Hong Kong’s Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis): Assessing Past and Future Anthropogenic Impacts and Working Toward Sustainability

Abstract: Within the past several decades, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in Hong Kong have gone from being virtually unknown to being probably the best-studied dolphin population in Southeast Asia. Essentially nothing was known of their status prior to 1993, but they are now understood to be part of a large population (> 2,000 individuals) that inhabits the Pearl River Estuary of southern China. Approximately 130 to 200 dolphins occurred within Hong Kong’s boundary in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the numbers have declined since then, with currently only about 65 to 70 dolphins found within the region at any one time. Despite an ambitious management scheme by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department, mostly involving Hong Kong’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislation, the dolphins appear to be at risk locally. A series of recommendations are hereby made to encourage improved management of these animals and include (1) management at the population level; (2) better assessment of cumulative impacts; (3) protection of critical habitat, especially along the west coast of Lantau Island; and (4) management with “teeth.” If these suggested approaches are vigorously followed, I remain optimistic about the future of humpback dolphins in Hong Kong. Historical data show us that these animals can indeed recover from anthropogenic impacts but only if important habitat areas receive better protection than they are getting at present.
Key Words: Asia, conservation, delphinid, small cetaceans, management, population biology, Indo-Pacific humpack dolphin, Sousa chinensis
Document: Article
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.44.6.2018.711
Page Numbers: 711-728

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