WWF urges expansion of no-take zones

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2005, 12:00am

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hong Kong has criticised the government for 'not being positive enough' to expand the no-take zones where fishing is banned.

The conservation group recently met senior officials, including Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, as well as legislators, and proposed a new economic model for the waters off northeast Hong Kong.

WWF urged that Tolo Harbour, Port Shelter and all existing marine parks should become no-take zones, where fishing is prohibited.

It will result in eight per cent of local waters being protected, but this still doesn't satisfy international marine experts. They said that at least 30 per cent of the sea should be protected to give critically over-fished states a chance to recover.

WWF Hong Kong chairman Markus Shaw said some existing fishing methods - especially bottom trawling - were destroying marine habitats.

'Hong Kong's fisheries are in a critical state. We propose to ban all bottom trawling and expand the no-take zones. It is achievable. Then there will be clear waters full of coral and fish in the zones. It will be the foundation for developing recreation and tourism in these areas,' he said.

'Eight per cent is not good enough but it is a good start.

'Some initial investment will be needed, for example, to compensate local fishermen for their losses because of the fishing ban in no-take zones, and to retrain them for new roles, such as operators of commercial pleasure boats and scuba-diving boats.'

Yet, Mr Shaw admitted there might not be enough new jobs for existing fishermen. 'But there will be other areas where fishing is still allowed. We have been lobbying heavily. We have met the Chief Executive, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok, one-fifth of the Legco members and some fishermen,' he said.

'We are also trying to meet district board members of Tai Po and Sai Kung to gather more local support. All government officials whom we have talked to responded positively to our proposal but we are a bit disappointed that they were not positive enough to say: 'Let's work together and solve the problem'.'

Mr Shaw said New Zealand's Goat Island Reserve attracts thousands of tourists every year. Some snappers there are eight times bigger than the ones outside the protected zone. Moreover, their numbers had increased 14 times, while large schools of fish could be seen right up to the shore line, he said.