Runway impact on fishing worse than estimated, says WWF

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am


The impact of the third runway on fisheries may be as much as five times more serious than the Airport Authority's assessment and deal a blow to the fishing industry, environmentalists say.

A study by the University of British Colombia, commissioned by WWF Hong Kong, cast doubt on the authority's assessment of the impact of the proposed runway.

The authority wants to reclaim 650 hectares of land north of the airport to build another runway to cope with demand beyond 2020.

The WWF said the project would come at the expense of the local fishing industry, which would lose out on HK$48 million worth of catches over a period of 18 years.

The study cast doubt on the authority's technical report, which found only 0.08 per cent of Hong Kong's annual catch would be affected by the loss of marine habitat. The WWF study put that figure at 0.44 per cent.

The loss will cost 31 fishermen their jobs, the group says.

Samantha Lee Mei-wah, senior marine conservation officer for the group, said its study was far more robust and scientific than the authority's. 'We have also taken into account the positive impact [on fisheries] of the trawling ban to be introduced late this year,' Lee said. The ban would help restore fish stocks but the runway project may offset some of its benefits.

WWF also said the reclamation would affect the habitat of the endangered Chinese white dolphin and add to air pollution.

The Airport Authority said it would address such issues in depth when it carried out an environmental impact assessment. It said it would exhaust every means to limit the environmental impact, including the impact on fisheries.

'We will continue our communication with different stakeholders, including fishermen to see how their concerns can be addressed,' a spokesman said.