Crackdown on illegal fishing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 September, 2003, 12:00am

I refer to the article 'Explosives found on mainland fishing boat' (August 12), by Clifford Lo.

The quick and decisive action taken by the police in intercepting illegal fishing activities off Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung, on August 11 deserves our respect and praise.

Had the 51 sticks of high explosives been used as fish bombs, they would have caused extensive damage to our marine ecosystem.

Destructive fishing methods, such as using dynamite and cyanide, not only stun and kill fish but cause serious damage to the coral reef communities which many fish and other marine species depend upon.

Most coral types have a slow growth rate (usually less than 1cm annually) and it may take decades for them to recover from the damage. Coral reefs are also important as nurseries for commercial fish and invertebrates such as grouper, snapper and lobster. Coral in Hong Kong has been greatly impacted by coastal development, extraction and pollution in recent decades. And destructive fishing methods further impair it. Although there are increased sightings of illegal fishing by mainland boats in the eastern and northeastern waters, prosecutions are relatively few.

According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, only nine cases were prosecuted in 2001-02 under the Fisheries Protection Ordinance. More worrying is that the Tung Ping Chau Marine Park, established in 2001 because of its diverse marine ecosystem - over 30 species of hard corals, 130 of reef-associated fish and 100 of marine invertebrates - is highly susceptible to illegal fishing owing to its remoteness.

To combat illegal fishing and safeguard our marine heritage, we call upon the police and the department to be vigilant in enforcing the regulations by increasing patrols and inspection, and for everyone to do their part in reporting any suspicious fishing activities.

CLARUS CHU, Assistant Conservation Officer, WWF Hong Kong