Wildlife NGO flags risks to white dolphins from LNG terminal

Local | 10 Sep 2018 11:42 am

WWF-Hong Kong has warned that the dwindling number of Chinese white dolphins and porpoises could be at risk if the government approves the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal south of Lantau.

The environmental group says the noise from driving dozens of piles into the sea floor, to support the offshore terminal, could drive the animals from their habitats, and disorient them.

"It would alter their behavior, for example, it would be less easy for them to catch their prey and they may even abandon their habitats,” said Samantha Lee, WWF-Hong Kong’s assistant director of oceans conservation. "If they are travelling in busy marine traffic areas, they cannot really listen clearly to approaching vessels, and it could certainly increase their collision rate and cause injuries or even death.”

But CLP Power, which backs the project, says the utility's own assessment suggests the impact on the mammals would be moderate, and could be effectively alleviated by proposed mitigation measures.

A spokesman said this would include not carrying out piling works from December to May, which are peak seasons of finless porpoise activity, or during night time.

Construction work would also stop if any finless porpoises are sighted within 500 meters of the construction location, and bubble curtains will be used to reduce the noise made.

But WWF-Hong Kong’s Lee says these mitigation measures proposed are clearly insufficient:

"Even if we have a bubble curtain installed, the piling sounds could still be transmitted inside the proposed South Lantau Marine Park,” she said.

CLP says the proposed offshore LNG terminal will improve the city’s energy security and strengthen its hand when purchasing supplies of natural gas.

The project’s Environmental Impact Assessment report will soon be considered by the government's Advisory Council on the Environment, with a decision on whether to approve or reject it expected by the end of the month.

WWF-Hong Kong wants the government and its advisory council to defer its decision on whether to approve the report, and instead immediately request CLP provide more specific information on the impact of the construction noise.-Photo: HKU

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