Do more to save coral fish, HK urged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 2004, 12:00am

The government is not doing enough to curb the sale of endangered species of coral fish to seafood restaurants, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says.

The group was responding to a report funded by the Asian Development Bank - 'While Stocks Last' - which warns that Hong Kong's annual import of 18,000 tonnes of live coral fish is putting species at risk of extinction and creating a 'boom and bust' effect in fishing communities in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Jose Padilla, a Manila-based marine biologist professor who wrote a separate report on the trade last year, said traders were allegedly providing divers in the Philippines with cyanide to catch the fish in order to meet quotas from Hong Kong more quickly.

The use of cyanide - squirted at fish to stun them and make them easier to catch - is believed to be responsible for large-scale destruction of coral reefs.

Clarus Chu, WWF Hong Kong assistant conservation officer, said Hong Kong imported 60 per cent of the worldwide trade in live reef fish and it needed to take more responsibility for the effects of the trade.'As the major consumer country and Asia's world city, Hong Kong should also share the responsibility in conserving these vulnerable species,' Mr Chu said.

He said a voluntary code for the declaration of imported vulnerable species had operated in Hong Kong since 1999 but it was not effective enough.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it had studied the report and said: 'Many recommendations mentioned in the report are being pursued.'

It made no reference to suggestions that importers be made to declare shipments of threatened species arriving in Hong Kong. 'Since the majority of coral reef fish consumed or traded in Hong Kong are harvested from tropical coral reef areas outside Hong Kong's jurisdiction, we believe that the best strategy to deal with such extra-territorial issues is through international co-operation and education,' it said.

University of Hong Kong marine biologist Yvonne Sadovy, co-author of 'While Stocks Last', said the government's education efforts had not gone far enough.