Trawling ban a high-water mark for HK conservation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am

We should all applaud the chief executive for his commitment to ban trawling in Hong Kong waters within two years.

This is the most significant environmental action taken in years, and is as momentous as was the plan to set up the country parks in our city.

Our ocean is our biggest asset, and we would be nothing without it.

Contrary to the comments made last week by your reader Kary Yip, suggesting that now is not the right time to ban trawling ('This may not be right time for trawling ban', November 15), we should then ask, 'when is the right time?'

Our local waters are practically dead, and trawling simply delays any possible hope for recovery.

Your correspondent mentions shrimp fishing as a lost industry, but most people do not know that roughly 70 per cent of everything caught when fishing for shrimp is thrown away - it is treated as a 'by-catch' with no value.

So we pillage the ocean of its life for a small percentage of higher-value items.

Suggesting that now is not the right time for a ban is an argument similar to the one used by the tobacco industry to oppose the ban on smoking in restaurants - and the plastic bag ban, whose opponents suggested that business would be lost.

This was not the case: in both instances, the broader society benefited from cleaner air, improved health and less waste.

It is time that we do things for the greater good of society because, for too long, we have been catering to small groups of vested interests whose use of products or activities have put a burden on the rest of us.

In the case of fishing, a small group in the population has essentially been allowed to bulldoze the ocean floor every day, without any of us taking note.

The result is a dead environment that we now have to resurrect.

Many fishermen have said they support this ban, and there is proof around the world that when fishing is stopped, the ocean comes back to life. Wouldn't that be amazing for Hong Kong?

The fishermen would then have all types of new things to catch. This could be done in sustainable ways that do not ruin everything in their wake, as happens with trawling.

Supporting the ban on trawling would be supporting historic, positive change for this city, and proof that we can address tough issues.

Let us put the air we breathe on the same course of action.

Douglas Woodring, Mid-Levels