Fishermen fear Hong Kong’s waste will sink livelihoods

They plead for help after four tonnes of rubbish landed in just one night

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 6:15pm

Industrial plastic, household rubbish, pieces of cloth and empty bottles were among the four tonnes of waste found in the nets of Cheung Chau fishermen.

They told yesterday how the haul was the result of a nightlong sweep of Hong Kong’s southern waters, and are now calling on the government to do something about a problem they says is ruining their livelihoods.

“Since the [three-month] summer fishing moratorium ended [on August 1] some businesses have incurred losses of up to 50 per cent, that’s half of their income,” Cheung Chau fisheries representative Po Ka-ling said.

“We can’t catch [the fish] because the nets are all blocked with rubbish. It’s even getting stuck in propellers.”

Po backs claims made by other fishermen that the problem is caused by mainland vessels ­illegally tipping rubbish near Hong Kong waters.

“If we were are able to collect four tonnes of rubbish in a night, imagine how much of that stuff is on the ocean floor,” she said, highlighting the severe ecological damage being caused.

“It affects the marine life and our livelihoods. It’s a vicious ­cycle.”

Fishermen believe some of the dumping is going on near the Wanshan archipelago, a cluster of islands under the jurisdiction of Zhuhai, south of Hong Kong.

Mainland authorities intercepted a river vessel suspected of dumping rubbish in the sea at Zhongshan last week.

Last month, large amounts of waste – most with simplified Chinese labelling – began sweeping onto Hong Kong beaches.

Local authorities said flooding and heavy rain along the Pearl River Delta were washing rubbish out to sea and towards Hong Kong in southwest monsoon winds.

But Hong Kong Fishermen Consortium chairman Cheung Siu-keung said this was unlikely to be the main factor.

He believes the culprits are rubbish barges that turn to illegal dumping to skimp on landfill fees.

“I’ve been in the business for more than 40 years, I’ve never seen anything like this serious ... The most frightening thing is that we don’t know how and when the problem can be solved,” Cheung said.

The Marine Department said it had inspected the affected waters but did “not find an unusual amount of rubbish”.

The Environmental Protection Department said: “ We will reflect concerns of fishermen to [the Guangdong authorities]. Through the existing platform for cooperation, the department will continue to strengthen exchange and communication on environmental issues with the region.”