Fishermen complain about refuse, but they are worse polluters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 7:46pm

Local fishermen complain that they are catching more plastic than fish (“Fishermen fear waste hauls will sink livelihoods”, August 31). This is little surprise, as the fishery community is the biggest surface polluter of the Hong Kong marine environment.

Over the past 22 years I have sailed from my Lamma home into Aberdeen typhoon shelter four times daily on average. Over this period I have witnessed an improvement in the water quality, largely thanks to the upgraded sewerage system. Unfortunately, surface pollution has deteriorated. The seasonal peak occurs in the summer months when fishing in Chinese waters is prohibited and many fishing vessels lie idle in the shelter.

During the day the water is cleaned by government-hired sampans. But at night fishing vessels dump their trash into the sea, witness the floating garbage belt found early every morning. The owners’ and operators’ lack of regard for the environment is obvious. So, we should not pity our fishermen and, failing a change in attitude, the sooner these people are out of business the better.

Earlier this month I reported polluting fish farms plus a vessel to marine police. I provided ample and unambiguous evidence: the discarded waste, pictures of the offenders and witnesses. Police issued no tickets but gave a warning.

A long time ago, marine police reported on the number of fines they had issued to polluters. I think the public would wish to hear what priority is given to the enforcement of anti-pollution legislation.

What percentage of the marine police’s budget is spent on the enforcement of the anti-pollution laws? Could we get an update on the success of their latest enforcement efforts, including the number of fines issued – split out per month – and day versus night bookings?

Finally, there are allegations that much of the floating waste comes from the mainland. This is hard to prove since it is not easy to discern such waste from that of fishing vessels. It is also unlikely, as the Marine Department after inspecting the affected waters said, in your report, that it did “not find an unusual amount of rubbish”.

If somehow our visiting fishermen could be educated, and forced to act greener, they could become the monitors for keeping an eye on the quality of our waters, and it would then be much easier to find the sources of the waste not stemming from fisheries’ related activities.

Eduard van Voorst, Lamma