Why company chosen to install shark nets
I REFER to the letter from Helen Ludgater (South China Morning Post, February 2) headlined, ''Sceptical about effectiveness of shark nets''.
Maritime Mechanic Ltd, which has been awarded the contract to provide and maintain shark prevention nets at the three selected Regional Council beaches, is a sister company of Maritime Mechanic A/S (Norway), founded in 1981.
It has engaged in aquaculture installations and oil-related services in the North Sea Region, Daya Bay and Nova Scotia, Canada.
It was chosen from among 14 local and overseas contractors, on the recommendation of an interdepartmental vetting committee. The committee felt the company's proposal fulfilled the requirements of shark prevention.
The company's background in aquaculture installation and marine engineering works in other countries was also considered.
While the overseas contractors from Australia and South Africa had ample experience in shark prevention, the vetting committee did not recommend them, because it was uncertain that the proposals would be practicable and suitable for local conditions.
Besides, the tight time-frame precluded commissioning of feasibility studies to ascertain the practicability of these proposals.
Furthermore, since these overseas contractors were not based in Hong Kong, the department envisaged difficulties in long-term maintenance of the installations.
Notwithstanding the fact that the nets now to be installed have not been used for shark prevention at beaches before, Maritime Mechanic Ltd believes they are effective, as they have been tested in other aquaculture installations against intrusion by sharks and other fishes.
The small-mesh nets are made of thick thread to give extra strength. The effectiveness of the nets will be assessed by the department in the pilot scheme.
As regards the effect on marine life, the company has advised that the structure and configuration of these nets have taken into account environmental concerns.
The small mesh size was selected following extensive research into means to avoid trapping of marine life as far as possible and to reduce the amount of sea-borne refuse entering the beach area. The department has been in liaison with the Environmental Protection Department on the scheme.
We shall keep a close watch on the number and type of any fauna that may be entangled in the nets and the problem of clearance of sea-borne refuse, so that an overall ecological impact can be assessed after the pilot scheme has been put in place.
The shark prevention nets to be installed at our beaches, unlike ''gill nets'' and ''baited drumlines'' used overseas for catching sharks, are aimed at preventing sharks from entering the swimming area.
Those who swim at beaches are also warned that the shark prevention nets are installed on a trial basis. They should continue to follow the safety advice on shark alert.
DAVID CHIU for Director of Regional Services