Saturday, December 31, 2011

Study: Naphtha cracker is driving away dolphins

An article in the Taipei Times titled Naphtha cracker is driving away dolphins: Study on 27 December 2011 reveals nothing we don't already know. The article stated "The meeting was to review a project investigating the ecology of an endangered dolphin species that was commissioned by Formosa Plastics Group. Environmentalists have long questioned whether the Formosa Petrochemical’s Sixth Naphtha Cracker plant in Mailiao might cause harm to dolphins in the nearby area." So-called environmentalists [Ah, I hate the way the TT loves to brand anyone who happens to show any concern for what is happening to our planet as an 'environmentalist. It's so belittling, condescending and demeaning and makes it sound like we're some strange crazed revolutionaries.], which include some of the greatest cetacean experts on the planet have long pointed out that the FP plant at Mailiao is causing problems for the dolphins. Pollution was one of the five major threats to the dolphins identified in 2007!

All that can be concluded from this "study" is that things are so bad that the researchers that are accepting funds and grants from Formosa Plastics can no longer hide from the fact that their benefactor is amongst the foremost of reasons that the Taiwan pink dolphin is on the very brink of extinction.

It's time these experts stopped keeping their data "classified" and made it public as well as publish some real peer-reviewed work instead of clouding the waters of a very clear-cut issue; Formosa Plastics and other such corporations are harming the dolphins and us humans with their pollution.

Update: See Misguided Talk of “Hotspots” Threatens Taiwan’s Humpback Dolphins for more comment on these so-called studies.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Protected Hawk Owl trapped in illegal net

Bird trapped in a mist net. This one was already dead. We were able to rescue a few others.

Today's Taipei Times reports a protected Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata was on rescued from an illegal bird net set up in the forests in Miaoli County’s Manapan Mountain (馬那邦山) area on Friday and sent to the Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou County for emergency care.

Finally something about the rampant trapping of wild birds on Taiwan makes it into the press.

While the Brown Hawk Owl is protected under Taiwan's Wildlife Conservation Act the species isn't listed as threatened internationally on the IUCN's Red List of threatened species. However, locally on Taiwan the threat to the Brown Hawk Owl is such that it is listed as protected. The article goes on to say that two Mountain Scops Owls Otus spilocephalus and two Taiwan Hwamei Garrulax taewanus [Taiwan Hwamei is listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN Red List] and other wild birds as also being found in the net which measured 200m-by-10m. The article also says that among the birds caught, only the Brown Hawk Owl was still alive when discovered by Forestry Bureau patrol officers.

The article then goes on to say, "the bureau said many people set up bird nets in mountainous areas to catch pigeons for ransom before the pigeon-racing season, but they often kill many wild birds in the process."

"The Hsinchu Forest District Office said that according to Article 19 of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), it is illegal to set up nets or traps to capture wild animals and the capture or killing of protected species could result in a fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,570) to NT$1 million and a maximum sentence of five years in jail."

The article then ends by saying "The office said it would continue to crack down on illegal nets and traps in the area to protect the safety of wild animals in their habitat."

All very good claiming that it is illegal to trap wild animals but what's being done about it. The trapping of wild birds is rampant and takes place all over Taiwan. It's not hidden out of sight. It happens openly. Just take a trip on a TRA train down the island and you'll see the nets at regular intervals in rice fields, in fruit orchards, in vegetable gardens and even when there appears to be no apparent reason for placing a net there. This is taking place openly in just about every village across the island. Birds of all species are exterminated to protect produce. It doesn't matter if the species caught don't even eat what is being protected. All birds that fly into these invisible nets are destined to die a slow lingering death.

It's not just the farmers that net birds. You get the trappers that trap racing pigeons and then hold them for ransom. But countless wild birds also get caught in these nets and just get left to die. Others might be rescued and sold for release to religious groups. Birds being trapped for release by religious groups is big business in Taiwan. But we are told about 60% of these birds don't live to be released. They die.

Birds are also caught for the cage bird trade. About three years ago the protected status of many wild birds was removed and many endemic bird species can now be openly caught and sold. Just visit the local bird store. Each year in Taiwan countless wild birds fall victim to trapping. It is really time that something is done but don't count on it. Just like all the illegal trawling along the coast in full view of the coast guard. Forget the threat it poses to Taiwan's critically endangered pink dolphins. I hope we can hold the Hsinchu Forest District Office to their word that they are going to crack down on trapping. I'm sure if they put their mind to it they could bust several trappers in a morning. What's the bet that a month from now they've done nothing?

Mist net set to supposedly protect crops but such nets are indiscriminate in what they catch.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

COA responds to ETSSTAWG letter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) has responded to the letter of concern sent by the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group (ETSSTAWG) to the COA after the group learned of a proposal to conduct live-captures of the Critically Endangered Taiwan pink dolphins for the purpose of scientific research. The COA response is follows below.

November 16, 2011

Dear Dr. Ross,

The Council of Agriculture (COA) has received your email of November 5 and letter of November 2 regarding Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis.

The COA would like to clarity that currently there are no research projects involving live capture and tagging of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in Taiwan. Special review of research purpose and method is required before this kind of project can be carried out. Since above-mentioned dolphin is listed as protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA), Article 18 of the WCA stipulates that prior approval from central government is also required for relevant research programs. In addition, the application needs to follow the regulation of Article 21 of the Enforcement Rules of the Wildlife Conservation Act regarding procedure and documents.

Thank you for your recommendations about reviewing research projects concerning Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.


Council of Agriculture

ETSSTAWG letter to COA Minister

The Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group (ETSSTAWG) has sent a letter of concern to Council of Agriculture Minister, CHEN, Wu-hsiung after the group learned of a proposal to conduct live-captures of the Critically Endangered Taiwan pink dolphins for the purpose of scientific research. A copy of the letter follows below.

Minister CHEN, Wu-hsiung
Council of Agriculture,
Executive Yuan
37 Nanhai Rd.
Republic of China

November 2, 2011

Dear Minister Chen,

It is with considerable concern that we receive unconfirmed reports on a proposal to conduct live-captures of the Critically Endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the Eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) for the purpose of scientific research.

As you know, this population numbers fewer than 100 individuals, and faces a number of conservation threats including pollution, fisheries bycatch, reduced freshwater flow into estuarine habitat, noise, and loss of habitat due to land reclamation. The Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group (ETSSTAWG) consists of 17 international marine mammal experts. This group was established in 2008 to provide expert advice and feedback on matters pertaining to this population of Sousa.

Despite the weather-related difficulties in conducting field studies of Sousa in the ETS, recent work has demonstrated that Sousa are present year-round in the nearshore waters of Taiwan (Wang et al. 2011, Marine Mammal Science 27: 652-658). This was based on direct observations and photographic identification of known individuals from a small vessel.

Additional research might provide more insight into the presence, distribution, demographics and habitat use of Sousa in the ETS. However, this new insight for a Critically Endangered species must fundamentally be based on the ultimate goal of conservation and recovery of the population. Scientific research must not become a new conservation threat to members of this population.

The ETSSTAWG has solicited external expert advice on the risks and benefits related to possible satellite-tagging of ETS Sousa. We summarize the feedback that we received in this letter.

Live-captures and tagging of cetaceans elsewhere reveals some important gain in scientific understanding of marine mammal ecology, but also the following:

• captures cause stress in both the targeted individual and other members of the population during netting and capture operations. This can affect the health and well-being of the population.

• captures can kill individuals through drowning in nets, boat strikes, and/or stress.

• capture operations over a sustained period of time can displace members of the population from preferred feeding or resting habitat.

• the attachment of satellite tags to Sousa will cause injury, and can lead to subsequent infection, illness and even death after release.

• the process of capture, handling, tagging and release of the individual may very well change the subsequent behaviour, distribution, and habitat use of the individual. This means that even the best data collected from successfully attached tags may lead to erroneous results and conclusions.

