Fishermen brave hazards to trawl central harbour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 1997, 12:00am

Trawlers risk collisions and heavy fines by fishing in the harbour's central fairway, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, marine officials said yesterday.

One trawler was chased out of the fairway this week and escaped with a warning from the Marine Department, which has made five prosecutions this year compared with the same number for the whole of last year.

Despite being heavily polluted, the central harbour sustains a wide variety of fish and is under-fished in comparison with the surrounding waters.

Under the Shipping and Port Regulations, it is illegal to fish in the principal fairways and the direct approaches to the Lei Yue Mun and Sulphur channels.

Marine Officer Simon Mak Shui-wing, of the harbour patrol, said brazen fishermen occasionally tried their luck in the fairways, dodging ferries, container vessels and other traffic, with their nets over the side.

'Our main objective is to ensure the free flow of traffic in the fairways. Frankly, I don't know why they fish here,' he said.

'This week we intercepted a fishing vessel after receiving a report that it had been fishing in the central fairway. The fishing boat was running away. Afterwards it was given a warning.' Senior fisheries officer Keith Wilson, from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, said: 'The dissolved oxygen levels achieved in Victoria Harbour are still in excess of 50 per cent and will support fish life.

'You often find people catching quite surprisingly diverse fish. I have seen a chap at Star Ferry suddenly catch a barramundi of about 10 kilos.

'You do get migrant fish moving through, like Japanese sea bass. People regularly catch rock fish, even groupers and snappers, from the hand lines.' For trawlers, there would 'also be a lot of anchovies, pilchards, sardines and rabbit fish'.