Measures to further protect the endangered Chinese white dolphin, or Sousa Chinensis, have been drawn up.
The sea off Xiamen, in east China's Fujian Province, is one of the nation's main habitats of the creature.
Authorities are now planning to build a rescue and protection base.
It will be located in Wuyuan Bay, within the area of Xiamen Bay. The base will look after dolphins injured by fishing exploits or other human activities at sea, said Hong Rongbiao, an expert with Xiamen Oceans and Fisheries Bureau, at an international seminar on the conservation of the species held in the city over the weekend.
Due to the further development of Xiamen Port, continuous undersea construction has posed a serious threat to the survival of the dolphin, which now has a population of only about 60 in the area off the coast of the city, said Hong.
In addition, accidental injuries caused by fishing boats are also another main threat.
"The new rescue base, together with the current nature reserve, will further protect the dolphin," Hong said.
Xiamen established a 5,500-hectare nature reserve for the species in 1997, following a local regulation issued by the municipal government on the conservation of the dolphin.
"The unenclosed nature reserve situated in West Port and Tongan Bay, within the area of Xiamen Bay, has effectively controlled the flow of ships and reduced human activities that might harm the dolphins' living environment," said Huang Zongguo, a professor from the No 3 Institute of Oceanography of the State Oceanic Administration.
"Apart from governmental efforts, public awareness is also very important.
"Most of Xiamen's residents know that the Chinese white dolphin is a nationally protected species."
"I'm really impressed by Xiamen government's efforts to help the animal," said Bernd G Wursig, a professor with Texas A&M University, at the seminar.
"It means there is a good possibility in the future that the dolphin could be better protected by more regulations and more education of people.
"But there's a giant challenge ahead for people because of the fast development of the coastline. It's not only a Chinese problem but a global concern."
Besides Xiamen Bay, the Pearl River estuary is another main habitat for the Chinese white dolphin, with about 1,000 dolphins. Experts estimate that there are only about 2,000 white dolphins in China now.
A nature reserve in the Pearl River estuary and an ocean park in Hong Kong have already been created for the conservation of the dolphin.
(China Daily March 27, 2006)