Protecting small cetaceans from coastal development: Impact assessment and mitigation experience in Hong Kong
Since the early 1990s, there has been an active program in Hong Kong to manage and protect local populations of small cetaceans from the effects of massive development in the area. This paper reviews the progress that has been made. Only two species regularly occur there: the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the finless porpoise. Because most development has occurred in the western waters of Hong Kong, where generally only the humpback dolphin occurs, most of the work has been conducted on that species. Development of large infrastructure projects (such as airports, bridges, expressways, power plants, fuel facilities, and container ports) in Hong Kong often results in land reclamation, dredging and dumping of spoils, pipe and cable laying, percussive and bored piling work, underwater blasting, large increases in vessel traffic, and other impacts. Several mitigation measures have been used with varying levels of success, including bubble curtains/jackets, exclusion zones, ramping up of piling hammers, acoustic decoupling of noisy equipment, vessel speed limits, no-dumping policies, and silt curtains. Baseline, construction-phase, and operational-phase cetacean monitoring is often conducted to evaluate the success of conservation measures put into place. The Environmental Impact Assessment process in Hong Kong has involved cetaceans to a degree perhaps higher than anywhere else in the world, and much can be learned from studying the successes and failures of this situation.
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