A huge property development planned for Lamma Island's southeastern coast could destroy one of the last remaining untouched marine ecosystems in Hong Kong, according to an undersea survey of the area.
The study found large schools of fish and horseshoe crabs on the seabed, as well as soft corals and sea cucumbers on boulders off the rocky coast where a developer wants to build a luxury villa and a marina.
The survey by the Eco-Education & Resources Centre and Green Power suggests the coast has promising marine resources, but that even the slightest development would likely upset the undersea ecology.
The green groups are urging the Town Planning Board to reject the proposal, named Baroque on Lamma, at a meeting on December 2 to scrutinise a land-use rezoning request from the developers.
The luxury residential and marina project, situated near a conservation area, was rejected by development and planning officials last year. The developers are now proposing an amended plan.
The HK$10 billion project would occupy more than 26 hectares of land and provide about 850 residential units. It would consume 43 hectares of water for 500 yacht berths, 50 residential units, a yacht club and commercial facilities.
The project is a joint venture between Agile Property Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed company that usually focuses on mainland real estate, and local company King Wong Development.
A spokeswoman for Baroque on Lamma said the company would address concerns about marine life in its detailed environmental impact assessment. It also said a marine breakwater and other structures to be built in the sea would act like artificial reefs, providing habitat for marine organisms and attracting fish.
'BOL will be a showcase of how new development can co-exist with the natural environment,' she said. In a project profile submitted to the Environmental Protection Department, the developers, backed by Agile, said the area had relatively little value as a fishery.
However, the environmentalists reached a different conclusion after four dives between May and October this year along a 200-metre stretch of coast. They found a school of up to 100 chicken grunts and another group of 30 juvenile mangrove red snappers. The divers also found a mature, 50cm daisy parrotfish, a species that has become extremely rare in Hong Kong.
'There was only one recorded instance of this fish here - found in the Ninepin Islands - in the past seven years,' said the centre's Ken Ching Sze-hoi.
Other surprises included a yellowbar sandperch - the first recorded in Hong Kong - and a 20cm juvenile horseshoe crab, the first such sighting in the area.
Ching said the property development would probably create light pollution that could confuse endangered green sea turtles returning to nearby Sham Wan beach to lay eggs.