søndag 19. desember 2021

On a Fin and a Prayer: China’s Disappearing White Dolphins

For 54-year-old fisher Zhou Guangjin, encountering a dolphin in the waters near Shantou, in south China’s Guangdong province, is always cause for excitement. “When I was a teenager, we often saw Chinese white dolphins,” he says. “But nowadays, you rarely see any.” One of the most recognizable individuals off the coast of Shantou is Liangshu, a female Chinese white dolphin first spotted some 26 years ago by Zhou’s captain and the animal’s namesake, Uncle Liang. Back then, her skin had already turned from grey to white, a sign of adulthood, and she already had the mysteriously collapsed dorsal fin that makes her so easy to spot.

In those days, Liangshu was one of many Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, as the animals are also known, who have called the bays around Shantou home for centuries. But the various effects of China’s rapid economic development — overfishing, pollution, land reclamation — that have harmed so much of China’s coastal wildlifehave damaged the dolphins’ habitats.