A pod of white dolphins, that are on the endangered list, were spotted swimming near China’s newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge - the world's longest sea bridge.
Guangdong Maritime Bureau patrol boat crew spotted the five rare Chinese white dolphins swimming near the eastern artificial island region, near the bridge, in the waters of the Pearl River Estuary. The waters of the estuary are significant to the endangered species which are nicknamed the "giant panda of the sea."
Marine life activists had opposed the construction of the bridge, stating that the structure would disrupt and adversely affect sea life in the region.
SCMP has reported that the dolphin population in the areas surrounding the bridge had dropped 40 percent despite efforts to mitigate the impact. Conservationists had called for a review of Hong Kong’s environmental assessment system, stating that the mitigation measures were "ineffective" in protecting the endangered dolphins.
However, China reported that measures to prioritized and protect the wildlife had been implemented during the construction of the bridge, according to the country’s state media.
Some US$49 million dollars had been invested to oversee the ecological impact of the bridge on nature reserve design to protect the marine life, ECNS reported. Researchers tracked the species over 300 times and identified more than 1,000 Chinese white dolphins, eventually snapping some 300,000 photos during the construction period.
Engineers also reduce the number of piers on the bridge from 318 to 224 in an effort to further preserve the rare dolphins.
But, Hong Kong's Advisory Council on the Environment’s Michael Lau Wai-neng remarked that more work is still needed to improve the 20-year-old environmental regulation, SCMP reported. Over the past six years, the number of dolphins north of Lantau Island fell to almost zero, the activist explained.
According to Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Administration, no Chinese white dolphins died as a result of the bridge’s construction.
After a nine-year construction project, China's massive Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was officially opened Tuesday by Chinese President Xi Jinping, at a ceremony in Zhuhai Port.