$1.8m study to map coral reefs
RESEARCHERS are to produce the first maps of Hong Kong's little known coral reefs and their fish in an effort to save them before pollution and development wipe them out.
The three-year study at the Swire Institute of Marine Science of Hong Kong University, funded with $1.83 million from the Jockey Club, would map surviving corals, estimate their diversity site by site, and characterise associated fish, institute director Professor Brian Morton said.
The first results will be presented at the third international conference on marine biology of the South China Sea at the university in October, at which delegates from 14 countries will discuss wider conservation issues for the whole area.
'We'll prepare a survey of areas shown to be abundant with a view to proposing protection,' he said. The Country and Marine Parks Authority will get a report.
Three areas known to contain corals - Hoi Ha Wan off the Sai Kung peninsula, Yan Chau Tong near Plover Cove reservoir and Cape d'Aguilar off the south coast of Hong Kong Island - are proposed as protected areas under the Marine Parks Bill.
'But in other parts of Hong Kong what corals there are and what conditions they are in is not so well known,' he said. Although all Hong Kong waters will be surveyed, the project has pinpointed about 20 sites for more detailed study in the territory's eastern waters.
Government dredging for reclamation was known to harm corals but with the Western Kowloon, Central, Wan Chai and airport sites finished, Professor Morton hoped stability would give the researchers an opportunity to do their work.
One area of concern will need mainland co-operation - Mirs Bay. The eastern side of the bay, earmarked for industrial development, could affect important reefs in the northeast.