En­dan­gered Yangtze por­poises face shrink­ing habi­tat as con­struc­tion en­croaches upon na­ture re­serves

Global Times - - NATION - By Li Lei

Zhu Ming (pseu­do­nym) stood by the Shamozhou ferry in An­qing, East China’s An­hui Prov­ince, look­ing at the ferry berth de­mol­ished on Novem­ber 15 be­cause it was in­side a na­ture re­serve for the Yangtze fin­less por­poise.

The Yangtze fin­less por­poise is dubbed the “panda in the wa­ter.” It is a crit­i­cally en­dan­gered an­i­mal, as well as an in­di­ca­tor species of the Yangtze River’s eco-sys­tem, and has been in­cluded in the red list of the In­ter­na­tional Union for the Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture.

Zhu, who is in charge of a trans­port com­pany, re­called the ferry sta­tion had been there long be­fore the na­ture re­serve. Zhu has been do­ing busi­ness with the ferry for al­most 10 years.

“I’ve seen in­spec­tions over dust and muck, but this is the first time we’ve been in­spected over the fin­less por­poise,” said Zhu.

En­dan­gered and ig­nored

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Af­fairs, a to­tal of 1,012 fin­less por­poises are liv­ing in the Yangtze River, even less than the num­ber of pan­das.

Li Jun­sheng, deputy di­rec­tor of the Re­search Cen­ter for Eco-En­vi­ron­men­tal Science at the Chi­nese Re­search Academy of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences, told the Global Times that hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties are the ma­jor cause of the sharp de­crease of the fin­less por­poise. “Their habi­tat has been re­placed by fer­ries, and more ships sail­ing on the river dis­turb them. Ad­di­tion­ally, pol­lu­tion is an­other cause.”

The agri­cul­tural min­istry also con­firmed that hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties have been the ma­jor threat to the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment of the fin­less por­poise. “Il­le­gal sand min­ing seg­ments their habi­tat and dis­turbs com­mu­ni­ca­tion within the species, which causes the fre­quent death of fin­less por­poises, and more than 10 fin­less por­poises were found dead in the first half of this year.”

Long strug­gle

The city-level nat­u­ral re­serve for fin­less por­poise was es­tab­lished in 2007 in An­qing. The Yangtze River An­qing sec­tion is the most im­por­tant habi­tat for the fin­less por­poise, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

The 806 square kilo­me­ter na­ture re­serve cov­ers the en­tire Yangtze River’s An­qing sec­tion.

How­ever, a no­tice from the Chi­nese Min­istry of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment on Novem­ber 13 re­vealed that the na­ture re­serve has shrank, due to three unau­tho­rized ad­just­ments from Novem­ber 2015 to June 2017 to make way for eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Il­le­gal projects con­structed in the na­ture re­serve are gnaw­ing away at the habi­tat of the fin­less por­poise.

The na­ture re­serve has diminished to 552 square kilo­me­ters stretch­ing 152 kilo­me­ters along the river. The length was 243 kilo­me­ters when the re­serve was es­tab­lished, ac­cord­ing to the no­tice.

A to­tal of 121 ferry berths are in An­qing. Five of them are in the buf­fer zone and 43 are in the ex­per­i­men­tal zone, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity.

The Reg­u­la­tions of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China on Na­ture Re­serves stip­u­late that a na­ture re­serve can be cat­e­go­rized into core zone, buf­fer zone and ex­per­i­men­tal zone. Man­u­fac­tur­ing that can pol­lute the en­vi­ron­ment or jeop­ar­dize re­sources or the land­scape should be banned in the ex­per­i­men­tal zone.

Com­ple­ment each other

Af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the zone, the city govern­ment of An­qing started to re­con­sider the prob­lems in 2007.

Jiang Kui­tang, di­rec­tor of An­qing En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bu­reau, said that not only had the en­tire river sec­tion in An­qing been in­cluded, but also the part of the river in its two neigh­bor cities, with­out con­sid­er­ing fu­ture eco­nomic devel­op­ment, re­ported The Bei­jing News.

Jiang said this is be­cause there was no plan, no ap­proval, and no ac­cred­i­ta­tion when the re­serve was es­tab­lished in 2007.

He said this ap­proach is ob­vi­ously not rig­or­ous, not sci­en­tific and not stan­dard­ized, ac­cord­ing to The Bei­jing News.

In one of the ad­just­ments, the Wan­hekou and Shamozhou ar­eas were de­graded from buf­fer zone to

ex­per­i­men­tal zone in 2016, and re­moved from the na­ture re­serve in 2017 by the city govern­ment of An­qing to give way to the con­struc­tion of the cen­tral har­bor of the An­qing Port.

De­spite the no­tices is­sued by the for­mer Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture on re­in­forc­ing fin­less por­poise pro­tec­tion in 2014, and the risk to the por­poise iden­ti­fied by mul­ti­ple min­istries on ecol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, the con­struc­tion was ap­proved, be­cause the An­qing Port is the only deep-wa­ter har­bor along the Yangtze River in An­hui.

“Eco­nomic devel­op­ment should be achieved un­der the premise of pre­serv­ing na­ture when the two ma­jor as­pects con­tra­dict with each other,” Li told the Global Times. “Na­ture preser­va­tion and eco­nomic devel­op­ment should com­ple­ment each other.”

Wei Xiaom­ing, sec­re­tary of An­qing city com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC), vowed to re­move or close fer­ries, gas sta­tions and sewage out­lets an­nounced in a no­tice on Novem­ber 14.

On Novem­ber 19, the city govern­ment of An­qing an­nounced that a dis­cus­sion on the es­tab­lish­ment of a provin­cial-level na­ture re­serve for fin­less por­poise will be launched soon, which will be based on pro­fes­sional eval­u­a­tions and com­pleted by the end of 2019.

In­set: A fin­less por­poise in a breed­ing pavil­ion for white-flag dol­phins, a species which was re­cently wiped out de­spite ef­forts to save it. Fin­less por­poises are spot­ted at the An­qing sec­tion of the Yangtze River.

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