Registration scheme to thwart fish smugglers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am

The government is pressing ahead with plans to implement a registration system for people going into the Cheung Sha Wan Wholesale Food Market despite opposition from traders.

The decision to beef up security came after the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which operates the market, concluded tougher measures were necessary to deter smuggling activities and illegal workers.

Fish being imported from the mainland have been required to be from accredited fish farms since the malachite green scare last year, when imported fish were found to contain the cancer-causing agent.

But the department noticed some people were using the jetty at the market to bring in fish without the necessary certificates and a government source added that in the two fish-smuggling cases detected at the market last month, some of the seized samples contained malachite green and the smugglers were also selling endangered species.

The department's assistant director Liu Kwei-kin said the registration system would be introduced at midnight on Monday. All people entering the market would have to register their names, ID card numbers and purpose of entering unless they had already pre-registered with the department and obtained a photo ID from it.

The photo ID system, designed to reduce registration time, was set up after the government reviewed the traders' claims that registration on arrival would take too long and affect business.

'We'll continue to do our best to facilitate the merchants at the market and will deploy more staff to do the registration during rush hours to shorten waiting times,' Mr Liu said.

He also said the department had been countering the smuggling problem by sending more staff to the market but it could not sustain such manpower in the long run.

A government source familiar with the negotiations with the merchants said they would use the coming weekend for last-minute lobbying with the merchants.

The source also stressed that at the moment there were no indications to suggest triads were behind the recent smuggling activities.

The department said it would introduce the permit and registration system at the Western Wholesale Food Market on Hong Kong Island if it proved successful.

The government source said the government was confident that if the system was a success, smugglers would find it difficult to sell fish because there are few other places in the city that would allow them to unload and distribute fish.

The chairman of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Freshwater Fish Wholesale Association, Tommy Hui Hon-man, who has been one of most vocal opponents of the government's plan, said the government had not adequately consulted the wholesalers before going ahead with the new measures.