Underwater World of Hong Kong Featured in New Stamps of Hong Kong Post Issued July 2019

Hong Kong Post unveiled a series of new postal stamps this week, including a set featuring Hong Kong’s rich marine biodiversity designed by Shirman Lai . Revealing our beautiful underwater world, this six-piece issue aims to promote awareness for marine conservation in the hope of making joint efforts to preserve our precious marine life. For extra fun, the souvenir sheet features fish-shape perforations to match the overall fish silhouette.  Among others the stamp features the Chinese White dolphin, stingrays, corals green sea turtles and jellyfish.

Hong Kong's UNderwater World featured on a 2019 Issue of Postal Stamps
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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

State-level marine park planned in Dapeng New Area

Dapeng New Area – just across Mirs Bay from Hong Kong – is planning to build a national marine park according to the Shenzhen Daily newspaper. The aim is to “create the first coral-themed marine ecological system in the country”, by which I think is meant the first man-made coral ecosystem in China.

Dapeng will install artificial reefs to connect the coral reef communities in Da’ao Bay with those in the Tung Ping Chau area of Hong Kong, in the hope of providing a good marine ecological environment

Dapeng New Area has commissioned marine protection organizations to install 68 artificial reefs and plant more than 13,000 coral seedlings in the sea area in recent years.

The new area said it will draw on the experience of Hong Kong’s marine parks and adopt tough protective measures to provide a good environment for the reproduction and growth of the coral reefs.

By joining hands with the Hong Kong Underwater Association they want to establish the first diving research base on the mainland to improve awareness of marine environmental protection and encourage NGOs to participate in coral conservation.

Currently there are 39 diving organizations in the new area.

Over the past two years, volunteers have completed 12 cleaning operations and salvaged more than 448 kg of marine waste, including fishing nets, fishing cages and plastic bags.

Hong Kong’s Amazing Marine Biodiversity Highlighted by MarineGEO-Hong Kong”

Local and international scientists joined with HKU’s Swire Institute of Marine Science and School of Biological Sciences for an intensive, 10-day marine life survey through some of Hong Kong’s most disturbed and pristine marine environments. From the heavily impacted, inner Tolo Harbor to the more isolated, coral rich Tung Ping Chau, scientists identified over a thousand representative specimens of fish, crabs, snails, bivalves, worms and more across an estimated 300-400 total species.

Scientists are still working to identify each of these specimens which are also being documented through high resolution photography and genetic characterization, or barcoding. In fact, many specimens are stumping the expert taxonomists suggesting that there will be newly described species of hermit crabs and bivalves to come. Not all biodiversity is good news however, several invasive species were also identified which can cause disruptions to local ecosystems. In addition to identifying all of those organisms that they could see, scientists will use the latest technologies in genetic identifications to detect organisms that are too small to be recognized by the naked eye.

ARMS settlement plate deployed in Tung Ping Chau for two years. Many of these eight-level ARMS structures were found to have over 300 visible organisms living within.

ARMS settlement plate deployed in Tung Ping Chau for two years. Many of these eight-level ARMS structures were found to have over 300 visible organisms living within.

The survey methods were developed by the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Global Earth Observatory research program (MarineGEO), which is “the first long-term, worldwide research program to focus on understanding coastal marine life and its role in maintaining resilient ecosystems around the world”. In 2016, The University of Hong Kong became the first official MarineGEO site in Asia and hopes to serve as a node for future expansion in the region.

The ARMS were transported back to HKU and each plate was removed one at a time while making sure not to lose any organisms large or small.

A single plate from one ARMS structure measures ~25 X 25 cm. High resolution photographs like this one allow for visual identification of attached organisms including sponges, encrusting algae, tube worms, ascidians, and more. Scientists will look at not just who is there but also how their abundance changes around Hong Kong.

A single plate from one ARMS structure measures ~25 X 25 cm. High resolution photographs like this one allow for visual identification of attached organisms including sponges, encrusting algae, tube worms, ascidians, and more. Scientists will look at not just who is there but also how their abundance changes around Hong Kong.

One of the strengths of the MarineGEO project is the standardization of methods used to quantify biodiversity. The multilevel settlement structures, or ARMS, are approximately 0.5 m2 and resemble a marine invertebrate version of Hong Kong’s famous high-rises. To survey the existing biodiversity HKU scientists deployed twelve ARMS in Hong Kong in May 2015 and collected them in October 2017, with plans to deploy and collect data for 40 more ARMS across Hong Kong as far west as Lantau Island. In addition to providing a baseline biodiversity assessment, through time, this legacy project will allow scientists and governments to better evaluate human impacts on the marine environment and which interventions are most efficient at preserving biodiversity. To find out more and keep track of ongoing projects, visit the website at https://marinegeo.si.edu/hong-kong-china.

