One in 10 grouper species face extinction, with most eaten in Hong Kong
HKU researcher wants law to tighten monitoring of trade after study finds 20 species are at risk
One in 10 species of grouper face extinction and most are found on restaurant dinner tables in Hong Kong, a global study has found.
University of Hong Kong researchers, who led the study, urged the government to protect the threatened species through legislation and tighten monitoring over the grouper trade, of which the city is a major centre.
"We as consumers don't really realise the problem because we see plenty of the fish in our restaurants and markets. But the situation is different in the sea," HKU biology professor Yvonne Sadovy said.
The study collected data from different countries and assessed all 163 grouper species known in the world. Of these, 20 were identified as threatened, meaning their population will keep declining if nothing is done.
"Their populations and trade need to be managed if we still want to eat these fish in the future," said Sadovy, who released details of the study yesterday.
Of the threatened species, Hong Kong grouper and longtooth grouper are found in Hong Kong waters and Sadovy said they should be protected by law. These two, the giant grouper, humpback grouper and two other threatened species are sold in Hong Kong.
It also identified 22 other near-threatened species, including the popular leopard coral trout often served at banquets.
Almost all the live grouper sold were supplied to Chinese markets because of the tradition of favouring live fish. One-fifth of these, roughly 3.6 million a year, are consumed in Hong Kong.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants, Lee Choi-wah, said the supply of some grouper species like the leopard coral trout had been declining, but he suspected the threat of extinction was exaggerated.
Lee said supplies of Hong Kong grouper had always been scarce. Demand was low, he said, because of the expense: the wholesale price can be up to HK$1,500 a kilogram.
A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it had been working with other regions in protecting endangered species.