, "The government was talking about doubling the number of visitors to Taiwan, and these natural resources should really be the selling point."

Click to read the Taipei Times article.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

On Monday October 1 the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Environmental Impact Review Committee voted to form a special taskforce to review construction of a Formosa Plastics steel plant in Yunlin. This was overruled by the EPA Minister. We'll be giving more details as soon as they become available.

See Tuesday's Taipei Times's Review committee sparks ire.

Also see:
Formosa Steel Plant update

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More water for Formosa means less for Taiwan

The You-cing Valley as it was before the Hushan Project

According to a report buried on page 20 of the 29 September edition of the Apple Daily, a subcommittee was formed to review Formosa Plastic's application to increase its water allowance from 251,000 tonnes/day to 351,000 tonnes/day. The report continued that the head of the Overall Planning Department, Huang Guanghui, said that the decision of the subcommittee would have to be approved by the plenary commission, which at the soonest will be in mid October. The report appears to have been accurate except that the original approved amount was 257,000 tonnes/day.

Interestingly, this case involves a number of issues that were headline news earlier this year, including the public's right to information about violations by developers of environmental laws or commitments made pursuant to the approval of their environmental impact assessments, whether there is a legal basis for the application by Formosa for a change in the water usage - the original commitment was backed by a pledge from chairman of Formosa Plastics who said they would shut down operations to the extent necessary to meet their commitment to keep water use down, and how on the day after Formosa Plastics chairman's visit to President Chen, the Executive Yuan canceled an NT$7 million dollar fine against the company for violations of its EIA. Just how long are corporations going to be allowed to keep reporting incredible profits each time financial reports are due at the expense of the well being of the environment and ultimately all who live in Taiwan and generations to come?

Well, it isn't surprising, when it is a choice between Wang Yongcing and Formosa Plastics need for cheap water and the marine life along the Yunlin coast: Taiwan's government continues to send the message that it wants our country to stay ahead of the competition for the worst environmental record among developed countries in the world, and while we're at it, let's see how quickly we can't get rid of pesky dolphins and Fairy Pittas before there is too much notice taken by the international community.

You-cing Valley being laid to waste as part of the Hushan Reservoir project to satisfy the "needs" of industry

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hushan Archaeological Sites Update

The Hushan Reservoir figured prominently in the recent Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop in that redirection of the water of the Cingshui River will exacerbate the reduction of freshwater flowing into the ocean, one of the major threats identified by scientists studying the animals.

We have just learned that Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association has sent another letter to the Yunlin County Government (YCG) and Cultural Affairs Bureau pointing out that the Bureau has taken no steps under the Cultural Resources Act to designate the area in Hushan in which significant archaeological ruins were discovered last year. Wild at Heart sent a letter requesting action be taken last April. However, despite the letter, there has been no indication that the YCG has complied with the provisions of the Cultural Affairs Act on the issue. A number of conservation groups are looking into taking legal action against the YCG and its central government counterpart, the Council of Cultural Affairs.

Also see:
Newly Discovered Archaeological Sites in the area of the Hushan Dam.

Hushan Update

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mailiao Reclamation Site - The Green Area ?

Reclamation work in known valuable humpback dolphin habitat at the Mailiao FPG plant in Yunlin County is to create a "Green area" where trees will be planted as part of a green-washing plan. What follows is a brief from a Matsu's Fish Conservation Union humpback dolphin observer at the observation site in Mailiao.

Mailiao, Taiwan 2007-9-28

On Friday morning we spent two hours (8:30-10:40) at Mailiao area P looking for Sousa dolphins. Sea conditions were pretty good but a bank of foggy haze lay just offshore starting in the area around the offshore structure that the dolphins are often seen near in Observation Area P. This made viewing beyond the offshore structure impossible.

