Swift action needed to end trawling in HK's waters and let ecosystems recover

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2011, 12:00am


I have a very good friend who I understand is one of the few Westerners in Hong Kong to have been invited out overnight on a fishing vessel trawling in inshore waters.

This he claims to be one of the most foolish and irresponsible undertakings that he has ever been party to.

The boat was equipped with seven separate nets which, on eventually being hauled back aboard, contained numerous plastic bags and other debris and rocks from the seabed, together with an appallingly small number of fish.

The worst aspect by far was the fact that nearly all the fish that were brought to the surface had been killed by the sheer force of the net being dragged through the water. All the contents of the nets, apart from a very few fish of marketable size, were thrown back into the sea, leading to the same fishermen - or crew from similar boats - trawling the same area in subsequent days to bring up exactly the same refuse and inadvertently slaughtering yet more juvenile fish.

Surely, years ago, the Hong Kong government could have at least offered the fisherman a few dollars or cents for the refuse, which could have been delivered to the wharf for disposal along with the marketable fish? Any continuation of legislation governing current trawling practices will lead to an irreversible decline in the numbers of the few remaining fish still to be found in local waters.

All trawling in Hong Kong waters needs to be embargoed forthwith and ecosystems allowed to recover. The cost of compensating trawlermen for loss of their livelihood is but a small price for the government and community to pay to eliminate such self-defeating procedures.

James A. Campbell, Pok Fu Lam