Conservation must be carried out better

There has been scepticism ever since the government raised the idea of relocating marine life to make way for a HK$200 million artificial beach in Tai Po. Judging by the way this was carried out, the concerns were valid

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 1:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 1:56am

It is hard not to feel sorry when a natural coastline with rich marine life is to make way for a man-made beach. What is more saddening is the way the rare sea creatures are being “rescued” to a new habitat, as shown in a recent media tour to the ecologically sensitive Lung Mei beach in Tai Po. The authorities must do a better job in conserving as many species as possible.

There has been scepticism ever since the government raised the relocation idea to help smooth opposition against the HK$200 million artificial beach project. Judging from the scenes captured by TV cameras, there are valid reasons to be concerned. About a dozen workmen were seen scouting with small fish nets in what appears to be an unskilled operation near the shore. The catch, including starfish and sea urchins, was then put into polystyrene boxes temporarily before being released 700 metres away. Some 20 creatures were found in an hour during the media tour.

Green groups have branded the media tour as a show. Even if that is so, the show was a half-hearted one. Admittedly, the government cannot be expected to carry out a Noah’s ark mission, saving each and every species found in the area. But that does mean officials can get away with something so amateurish it borders on the ridiculous.

Rare marine creatures moved to make way for artificial Hong Kong beach

If the efforts displayed were the best authorities could come up with, it has to be asked how serious they are when the media is not watching. The operation targeted seven marine species, including a rare type of seahorse. It remains unclear how officials can keep track of the creatures’ adaptation and survival. But it seems that there is no mechanism to halt the work even when the relocation is proved unsuccessful. It looks more like a civilised forced eviction rather than serious conservation.

Striking a balance between development and conservation is not as easy as it seems. The project was first raised as a gift to residents in Tai Po, the only district without beach access, as early as 1988. But the government could only get on with it after a court cleared the last hurdle in 2014. The sorry state of affairs underlines the urgent need for officials to do a better job lest public confidence in conservation be undermined.