Breathing Life into a Dormant Statute: Using the Case of the Pink Dolphins to Forge a Path Forward for Environmental Legal Protections in Hong Kong

Last modified: 
December 14, 2019 - 11:17am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2014
Authors: Lara Leitner
Journal title: UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy
Volume: 32
Issue: 2
Pages: 382 - 421
ISBN: 1942-8553

Hong Kong’s pink dolphins are majestic, intelligent, and beautiful. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s coastal waters are no longer suitable for pink dolphin populations. Vessel traffic, water pollution, land reclamation projects, and localized constructionblasting activity all contribute to the declining stability of their habitat. These destructive impacts on the marine environment derive from Hong Kong’s generally inadequate political and regulatory protections, increased tourist use of polluting river boats to view the dolphins, ambivalent local perceptions of the problem, and a growing human population, which together make environmental protection increasingly more difficult. Despite this unequivocally bleak future, legal tools exist that can help improve and preserve their habitat. Although litigation under Hong Kong’s environmental statutes is rare, bringing suit under existing laws can create meaningful change for the pink dolphin. The Wild Animals Protection Ordinance contains provisions that may lead to a prohibition of local vessels navigating through dolphin marine habitat.

In order to carry out this litigation strategy and others like it, parties need more exposure and a better understanding of the legal actions available to them. This comment demonstrates how parties can successfully litigate under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance for the protection of pink dolphins despite Hong Kong’s current political climate. Part II describes the Hong Kong pink dolphin and major threats to dolphin populations. Part III analyzes Hong Kong’s history of delayed proactivity, regulation, litigation, and enforcement of environmental and animal welfare matters. Part IV develops a potential case under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance for better protection of Hong Kong’s pink dolphins. Part V summarizes other legal avenues available for protection of pink dolphins and other marine species. Finally, Part VI concludes by encouraging government agencies and private parties to bring novice environmental cases under existing legislation and to press for statutory amendments where necessary to better protect Hong Kong’s natural resources, habitat, and species.

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