Dr Claude Martin, 60, is international director-general of the WWF. The Swiss-born ecologist visited Hong Kong last week to warn of the dire threat to its fisheries. Hong Kong is a relatively small spot on the world map but, as a trading destination, it is a tremendously important player. Hong Kong is very influential and what happens here in environmental terms has a big impact on other countries. You don't have to be an academic or scientist to recognise the huge environmental pressures and issues affecting Hong Kong. On many days of the year because of the air pollution you cannot see Kowloon from Central. Tonnes of rubbish are generated by people as they go about their daily lives, and there is tremendous pressure on the government to find ways to treat this waste. The people of Hong Kong now have a historic opportunity to focus on these long-overdue problems and improve their quality of life, something we believe citizens and businesses are demanding, and which will add to Hong Kong's competitive advantage. While it is easier to see and understand the impact of air pollution and the degradation of our landscape, there are other things happening which are just as devastating but which the general public is not always aware of. Our fisheries resources are an example of this - it's a difficult area for people to understand as fish live and breed underwater, hidden from public view. The South China Sea is one of the most heavily fished areas in the world. In the past, the Hong Kong government's focus on the productivity of the fishing industry at the expense of sustainable fisheries management has led to the decimation of Hong Kong's fish stocks, which many surveys and studies have shown to be in a critical state. WWF Hong Kong has been campaigning vigorously through its Save Our Seas campaign to put the emphasis back on sustainable fisheries management. The campaign has focused on two issues - the banning of bottom trawling in Hong Kong waters, and the creation of sizeable no-take zones, or marine reserves, where no fishing will be permitted. Bottom trawling is one of the most damaging fishing methods, since it not only catches fish indiscriminately, but by dragging heavy nets along the sea bed it also destroys sea bottom habitats which are essential to many forms of marine life. Inshore trawling is already banned in China and many neighbouring countries so Hong Kong is behind best practice as far as this is concerned. In calling for sizeable no-take zones, WWF Hong Kong is drawing from the experience and opinion of many fisheries experts worldwide that recommend at least 20 per cent of marine areas be set aside as reserves in order to have a meaningful impact on sustainable fisheries management. The basic idea is that fishing outside the reserve will improve as a result of those fish protected inside the reserve being able to grow and reproduce undisturbed, producing more eggs to replenish waters surrounding the reserve. The no-take zones currently proposed by the government amount only to about 2 per cent, so this is obviously far too small to have any effect. The government needs to have the vision to create a no-take marine reserve of a sufficient size that it will have a measurable effect. Nothing succeeds like success: the example of a no-take marine reserve full of large schools of large fish, which can be enjoyed by the public, as well as increasing fish catches on the margins of the reserve for fishermen, will very quickly build community support for the concept. Apart from their benefit to sustainable fisheries management, marine reserves have become extremely popular for recreation. Imagine the economic benefit of marine reserves in Hong Kong, for example in the clear eastern waters, where diving and snorkelling could be as good as in Phuket. This win-win scenario - a win for fishermen, a win for the recreational public and a win for conservation - is wholly achievable in Hong Kong, and possibly within a shorter time than most people might imagine. It is time to seize the moment and to show some leadership to achieve this vision. We hope that the Hong Kong government appreciates the urgency of the situation. Livelihoods are going to be affected, but there has to be a stage where the government says enough is enough. We cannot let marine resources deteriorate any further or they will be at risk of total collapse.