• Even if one or more individuals move beyond their distribution as presently understood, this does not reduce the importance of protecting what has clearly been established to be ‘Priority Habitat’.

In short, tagging Sousa entails a high degree of risk to individuals, something that could lead to impacts at the population level. The ETSSTAWG strongly opposes any form of live-capture or biopsy sampling of individuals of this Critically Endangered population for scientific or other purposes.

However, the ETSSTAWG does recognize the merit in conducting non-invasive research that provides more insight into the habitat needs of this small cetacean. In this context, we urge members of the scientific and management establishment in Taiwan to consider the following non-harmful research options to supplement what has already been published in the scientific literature:

• land-based surveys using photo-identification methods.

• Ship-based surveys using trained professionals on small vessels and by using best practices to minimize noise and stress to ETS Sousa.

• Acoustic monitoring using Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) or Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and/or other devices that record Sousa vocalizations throughout the year.

• A combination of acoustic and sighting efforts to provide complementary information.

• Increased efforts to monitor bycatch of small cetaceans and to recover any dead carcasses of ETS Sousa.

We note that in other regions where other populations of Sousa are being studied (e.g. Hong Kong), a combination of non-invasive approaches have been very successful in generating high quality scientific results in support of management.

In reviewing any research proposal that involves ETS Sousa, the ESTSSTAWG recommends that:

• The need for the study must be clearly explained, including a description of the potential way in which results will lead to different management scenarios.

• Why other methods fail to deliver answers to the questions posed.

• A comprehensive summary of the risks to members of the population associated with the study proposal must be included.

• The potential for physical or physiological trauma leading to compromised health or reduced reproductive potential be fully described.

• The minimum sample size required to generate information of value be discussed and explained in detail including statistical analyses.

• If there exist any risks to individual members of the population, the consideration of alternative study designs or approaches to research must be included and described.

In summary, the ETSSTAWG does not support any proposal to live-capture members of the ETS Sousa population or any study which relies on invasive methods such as biopsies. The risk of disturbance, injury and/or death outweighs any possible benefit associated with the resulting scientific information. On the contrary, the ETSSTAWG strongly considers non-invasive alternatives using a combination of acoustic technologies and direct observation to be likely to generate more defensible and meaningful scientific information without further harming this population.

Finally, while additional evidence of year-round habitat use along the nearshore waters of western Taiwan would incrementally improve our understanding of ETS Sousa ecology, it should not detract from the importance of protecting this area from impacts. Simply put, the shallow nearshore waters of the eastern Taiwan Strait represent Priority Habitat for ETS Sousa, and efforts must be made to reduce the threats of bycatch, pollution, freshwater discharge, noise and land reclamation in this area (Ross,P.S. et al, 2010. Averting the baiji syndrome: Characterising habitat for critically endangered dolphins in eastern Taiwan Strait. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20: 685-694).

As always, the ETSSTAWG remains openly available for those seeking advice on matters related to ETS Sousa.


Peter S. Ross, PhD
Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group

- Minister LEE, Lou-chuang, National Science Council
- Premier WU Den-yih, Chair, National Council for Sustainable Development c/o NCSD Secretariat Environmental Protection Administration
- Office of Legislator TIEN, Chiu-Chin
- Wild at Heart Legal Defense Organisation
- Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union
- Randall Reeves, Chairman, Cetacean Specialist Group, IUCN
- Members of the Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group

See: COA responds to ETSSTAWG letter

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Little Taiwan has 17th biggest carbon footprint on the planet

And in January the EPA was still trying to push the Kuokuang Petrochemical Project through that would have increased Taiwan's carbon emissions by 16%.

Taipei Times
Taiwan outproduces East Asia in carbon emissions
FILLING SOME BIG SHOES: The EPA says Taiwanese have a daily per capita carbon footprint of 19.6kg, almost four times the level recommended by the UN
Staff Writer, with CNA
Fri, Oct 14, 2011 - Page 2

Taiwan ranked 17th in the world and ninth in Asia in terms of its carbon footprint, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said, noting that the Asian ranking also includes Brunei and Middle Eastern countries

Each person in Taiwan, on average, produces 10.89 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, according to the world carbon emissions report published by the International Energy Agency this month. The figure indicated a decline compared with 2008, when it was 11.53 tonnes per person, the agency said.

“Taiwanese produce more carbon emissions than people in Japan, South Korea and mainland China,” the EPA said, commenting on a survey that was released on Tuesday.

Taiwanese have a daily per capita carbon footprint of 19.6kg, almost four times the UN recommendation, it said.

The survey, conducted by Uni-Survey Link Marketing Research and Consulting and commissioned by Mass Mutual Mercuries Life, found that the biggest source of carbon emissions was meat consumption. If one person consumes 432.5g of meat a day, 5.7kg of carbon emissions are produced, accounting for 29 percent of daily carbon emissions, it showed.

Meat consumption was followed by use of air conditioning, which produces 3.4kg of carbon emissions per day, and travel by car, which produces 1.7 kg of carbon emissions per day. People in managerial positions produce 25 percent more carbon emissions than average, mainly because they drive cars, the survey showed.

Although about 80 percent of Taiwanese believe they are environmental protectionists, they have done little to help conserve the environment, the survey found.

More than 90 percent of the respondents said they knew that taking mass transportation or riding bicycles would help reduce carbon emissions, but only 54 percent said they put that into practice.

As much as 83 percent of respondents were aware that reducing the use of air conditioning would help cut carbon emissions, but only 64 percent said they use air conditioning sparingly in the summer. Forty-eight percent said they knew washing clothes by hand was more environmentally friendly than using washing machines, but less than 19 percent said they took such action.

Commenting on the survey, National Taiwan University professor Wang Ya-nan (王亞男) offered some tips for reducing carbon emissions. She suggested cutting back on new clothes by one item, eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat, taking showers rather than baths, taking the stairs rather than elevators, using public transportation instead of driving cars, watch TV less and playing fewer video games.

She also suggested turning off lights and setting the thermostat on air conditioners no lower than 26°C. The survey was conducted between Sept. 26 and Monday last week among people aged 20 to 44. It collected 1,067 valid samples and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

According to statistics from the UN and the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center under the US Department of Energy, Taiwanese produce 2.58 billion tonnes, or 11,580kg per person, of carbon emissions per year. The figure is the highest in Asia, far surpassing China, Japan and South Korea.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And yet again! Eighth Formosa Plastics fire since June 2010

One of eight recent fires at Formosa Plastics. This one was in late July 2010: Photo courtesy of MFCU.

After seven fires in 15 months at the Formosa Plastics Group’s petrochemical complex in Mailiao, Yunlin County one would think that something really had to be done about their frequent fires. It would seem not. On Tuesday, September 6th FPG had fire number eight.

Formosa Plastics was the 2009 recipient of the infamous Black Planet Award; for those who have committed themselves to the destruction and downfall of our Blue Planet in an outstanding way.

The Formosa Plastics Group’s petrochemical complex in Mailiao is built on reclaimed land that was once prime pink dolphin habitat. Current and planned reclamation projects at the plant are further reducing the little remaining habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. Shipping traffic at Mailiao Port and excessive pollution levels from the Formosa Plastics Plant are serious threats to the continued survival of the Taiwan pink dolphins.

See FPC Mailiao plant suffers another fire in the Taipei Times.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Driving the pink dolphins to extinction with green wind energy

And yet another threat to the survival of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. SHIH Yen-hsiang, Minister of Economic Affairs, wants 1000 wind turbines off Taiwan's coast by 2030. And where does he plan to start? Miaoli! Yes, Miaoli. Well within the confirmed range of Taiwan's critically endangered pink dolphins. It's going to be interesting to see exactly how green the likes of Swancor and others wind power industry are. Will they be principled enough to say the location of these projects within pink dolphin habitat is wrong? Or will they just go for the money and damn the consequences?

