Chinese white dolphins become Xiamen's new attraction for tourists

Updated: 23 Jan 2011
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Tourists throng to Xiamen, a world-famous resort in southeast China, for its seaside, sunshine and scenic cultural heritage sites. Now, Chinese white dolphins, as part of the city's oceanic landscape, may become the new sought-after attraction for tourists.
Xiamen is the only city in the world which allows people to see inshore dolphins on its beaches, whereas in other countries, such as Japan and Peru, people have to get to dolphins in the open sea after hours of ship-riding.
"In December, more than 30 dolphins appeared in one group in the Wuyuan Bay of Xiamen," Chen Bingyu, from the Xiamen Precious and Rare Marine Species Reserve Management Office, told Xinhua. "It's the first time in more than 20 years."
"In recent years, more and more dolphins have begun to appear in nearby sea areas," said Zhou Lumin, deputy chief of Xiamen Municipal Oceanic and Fishery Administration. "It's time for Xiamen to develop its dolphin-watching business."
The Chinese white dolphin, boasting the nickname of "giant panda in the sea" and living mainly in the sea areas around Xiamen and the Pearl River estuary in southern China, is a mammal guarded under the first-class state protection.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, it was not unusual for Xiamen citizens to enjoy watching groups of dolphins frolic in the sea.
"Unfortunately, the undue exploitation, pollution and consequent deterioration of the ecosystem around the area drove dolphins far away," said Chen.
As one of China's first four special economic zones, Xiamen has seen an unprecedented economic boom since 1980.
Twenty or thirty years ago, scenes of dolphins frolicking in groups faded out of sight and even out of mind of most Xiamen residents.
"The number of Chinese white dolphins is an important indicator for the ecological situation in the inshore sea areas," Zhou Lumin noted.
"Only when the oceanic ecosystem returns to normal, will the dolphin population rise again," Zhou added.
In 1994, Xiamen issued its first rules on the use of sea areas, regulations for oceanic environmental protection and regulations on conservation of the Chinese white dolphins.
Further, in 1997, the provincial Chinese white dolphin reserve of 5,500 hectares was set up in Xiamen to try to lure back the rare mammals.
"It's no easy task," said Zhou. "Dolphins feed on various kinds of fishes and shrimps and eat as much as seven kilograms of food at a time. They also require a high-quality water environment."
Meanwhile, "the environments suitable for dolphins are suitable for human beings as well," said Zhou.
Efforts have been made to improve and restore the marine ecosystem around Xiamen since the mid-1990s, with another 30-odd related laws and regulations issued following the 1994 rules and related public awareness campaigns built through media publicity.
Zhou divided the process of comprehensive management of marine ecology of Xiamen into three phases.
Firstly, pollution control. Waste materials were prevented from being directly discharged into the sea as more refuse disposal and sewage treatment plants were built.
Secondly, during the first decade of the 21st century, ecological reconstruction was put on top of the city's development agenda. Sea areas were allocated to more ecological and environment-friendly industries.
"Now we're in the third stage -- to restore the marine ecosystem of Xiamen," said Zhou, highlighting such projects as releasing fish fry into the sea, dredging silt from nearby sea areas and blasting part of the Gaoji Causeway to ease the water flow.
These efforts, said Professor Yu Dongsheng with the Xiamen-based Third Institute of the National Oceanography Bureau, had good results in conserving endangered animal species and expanding the living space of Chinese white dolphins.
"According to the data collected through marine monitoring stations, the number of dolphins around Xiamen has been increasing steadily since 2005," said Chen, adding that the population increase pointed to improvements in the quality of the marine ecosystem.
"When I was jogging along the beach one morning last October," Chen Wang, a citizen of Xiamen, recalled, "I saw three dolphins. And a month later, when I was on a boat, I saw five. Oh, they' re fantastic!"
More and more tourists will be able to share Chen Wang's excitement.
"We're going to set up some observation spots for tourists to watch dolphins more conveniently," said Zhou, hoping the move will also help people further understand the sea and act to protect it.
"Xiamen is a garden city in the sea. Isn't it wonderful to have dolphins around it?"
SOURCE: Xinhua

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Comments Area ( Total Comments: 1 )
Apollonia Commented on 28 Apr 2011
You see the White Egret bird and you think of Xiamen, heck, the Xiamen Starbucks mugs have the Egrets but no White Dolphins? I think the government has a better way of raising awareness for the White Dolphins if the government gives it just as much publicity as the White Egret bird.