Hong Kong is Asia leader in global project to monitor state of coastal waters

Network of survey stations will allow hundreds of species to be identified in days rather than decades, and may show there are a lot more fish in the seas around Hong Kong than we think today

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 2:36pm

As the first base in Asia for the ambitious MarineGEO project, the Swire Institute of Marine Science (Swims) in Hong Kong will help establish a network of survey stations using standardised techniques to monitor marine life in strategic coastal areas.

Among the tools used is the autonomous reef monitoring system, which collaborating US scientist Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Institution in the United States describes as “an underwater condominium with PVC living spaces for marine life”.

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Swims has already deployed 18 of the devices, which are typically left submerged for between one and three years. They are then removed and the species that have set up home are analysed using advanced DNAmethods.

Knowlton points out that scientists have identified less than 30 per cent of ocean species, the bulk of which are smaller than 2mm. Swims’ devices will allow hundreds of species to be identified in days rather than decades and places such as Hong Kong could have far greater marine biodiversity than once thought.

Located in the Cape D’Aguilar marine reserve on Hong Kong Island, Swims provides research facilities for studying many aspects of the ocean.

At its 25th anniversary celebrations a couple of months ago, Swims director Gray Williams also announced plans for a HK$100 million extension to the facility – part of its drive to be a “regional leader in marine science in the northwest Pacific”.