HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong government official vowed Tuesday to mull legal changes and set up protocols to better protect whales after the discovery of a carcass sparked anger on social media and speculation that sightseers had contributed to the animal’s death.
Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said it was unclear whether wounds on the whale had caused its death. But he suggested whale-watching activities could have disturbed or hurt the whale after it was first spotted in the city in mid-July.
“The incident shows we might have treated wildlife in an inappropriate way,” Tse said in a news briefing.
He pledged to strengthen public education, set up protocols to handle whales in the city’s waters and review existing laws, which he said had created challenges for officials to restrict vessels from entering certain areas.
On Monday, many commenters on social media blamed the whale’s death on sightseers who had flocked to the area over the past two weeks after the whale was discovered in waters off Sai Kung, a district known for its hiking trails and beaches.
Last week, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong said in a statement that crowds of people had been seen approaching the animal, which had propeller wounds. The group cautioned that nearby human activity could cause it stress and have life-threatening consequences.
The foundation’s director, Howard Chuk, said Tuesday there were “relatively large and deep” new wounds on the mammal, which was believed to be a young Bryde’s whale.
A necropsy is underway.
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