13 FINLESS PORPOISES DEAD IN JUST JANUARY 2019
IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED AS WE FACE MASS PORPOISE DEATHS IN JAN 2019
In January 2019, in Hong Kong waters, we have had a total of 13 animals dead in just one month! To put this into context, 2018 saw the highest number of finless porpoises found dead in Hong Kong, at 33 animals found. This was the highest number of annual deaths since records began, equal to 2014. Alarm bells were rung by Dr Lindsay Porter who brought this to the attention of Legco, yet little to no action has been taken to protect Hong Kong’s lesser known cetacean. In addition to increasing mortality, accurate population numbers do not exist, meaning we do no know how increased mortality is impacting the conservation status of this species.
At 5pm on Thursday 31 January, we received a call informing us of a dead porpoise near Sek Kwu Chau and Cheung Chau. We scrambled our RIB Amberjack and raced around to try and locate and recover the body before the sun set.
Every carcass recovered to the Marine Mammal Stranding Team at Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF) could help to find a valuable piece to the puzzle. What is killing these porpoises in such high numbers? Every carcass should have a CT scan and then a full necropsy by the team at OPCF. After picking up Dr Lindsay Porter we luckily found the dead porpoise as the sun began to dip below the horizon. With the animal safely onboard we contacted OPCF who asked if we could find any HK Marine Police launch and pass the body to them for return to Aberdeen. We flagged down a passing launch and transferred the porpoise to their custody. The Marine Police crew were great, very helpful considering the strange nature of our request.
Friday morning the porpoise was CT scanned and then I was permitted to observe the necropsy at Ocean Park’s facilities. So many of the porpoises have been found to have “blunt force trauma” which could be from boat strikes, however this cannot be confirmed as yet and they could have received this blunt force trauma from a variety of ways!
As we enter February 2019, we can only hope that Government takes action. Dr Lindsay Porter is currently putting together a proposal to get an accurate survey of the local populations so that she can establish a realistic baseline number.