• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 12:14am
NewsHong Kong

Rare seahorses found living in river estuaries off Lantau and Sai Kung

Study by green groups reveals rare species of fish breeding in river estuaries that may be threatened by government land reclamation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 6:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 4:32pm

An 18-month study by green groups has found seahorses and pipefish living in river estuaries off Lantau Island and Sai Kung.

Major breeding grounds include Tung Chung Bay and the waters around Tap Mun (Grass Island), including Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park and Fung Wong Wat, according to the Eco-Education & Resources Centre and Green Power study.

The findings shed light on the local distribution of the horse-like fish, once thought to breed only in saltwater coral reefs.

Centre founder Ken Ching-see ho said the study offers evidence that river estuaries are of high ecological importance for conserving biodiversity.

"We hope the government will take this into account when carrying out development near rivers as land reclamation will have a destructive effect on the marine habitats of these species," Ching said.

The groups examined 33 locations across the city and found seahorses and pipefish favoured shallows about seven metres in depth with a seabed of coarse sand, mud, rock or coral reef.

But many of the most thriving habitats were also located near freshwater inflows, Ching said. "We are not ruling out the possibility that food at river mouths could be more abundant."

Key habitats for rare spotted seahorses include several areas in Port Shelter south of Sai Kung, such as Shelter Island, Kiu Tsui Chau (Sharp Island), Kau Sai Chau and Pan Long Wan.

Seahorses were also found in coastal areas around Tolo Harbour and Channel in the northeast New Territories, including Lung Mei and Yeung Chau in Plover Cove, Kei Ling Ha Hoi (Three Fathoms Cove), Hoi Ha Wan, Lo Fu Wat, Fung Wong Wat and Tap Mun.

For the first time, the group also reported sightings of seaweed pipefish near Mirs Bay, including at Kat O (Crooked Island) and Ping Chau.

To the west, between Lantau Island and Chep Lap Kok Airport, seaweed pipefish were spotted in Tung Chung Bay, Hau Hok Wan and Sha Lo Wan.

Ching said many of the key habitats were under threat from rapid development. Worldwide, seahorses and pipefish risk being overfished for use in traditional medicine or for aquariums.

Since 2012, green groups have criticised a government plan to turn Lung Mei, located near the Plover Cove Reservoir, into a man-made beach. The Save Lung Mei Alliance said it was home to about 200 species of marine animals, including the rare spotted seahorse.

The trading of all seahorse species is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

But the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department does not keep a record of seahorse distribution or numbers, nor does it lead any conservation programmes.

A spokeswoman for the department said two species of seahorse have been recorded in Hong Kong: the spotted seahorse and the three-spot seahorse.


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This article is now closed to comments

Rare and important species are pearls before swine for our Govt. It falls on deaf ears because Govt. Depts are dishonestly colluding with unscrupulous NT land interests.
And where is AFCD supporting the clearing of a forest, the draining of a marsh, and the building of 94 houses with septic tanks discharging marine-damaging toxic waste into the Marine Park? The land adjacent to the estuary,
The future is bleak for Hoi Ha Marine Park and all its marine flora and fauna.
This just shows up the nonsense of designating the estuary area at Hoi Ha for zones that will encourage development, thus blocking the natural processes of lowering the sedimentation of the marine park. The 60 houses already planned for the proposed V zone will cause more sediment to cover the corals in the marine park, and thus take away the sea horse habitats. Interestingly the pollution from overflowing septic tanks is probably beneficial to both the corals and thus the sea horses. It affects humans far more. Better to clear up the current mess there and to enforce proper planning rules in the future. Whichever way you look at it, any development at Hoi Ha and the other enclaves mentioned in this report, has knock-on effects in the surrounding area, something that has been completely ignored by all government departments in their planning for the future of the enclaves, and is probably actionable in law.
I don't think AFCD actually supports the TBP zoning of Hoi Ha. Your anger should be at Planning Department not AFCD. Unfortunately, AFCD are the ones to propose the zoning of enclaves as Country Park. Blame Hong Kong's disconnected government. We have to get rid of the idea of zoning all together and just absorb the enclave into the CP.


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