Rare pink dolphins return to Hong Kong waters after coronavirus blockade stops ferry traffic
- Observations of vulnerable Chinese white dolphins have increased by 30% since March
- Boat and ferry travel was stopped for the first time in the region that month
- With a lull in the water voyage, scientists have been able to study how dolphins respond to noise
Observations of rare pink dolphins in Hong Kong waters have jumped after the coronavirus blockade stopped ferry travel in the region.
Indo-Pacific dolphins – also known as Chinese white dolphins and pink dolphins – move back to parts of the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong.
Their numbers have jumped by up to 30 percent since March, when ferry traffic was halted due to coronavirus blockage.
Rare pink dolphins return to Hong Kong thanks to coronavirus blocking, stopping ferry traffic in parts of the Pearl River Delta
An undated photo of two Chinese white dolphins in the waters near Hong Kong. The number of dolphins in the delta has jumped by up to 30 percent since March, scientists said
Dolphins once avoided the area due to boat traffic between Hong Kong and Macau.
Marine scientist Lindsay Porter, who has studied dolphins near Hong Kong for three decades, said: “What we noticed after the ferries stopped in the area were dolphins we hadn’t seen in four, five, six years, again. in Hong Kong Habitat.
“It seems very quickly that the dolphins have returned to this waterway.”
“Usually this whole area will be full of fast ferries taking people from Hong Kong to Macau and back,” Porter added.
“Since the Covid pandemic began in Macau and many areas have limited travel, fast ferries have stopped. And these waters became very, very quiet.
A lull in water traffic has given scientists a rare opportunity to study how underwater noise affects dolphin behavior.
From a small dinghy, Porter and her team drop microphones into the water and use drones to watch dolphins.
Studies show that dolphins have adapted faster than expected to a quiet environment, and the population is likely to recover when such stressors are eliminated, Porter said.
Scientists estimate that there are about 2,000 dolphins in the entire mouth of the Pearl River.
Marine scientist Lindsay Porter (pictured) says the lull in water traffic in Hong Kong waters has given scientists a unique opportunity to study how dolphins respond to underwater sound.
A 2019 Hong Kong government study found that only about 52 dolphins entered the waters around the Asian financial center, but Porter estimates that the actual number may be slightly higher.
“Sometimes I feel like we’re studying the slow death of this population, which can be really sad,” she said.
Still, even if the decline in this population cannot be stopped, the study could help other dolphin populations elsewhere, she said.
Hong Kong’s conservation plans focus on opening marine parks where shipping is restricted but not banned. Three of these areas are visited by dolphins.
WWF in Hong Kong, a conservation group and Porter said such measures were inadequate, as dolphins are still at risk of being affected by ferries as they move between protected areas.
“This means that if we had a comprehensive management plan in Hong Kong with more effective conservation measures, we could quickly stop the decline in the dolphin population,” she said.