TRAWLING PROHIBITED IN MARINE PARKS
I refer to Tobias Doeringer's letter headlined 'Ban trawlers' (South China Morning Post, February 8).
The government is well aware of the need to protect the marine resources and habitats along our beautiful coastline. In this connection, a number of measures and programmes have been put in place.
One important programme to protect local marine resources and habitats of high conservation value is the designation of marine parks and reserves under the Marine Parks Ordinance. Since the enactment of the ordinance in 1996, four marine parks and one marine reserve have been designated. Fishing activities are strictly controlled under permits and trawling is prohibited within these parks and reserves.
Besides, we have been actively pursuing a number of fisheries management measures which include strengthening control over destructive fishing practices, habitat enhancement and restoration through deployment of artificial reefs, resources enhancement through restocking of fish fry, protection of important fish spawning and nursery grounds through designation of fisheries protection areas, and control of fishing through setting up a fishing licence system.
The first three measures have already been implemented with encouraging results. We have widened the scope in controlling destructive fishing practices and sharply increased the maximum fines for such offences. Also, we have strengthened enforcement action against destructive fishing activities which are prohibited by law.
Regarding artificial reefs, we have so far deployed some 41,000 square metres of artificial reefs in suitable locations in Hong Kong waters which have attracted more than 200 species of fish. Apart from enhancing and restoring fisheries resources and habitats, the artificial reefs will act as an effective anti-trawling device and, therefore, will help protect the marine habitats from bottom trawling. We are also conducting fish restocking trials.
We are considering in detail proposals to introduce a fishing licence system and establish fisheries protection areas.
As they require extensive legislative amendments and involve a wide range of complex legal and enforcement issues with far-reaching effects, we have to give these issues careful consideration.
Dr LEUNG SIU-FAI
for Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation