Artificial Reefs for Brothers Marine Park Proposed

On the 29th of June the government gazetted a proposed plan for artificial reefs to be built inside the Brothers Marine Park, to improve the habitat and boost fish numbers. The artificial reefs will cover around 0.7 hectares inside the 66-hectare marine park off Lantau to the east of the airport.

The works are tentatively scheduled to start at the end of 2018 and should be completed by 2019.

The marine park has been identified as an important habitat for endangered Chinese White Dolphins, and a spawning ground for commercially important fish species.

Grouper Reef by Reefmaker deployed off Mexico Beach, Florida USA. Reproduced under cc-by-sa 3.0
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Whale Shark Sighting

Earlier this week an online video of a whale shark in Hong Kong went viral.

Unfortunately there is no specific protection for this species in Hong Kong, so experts are calling on the government to introduce laws to protect whale sharks which are infrequent visitors to Hong Kong waters in the summer months.

The footage was posted by a Lamma Island resident Robert Lockyer, who said the footage was sent to him by one of the fishermen who encountered the shark on Tuesday.

Lockyer said there had been another local sighting on May 22, but he believed it was a different shark at another location.

The fisherman who took the video did not wish for his identity or the location of the sighting to be known.

WWF Lobbying Government for Additional Marine Parks

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.

Dolphins & Porpoise Found Dead During Lunar New Year

A dolphin concern group published on its social media page that one chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) and four finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides) were found stranded between Saturday the 17th and Monday the 19th of February. Autopsy scans found food remains in the dolphins, showing they were not starved to death. However, they showed multiple fractures. It is feared they were hit by motorboats as they had injuries on their heads and necks.

One finless porpoise was almost cut in half by what is thought to have been a boat propeller.

The adult Chinese white dolphin was found stranded at Mo To Chau. It was a 2.5-meter female, at least 10 years old, and with signs of choking, bone fractures and serious bone dislocation. The death of an adult female is a great loss to the species’ population growth, with numbers in Hong Kong down from over 120 some years ago to 47 at present.

In the past three years there have only been 3-4 stranded cetaceans in tyhe months of January and February. This year, more than 10 dead cetaceans have been discovered in the same period.

High-speed boats are always a big threat to dolphins and some might be hit by propellers and never be discovered. The Dolphin Conservation Society of Hong Kong (HKDCS) has urged the government to launch a speed restrictions on boats around dolphin and porpoise habitats or even ban them from entering these areas.

According to the HKDCS only one new-born Chinese white dolphin was recorded last year. With the loss of another adult female dolphin, there is a dwindling chance of recovery of the local population.

Finless porpoise reported greed from fishing net on social media

A HK fishing groups social media account has reported a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) being freed from a floating fishing net on the 18th of February.

It’s not clear who the net belonged to and how long the animal was trapped in it.

Source here

Relocated Seahorses Missing

Two endangered seahorses which were moved from Lung Mei Beach near Tai Po, to make way for man-made pleasure beach, ca not be found anymore. Whether they survived the move is not known.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department failed to find them during a search in late January.

“We have not located the seahorses but we have not found any bodies either,” said senior engineer Raymond Cheng Kin-man. “We are

confident that they are still alive.”

Trawling Ban Enforced – Man Given Suspended Jail Sentence for Trawling 

A man who illegally used trawling gear for fishing on January 17th 2018 has been convicted and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment suspended for two years and a fine of $4,000 at Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Court on January 18th 2018.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Marine Police mounted an anti-illegal fishing operation in the eastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday, and found a mainland shrimp trawler suspected to be trawling at Ninepin Islands. The vessel was inspected and gear used for trawling was seized on board the vessel. Upon investigation by the AFCD, a male master on the vessel was charged for contravening the Fisheries Protection Regulations by using prohibited fishing gear. He was convicted and sentenced.

The ban on trawling came into force on December 31st, 2012. All electricity transmitting devices used for fishing are also prohibited. Under the Fisheries Protection Ordinance, any person who contravenes the ban is liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for six months.

Trawling is a non-selective fishing method which severely damages the seabed, especially trawling with electricity which kills all marine life around the trawl net and causes serious damage to the marine ecosystem.

Photo credit AFCD.