The action, which follows the takeover of their market, may result in price hikes Fish wholesalers at Aberdeen's seafood market say they will go on strike today, after failing to agree with the government's terms for its takeover of the market's management. Last night, about 40 wholesalers and employees staged a sit-in at the market - which supplies 40 per cent of Hong Kong's live seafood - while some buyers drove trucks into the market to block officials from moving in. Despite the radical action, the Fish Marketing Organisation (FMO), which is supervised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, was pushing ahead with its takeover of the market, scheduled to take place at midnight last night. For more than 20 years, the fish market has operated with no regulation on government land in the Aberdeen Promenade car park, without stallholders paying any rent. The takeover was prompted on health grounds after the discovery of cholera in market tanks last month. The operators complain that the monthly rent of $200 per square metre being imposed by the new management is too high. Trade sources expect the price of live seafood to surge 20 per cent today because of the strike. Under the management of the self-financed FMO, wholesalers now need a licence issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. They are also required to improve hygiene conditions and upgrade water filtration systems. Deputy director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Liu Kwei-kin said the purpose of taking over the market was to ensure that wholesalers did not use water from the Aberdeen typhoon shelter to keep fish. He said contaminated seawater was the source of the cholera and E.coli bacteria found in the market's fish tanks last month. 'The promenade is government land. Charging the wholesalers $200 per square metre is fair as it is based on the average market rent of other fish markets in Hong Kong,' he said. Although the government promised to waive rents this month, negotiations with the wholesalers broke down last week. The wholesalers decided to strike after they held a 21/2-hour meeting yesterday. Chan Fu-ming, chairman of the Aberdeen Fishery and Seafood Merchants' Association, accused the government of being high-handed. 'We have had four or five meetings with the government since September and we haven't discussed and agreed on many of the details,' he said. 'The rent has been lowered from $560 to $200 per square metre. That will mean a monthly rent of $12,000 to $30,000 for wholesalers. It will no doubt increase our operating costs. The government should take into account the historical reasons for this market. 'We don't oppose the government monitoring the market and we don't mind paying rent. But it is a different matter if it intends to make profits from charging us.' Mr Chan said the wholesalers would hold another meeting today to discuss further action, but added that they hoped to solve the matter through negotiation.