Improper fishing methods full of catches

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 1999, 12:00am

Improper commercial fishing harms the sea as much as pollution does. It can destroy fish habitats and change the whole marine ecosystem.

Vast (up to hundreds of kilometres long), virtually invisible, monofilament nets also catch seals, dolphins and turtles and drown them.

Nets with a small mesh size are used to catch shrimps, small fish and young fish (for cultivation purposes) but they also trap unwanted bigger fish that are killed and thrown away.

These two appalling fishing methods alone result in 26 per cent of the world catch being thrown away. That's 27 million tonnes of fish and other sea creatures being needlessly killed.

Explosives such as dynamite are sometimes tossed into the sea to kill fish. The dead bodies float to the surface and are collected. This method destroys all the surrounding habitat (especially corals) so no fish will be able to live there in future.

It takes about 38 years to regenerate 50 per cent of the destroyed corals. Although outlawed, this method is still widely used in the northeast of Hong Kong waters.

Cyanide is also sprayed into coral reefs to stun large fish which hide in crevices. They regain consciousness after being placed in clean water, but the poison in the sea kills small fish, all the corals and other marine creatures. Many of the large colourful fish in gourmet restaurants are caught using cyanide.

Fish is an important source of protein for humans. In order to maintain a regular supply, we must allow enough fish to breed and renew their populations: Net holes should be large enough to let young fish escape; Spawning fish should not be harvested; Fishing should only be allowed in restricted areas; Unwanted fish should be put back in the sea while they're still alive.

WWF HK is a local charity environmental organisation. For information, call 2526-1011 or e-mail to