Stingray Spooked by Approaching Ferry at Discovery Bay

Spotted this by chance. A stingray at the ferry pier in Discovery Bay, Lantau. An approaching ferry spooked it and it fled to the rocks under the pier in shallow water. Click here for my page on rays in Hong Kong.

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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.

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”

Finless Porpoise Stranded on Lantau

According to Around DB magazine a porpoise was found stranded at Palm Beach (presumably Cheung Sha Beach) on the 26th of October (2017). Judging from the images the dead animal looks to be a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) and about 120 cm in length (adult).

Source: AroundDb

Pearl River Oil Spill Not Affecting Hong Kong

An oil spill reported in the Pearl River estuary close to the Qingzhou Island and Guishan Island has so far not entered Hong Kong waters. A few vessels were either stranded or sank in the wake of typhoon Hato.The Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre was informed of the spill by the Guangdong Search and Rescue Centre. Mainland maritime authorities have undertaken a cleanup and the HK Marine Department has begun patrols southwest of Lantau Island. Aerial surveillance carried out has so far not shown the spilled oil drifting into Hong Kong waters.

Suspected Mui Wo Shark is Actually a Dolphin

Marine police on Saturday (7th May 2016) searching for a shark in Silvermine Bay after a beach-goer reported that he might have seen a shark outside the shark net. The life guards raised the red flag and a police launch and government flying service helicopter were dispatched. But witnesses interviewed by Apple Daily also suggested it may have swum more like a dolphin than a shark. Apple Daily posted a video on their site  here. You can see the “shark” at the 1:00 minute mark. It’s definitely a dolphin.

Juvenile Green Sea a Turtle Found Dead off Pui O

On Saturday (9/1/2016) morning, a dead juvenile green turtle was found dead and entangled in a fishing net near Pui O Wan on the south of Lantau Island.
The turtle was not yet mature, and its shell measured about 60 cm in length. A necropsy performed by the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department (AFCD) found nothing abnormal. Officials were unable to determine the animal’s sex.

Iain Brymer, a 49-year-old Expat found the dead turtle near a rocky shore about a kilometre into paddling his outrigger canoe from Pui O Wan to Chi Ma Wan Peninsula.