See an English translation of an article that appeared in United Daily News:
Swancor Aims at One Billion NT$ Wind Power Business Opportunity
Economic Daily News
Reporter Zhou Yi Long
2011.07.21 03:57 am

SHIH Yen-hsiang, Minister of Economic Affairs, pledged yesterday to actively develop offshore wind power and called for more than 1,000 wind turbines along Taiwan’s coast by 2030, with two trial development cases to be announced next month. Swancor Wind Blade Materials, expressed their confidence to win the bid and have planned to set up the first off-shore wind farms in Miaoli as early as 2012.

To produce 100-200 turbines for the subsequent large-scale business operation, Swancor pointed out that they will introduce investment partners and be in charge of operation

Swancor said that last year the company had been already cooperating with wind power companies Taiwan Generations Corp and Red Blades Windtek Corporation to build Taiwan’s first off-shore wind farm in Changhua county. Due to controversy over the endangered White Dolphin as well as other controversies, Swancor decided to change site, opt out of the partnership, and established subsidiary company, Cross-Straits New Energy Company ( provisional translation :海峽新能源公司,) for the promotion of wind power business. Swancor selected the area off of the Miaoli coast as the new development site due to the lack of environmental protection and fisheries issues, , and expressed their strong interest to cooperate with Ministry of Economic Affairs in promoting the development project..

SHIH Yen-hsiang, Minister of Economic Affairs, recently released sections of the new energy policy. In the presence of the favorable offshore environment and the need to accelerate renewable energy development, the government will actively pursue offshore wind energy development. This includes more than 1,000 wind turbines by 2030, total capacity of 4,200 MW equivalent to three nuclear power plants, cumulative industrial value of 500 billion NT dollars[17 billions USD], or 3.3% of total electricity supply.

Ministry of Economic Affairs claimed that two trial development cases will be launched next month with at least one billion NT dollars (34 millions USD) subsidy in place for two businesses to set up an off-shore wind mill demonstration by 2015, Taiwan's first offshore wind turbine. Following installments will be employed in Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi offshore with an annual growth rate of 240MW

Ministry of Economic Affairs pointed out that domestic supply chain of wind turbine industry are well developed; companies such as TECO Electric and Machinery Co, Formosa Heavy Industries Corporation, Taiwan Advanced Composite Center, China Steel Machinery Corporation, and Swancor, are all well-equipped to for system assembly and manufacture of key components

上緯 瞄準10億風電商機
2011.07.21 03:57 am







【2011/07/21 經濟日報】@

全文網址: 上緯 瞄準10億風電商機 | 上市公司 | 股市投資 | 聯合新聞網

Friday, August 12, 2011

For Your Information President Ma: “I am touched” Won’t Save the Taiwan Pink Dolphins

Press Release:

Press conference to be held by Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union, Changhua Environmental Protection Union, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Society of Wilderness, Taiwan Sustainability Union…….

Time: 1030 am Saturday 13 August 2011
Venue: Taipei Guest House (#1 Katekelan Blvd corner at intersection with Gongyuan Road)

Dozens of young people sent “save the Taiwan pink dolphins” postcards earlier this year to President Ma Ying-jeou imploring him to use his office to help ensure that all responsible agencies do whatever it takes to restore health and safety to the population of Sousa chinensis [pink dolphins] that inhabit the waters along the west coast of Taiwan. Mr. Ma, upon receiving the post cards said “I am very touched”.

However, 13 August 2011 marks the third anniversary the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) designation of the Taiwan Sousa population as CR or “critically endangered”, only one step away from extinction. The efforts taken by Taiwan to protect the dolphins and their habitat have fallen pitifully short of what is needed, raising concerns that this special population of animals unique to Taiwan could soon be lost forever.

On Saturday, 13 August 2011 we will deliver a petition to the president’s office expressing our hopes that Mr. Ma and all of those in his government, in addition to their being “moved” will take action appropriate to the severity of the situation for this population of fewer than one hundred animals and the habitat with which they share with millions of human occupants in western Taiwan.

We have the following three demands:
1. immediately declare “important habitat” for the area inhabited by the dolphins in accordance with the Wildlife Protection Act
2. confront and deal with illegal fishing practices in the area
3. convene an interagency meeting inviting environmental advocacy groups to deal with the five major threats* to the dolphins that were identified in the petition delivered to the Executive Yuan in January 2008.

We will show pictures at the press conference of emaciated and injured dolphins and will join a parade of large and small dolphins to the president’s office to deliver our petition!

For further information please contact Grace Gan (Ah Gan) Secretary General of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union 0928-926180

*habitat destruction, water and air pollution, noise, improper fishing practices, reduced flow of fresh water into estuaries.

報告馬總統:感動救不了白海豚 記者會採訪通知



今年年初數十位小朋友將寫滿「救救白海豚」的明信片送至總統府,希望馬英九總統能讓白海豚繼續健康快樂地活下去,收到明信片的總統直呼非常感動。但是,明天就是IUCN(國際自然保育聯盟)將台灣白海豚列入「極度瀕危(CR, Critically Endangered)」等級的三週年,回顧這三年政府的保育作為與進度,實在令人憂心。因此,明天上午環保團體與民眾將到總統府前陳情,請總統在感動之餘,更要付出實際行動和關注,否則這樣是救不了僅剩不到一百頭的白海豚的!
(1) 盡速劃設公告白海豚重要棲息環境
(2) 正視及處理不當漁法的問題
(3) 重啟跨部會議處理五大威脅*議題


新聞聯絡人:台灣媽祖魚保育聯盟 甘小姐 0928-926180

* 五大威脅為棲地破壞與消失、水與空氣汙染、水下噪音、漁具誤纏以及淡水注入減少。

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The myth of industrial development

One of seven recent fires at Formosa Plastics. This one was in late July 2010: Photo courtesy of MFCU.

A letter by Chi Chun-chieh in today's Taipei Times provides some perspective on the history of Formosa Plastics Group's sixth naphtha cracker plant in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County. Just a brief note on a single point that we tend to differ in our opinion to that of Chi's letter. Chi states, "Quite a lot of people living in the area followed in the tracks of Mailiao residents before them, accepting the government’s promises and supporting the petrochemicals construction project. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of environmental groups and people from other areas, the Dacheng project was stopped."

Our observation was that indeed "quite a lot of people" living in the area did support the project but at the same time there were many that didn't. Ongoing protests and opposition to the petrochemical project by many local people who depend on the Dacheng wetlands for their livelihood were well documented. Being one of the major environmental NGOs involved in the issue our view was the Kuokuang Petrochemical Project was halted thanks to the efforts of both locals and people from other areas coupled with the efforts of both local and international environmental, science and social justice groups.

Taipei Times
The myth of industrial development
By Chi Chun-chieh 紀駿傑 /
Tue, Aug 09, 2011

Industrial giant Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) has been hit by a wave of public opprobrium after the seventh fire in just one year broke out at its sixth naphtha cracker plant in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County. The company has been criticized over the state of the plant’s pipeline system in particular, as well as its poor safety management and cost-cutting corporate culture. Aside from these problems there is another issue that deserves attention: the longstanding idea that business investment will bring prosperity and development to outlying areas — a promise often made by politicians and entrepreneurs.

Even before the recent big fires that have provoked protests by people living near the plant, two major fires that broke out at FPG’s sixth naphtha cracker in July last year had already prompted thousands of local residents to organize marches, block roads and surround the complex.

More than 20 years ago, it was opposition by people living in Yilan County, where FPG’s sixth naphtha cracker was originally going to be built, that forced FPG to choose the “outlying” area of Mailiao as the site for the complex. At the time, people in Yunlin welcomed the proposed plant in the belief that industrial development would bring them a prosperous future with plenty of jobs. Many people saw the plant as a money-spinner and celebrated its arrival.

