Saltwater fish could be on sale tomorrow but freshwater stock for solstice in doubt Seafood from the mainland could be back in Hong Kong's markets tomorrow after an agreement was struck yesterday for imports - halted since the weekend by a de facto ban - to resume today. However, it could be another 10 days before imports of freshwater fish resume. Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Cheuk Wing-hing said Hong Kong and Guangdong authorities had agreed that imports of saltwater fish, shrimps and crabs would resume today. But Chamber of Seafood Merchants chairman Lee Choi-wah said that even if that happened, supplies would not start arriving in the city until tomorrow. Exports of seafood were halted on Sunday, days after Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety announced that it had found nitrofuran, a banned antibiotic, in samples of pompano, flowery garoupa and tiger garoupa. Freshwater fish supplies from the mainland were halted late last month after tests showed traces of the banned fungicide malachite green in samples. 'Let us hope that before the winter solstice we can resume imports of freshwater fish,' Mr Cheuk told a joint meeting of the Legislative Council panels on food safety and environmental hygiene and health. So we are talking about 10 more days,' Mr Cheuk said. The solstice, on Friday next week, is an important festival marked by family dinners. Mr Cheuk said the delay was to allow 'the Guangdong authorities ... some time to explain various things to the industry'. Authorities in the province have stepped up inspections and quarantine measures to ensure fish supplied to Hong Kong is safe. Mr Lee, of the Chamber of Seafood Merchants, said: 'The quarantine testing on saltwater fish is less complicated than the freshwater ones because there isn't much chemical you can feed to saltwater fish.' Mr Cheuk said the government hoped to table to the Legislative Council by July a bill to regulate fish imports. The deputy secretary led a delegation of Hong Kong officials in talks with the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau in Guangzhou on the suspension of fish exports. Mr Lee said wholesale prices for saltwater fish had held steady because local supplies had met demand. But shrimp and crab prices were up 20 per cent. Freshwater fish wholesalers doubt supplies will resume before the solstice. Tommy Hui Hon-man, chairman of Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Freshwater Fish Wholesale Association, believes talks between the Hong Kong and mainland authorities were not going too well. 'The wholesalers in Hong Kong are always ready to get the fish. But it appears that the delay is partly because the two sides cannot accept the standards imposed on or expected of them,' he said. 'The mainland fish farms are no doubt willing to give up on the Hong Kong market if negative reports about their fish keep coming out.' With scant local or overseas supplies available, freshwater fish prices were up by as much as 60 per cent, he said.