Fishermen blamed for waves of rubbish

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am

Safe to go back in the water? How two of HK's most popular beaches have been cleaned up

Fishermen were yesterday accused of dumping most of the debris that has been making rubbish tips of Hong Kong Island's showpiece beaches.

The accusation came after the government announced a cleanup in the wake of a Sunday Morning Post report which exposed how beaches at Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay were awash with trash.

Workers were sent out to clear beaches and pick up floating debris after an outcry over the pictures showing the state of beaches advertised as tourist attractions.

Government officials said on Friday they would check to see if the rubbish came from the mainland and, if so, would liaise with officials there to solve the problem.

But residents living in and around Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay yesterday said most was being thrown into the water by local fishing boats cleaning their nets.

'Every morning between 6.30am and 8.30am, the boats come into the bays and empty all the debris from their nets into the water,' said one resident.

'They throw it all into the water and this filthy tide of junk just washes up on the beaches. I sit on the balcony of my apartment drinking coffee and I see one or two boats a day do this. It's absolutely disgusting.

'It's crystal clear to me that this is what is causing 80 to 90 per cent of the rubbish problem. It's got nothing to do with tides washing it in from the mainland.'

Another Repulse Bay resident said the number of boats emptying debris into the water had increased noticeably in the past six months. 'It's become a regular dumping point,' she said.

Hong Kong newspapers picked up the story of the litter-strewn beaches after the Sunday Morning Post last week quoted WWF chairman Markus Shaw as calling for action.

The Marine Department used eight extra vessels and a foreshore taskforce to clear the floating debris. In an e-mail to the Post yesterday, it sent photographs taken on Friday afternoon which showed the beach and water in seemingly pristine condition.

Acting assistant director of Marine Services Adam Lai Yu-wah promised that his department would continue working with other government departments to keep the beach and coastal waters clean.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the problem seemed to have lessened with the change of wind and current directions and said the number of daily bags of rubbish collected at Repulse Bay dropped from a recent peak of 500 to 47 on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the WWF said yesterday: 'We are encouraged that there has been such a positive response from the government over this issue but we hope this effort is maintained. It mustn't be just a one-week wonder.'

Legislator Wong Yung-kan, who represents the fisheries and agriculture sector, said he did not believe fishermen would deliberately dump rubbish in the sea.