The reception given to the project at the originally planned location in the Lize (利澤) area of Yilan County’s Wujie Township (五結) was very different from what happened later in Mailiao. In December 1987, then-FPG chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶) took part in a televised debate with then-Yilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南).

Wang said that if Chen gave the go-ahead for the plant to be built in Yilan, it would be a highly ethical decision that would bring great benefits to the county. Chen, however, responded by saying that if he allowed the complex to be built in Yilan he would be blamed for generations to come for what he called a “criminal error.”

In view of the seven fires in one year at the plant in Yunlin, and the protests that have followed, one can well imagine how thankful Yilan residents must feel today about Chen’s decision not to let FPG build the plant in their county.

In the two decades since it was built, the sixth naptha cracker plant has not brought the promised prosperity to the area. Instead, it has brought the threat of cancer and other illnesses, as well as the menace of fires that can and have broken out at any time. However, over on the other side of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪), in Changhua County’s Dacheng Township (大城), the government was until the beginning of this year still offering the same old lures of “jobs and prosperity” to try and persuade local residents to support the construction of an eighth naphtha cracker plant.

Quite a lot of people living in the area followed in the tracks of Mailiao residents before them, accepting the government’s promises and supporting the petrochemicals construction project. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of environmental groups and people from other areas, the Dacheng project was stopped.

From now on, in view of the string of fires at the FPG complex in Mailiao, the myth that industrial development will bring prosperity to any area should come under stricter scrutiny and criticism than it sometimes has in the past.

Chi Chun-chieh is an associate professor at the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University.

Translated by Julian Clegg

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Local residents give Formosa an ultimatum

One of seven recent fires at Formosa Plastics. This one was in late July 2010: Photo courtesy of MFCU.

Excessive pollution levels have long been common place at Formosa Plastics Group’s petrochemical complex in Mailiao, Yunlin County. Formosa Plastics was the 2009 recipient of the infamous Black Planet Award; for those who have committed themselves to the destruction and downfall of our Blue Planet in an outstanding way. One would think that after been singled out for having such a horrendous environmental track record that Formosa would take steps to clean up their image. Not on your life. Unbelievably Formosa took their toxic output to new levels. There have been seven chemical fires at the complex in past year.

After two fires at the complex just last week local residents have had enough. On Monday residents from the surrounding townships of Taisi (台西), Baojhong (褒忠), Dongshih (東勢) and Lunbei (崙背) came out in protest demanding a full suspension of operations at the plant. Tomorrow, residents of Mailiao Township(麥寮) will protest to send an "ultimatum" to Formosa to clean up or face continuous mass protest action.

The Formosa Plastics Group’s petrochemical complex in Mailiao is built on reclaimed land that was once prime pink dolphin habitat. Current and planned reclamation projects at the plant are further reducing the little remaining habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. Shipping traffic at Mailiao Port and excessive pollution levels from the Formosa Plastics Plant are serious threats to the continued survival of the Taiwan pink dolphins.

See Rally planned at Mailiao plant and Industrial accidents show up safety talk in today's Taipei Times.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Paper published on Taiwan pink dolphins

The year-round presence of the Taiwan pink dolphins along the western Taiwan coast has been disputed over the years as a tactic against efforts to stop coastal development and its negative impact on the dolphins. A paper titled Evidence for year-round occurrence of the eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the waters of western Taiwan by John Y. Wang & Shih Chu Yang has been published in the respected journal Marine Mammal Science. This paper clearly provides evidence that the Taiwan pink dolphins are present in the inshore waters of western Taiwan throughout the year. This paper is a valuable contribution to the conservation efforts to protect these unique dolphins and our thanks to researchers John Wang and Sichu Yang of FormosaCetus for their continued dedication in helping us understand these unique dolphins better.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 Jogging For Taiwan’s Pink Dolphins and Wetlands

To help create awareness of the plight of Taiwan’s critically endangered Pink Dolphins and the need to protect our coastal wetlands we invite you to take a jog for our dolphins with us along the west coast.

Date: September 18, 2011
Time: 6am-12:30pm
Location: Fangyuan Bai-ma Pu-tian Temple, (No. 100 161 Ave., Fan-han Rd, Fangyuan Township, Changhua County)

Click table to enlarge.

- Your cloth race number is also your raffle number. Prizes will be given only with the presence of your cloth race number.

First three in each group will receive prizes and pins. We plan to start the prize ceremony at 9:30 (Participants must be present).
The eldest and youngest participants will also receive prizes.

Only for the 10.3km run. Please indicate that you would like a certificate on registration. We are unfortunately unable to provide ranking and race times due to limited staff.

Registration and Fees:
Please note there is no on-site registration. Please sign up online before Friday, August 19, or fax your registration form to 04-7769516 or email it to
This event uses ATM transfer for payment. Please sign in online after payment to complete the registration process.

Code 700
Account Name: Chuanghua County Environmental Protection Union/彰化縣環境保護聯盟
Account Number: 0081038-0396277
After finishing registration, you will receive confirmation from the hosting organization.
Once registration is completed, no refunds will be given.


In person
Bring ID card to the union’s office between 9/13 and 9/16 (Tuesday to Friday) 9:00-17:00

By mail
If unable to check-in with the above method, please check in by mail (indicate during registration). The mailing cost is 55NT/form if under 10 people. 10 people or more requires payment at delivery (limited to within Taiwan)

Transport Services:Transportation Services on the Day (must indicate during registration)
On the day of the event, a bus will depart from opposite the Changhua Train Station at 5am to Pu-tian Temple. At 12:30, the bus will depart from Pu-tian Temple to Changhua Train Station. The trip takes 1.5 hour one way. Round trip costs 100NT.
If traveling by car please park in Pu-tian Temple’s parking lot.

Accommodation (must indicate during registration):
Participants who arrive on 9/17 at night can reserve rooms at Pu–tian Temple. 100NT per person. (Please arrive before 8pm on 9/17)

Other Activities and attractions:Hai Bin Market
Fresh oyster roasting
Local fishery
Le Huo NGO market
Cell Phone radiation test
Emergency rescue rehearsal
Oyster collecting
Oyster collecting car ride
Wetland organisms photo exhibition
Tidal flats ecology tour (sign up on site, limited space)

Contact Information: Environmental Protection Union, Chunghua.
Address: No. 354 Zhongshan Rd. Lugang Township, Chuanghua County, 505
Telephone: 04-7764467
Fax: 04-7769516

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Jogging For Taiwan’s Pink Dolphins and Wetlands

Changhua Environmental Protection Union is holding its annual jogging competition to raise awareness of the plight of Taiwan’s critically endangered pink dolphins and the need to protect coastal wetlands.

The competition will take place on September 18, 2011 at the Bai-ma Pu-tian Temple, in Fangyuan Township, Changhua Country (No. 100 161 Ave., Fan-han Rd, Fangyuan Township, Changhua County). Prizes will be given to participants! Transportation, accommodation, and parking are all provided.

Registration details will follow shortly.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Conservationists protest against nuclear policies

On the eve of World Environment Day, environmental groups staged a demonstration urging the president to rethink the nation’s nuclear power policy. See the Taipei Times for the story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pink Dolphins and Kuokuang Petrochemical in the New York Times

The internationally listed Dacheng wetlands which Kuokuang wanted to turn into a petrochemical complex.

On June 5th an article titled "Activism Gets Rolling in Taiwan" by Taiwan-based journalist Ralph Jennings featured in the New York Times. The article focuses on how a recent wave of opposition has halted the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical Project and how issues such as the plight of the Taiwan pink dolphin have become major issues in Taiwan. We're grateful for the publicity that the article gives the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union and our colleagues at Wild at Heart. While organisations such as ours have played their part in focusing attention on issues such as Kuokuang and the plight of the pink dolphins it would be wrong to overlook the fact that many Taiwanese have had enough of the environmental damage done by greedy organisations and individual through their irresponsibly managed heavy industry and have got to the point where they've said "This must stop now!"

