Illegal practices mean fish face uncertain future

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 12:00am

Apart from traditional fishing methods, some fishermen use other ways to catch fish, but most of these practices are harmful to the environment.

They destroy the food chains and cycles of the marine ecosystem. It takes years for the environment and fish populations to recover, which in turn affects the livelihood of fishermen.

Explosives such as dynamite are sometimes tossed into the sea to kill fish. The dead bodies float to the surface and are collected. This convenient method of fishing destroys all the surrounding habitat, especially corals, which means no fish are able to survive there in the future. This method is still widely used in the northeast of Hong Kong waters.

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

Although poisons are rarely used in Hong Kong, the high demand for live coral fish in the Hong Kong market encourages fishermen in Indonesia and the Philippines to use more and more cyanide.

An illegal fishing practice commonly used in the Philippines has a major effect on the habitat. About 200 to 300 young boys are employed by fishermen to use stones to crack the surface of coral reefs and make noise. The noise scares the fish and they are caught when they swim out of their hiding places in the corals. About one square kilometre of reef is destroyed by this fishing method every day in the Philippines.

These examples illustrate how different fishing methods cause damage to the marine ecosystem or habitat.

In order to maintain a regular supply of fish, we must allow enough fish to breed and have a chance to renew their populations. We should not catch spawning fish. Fishing should be restricted in some areas and unwanted fish should be returned to the sea while they are still alive.

The fate of fish is still unknown, but it is in our hands.