Fish nets used to protect dragon boats from sharks
By MATHEW LOH
ORDINARY fishing net with a 180-kilogram breaking strain will be used to keep sharks out of Sai Kung dragon boat race zone.
Chairman of the Sai Kung Fishermen's Association, Cheung Ming-hop, said there was no guarantee the net would save racers from attacks.
Operations manager for the Sai Kung Dragon Boat Race, Siu See-ho, said a two-kilometre net would be set in a U-shape, enclosing Sai Kung's race course from deeper waters to provide added safety.
Mr Siu, an official seconded from the Government to help organise the race, said they had asked fishermen to provide the net after the two fatal attacks.
''We have already shortened the course from 1,300 metres to 500 metres and will have the net in place to keep sharks out while the races are on,'' Mr Siu said.
However, Mr Cheung said a net could not guarantee the absence of sharks.
''It may prevent a shark coming in but how can you tell if the shark isn't already there. The net that will be used is in good condition and has a break strength of about 180 kilograms so I hope it does the job and no one is attacked,'' Mr Cheung said.
Mr Siu said the net would be set at low tide early on Thursday morning.
Mr Cheung was reluctant to discuss the escapades of Australian Vic Hislop, saying he would not criticise a fellow fisherman.
''He's a professional but he hasn't caught a shark and there are many sharks in the sea. Attention is on sharks because of the deaths but they are always out there and we fishermen are not worried or changing our routine at all.
''None of the fishermen in this area are going on special shark hunts but if the Government, or anyone for that matter, offered $10,000 for a shark then I'm sure we would be all out on the water with baited hooks,'' he joked.
A spokesman for the World Wide Fund For Nature said set nets were known to indiscriminately kill marine life and therefore were considered harmful to the environment and to innocent creatures.
''We wouldn't want an increased number of set nets permanently featured in our waters but as an interim measure to prevent shark attacks during an event like dragon boat races, it should be alright,'' the spokesman said.
The Dragon Boat Festival begins on Thursday morning with races being held in the Southern, Western, Eastern, and Northern districts of Hongkong Island, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, as well as Sai Kung.
A shark net is considered necessary only in the waters of Sai Kung where the attacks occurred.
Paddling dragon boats for practice yesterday was hot work as the temperature soared to its highest level recorded this year. Temperatures reached 32.6 degrees Celsius.