Hong Kong’s white dolphins will die out entirely unless the government sets out clear targets to widen protected waters in a conservation action plan scheduled for release later this year, environmentalists

have warned.

Amid worries that the government might shirk responsibility for defending Hong Kong’s ecology by failing to pledge clear targets, it has been urged to enlarge protected marine parks from 1.5 per cent of local waters to ten per cent.

A group of 100 experts in the field have put together the recommendations, and highlighted the falling numbers of local dolphins alongside other ecological issues. They submitted those recommendations to the government ahead of the release of Hong Kong’s first ever Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan.

“Marine biodiversity is of highest concern to us. The dolphin population is declining by 60 per cent every year,” said Dr Michael Lau, assistant director for conservation at the WWF.

“People don’t see that [these issues] are related to us humans, but biodiversity plays an important role in sustaining the web of life – without it there is no life, no us,” he added.

The biodiversity action plan is currently in its public consultation phase, meaning the government has made its report – based on a year’s research into the most pressing ecology issues – available to the public ahead of its official release later this year.

Criticising the document as “vague”, “undetailed” and without clear goals, the WWF expressed concern that the final plan will be equally limp and unenforceable, despite the research underpinning the plan containing over 400 concrete recommendations.

“We asked the government why the report did not contain clear actions and they said it was because they wanted explain the subject in layman’s terms,” said Lau, who expressed concern that the public document did not convey the severity of Hong Kong’s biodiversity conservation needs.

“Society seems to be very quiet about [this issue],” he said, warning that if Hong Kong were to lose species of flora and fauna this could reduce its ecological value, as rare organisms start to disappear.

The city’s subtropical spot at the mouth of the Pearl River means it enjoys a uniquely diverse ecology.

Rare plants, such as the bog orchid, grow in wetlands vulnerable to encroaching development projects. And rare migratory birds face losing their habitats should these swamplands disappear. The freshwater Hong Kong paradise fish is also threatened by man-made intrusions into its habitat.

The public consultation will remain open until April 7, with the final plan set to be announced later in the year.