Offshore structure. This photo wasn't taken on this trip as the structure was barely visible on Friday

The reclamation area has now been fenced off. One is still able to observe the area from the wall. Conditions aren't good sitting up there. Lots of dust from the work site and the usual factory fumes and clouds of toxic smoke.

Reclamation work

In the inshore area between the shore and the offshore structure bordered on the one side by the reclamation project and the other by the Mailiao Harbour breakwater we observed four trammel nets very close to shore.

Flag marker for net

In addition to the trammel nets there are more buoys than on previous visits and the usual sticks, poles and other hazards sticking out of the water.

The usual hazards

With the four trammel nets blocking off the area it was pretty much a certainty that we weren't going to see Sousa dolphin in that area. We held out some hope that either the haze would lift and we would be able to see the waters around the offshore structure or that the dolphins would pass through the small area of obstacle free water between the end of the trammel nets and the offshore structure. We had no such luck. Sousa dolphins in the area pretty much wouldn't have had anywhere to go. With this type of thing going on all along the coast it's really not surprising that these dolphins are in trouble. We could make out the shapes of a lot of small craft traffic through the haze just beyond the offshore structure.

We then moved up the coast looking for other suitable areas for viewing and ended up in the Dacheng Wetland IBA. With the large areas of mudflats we found no place really suitable for onshore viewing other than the area around the coastguard observation tower next to the reclamation site just before the entrance to Mailiao Harbour.

Pictures from Mailiao (2008-09-09)
Photos from Mailiao: more dolphin habitat gone ! (2009-03-06)
FPG land reclamation in pink dolphin habitat update (2010-08-26)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Formosa Steel Plant update

Reclamation work at the Formosa Plant, Mailiao

Taipei:-26 September 2007

The seventh term of the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Commission met today to discuss, in a “pre-meeting meeting”, the proposed Formosa Steel Plant, which the developer, Formosa Plastics, would like to see built next to its existing petrochemical industrial complex that lies along side the Jhuoshui River estuary between Yunlin County and Changhua County in central Taiwan.

An official from Taiwan’s EPA began by summarizing its version of the procedural history of the case. The first committee meeting on the case took place in March 2006. One year later, during the fourth meeting of the review committee, on 19 March 2007, the committee recommended that the development go into a second phase assessment. However, that recommendation never made it to the plenary commission. According to the EPA, the developer requested an opportunity to “submit additional materials”. Breaking with its normal procedure (although not unprecedented) of referring the review committee’s decision to the plenary commission, the EPA staff granted the request with a deadline of 31 May 2007.

As the deadline loomed, the EPA continued, the developer stayed the proceedings by filing an objection to the presence of five commissioners on the review committee. Claiming that the commissioners are “quasi-public officials” and that these five in particular had expressed prejudice against the development. Thus, according to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the five should be disqualified from further participation in the proceedings. The EPA accepted the complaints agreeing with the position that the commissioners are public officials for purposes of the APA, but referred the other issues to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). This effectively ensured that the five commissioners in question would have no opportunity to participate in the plenary commission’s discussion of the case as under the APA such questions must be cleared up before the proceedings can continue.

The EPA has not announced the Ministry of Justice’s decision in the matter, and environmental groups have been unable to discern whether the MOJ ever made a determination as to the disqualification of commissioners or whether the EPA was correct in accepting the complaints in the first place. The EPA also failed to mention that the Taiwan Academy of Ecology filed a similar complaint to disqualify the seven government representatives that sit on the commission, or how that complaint was dismissed by the EPA on the grounds that the Academy did not have standing.

After hearing the reports from the developer and its government sponsor, the Industrial Development Bureau, one of the commissioners requested that the representative of an environmental group be allowed to speak. The EPA chief of the EIA section, Tsai Ling-yi, then prompted the representative of a local township to speak out in favor of the project.

After a closed door discussion by the commissioners and other government agency representatives it was announced that the committee would “respect” the decision of the previous committee and send the case to the plenary commission with the recommendation that it go into second phase evaluation.

