Fears for migratory flocks as fish farmers' nets claim another bird

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am

For the second time in two weeks a bird has been killed near the Mai Po Nature Reserve in a trap set by fish farmers to keep feathered predators from feeding on their stock.

Conservationists fear more will die as thousands of migratory birds flock to overwinter around Deep Bay.

A magpie robin, a common bird in the city, was found hanging in a net spanning a fish pond in Lut Chau near Nam Sang Wai yesterday morning. It is thought to have been strangled while struggling to escape the net.

On November 24, a black-faced spoonbill, an endangered species, was found dead in the Mai Po reserve with multiple cuts, the fifth spoonbill known to have been killed in nets.

Under Hong Kong law, all wild animals and birds are protected and it is a crime to hunt and kill them. But it is common for fish farmers with ponds in the western New Territories to install nets and hooks at their ponds to stop birds preying on their fish.

Alan Leung Sze-lun, conservation manager for WWF Hong Kong, which manages the Mai Po reserve, urged the government to follow up the deaths and called for a co-operative framework to balance the interests of fish farmers and the environment.

'Something has got to be done to prevent this cruel death from happening again as more migratory birds are expected next month,' he said. Hanging nets and hooks indiscriminately would hurt birds without any guarantee of safety for the fish.

Lut Chau had been a black spot for traps since 2008, he said. Last year, about 40 per cent of the ponds had traps but up to 60 per cent had them this year. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would step up patrols and remove nets and hooks.