The Sai Kung centre may have to rely on government subsidies to survive The World Wide Fund for Nature yesterday said it would open its marine life education park in April, but added it would struggle to meet costs despite charging visitors $150 for a tour. During a progress report to the Country and Marine Parks Board yesterday, the WWF said the Marine Life Centre at Sai Kung may have to rely on government subsidies or private sponsorship. Board members expressed concern over whether the centre could be financially viable as the WWF had to bear operating costs without support from the government. 'The sustainability of the centre will be affected if the centre suffers a deficit continually, particularly when the number of visitors is confined,' said board member Hung Wing-tat. Stephen Lau Ka-man, chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, admitted that the fees they planned to charge could not cover operating costs. 'We hope the government can offer subsidises to us, but we also understand that it might not be feasible as the government is having fiscal difficulty,' he said. 'Therefore we have to rely on ourselves and try to solicit more sponsorship from the business sector, hoping the books can be balanced,' he said. Mr Lau said they were considering the leasing of centre facilities for business meetings and dinners. The $61 million centre is operated by the WWF which obtained cash grants from the Jockey Club and HSBC to start building in September 2001. When it opens in two months, it will offer two tours a day confined to 40 people each. From June, it will increase the number of tours to four. Each tour will last about 4 hours, including a one-hour glass-bottom boat trip to watch coral in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park. Admission fees will be $150 per person and $380 for a family of four. Students will be charged $100 each. The WWF is also in talks with the government to get more parking permits for buses, which are now limited to 10 a day into the protected area. 'It will make bookings of our tours very difficult, unless we are guaranteed to have these permits,' Mr Lau said. He also said the fund was still raising money to fit out the centre's exhibition hall which would open in phase two of the project. The WWF has pledged that it will continue to liaise with Hoi Ha villagers over the centre and ensure that it meets environmental requirements. The fund said operation guidelines would be set and the coral would be periodically monitored.