The EPA’s lack of objectivity in handling the case has been cited numerous times and following the meeting this morning it was learned that the EPA plans to include this case in the plenary meeting which is scheduled to be held on the afternoon of 1 October 2007. This sudden burst of “efficiency” comes despite numerous requests from commissioners (sixth and seventh terms) that commissioners be given materials regarding all cases that are to be discussed and decided upon seven days in advance of the meeting. There has also been no public announcement of the meeting or its agenda as of close of business 26 September 2007.

As to some of the substantive issues discussed:

Sousa chinensis Dolphins: The developer cited the 2004-2006 study and report commissioned by the Council of Agriculture but made written and oral statements to the effect that there are no dolphins of the coast where the plant will be built but also noted that plans are underway to cooperate with the Taiwan Cetacean Society (TCS) to conduct further research. Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association is following up with a letter to the Council of Agriculture (COA) and a letter to the TCS to point out the abusive way the former’s research is being used and to request that the latter make a statement clarifying its research.

[It should be noted that the recently concluded Second International Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop (funded partially by the Forestry Bureau and other Taiwanese government agencies) very clearly defined the distribution of the humpback dolphin in western Taiwan and stated that the distribution area clearly included the waters around the present FPG site and the newly reclaimed land. This was accepted by all the foreign dolphin experts present (including the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group's chair; and a NOAA senior scientist). This distribution that includes the FPG area is being published in an international, reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal so ignoring this may well result in the lack of credibility for a number of government agencies when respected scientists start asking questions about the distribution.]

Cumulative impact of the project:

The developer continued its former pattern of focusing on the technology that would be used in this plant and how it is much cleaner and environmentally friendlier than that currently being used in Taiwan. No cumulative impact was acknowledged even though the developer’s sister project, the 6th Naphtha Cracker has acknowledged that pollution levels are far over acceptable levels.

Impact on existing economy:

The developer and the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) also continue to ignore the adverse impact on aquaculture, not only in the immediate area of the planned project, but also the impact on other areas that rely on the raw materials produced in the area for downstream aquaculture products.

Public support for the case:

The developer cited polls that indicate over 50% of the respondents “conditionally support” the project failing to note that the condition is for this case to be bundled with the proposed 8th Naphtha Cracker.

Observers at this morning’s meeting noted that the participating commissioners, with one exception (and a second exception who participated by written opinion), seemed inclined to over rule the committee decision and let the case pass without going into a second phase evaluation.

[The Taiwan Green Party is mobilizing environmental and social groups from around Taiwan to attend the 156th plenary commission meeting. They and others in the coalition will hold a press conference on recent initiatives to get complete and accurate information about EIAs out in the open and in advance of the meetings. While the EPA has told commissioners the meeting will take place on 1 October, commissioners have yet to receive the agenda:-27 September 2007]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Three pantropical spotted dolphins die in mass stranding

Live fire exercise, Matsu Islands, July 2006.

Taiwan has an abnormally high rate of cetacean strandings. Military activities, such as the use of sonar and live fire exercises, have often been suspected to be the reason behind many of these strandings. Such military activities clearly pose a threat to the Taiwan humpback dolphins. If military activities played any part in yesterday's strandings of about 20 dolphins on a beach in Bali, Taipei County, remains to be seen. There have been military exercises in the Taiwan Strait recently involving Taiwan's new Kidd-Class destroyers and these destroyers have the infamous 53C sonar. See the picture, Laid to rest, in today's Taipei Times. (What is disturbing is that the dead dolphins have been buried rather than handed over to competent scientists to try and determine the cause of death. Also, a Rough-toothed dolphin stranded in Taitung yesterday.)

Also see: Military Practice in Taiwan may be the cause of abnormal cetacean stranding for more on unusual cetacean strandings.

