Rare seahorse breeding in Lung Mei waters, environmentalists say
Photo shows state of creature after copulation, activists say with support from marine scientist
Fresh proof has emerged that a rare seahorse species is relying on a Tai Po coastline to breed, says a concern group hoping to halt a government plan to make a man-made beach out of the area.
In a photograph taken a few months ago, a female spotted seahorse showed biological signs of copulation in the waters, said the Save Lung Mei Alliance, named after the affected area in Tolo Harbour.
The latest finding came as the government again postponed the results of a tender to build the beach, for which construction was to have begun in November. The alliance said it had learned the winner would be announced in June, instead of this month.
The photo, taken by an alliance member late last year, showed the sea creature, zoologically called Hippocampus kuda, exposing its ovipositor, a tubular organ through which a female transmitted its eggs to a male.
The ovipositor usually remained visible briefly after sexual intercourse, so its presence in the picture meant copulation had taken place not long before, the alliance said. The significance of the image was confirmed by Australia-based marine scientist Dave Harasti, it said.
Harasti also confirmed that a male seahorse, seen with a bloated abdomen in a 2009 photo, was "pregnant" - as among this species the males are the ones that carry a brood pouch where eggs incubate.
"Such photographs, together with the past discoveries of a few infant spotted seahorses in Lung Mei, showed that it is an area of breeding ground for spotted seahorses," Harasti was quoted as saying.
Carol Kwok Wai-ling, a core member of the group, said the expert's analysis might be used as evidence in case of a judicial review of the artificial-beach plan.
Alliance spokesman Derek Li Kam-wa said the government had also found seahorses on four occasions.
Paul Zimmerman, chief executive of Designing Hong Kong who also opposes the beach plan, said both the government and the Tai Po District Council "were aware in 2007 that seahorses and coral had been found in the study area", as indicated at a council meeting in 2007. But "the minutes say that no rare species were found … That is misleading."
A government spokeswoman said it was studying the information submitted by the alliance.