See Activism Gets Rolling in Taiwan in the New York Times.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Work Suspension at the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant

The following is a rough English translation of an article that appeared in a recent edition of the Hanji language Tian Sia magazine.

Work Suspension at the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant:
Why is Su Chi-fen so brave?

2011-05 "Tian Sia" Magazine No. 473

"I was finally able to sleep better last night," the Yunlin county magistrate Su Chi-fen said. Although she was smiling, fatigue and burden were evident on her face.

Her sports jacket, sneakers, and messy hair all reveal how stressed she has been over the past year. "Since last July, every time I think about the issue at the Sixth Naphtha Decomposition Factory, it’s almost as if a dark cloud were right above me," she said. In the eleven months from July 7, 2010 to May 18, 2011, Formosa Plastics has had four fires in the Sixth Naphtha Decomposition Factory.

Last Friday (May 27), Su Chi-fen made a decision that shocked the Formosa Plastics Group and other such industries around the globe. She demanded that Formosa Plastics’ vinyl chloride factory and South Asia Hai Feng factory both in Mailiao [Yunlin County] would terminate operations starting on June 1.

This is Formosa Plastics’ largest work suspension since the group was first founded forty years ago.

Using the idea for the first time in Taiwan that local government can demand work suspension within the petrochemical industry, this move by Su Chi-fen has had a profound impact on the economy.

The suspended South Asia Hai Feng factory is the fourth largest producer of vinyl chloride in the world and the third largest producer of diphenol. These are the main sources of profit for the South Asia Hai Feng factory. "Tian Sia" magazine learned from Formosa Plastics that the work suspension will cost them NT$34,400,000 a day. The downstream manufacturers’ fight for remaining materials has also become a serious concern.

The political trend has also changed.

"My friends have warned me to watch out for my own safety," Su Chi-fen said at 9pm at Taichung Railway Station. She showed signs of the pressure on her an hour after the interview. "Formosa Plastics’ relations are really good, from top to bottom," she emphasized.

Why is she so brave to make this big decision? Why now?

This May’s fire wasn’t as big as last July’s Naphtha Decomposition Factory fire. Why was there no heavy punishment at that time? Why is there work suspension and a NT$5 million fine this time round?

Although Su Chi-fen doesn't aknowledge it, the political trend has changed.

First, on April 22, President Ma Ying Jeou announced that he no longer supported the Kuokuang Petrochemical project and that the petrochemical industry must operate with higher quality standards.

Even though their biggest competitor, the Kuokuang Petrochemical project, has been stopped for now, Formosa Plastics’ Sixth Set Naphtha Decomposition Factory has not gained anything from this.

On May 12, the Sixth Set Naphtha Decomposition Factory’s pipelines for liquefied petroleum gas and isodecyl alcohol leaked and caught fire.

Shi Yan-siang, Minister of Economic Affairs, has always been an affable and easy-going man, but this time, he declared solemnly, "No worker safety, no petrochemical." He insists on supporting relevant responsible organizations to clarify the reasons for the fire and ensure everything is done strictly following the law.

The change in attitude of high-level officials’ is making lower-level personnel bolder.

After the fire on May 12, even Lian Jin Chang, Industrial Department deputy chief, personally delivered documents and explained legal rules on behalf of the Yunlin County Government. The documents were delivered on the 17th and returned to the Yunlin County Government on the 19th. It only took three days to confirm that the pipelines belong to the factory’s facilities and are subject to the Factory Management Advice Act’s 21st line and 3rd item: County departments must demand work suspension and ask for improvements.

In a meeting at the Department of Economic Affairs, he said, "If our department has the nessesary swords, I’d definitely go after them."

The Central Government gives the "Swords."

The Factory Management Advice Act was revised and passed in June last year. However, when the Department request an explanation from the Central Government after the fire occurred at the decomposition factory on July 7, the Central Government simply said "there’s no relevant law" and "it is unsuitable."

This time, the Central Government’s change in attitude empowered the Yunlin County Government.

Su Chi-fen admitted that the local government has to follow the laws when fining and punishing people.

For this cause, she asked the Democratic Progressive Party’s Legislative Department’s convener, Ke Jian-min, to hold a closed-door meeting discussing worker safety at the decomposition factory. Two days before the meeting, they also invited officials from the Central Government: Department of Economic Affairs’ Energy Office, The Interior Department’s Fire Department, Department of Construction, Department of Environmental Affairs, and fourteen other officials and county groups that are close to her. They had a debate over the best way to handle fifteen problems.

Something bad will happen again at the Sixth Set Naphtha Decomposition Factory.

The next day, Yunlin County’s Director of Construction Department and Minister of the Environmental Affairs Department both attended the "Formosa Plastics Mailiao Industrial Area Safety Management Meeting" held by the Vice Minister of Economic Affairs. During the meeting, the Central Government did not oppose the punishment administered by the Yunlin Country Government.

That night, Su Chi-fen wanted to hold a meeting with her supporting staff to establish boundary lines for local government. "Find the category, and I’ll make the decision."

"I’ve had a lot of discussion with county officials, from last year until now. There were at least a hundred meetings on worker safety at the Sixth Set Naphtha Decomposition Factory." In addition to trying to convince Central Government, Su Chi-fen also has to persuade her own staff that she is right. "I held so many meetings, because I don’t want to force any official to stamp anything reluctantly."

The confirmations and careful communication within and outside local government, along with the Central Government’s political trend since April, led to Su Chi-fen’s important decision made on the 27th to suspend work.

Although this might affect the Taiwanese economy, Su Chi-fen insists that the safety of the people in Yunlin is far more important.

She recalls her own incident at the fire scene on May 12. The fire was huge. Su Chi-fen was standing up wind, but when the wind direction changed, water from the firefighters’ hoses splashed over her.

While standing in the wind, she remembered an expert warned her that in April something bad would happen at the Sixth Naphtha Decomposition Factory this summer. Cold sweat was all over her body. Frightened, she kept asking why the expert said so.

The expert said that according to his experience with the worker safety meetings and his understanding of Formosa Plastics’ organizational culture, Formosa Plastics does not pay attention to worker safety. The words, unexpectedly, came true a month later.

The Central Government should conduct a national-level survey.

"I often think about what should be done to make the Central Government pay attention to this problem and to make high-ranking officials at Formosa Plastics realize that work safety is not a kid's game," Su Chi-fen said. This is why she decided to enforce a heavy punishment, so that Formosa Plastics can measure and compare the costs and profits of their behavior.

The condition for restarting the operation requires Formosa Plastics to have their pipelines checked in an advanced country and meet the proper safety standards (USA’s API570 pipeline testing range). The government must also conduct a national-level check-up to clarify the real reason.

Su Chi-fen and the Minister of Economic Affairs both insist "No worker safety, no petrochemical," but from the look of the current political trend, even if there were worker safety, is it still possible to have the petrochemical industry?

Su Chi-fen’s decision also affects the relationship between the future government and the petrochemical industry. "The local government should supervise and eagerly establish a supervisory relationship between the government and the petrochemical industry," she said.

This "new relationship" will be a new challenge for Formosa Plastics and all other companies in the petrochemical industry.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Controversial Taipei Dome gets the go-ahead

Seems the Taipei City’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee hasn't learned anything from the outcome of the Kuokuang project.

February 2009:- protestor in the in the last of nearly 700 old camphor trees, which are native to Taiwan, that were removed for a development project of which the legality was still before the courts and of which the environmental impact and zoning procedures were not yet complete.

