WWF yesterday (31st May) published “Sea for Future: Conservation Priority Sites for Hong Kong”, in which it proposed designating West Lantau, South Lamma, Shui Hau, Ninepin Group and Pak Nai as marine parks.
WWF also proposed to turn Sharp Island and Shelter Island in Port Shelter, as well as Tolo Harbour, into marine protected areas.
This would restrict developments in marine parks, limit boat speeds and ban the collection of marine creatures.
However, compared to marine parks the marine protected areas would have more lax regulations also be regulations.
Under the proposal the waters off Tai O and Yi O would be combined into a western Lantau marine park.
Tai O and Fan Lau are the only remaining core habitats of the dolphins, whose numbers have dropped from 188 in 2003 to just 47 in 2017.
Together with existing plans for two marine parks near Chek Lap Kok and southwest Lantau, the Tai O a marine park would provide a protected corridor for the dolphins during construction of the third runway.
A core dolphin conservation zone around Tai O would ban coastal development and put restrictions on traffic.
The South Lamma, Sham Wan, is the only nesting site for the turtles in HK, and its beach is closed to visitors during their nesting period between June and October.
But waters off the beach are not covered by the ban, and the area is popular with recreational boats. These affect the turtles, as they have to swim past to go onto the beach.
Human disturbances can prevent female green turtles from nesting.
The turtles were last spotted nesting there in 2012. Marine park status would limit human access to the beach and nearby shallow waters, control disturbance to the turtles and limit the speed of vessels to minimize risks of collision.
WWF also suggested making Shui Hau Wan in Lantau a marine park to protect horseshoe crabs. No-take zones should be created, and partial closures should to be implemented during their breeding season.
This should also be done in wetland Pak Nai in Yuen Long, a habitat for globally-endangered black-faced spoonbills.