PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 April, 2004, 12:00am

Q Should we stop eating coral fish?

We should definitely stop eating coral fish and any fish or seafood product, including shark's fin, if it is not harvested in a sustainable or ethical manner.

The London-based Marine Stewardship Council has a recognised process for certifying fisheries, and this approach must become common practice and demanded by consumers.

Coral reefs are the lungs of the ocean and they are critically endangered throughout the world by overfishing, often using dynamite or cyanide, reclamation, habitat destruction, pollution, etc. Human activities are irrevocably destroying our life-support system. Unsustainable consumption must stop - if it takes ciguatera poisoning from coral reef fish to help raise awareness, then so be it. Hong Kong is the 10th largest consumer of fish and seafood per capita - we must change our ways and be more responsible to the environment, for our sake and for future generations.

Name and Address Supplied

I think the question should be expanded to ask: 'Should we be eating so much seafood?'

Certain kinds of seafood, notably fish, have a reputation for being healthier than other meats. But the fact that some fish make their human consumers sick may be a message that they weren't meant to be eaten - we needn't eat everything that moves. Even eating popular fish like garoupa isn't ecologically sustainable.

As demand for seafood grows, overfishing will result and damage to coral reefs is inevitable. Our oceans are the source of all life, and coral reefs help sustain them. Once the reefs are gone, life on Earth is doomed.

Chohong Choi, Kwun Tong

Eating coral fish is an individual's choice and should not be subject to policy. The real answer lies in adequate research and the government should have a department dedicated to this, since we consume a phenomenal amount of marine life.

The government should educate the public to be aware of the risk and also help the fishing industry to improve their methods. Many coral fishes are caught with cyanide - not good for the environment or the consumer.

It is ridiculous to destroy marine life, because they may contain poison. They should be released back to the sea wherever possible so the ecology is not grossly disturbed by human greed.

Name and address supplied

Q Should the government crack down on land owners who inflict environmental damage?

It is an unfortunate reality that a substantial portion of our remaining valuable environment is in private hands. It is also unfortunate there has been no comprehensive survey of what we have, which is fundamental to a public discussion on what we want preserved.

The Planning Department says there are about 76,000 hectares of rural land, of which 42,000 hectares are highland protected in country parks and other conservation zonings. This is almost entirely government owned. The rest is mainly lowland in private ownership, which is at risk.

This land provides not just a pleasing backdrop to urban development but also a wildlife habitat. Some of the 34,000 hectares has been degraded by informal industries and its use to stack shipping containers. Village developments are in these areas. Roads, drainage channels and railways also encroach on it. Only a limited amount is left in a natural condition.

It is crucial for comprehensive stock take of rural assets and the government should take proactive rather than reactive steps to enhance preservation.

Clive Noffke, Lantau

On other matters...

Amid the economic downturn from the Sars crisis, the government allowed taxi drivers who were hard hit to stop or wait at places they were previously not permitted.

Sars is over, the economy is improving but we still see taxis standing and stopping anywhere they like. In Tsim Sha Tsui East, where I work, these taxis often block the road and obstruct cars in the oncoming lane as they simply park on a yellow line (for example, in front of the Nikko Hotel).

Also, in front of the Houston Centre you often see taxis waiting at the back and blocking the ongoing traffic. Mody Square in front of the Royal Garden is another site where this happens.

It seems we still have far too many taxis on the road. This will result in low income for the drivers who put in a lot of hours to catch any customer they can.

A solution to this problem might be that we have schedules for taxis, stating when they are allowed to operate.

If we have, say, 10,000 taxis we should allow only 75 per cent of them on the road at any given moment. There can be day, night and weekend rotations. This can prevent these road blocks and improve the drivers' income.

Jeffry Kuperus, Sai Kung

Most universities look for hospital volunteer work experience for admission to medical courses. Recognising this need, hospitals in Hong Kong have offered volunteer placement to Form 6 and 7 students.

This has been a great support to students seeking university admission in local or overseas universities to study medicine. Hospital work can be a key factor.

But this year hospitals are refusing volunteer placements, citing the Hospital Authority's 'yellow alert' as the reason. While we understand the need for such an alert to continue, we are also concerned about the future career of our son, who has received rejections or non-committal responses from many hospitals.

We do hope the authority is alert to the situation and will strike the right balance between caution and students' career needs.

We would appreciate a response from the Hospital Authority to clarify its stance on this issue.

Name and address supplied