In 2009 Stop Hushan Dam blog carried several posts on the clearing of the old Songshan Tobacco factory site in Xinyi before Environmental Impact Assessment had passed. The developer was given police protection to clear the site under highly dubious legality to put it mildly. More than two years on and the project only received the go-ahead yesterday by a city council-loaded EIA review committee in what can only be described as a mockery of the environmental impact assessment process. Songshan remains a continuing example of an environmental protection administration going all out to promote the interests of the developer at the expense of the environment and the local people. So much for all the political double speak on the need to "green" Taipei.

Yesterday Taipei City’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee gave conditional approval to the controversial Taipei Dome construction project paving the way for the construction of the 500,000m2 commercial complex in the Xinyi District. The EIA Review Committee approved the project by a vote of eight to five. With city officials accounting for seven of the 13 committee members the pro developer outcome was hardly surprising. Taiwan Green Party spokesman Pan Han-shen accused the city government of hijacking the review process.

The Songshan Tobacco Factory was established under Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. The area has remained an open green area supporting wildlife in the heart of Taipei for many years. After the factory was closed in 1998 the area was further able to revert back to its natural state and become covered in thick vegetation and has become a vitally important oasis for wildlife within Taipei providing critically important habitat for several rare species. In 2006, the Taipei City Government signed a contract with the Farglory Group to build a 429,000m² cultural and sports dome complex costing around US$695.9 million on the site. Environmentalists and local residents oppose the project.

See Taipei Dome gets a green light in today's Taipei Times.

Also see:
Taipei Times:- Green Party Taiwan halts tree removal at site of old Songshan Tobacco Factory

Update: Disregard for the legal process - The last of the great Songshan camphor trees

Update: It's gone ! Total disregard of the legal process - The last of the great Songshan camphor trees has gone !

More on the Songshan Tree issue

Songshan: Before and After Photos

Songshan update: case against activists dismissed

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two Pink Dolphins found Dead in Hong Kong

On May 12th two pink dolphins [aka Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin; Chinese white dolphin; Sousa chinensis] were found dead in Hong Kong's Pearl River Estuary. The carcasses will be examined to determine the causes of death. 14 pink dolphin deaths were reported in the Pearl River Estuary last year alone and most were attributed to human activities. With the death of a Taiwan pink dolphin last month it clearly shows that human activities pose a very real threat to inshore estuarine dolphin species like the pink dolphin. With the unique Taiwan pink dolphin population being made up of about only 70 individuals in total the loss of just a single dolphin a year would be catastrophic.

Article in the Hong Kong press (in Mandarin)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ongoing pollution crisis in the Dadu estuary

Tundra Swans, a very rare sight in Taiwan, feeding on the mudflats of the Dadu River Estuary.

The ongoing saga of pollution crisis in the Dadu estuary continues. On 7 April opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Green Party Taiwan members criticised the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for failing to safeguard the important Dadu River Estuary Wildlife Refuge in Changhua from shocking levels of industrial pollution. Their calls appeared to fall on deaf ears.

A month later environmental groups and NGOs staged a protest outside the Presidential Office in an effort to call attention to the crisis and get the authorities to do something about it. Once again the authorities seem to be dragging their heels in doing something about the crisis.

The Dadu River Estuary is a vitally important wetland habitat for shorebirds, the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins and a host of other marine-dependant wildlife. The area is also an important fishery area so the toxins pose a direct threat to the people of Taiwan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink"

Hushan's Yucing valley before it was dug out to make way for the highly controversial Hushan Dam.

"Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink" said Coleridge in 'The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere.' With the recent day spell we've been having in Taiwan; and is always the case when we experience one; talk of the need for new reservoirs comes to the fore in the media. "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink" becomes the cry.

Typically the argument goes that Taiwan doesn't have sufficient reservoirs for its needs and there are volumes of wasted water pointlessly flowing down rivers from the mountains into the ocean. All that is needed is to build more dams and solve the problem.

Fresh water flowing into the sea is seen as wasteful and no thought is given to its critical role in maintaining vitally important estuarine ecosystems. The dust problem on the lower reaches of the Jhoushui River is conveniently forgotten. This dust-bowl situation in Changhua and Yunlin Counties has been created by the damming of the Jhoushui River in its middle course leaving the wide floodplain of the lower reaches dry and dusty with little water at the mercy of fierce coastal winds.

The dusty desolate lower reaches of the Jhoushui River on the border of Changhua and Yunlin Counties. This dust-bowl situation on the river's wide floodplain is attributed to reduced volumes of water in the river's lower course due to damming in its the middle course.

The cost to the natural environment in the damming of rivers is massive and irreversible. A prime example is the tremendous damage to the Huben-Hushan area with the current construction of the Hushan Reservoir project. This project poses a direct threat to the future survival of Red-Listed animals and plants such as the Fairy Pitta, Taiwan pink dolphin and Begonia ravenii. In addition, the risk the dam poses to people living nearby has largely been pushed aside but after the recent Japanese quake and tsunami should we not take a renewed look at the wisdom of constructing a dam in a very unstable area near the Jiji fault; the epicenter of the huge September 1999 earthquake.

The Huben-Hushan forest being cleared for the Hushan Dam project. The area is listed internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it is globally the most important breeding area for the IUCN Red-Listed Fairy Pitta.

An interesting letter appeared in the Taipei Times on Tuesday by Lee Ken-cheng, director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan urging a closer look at the benefits of addressing the problem water leakage on existing reservoirs to increase reservoir effectiveness rather than building new reservoirs.

See New take on how to meet water needs is necessary in Tuesday's Taipei Times.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kuokuang grumbles about policy

"Kuokuang grumbles about policy," well, so says today's Taipei Times. As expected the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co has lashed out at everyone concerned except themselves because they have been forced to scrap their plan to build a naphtha cracking plant on the internationally listed important Dacheng Wetlands in Changhua County.

Kuokuang chairman Chen Bao-lang (陳寶郎) ranted, "Why wasn't the government aware that there were valuable wetlands in Changhua?" "If it was aware, why didn't it tell us at the very beginning of the project?" Obviously the planning of such a project takes several years. During that period shouldn't you look into possible environmental concerns? Does Chen really expect us to have sympathy for such poor planning? Could it be that Kuokuang was well aware of the importance of the wetlands? Could it be with the legacy of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) legacy as a rubber stamp body that they thought they could just get away with it? Get away with it just like so many other environmentally devastating projects have in the past.

The Dacheng Wetlands are listed as an Important Bird Area or IBA by Birdlife International. BirdLife International acts as the evaluation body concerning birds for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN is the international body that draws up and puts out the Red List of Threatened Species. BirdLife International through its local partners identifies and lists areas that are of great national or international importance to birds. A quick glance at BirdLife's directory of 'Important Bird Areas in Asia: Key sites for Conservation' lists the Dacheng Wetlands as IBA TW-016. The directory was published in 2004. However, the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, BirdLife's Taiwan partner, published the Important Bird Areas of Taiwan in 2001. Come now chairman Chen? That's ten years ago! You mean to tell us you guys didn't even take a peak at the Taiwan IBA list? I somehow doubt it.

*The Dacheng Wetlands are often spelt using the old Wade-Giles system of romanisation and spelt "Tacheng."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Press Release: 2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop

For immediate release

Your are invited to a press conference at 14:00 on April 28, 2011.