Students and scientists brush off and pick through everything that is not firmly attached to the ARMS plates looking for organisms such as crabs, shrimp, snails and more. These are sorted by eye, counted, and passed to a taxonomic expert. They will also be sampled to determine the genetic sequence that corresponds to the taxonomic identification and build a library of genetic diversity for future use.

“MarineGEO is a legacy project which SWIMS has committed to lead for years to come. Although the project is global in scale, our grassroots efforts provide a new means of monitoring Hong Kong’s changing marine environment from negative factors like climate change and development, and positive factors like improved management and restoration, said” Dr. David Baker, Project Principal Investigator.

As a last step of ARMS sampling, all remaining material is scrapped from each plate and combined for one large, genetic characterization of the entire plate community. Individual “barcodes” are expected to number in the tens of thousands per ARMS.

“The amount and diversity of tiny creatures in Hong Kong waters is astonishing. Even more so considering how impacted the habitat is by the millions of people here,” added Dr. Till Roethig, SWIMS post-doctoral fellow. “It was exciting to connect everyone, from local students to global scientists, to the amazing diversity which makes Hong Kong a special and important site for conservation in the region,” said Dr. Shelby McIlroy, also a SWIMS post-doctoral fellow.

A group of local and international scientific collaborators take a break from the day’s work to flex their ARMS muscle. 

“As undergraduates, we had fun participating in this project. There were many benthic organisms that we had never seen before. The beautiful colours of sea slugs and the sound that snapping shrimps made were very memorable. We were also lucky to witness the biodiversity along with all the admirable researchers,” Chan Mei Yin, Chan Sze Wen, Lee Tsoi Tao Esther, Tsui Teresa Ka Wing and Wong Yu Yeung, Gary echoed.

Credit: “Dr David Baker’s research team at HKU’s Swire Institute of Marine Science and School of Biological Sciences”

Hong Kong Underwater Photo Competition Winners 2017 Announced

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition 2017 jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Hong Kong Underwater Association, announced its winning entries.

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition, in its 6th year now, received 436 entries this year, featuring marine ecology, habitats and marine life in Hong Kong waters.

An AFCD spokesman said, “Entries over the years have showcased the beauty of marine life and habitats in Hong Kong waters, and have helped promote the conservation of the marine environment.”

The event comprised a photo competition and a video competition. There were two categories in the photo competition, namely the Macro and Close-up Category and the Standard and Wide Angle Category. In addition to prizes for champions and runners-up in each group, there were Special Prizes for Junior Underwater Photographers presented by the judging panel to encourage less experienced underwater photographers to participate in the competition.

Please click the thumbnail images to enlarge.

Hong Kong Underwater Photo Competition Winners 2016 Announced

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition 2016, jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Hong Kong Underwater Association, announced its winning entries.

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition, in its 5th year now, received 443 entries this year, featuring marine ecology, habitats and marine life in Hong Kong waters.

An AFCD spokesman said, “Entries over the years have showcased the beauty of marine life and habitats in Hong Kong waters, and have helped promote the conservation of the marine environment.”

The event comprised a photo competition and a video competition. In the photo competition the categories were Macros/Close-ups and Standard/Wide Angle. In addition to prizes for champions and runners-up in each group, there were Special Prizes for Junior Underwater Photographers presented by the judging panel to encourage less experienced underwater photographers to participate in the competition.

Please click the thumbnail images to enlarge.

The winning photos as well as the video entries can also be found on the AFCD Chinese page for the competition and the competitions Facebook page.

Beautiful But Deadly – The Textile Coneshell

The venomous Conus textile is one of the most abundant and widespread cone shell in Hong Kong waters. Easily recognized by the tent-shaped markings on the orange-colored cone-shaped shell with wavy chocolates lines, you are advised to stay away from these beautiful but dangerous reef predators. They like to hide in sandy patches under rocks and  also occurs widely throughout the Info-Pacific and grow to a maximum of 15cm shell length. The danger they pose comes from a tiny venom-laden harpoon they can fire from their proboscis. They normally use this to hunt other sea snails by injection them with conotoxin through the harpoon-like needle teeth they can fire out of their proboscis. They can reach around to any point on their shell with this proboscis, and several human death have resulted from handling.


To see exactly how subtle and fast the venom injection is, I recommend this clip from YouTube of a textile cone in a tank hunting down a prey snail. The prey snail in the clip has actually sealed itself into its shell and shut the opening with a special door called an operculum – but apparently to no avail!

https://youtu.be/WCmvQdb51To