The plight of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) of the Eastern Taiwan Strait

President Ma Ying-jeou
122, Chong-cing South Road Section 1,
Chung-cheng District,
Taipei 10048,

Dear Mr. President Ma:

I write to you regarding the plight of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) of the Eastern Taiwan Strait.

The Society for Marine Mammalogy is the largest professional group in the world dedicated to the study of marine mammals and consists of approximately 1,000 scientists from 60 countries. The Society’s goal is to facilitate the understanding and conservation of marine mammals and their ecosystems.

As you are no doubt aware, fewer than 100 dolphins remain in this geographically isolated population. In its Red List of threatened species, IUCN has declared this population to be ‘Critically Endangered’, thus according it the highest level of conservation concern. Documented threats to this population include:

  • fisheries bycatch
  • habitat destruction (land reclamation)
  • pollution
  • water diversions (reduced flow into estuaries)
  • underwater noise and disturbance

The proposed 4,000-hectare land reclamation project (Kuokang Project in central Taiwan) for a petrochemical facility centered in the small area of sea still occupied by these dolphins is a threat to their survival. Such a development would eliminate important habitat and likely result in a reduction in the size of the remaining dolphin population, reducing further its chances of survival and recovery.

These dolphins live in shallow coastal waters and are highly vulnerable to getting caught in fishing nets. Increased fishing pressure in nearshore waters inhabited by the dolphins is another major threat to the survival of this population.

Biology and Aquarium, a panel of national and international experts concluded that the combination of threats facing humpback dolphins could result in their extinction from the waters of Taiwan ( This loss of biodiversity would be inconsistent with national commitments made under the Taiwan Biodiversity Action Plan ratified by Executive Yuan on August 15, 2001.

We urge the government of Taiwan to take an international leadership role in conserving this internationally important population for future generations. This would mean dramatically altering the plans for the Kuokang Project and restricting fisheries that use entangling nets in coastal waters of the Eastern Taiwan Strait.

On behalf of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, I extend an offer to provide any additional advice needed regarding the biology and ecology of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.


Randall Wells

Randall Wells, PhD
Society for Marine Mammalogy