Recovery is Possible! Protecting the Taiwan Pink Dolphins As a Move to Sustainable Fisheries in Taiwan
"There are no hopeless cases, only people without hope and expensive cases." Micheal Soule ("father" of conservation biology)

Hosted by

Academia Sinica Institute of Biological Chemistry,
Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union,
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association,
Eastern Taiwan Strait Sousa Technical Advisory Working Group

At the following location

Room 3A of the National Taiwan University Alumni Association Building
#2-1, Jinan Rd. Sec. 1, Taipei City

Grace Gan, MFCU, Secretary General 0928-926180
Robin Winkler, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Director 0937-548722

The ETS Sousa [aka Taiwan pink dolphins] and Taiwan’s fisheries are in trouble. The above mentioned organizations have been hosting a series of events during the past week related to impacts of fisheries in the Eastern Taiwan Strait on the small population of critically endangered Indo pacific humpback dolphins that inhabit the coastal area between Miaoli and Tainan. The "Workshop on Fisheries and Conservation of the ETS Indo pacific Humpback Dolphin, Sousa chinensis" concluded this morning (Thursday, 28 April 2011) with a visit by the workshop participants to Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture. The participants, comprised of marine, cetacean and fisheries experts and academics from Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, the United States and New Zealand have been invited by the host organizations to present their findings to Taiwan’s media, NGOs and other interested parties. Participants will share some preliminary observations following their six days of field trips, seminar and closed door work-shop on the compatibility of dolphin habitat conservation and sustainable fisheries. There will be a special announcement on the death of “TW3” in September 2009 – including photos from its healthier days.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Government says that Dacheng Wetlands to become a Reserve

The internationally listed Dacheng wetlands were until Friday going to be turned into a petrochemical complex.

Following Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s opposition to the construction of the Kuokuang Petrochemical complex on the site of the internationally important Dacheng wetlands on the Changhua coast on Friday, Minister of the Interior (MOI) Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) has announced that his ministry would soon begin the process to turn the area into a nature reserve. This is welcome news and we hope that this is the start of a new attitude by the government to rehabilitating the west coast which has been greatly damaged by heavy industry.

Given the government's poor environmental record, the question needs to be asked if this is just a government ploy to appear to be doing something for the environment so they can say "we've taken action" and then allow further so-called heavy industrial development at other locations on the west coast.

The Dacheng wetlands are an internationally listed important bird area (IBA) and vital habitat for the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. Until Friday, the government was planning to reclaim these internationally important wetlands for a petrochemical complex.

See Changhua wetland to become a park in yesterday's Taipei Times.

Kuokuang might be moved overseas according to Premier Wu

Taiwan Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said on Saturday that Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) might seek an alternative overseas location possibly in Malaysia or Indonesia. On Friday Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou held a press conference at the Presidential Office and said that he opposed building the project in Changhua County after the government could no longer ignore the public outcry against this proposed environmental nightmare slated for the Chunghua coast. The state-run refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) is the largest shareholder of Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co and the government has become increasingly unpopular as it has pushed for the go-ahead of this project which has resulted in the Ma Administration as being perceived as putting the interests of the petrochemical industry above that of the nation. Reports have suggested the complex would now be relocated further south to Yunlin or Kaohsiung. However, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) was quick to say that her city "does not welcome the Kuokuang petrochemical complex" and would not accept any attempt by the central government to move a highly polluting industry there. The Yunlin County Government was also quick to voice their opposition to the idea and said "By no means can it be accepted."

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has understandably put the Ma Administration's apparent about-turn on Kuokuang down to electioneering.

See Naphtha cracker might be moved overseas: premier in yesterday's Taipei Times.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop: West Coast Field Trip

Photos from today's West Coast Field Trip on the first day of 2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop.

Formosa Plastics at Mailiao in Yunlin County. Reclaimed land in known pink dolphin habitat.

The Dacheng wetlands, site of the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project.

Former Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu meeting international cetacean scientists at the Dacheng wetlands.

Pink dolphin shirts at the Taiwan Glass Museum, Changbin Industrial Park, near Lukang, Changhua County.

Fish market, Lukang area, Changhua County.

Fish market, Lukang area, Changhua County.

Shark fins, fish market, Lukang area, Changhua County.

Fish traps right across a river, Lukang area, Changhua County.

Inspecting nets, fishing port, Lukang area, Changhua County.

Trawlers, fishing port, Lukang area, Changhua County.

2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop kicks off tomorrow

Press Release: 2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop kicks off tomorrow

The 2011 International Workshop on Fisheries & Conservation of the Eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Sousa chinensis kicks off tomorrow with a field trip to the west coast. An open workshop will be held at the Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica in Taipei on Monday, April 25th. Closed report-writing sessions will be held at Academia Sinica on April 26-27th. An open conference will be held on Thursday, April 28th.

This workshop will be the fourth international workshop dedicated to saving these critically endangered dolphins. Previous workshops were held in 2004, 2007 & 2009. International speakers include:

-Dr. Peter S. Ross, a research Scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. He's carrying out research into the levels and patterns of environmental contaminants in marine mammals, fish and fish habitat, and on the effects of contaminants on the health of aquatic biota. He holds Adjunct Professorships at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria.

-Dr. John Y. Wang, the principal biologist of the FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group, an adjunct professor at Trent University (Peterborough, ON, Canada) and an adjunct researcher at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (Pingtung County, Taiwan).

-Dr. Elisabeth Slooten, Professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She conducts research on Hector’s dolphins, sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, right whales, seals, sealions and other marine mammal species. This research has been instrumental in solving conservation problems such as dolphin bycatch in fisheries, disturbance from whale and dolphin tourism as well as habitat modification.

-Dr. Karin Forney, is a Research Biologist with the Protected Resources Division at the [US] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Since 1987, she has conducted research on abundance, distribution, ecology, bycatch, and status of over 20 species of cetaceans.

-The workshop is hosted by:
-Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica.
-Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan.
-Matsu's Fish Conservation Union.
-The Society of Wilderness, Taiwan.
-Changhua Environmental Protection Union.

We will post reports on this blog as soon as they are released.

For more information see:
2011 International Workshop on Fisheries & Conservation of the Eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Sousa chinensis.

International Workshop Reports

Also see:
2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop: West Coast Field Trip

Press Release: 2011 International Taiwan Pink Dolphin Workshop

Ma sinks Kuokuang ! Time to break out the bubbly?

Shortly after the Environmental Protection Administration’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee failed to reach a conclusion on the proposed Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) naphtha cracker complex yesterday, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou told a press conference at the Presidential Office that he opposed building the project in Changhua County. This statement by President Ma has now effectively sunk the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project in Changhua County.

The scuttling of this proposed environmental nightmare hopefully means that the Dacheng wetlands are safe from the petrochemical industry; well, at least in the immediate future. The loss of the Dacheng wetlands would almost certainly have been the death blow to the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. This struggling population of unique dolphins could never have survived the impact that the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project would have had on them. Ma said the complex, which was to be built on reclaimed land from the Dacheng wetlands, would have had an "unbearable" impact on the local ecology and environment.

The government has been firmly behind the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project. One could quite easily have mistaken Premier Wu Den-yih for a petrochemical executive rather than the nation's premier considering how he has gone all out in his effort to get the green light for this project. Clearly, the government didn't anticipate such a strong reaction to their plans. Determined opposition to this project has forced the government to back down but has this caused a change of heart? Is Kuokuang just going to move to another front? Will we see it reemerge in Yunlin, Penghu or elsewhere?

The state-run refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), the largest shareholder of Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co has undoubtedly lost big money in this. It goes without saying that the private shareholders from the petrochemical industry have as well. What's the government going to do to compensate for this loss? Yesterday, Ma went on to say, "However, we will not and cannot give up on the petrochemical industry."

Is it time to break out the bubbly in a victory celebration? Or in the battle against the petrochemical giants vs Taiwan's environment, has just the position of the front shifted? Any bets on Penghu?

See Taskforce equivocates on naphtha plant in today's Taipei Times.

Also see After nine hours, still no verdict on Kuokuang’s EIA.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pink Dolphin Carcass

The carcass of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphin found earlier this month on the Chunghua Coast at Shengu Village in Shengang Township is being kept at the National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung. The carcass is still awaiting examination as far as we know so the cause of death remains unknown.