Taiwan shows off new warship in Strait maneuvers

* Chinese news media are reporting that nine dolphins died. TV coverage shows seven dead dolphins.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Summary of Local Media Coverage of the Humpback Dolphin Workshop

What Follows is a brief summary of local Taiwan media coverage of the Second International Workshop on the Taiwan Humpback Dolphin press conference held in Changhua City, Taiwan, on Friday, September 7th.


Taiwan’s Central News Agency put out the following story:

(Translated from Chinese)

Conference Warns of Immanent Threat to Rare Taiwanese Dolphin

“The Second International Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters of western Taiwan was held on in Taiwan from 4-7 September 2007. Dolphin experts attending the workshop warn that the Taiwan humpback dolphin faces extinction unless the Taiwanese government acts quickly to protect the species’ habitat. The workshop was hosted by Taiwan’s National Museum of Marine Biology. Attendees included dolphin experts from Canada, Brazil and the United States.

Humpback dolphins were only confirmed by scientists to be residing in the coastal waters off of western Taiwan in 2002. Distinct markings on the Taiwan humpback dolphins distinguish it as a [sub] species distinct from similar dolphins living in estuaries off the coast of China. Researchers estimate that less than one hundred Taiwan humpback dolphins remain and fear that their continued existence is at serious risk. The habitat of the humpback dolphin along Taiwan’s central-west coast is threatened by reduced fresh water flows, fishing nets, direct habitat destruction, and overall deterioration of its environment brought about by noise, water and other pollution. Approximately one-third of the humpback dolphin population has suffered injuries as a result of habitat deterioration.

Experts attending the workshop recommended that development projects that could impact on the habitat of humpback dolphin be made public, that gillnet and other harmful fishing practices be outlawed in the habitat area and that tourist activities there be limited in order to protect the dwindling numbers of this dolphin species.”

Television coverage

Television coverage of the workshop was good with the following TV channels all running stories on the event:

Taiwan Public Television
Formosa TV
Ettoday News
ERA News
Chinese TV
Taiwan TV

Radio Coverage

Taiwan’s largest radio service, Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), gave coverage of the workshop in some of its news programs.


Newspaper coverage of the workshop was rather disappointing with only the Liberty Times running the story. Liberty Times is one of the larger mainstream Taiwan dailies.

Although newspaper reports covering the event were disappointing the TV coverage was good and should have raised awareness of the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins considerably.

Also see:
Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop - Press Release

Canadian scientists race to save Taiwan's rare pink dolphins

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Taiwan Pink Dolphin-Information Sheet

Taiwan pink dolphins, mother and calf:
Photo courtesy of FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group.


In June 2002 an exploratory survey team made up of John Y. Wang and Shih-Chu Yang of FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group, and Samuel K. Hung of Hong Kong Cetacean Research Project conducted the first exploratory cetacean surveys of the coastal waters of central western Taiwan (Miaoli, Taichung, and Changhua counties) between 23 and 26 June 2002.

During these surveys a total of ten groups of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins Sousa chinensis were spotted. It has since been established that a unique resident population of less than a hundred humpback dolphins resides in the shallow coastal waters of western Taiwan between Miaoli and Tainan Counties. This unique population of Humpback dolphins are now known as the Taiwan pink dolphins.

Prior to the 2002 surveys there had only been sporadic records of humpback dolphin in the waters around Taiwan and these records were thought to be stray animals. The only other population of humpback dolphins in Taiwanese controlled territory is around Kinmen Island a few kilometers off the coast of China's Fujian Province near the Chinese port city of Xiamen. The Humpback dolphins around Kinmen form part of the Xiamen population and differ from the unique Taiwan pink dolphins of Taiwan's central-west coast.

Within the genus Sousa, two species are generally recognised. These are Sousa teuszii or Atlantic humpbacked dolphin and Sousa chinensis or Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin. Two subspecies are generally recognised for the Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin. Sousa chinensis plumbea is found from Southern Africa through to the seas around Sri Lanka in South Asia. Sousa chinensis chinensis is found through Southeast Asia through to East Asia and southwards to Northern Australia.

