Operators of Lei Yue Mun's famed seafood restaurants and stalls fear they may have to close when a rule banning them from pumping seawater from the harbour into their fish tanks is introduced in August. The government is amending the Food Business Regulation to stop fish vendors using seawater from Victoria Harbour and areas in typhoon shelters. This follows tests by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department that found seawater in the area contained E. coli levels higher than the legal limit in seven out of 10 samples taken last year, and tank water in two restaurants was found to be contaminated during tests twice in the past four years. The government has suggested restaurants in Lei Yue Mun buy seawater from elsewhere and transport it to their businesses by vehicle. But the operators say they have been using harbour water for decades without any problems. They say they pump their seawater from points 100 metres offshore and sterilise it before using it in their fish tanks. Stall operator Yip Yun-kwong, 42, said the government's suggestion that they buy water from other places or use chemical salts to salinate fresh water was not feasible because of the cost. 'I would have to spend an extra HK$80,000 each month to buy water,' said Mr Yip, whose father established the stall almost 40 years ago. He said seawater was the most suitable water for the tanks. 'It has nutrients for seafood and the temperature is suitable for seafood to survive,' he said. 'There are four seasons in Hong Kong and seawater has different temperature in different seasons.' He feared the cost of buying water would cancel out a large chunk of his profits. 'If I buy water from other sources, I estimate revenue will be decreased by about 50 per cent. I have to renew some equipment and if I have to buy water, my stall will close down.' Also, buying water would require extra work for stall operators, with staff having to spend extra time collecting water at least twice a day. And delivery of the water to the restaurants and stalls would be difficult because of the narrow lanes of the village. He thought the authorities should focus on the quality of water in the fish tanks, rather than the quality of water in the harbour. 'The water quality of the fish tank is the most important factor. Water is sterilised before it is used in my fish tanks. If the standard of fish tank water quality is passed, there is no problem with the seafood.' Mr Yip said he closely monitored the quality of his tank water. 'If the water is not clean enough, the seafood will die and I will lose money,' he said, adding that he placed great importance on food safety and the health of customers. Mr Yip's father, Yip Lau-ming, 74, has lived in Lei Yue Mun all his life and opened the stall in 1973. Although he handed over management to his son 20 years ago, he still sits there every day. In the 1950s, he recalled, there were two seafood stalls and several restaurant boats offshore, which were frequented mainly by locals. By the 1970s there were about 20 stalls and seven restaurants. Transport was poor and the main means of access was by sampan. 'I had to take a boat to Shau Kei Wan that took about 15 minutes,' he said. In the 1970s, Lei Yue Mun's fame began to spread, with tourists coming from Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Europe and the US. Restaurants were set up on shore and business was good, with the peak period being 1989 to 1997. Yip Lau-ming started his seafood stall during the good times, but he says trade is now down 40 per cent from the peak, with swine flu and concerns over where to get water pushing it down further. 'The seafood stall is another member of my family. I want to pass the business on to the next generation. I hope the government will let us survive.'