City must focus on fixing seas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong can revive its fish stocks and underwater environment for the same amount of money as it is paying to its 'theme park dedicated to the ocean'.

The president of conservation body WWF Hong Kong, Markus Shaw, said the government could stabilise the fishing industry and revitalise local waters if it showed the same commitment to them as it had to its multi-billion dollar expansion of Ocean Park.

'We're importing marine creatures from all over the world,' Mr Shaw said. 'We've created a fantastic coral reef aquarium up there. And yet our own seas are dead. How does that make sense?

'For a fraction of that HK$5 billion [paid to Ocean Park], we could solve the fisheries problem in Hong Kong and we could create a real underwater wonderland.'

Other plans to stabilise fish stocks, such as trawler bans, fishing registrations, marine parks and no-take zones, are awaiting the publication of a report by the Committee on Sustainable Fisheries expected later in the year.

The number of people working in the fishing industry has fallen substantially. From an estimated 10,000 fishermen and 4,300 vessels in 2004, there were only 7,900 fishermen and 3,800 vessels last year, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Hong Kong New Territories Fish Culture Association chairman Lai Loi-chau hopes a HK$400,000 grant from WWF to raise all-natural fish can create a new market for fish which is free of chemicals and genetic modification.

The deal also allows migratory birds to have free pickings from the fish ponds. It is hoped that this will breathe new life into the industry.

Fish farmers also hope to find ways to combat the flood of cheap freshwater fish from the mainland.