Humpbacked dolphins in East Asia are often called Chinese white dolphins or pink dolphins. In Taiwan the unique local humpback dolphin is commonly known as Matsu’s Fish. The Taiwan Strait is influenced by the north-easterly wind, and for three quarters of the year, the turbulent sea off the west coast is covered in whitecaps, making observation difficult. After about the middle of the third month of the lunar calendar, the sea becomes calmer, and the dolphins become easier to distinguish from the waves. The birthday of the sea goddess Matsu falls around this time, on the 23rd of the third month of the lunar calendar. Therefore, it is said that these dolphins appear in the area to wish Matsu a happy birthday. [It should be noted that these dolphins are resident. It is just very difficult to spot white dolphins in wintry white water.]


Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins appear mostly in tropical to warm-temperate areas of the Indian and western Pacific oceans, and are often seen along the south-east coast of China in East Asia.

Humpback dolphins have a long and slender beak with a robust body with a thick caudal peduncle. The hump and dorsal fin size varies. Humpbacked dolphins in Taiwan waters have very small humps and dorsal fins. Taiwan humpbacked dolphins have not been measured so measurements are not available. Measurements of South African humpback dolphins are given as they would be similar.


Male: 2.79 m
Female: 2.49 m


Male: 260 kg
Female: 170 kg

(Reeves R.R. et al, 2002)

When born, the dolphin is grey, but in its youth the colour fades and it becomes patterned with blue-grey spots, and upon reaching adulthood, its whole body becomes white or pink. According to the latest research, the Taiwanese population differs from those in the coastal waters of Hong Kong and China in the development and patterns of spotting. The Taiwanese population has unique colouration patterns and may well be a unique subspecies endemic to Taiwanese waters. Scientists are currently continuing the research on their ecology, such as their body colour, genetics, population size and distribution.


The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis is primarily a nearshore, shallow water inhabitant that tends to be associated with the mouths of large rivers. It is found throughout most of the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region from South Africa to Australia and north to the East China Sea (Jefferson, 2000; Jefferson & Karczmarski, 2001).

In western Taiwan waters (Eastern Taiwan Strait)the species is found in the shallow coastal waters between Miaoli and Tainan Counties. The dolphins’ most important habitat is the coastal waters between Miaoli and Chiayi counties and within five kilometers from shore, which happens to overlap with the locations of major past and current development projects.


The dolphins favor the shallow inshore waters of Western Taiwan. They frequent estuarine areas. The dolphins are normally found in waters between 1.5 to 15m in depth and generally well within 3km of the shore.

Protected Status

The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is classified under Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act as receiving the highest level of legal protection. In reality, despite its protected status, little, if any, has been done to meaningfully protect this unique dolphin population.

Internationally, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List. However, the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN is in discussions to list this unique Taiwanese dolphin population as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List. It is generally recognized in numerous international cetacean conservation action plans that, in the rapidly developing Asian region, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin populations are facing major challenges to their continued survival. Conservation action cannot be delayed, and the task of removing human threats must be given the highest priority.

Update: August 2008

The Eastern Taiwan Strait humpback dolphin is now classified as Critically Endangered. See: Critically Endangered - It's Official !


Five major threats have been identified:

- by-catch in fishing gear;
- reclamation of estuarine and coastal regions for industrial purposes;
- diversion and extraction of freshwater from major river systems of western Taiwan;
- release of industrial, agricultural and municipal effluent into rivers and coastal waters;
- noise and disturbance associated with construction, shipping and military activities.

Also see:

Report of the 2nd [2007] International Workshop on Conservation & Research Needs of the Eastern Taiwan Straight Population of Indo-Pacific humpback Dolphins

Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop - Press Release

Taiwan Pink Dolphin Pamphlet

Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in peril, says newly-formed international scientific working group

For more, see the Taiwan pink dolphin video.