Hung out to dry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2005, 12:00am

A fisherman at Aberdeen ponders the time he will have on his hands from today as a two-month moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea begins.

Fishermen have asked for more government assistance to cover losses caused by the ban. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department estimates the two-month ban will affect 1,400 local vessels.

A spokesman said fishermen in financial difficulty could apply for low-interest loans from the Fish Marketing Organisation Loan Fund in amounts ranging from $40,000 to $80,000.

The Hong Kong Fishermen Rights Association said the loan ceiling should be doubled to $160,000 because of high fuel prices.

'A vessel requires about 10 barrels of oil to run for 24 hours. The fuel price has increased from $210 to $610 a barrel in seven years. At most, the government only offers a loan of $80,000. It is clearly not enough to ease our hardship,' spokesman Shek Kwok-keung said.

Last year, the fund received 446 applications for a total of $26 million.

The association also called on the government to provide unemployment assistance to the fishermen, since about 6,000 households were affected by the moratorium.

The fisheries department's spokesman said the loan ceiling had already been raised once.