We certainly hope that the Taiwan authorities will give full access to the carcass to independent experts. When access was given to independent international experts on the 2009 specimen, the head was still frozen and could not be examined properly. Access to a skeleton of the animal that stranded in 2000 has previously been given but many bones were missing so this obviously limited the value of such access. Access to view the skeleton of the stranded animal from 2009 has not been given to independent international experts to date. As the entire carcass was recovered in good condition this skeleton should be complete but the current status of the 2009 specimen is unknown and no official comprehensive scientific report on the results of tissue samples, causes of death etc has been issued.

We'll continue to update the blog with any additional information we learn on this tragic issue.

Carcass of a stranded Taiwan pink dolphin is removed by the Coast Guard:- photo Lee Creek-tin, Canton News.

Also see:
Another Taiwan Pink Dolphin Death (April 2011)
Taiwan Pink Dolphin Beaches and Dies on the Coast at Tonghsiao (Sept 2009)

Two Pink Dolphins found Dead in Hong Kong

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Taiwan Pink Dolphin Death

The Coast Guard has reported finding a dead Taiwan pink dolphin at Shengu Village in Shengang Township on the Chunghua Coast on 11 April. Cause of death isn't known. The carcass has been removed to the National Science Museum in Taichung.

The loss of a single critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphin is extremely concerning as the loss of a single animal could be catastrophic to this unique population that is poised on the brink of extinction.

In September 2009 a Taiwan pink dolphin drowned in Miaoli after becoming entangled in what was almost certainly fishing gear.

We'll be following developments closely and will post additional information as it becomes available.

See Taiwan Pink Dolphin Beaches and Dies on the Coast at Tonghsiao (Sept 2009)

Pink Dolphin Carcass

Also see:
Two Pink Dolphins found Dead in Hong Kong

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ma playing election games as he links his decision on Kuokuang to next year’s presidential election

The Dacheng wetlands in Changhua; the Kuokuang petrochemical project plans to reclaim these internationally listed wetlands that are home to the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins and a host of other threatened species to build petrochemical factories.

Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said that no decision had been made over the future of the controversial Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) project. Lo went on to say that as President Ma weighs the options, government agencies would "make preparations" for different scenarios. Quite what those scenarios are; well, Lo didn't elaborate. He then said that Ma would make a decision before next year’s presidential election.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, the man that holds the future of Dacheng Wetlands and the fate of the Taiwan pink dolphins in his hands: photo Wikipedia commons.

So, what does that mean? With Ma's wishy-washy politics it could mean anything. I guess it could mean Ma is sitting on the fence and as the presidential elections come to a head he'll go with whatever he thinks will get him more votes. Come on President Ma ! Take a stand for the environment. Do what's right. Put a stop to Kuokuang now and stop playing election games with Taiwan's environment.

See No decision yet on Kuokuang park, Lo says in today's Taipei Times.

Lawmakers criticize EPA over pollution in Dadu Estuary

Tundra Swans, a very rare sight in Taiwan, feeding on the mudflats of the Dadu River Estuary.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Green Party Taiwan yesterday criticised the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for failing to safeguard the important Dadu River Estuary Wildlife Refuge in Changhua from shocking levels of industrial pollution yesterday. The Dadu River Estuary is a vitally important wetland habitat for shorebirds, the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins and a host of other marine-dependant wildlife. The area is also an important fishery area so the toxins pose a direct threat to the Taiwan's Human food chain.

See Lawmakers criticize EPA over pollution at refuge in today's Taipei Times.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Disappearance of endangered Black-faced Spoonbill in Tainan

An endangered Black-faced Spoonbill in southern Tainan: photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

Conservationists have become increasingly concerned over the future of the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) as numbers of wintering spoonbills in the Chiku Protected Area in Tainan nose-dived this winter.

For years, flocks of tourists from around the world have been coming to Chiku in the Zengwen estuary to enjoy the sight of hundreds of Black-faced Spoonbill feeding in this wetland. Chiku is known as globally the major wintering area for this endangered IUCN Red-listed species. However, this year, many tourists went away disappointed. The number of Black-faced Spoonbills in the protected area has fallen drastically. Winter spoonbill counts have numbered above 1600 in previous years. Shockingly, the count was a mere 246 this December 2010. By the 2011 Lunar New Year, the spoonbills had all but disappeared with numbers often being in single digits inside the protected area.

According to the Black-faced Spoonbill Ecology Exhibition Hall Facebook page, the count on April 6 was just 89 spoonbills within the protected area.

On April 7 and 8, Taijiang National Park and the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI) will jointly hold an international conference to discuss possible causes for the decline in the number of endangered Black-faced Spoonbill in southern Taiwan.

Though no causes have been determined, initial investigations suggest that environmental disturbances such as industrial activities, Air Force training in the area, the effects of the flood of 2009, and possibly others, may have forced the birds to go elsewhere to seek food.

Spoonbills have been sighted in other areas of Tainan, Beimen, Budai, and other parts of the Yunlin-Chiayi coast; areas where they are not typically found in high numbers. Indeed, this is a most alarming development. Large birds such as spoonbills act as an indicator species. These birds are clearly showing that something is very wrong on Taiwan's south-west coast. We need to seriously think about so-called developments along Taiwan's west coast such as the planned Kuokang Petrochemical Project on the central-west coast and the impact they are having on endangered species like the Black-faced Spoonbill, Taiwan pink dolphin, Saunders's Gull and a host of other threatened species. We'll be watching events at Chiku closely.

Also see:
Black-faced Spoonbill Ecology Exhibition Hall

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Society for Marine Mammalogy sends letter to Taiwan President over concerns for the Pink Dolphins

The Society for Marine Mammalogy; which is the largest professional group in the world dedicated to the study of marine mammals and consists of approximately 1,000 scientists from 60 countries; has sent a little of concern over the future of Taiwan's unique pink dolphins to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. I'm sure all who are working towards saving these dolphins welcome this show of support from the Society for Marine Mammalogy and await President Ma's reply with great anticipation.

From the Society for Marine Mammalogy website:

"The plight of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) of the Eastern Taiwan Strait
24 February 2011

President Ma Ying-jeou
122, Chong-cing South Road Section 1,
Chung-cheng District,
Taipei 10048,

Dear Mr. President Ma:

I write to you regarding the plight of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) of the Eastern Taiwan Strait.

The Society for Marine Mammalogy is the largest professional group in the world dedicated to the study of marine mammals and consists of approximately 1,000 scientists from 60 countries. The Society's goal is to facilitate the understanding and conservation of marine mammals and their ecosystems.

As you are no doubt aware, fewer than 100 dolphins remain in this geographically isolated population. In its Red List of threatened species, IUCN has declared this population to be 'Critically Endangered', thus according it the highest level of conservation concern. Documented threats to this population include:

•fisheries bycatch
•habitat destruction (land reclamation)
•water diversions (reduced flow into estuaries)
•underwater noise and disturbance
The proposed 4,000-hectare land reclamation project (Kuokang Project in central Taiwan) for a petrochemical facility centered in the small area of sea still occupied by these dolphins is a threat to their survival. Such a development would eliminate important habitat and likely result in a reduction in the size of the remaining dolphin population, reducing further its chances of survival and recovery.

These dolphins live in shallow coastal waters and are highly vulnerable to getting caught in fishing nets. Increased fishing pressure in nearshore waters inhabited by the dolphins is another major threat to the survival of this population.

Biology and Aquarium, a panel of national and international experts concluded that the combination of threats facing humpback dolphins could result in their extinction from the waters of Taiwan ( This loss of biodiversity would be inconsistent with national commitments made under the Taiwan Biodiversity Action Plan ratified by Executive Yuan on August 15, 2001.

We urge the government of Taiwan to take an international leadership role in conserving this internationally important population for future generations. This would mean dramatically altering the plans for the Kuokang Project and restricting fisheries that use entangling nets in coastal waters of the Eastern Taiwan Strait.

On behalf of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, I extend an offer to provide any additional advice needed regarding the biology and ecology of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.


Randall Wells, PhD
Society for Marine Mammalogy"