Hong Kong fish sos

WWF Hong Kong is taking full page advertisements in Hong Kong’s newspapers, asking the Government and the AFCD to explain why they have failed to provide responsible stewardship of Hong Kong’s fish resources.

WWF Hong Kong is taking full page advertisements in Hong Kong’s newspapers, asking the Government and the AFCD to explain why they have failed to provide responsible stewardship of Hong Kong’s fish resources.

Here’s press release from WWF HK; following is a link to page where you can support WWF’s position, and the comment I made when adding my support for a new, conservation department:

WWF Hong Kong is taking full page advertisements in Hong Kong’s newspapers, asking the Government and the AFCD to explain why they have failed to provide responsible stewardship of Hong Kong’s fish resources.

This is the first time in its history that the local arm of one of the world’s leading conservation bodies has taken such action.

“The questions highlight the serious failure of the AFCD to fulfill its declared role of promoting the sustainable use of fisheries resources. This failure amounts to a dereliction of duty,” said the Chairman of WWF Hong Kong, Mr. Markus Shaw.


“The AFCD has had extensive powers since 1962 to restrict the fishing effort and manage fisheries, most of which it has never exercised. Instead, the Government has subsidised Hong Kong’s fishing fleet without paying heed to the health of fish stocks. Not only fishermen but the people of Hong Kong are suffering the consequences: Hong Kong’s fish stocks are in a critical state and a public good worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed.”

“The continuing failures of the AFCD also highlight serious conflicts of interest within the organisation,” continued Shaw. “How can the role of the AFCD to promote fisheries be reconciled with its role as a conservation agency? How can its role to promote the fishing industry be reconciled with its role to manage and preserve fisheries? The Director of the AFCD is at the same time the Director of the Fish Marketing Organisation – it is bizarre.”

WWF has decided to confront the Government with these questions after the AFCD came out with proposals to give itself more fisheries management powers, which will shortly be presented to Legco.

“These are worthy proposals”, said Shaw, “but why give yourself yet more powers and then not exercise them? Why propose miniscule no-take zones which you know will not have any material effect on fisheries? Why do these no-take zones cover only the AFCD’s artificial reefs but not natural reefs? Why ban trawling in only two small areas when this destructive practice is already banned in inshore waters by almost all our neighbouring countries, including China?”
“A healthy fishery is worth of millions of dollars every year. This issue deserves the high-level and urgent attention of Government: anything less would be negligent,” concluded Shaw.

You can read the newspaper advert text and add your name supporting WWF Hong Kong’s campaign to boost local fish populations at: Save our Seas campaign

Response – re establishing a Conservation Department in Hong Kong

Here’s the comment I made, when supporting WWF Hong Kong’s position:

Yes, a separate department charged with conservation seems a sound idea.

Indeed, as I understand it, “conservation” was pretty much just added to the Agriculture and Fisheries Department’s responsibilities a few years ago.

Yes, conservation had become part of the department’s remit – especially in country parks – but it was not the central focus. The contradictions highlighted by WWF HK suggest that conservation does not sit well within AFCD.

A new, separate department that is charged with conservation – with wise stewardship of our natural resources – could draw on expertise in government departments including AFCD, the Environmental Protection Department, and the Sustainable Development Unit; and it could draw on the pool of talent that currently exists outside government.
[Some years ago, Stuart Reed, then director of the Environmental Protection Department, suggested that his dept would be better suited to including Conservation; this reflects the fact that environmental protection work is closely linked to conservation. Instead, we have seen environment linked to transport and works – again, poacher working with gamekeeper.]

A broadly more expert, more focused conservation department may frighten some (Raymond Ho, of engineering lobby?), but could prove beneficial for Hong Kong as a whole, helping lead to more balanced development.

As well as aiming for an approach to fisheries that might lead to some recovery in fish stocks (while the AF[C]D continues an approach that tries to protect fishermen and, to an extent, fish, whilst in the long-term benefitting neither), such a conservation department might be better when it comes to issues such as:

– Planned developments for Lantau, including container port. It’s woeful that it’s the public and ngos who are questioning if these plans are sustainable.

– Planned tree planting in northeast Lantau, by Civil Engineering Dept. Again, took public to argue against planting non-native species, threatening to create “silent” forest.

– Rising mud flats in Deep Bay. AFCD seems to be nearly unaware of situation, doing little but studying; more expert field biologists might appreciate and show real concern about this very real issue.

– Shenzhen’s plans to perhaps pump lots of salty shit (sorry, but that seems to be the plan) into Deep Bay, right in front of Mai Po. EPD seems limp in being asked to comment, only to respond that they haven’t heard about this.

(Deep Bay is an internationally important wetland; could do with better, feistier approach from govt.)

– Whether it was remotely wise to spend some HK$500 million solely on HK Wetland Park, rather than better distribute this money around Deep Bay area, encouraging conservation across the whole wetland.

– Ecotourism in Hong Kong. Currently in poor state.

Plenty more for such a department to do!


One comment

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