Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund Invites Applications

The Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund has opened for applications. The Fund aims to help the local fisheries community move towards sustainable or high value-added operations so that the trade can enhance its overall competitiveness and cope with new challenges. This will allow fishermen to improve their ability to cope with the changing operating environment as well as their own livelihoods.

A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said: “Capture fisheries in Hong Kong are affected by the depletion of fisheries resources and the trawl ban. Despite the opportunities available as a result of the restructuring of the fisheries industry, many local fishermen remain cautious about the prospects of growth while others are held back by the risks and technical challenges involved. Meanwhile, aquaculture also needs support for modernisation.

“Against this background, the administration has identified five possible areas for the fishing community and related stakeholders to put the Fund to good use, in furtherance of the objectives of placing the further development of the industry on a sustainable track. Projects not falling within such areas will also be considered as long as they are in line with the purpose of the Fund and meet the assessment criteria.

“The five areas are exploring new opportunities in the South China Sea, development of sustainable practices for fishing operations in Hong Kong waters, aquaculture development, accreditation and marketing of local fisheries products, and fisheries resources monitoring and enhancement.”

In vetting applications, the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund (the Advisory Committee) will give due consideration to the project needs, feasibility and expected outcomes. The projects should contribute in a direct and practical way towards the sustainable development of the local fisheries industry. The benefits they bring about must accrue to the local fisheries community as a whole.

In general, the projects should be non-profit-making, but commercial projects may also be considered. Applicants will be required to draw up detailed business plans and budgets for the Advisory Committee to scrutiny. Projects involving commercial elements will be funded on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis. The Government’s contribution will be limited to no more than 50 per cent of the total project cost.

Eligible applicants include legal entities that have demonstrated a close connection with the local fisheries industry such as local incorporated companies, registered fisheries co-operatives, non-profit-making fisheries organisations, non-governmental organisations or social enterprises, as well as academic and research institutions in Hong Kong.

Applications are accepted throughout the year and the Advisory Committee will meet regularly to vet the applications. Completed application forms, together with information of the applicant demonstrating their connection with the local fisheries industry, should reach the Secretariat for the Fund at least six months prior to the commencement of the project.

Application guidelines and forms can be downloaded from the AFCD website (www.afcd.gov.hk) while hard copy is available from the Secretariat for the Fund and the liaison offices of the Fish Marketing Organization.

Source: The Fish Site, 11/7/2014

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Update 108 Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Wild

Philippine authorities on Monday filed charges against nine of the 11 Chinese fishermen apprehended last week for allegedly poaching hundreds of endangered sea turtles in a shoal near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez said that the Chinese fishermen face as many as 20 years in prison if convicted for gathering “critically endangered” species, such as the Hawksbill turtle.

Two Chinese suspects were released because they are minors, he said. In addition, five Filipino fishermen accused of loading the marine turtles onto the Chinese vessel were charged with the illegal gathering and trafficking of endangered species.

Philippines authorities said they found 489 sea turtles—108 of them alive and 381 dead—on the two boats. The authorities inventoried the turtles Saturday after the two fishing vessels arrived in Puerto Princesa, having been towed by maritime police for five days, Mr. Rodriguez said.

The live turtles were immediately released to sea after they were photographed to assist in the prosecution of the Chinese and Filipino fishermen.

Seventeen of the live turtles were Hawksbill while 91 were Green Sea turtles. The Hawksbill is a critically endangered species of marine turtle, the poaching of which could trigger, upon a conviction, 12 to 20 years of imprisonment or a fine of $2,290 per act. Philippine environmental laws allow bail for suspects accused of poaching if they are foreigners.

Associated Press video from YouTube (12th May 2014)

The Philippines is a hotbed for poaching. Five of the seven species of sea turtles around the world can be found in the Philippines because of the plentiful sea-grass beds.

Aside from the Hawskbill and Green Sea turtles, other species found in the country include the Olive Ridley, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback, the other marine-turtle species most threatened with extinction.

Sea turtles are valued for their eggs and meat—used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisine—and in Chinese medicine. The Japanese are a major buyer of sea turtle shells, known as bekko, which are used for ornaments and jewelry.

It takes decades before a sea turtle reaches maturity, and only then will females breed and return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their eggs. Predators, loss of habitat and other environmental threats mean as few as one in every 1,000 hatchlings reaches adulthood.

(Source Wall Street Journal Online, 12th May 2014)

Hong Kong has one of the last remaining nesting populations of endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in southern China. According to a recent study (Ng et al., 2014) the number of nesting turtles observed in Hong Kong was relatively low compared with other sites in southern China, but the the number of eggs laid and intervals between nesting is comparable with that of other nearby sites. The nesting turtles are thought to be the survivors of a small population that was reduced by historical harvesting of eggs in Hong Kong. DNA analysis showed that populations in Hong Kong and Lanyu, Taiwan, are genetically different which means the two populations are somehow isolated from each other. So losing either of these populations would cause a loss of genetic diversity for this species in the region, which is bad news. By tracking local nesting turtles by with satellite tags their movements and feeding habitats in Vietnam and Hainan Island were discovered. The research urges to international cooperation and consistent dedicated research for the conservation and recovery of green turtles in the region.

Needless to say the poaching and slaughter of turtles in the region severely threatens an already endangered species.

Update on Sea Turtle Poachers Seizure by Philippines 8th May 2014

Philippine police seized a Chinese fishing vessel and detained its 11 crew members in South China Sea waters, claimed by both countries, in the latest escalation of their bitter maritime row.
National police spokesman Reuben Sindac said yesterday the 15-tonne boat was intercepted while fishing off Half Moon Shoal, west of Palawan, in what he said are Philippine waters.

The crew will be further charged with violating anti-poaching laws after a huge haul of 500 turtles was found on board, Sindac added.

But Beijing angrily responded that it has “undisputable sovereignty” over the Half Moon Shoal, which it calls the Ban Yue Reef, and urged the Philippines to “stop taking further provocative action.”

“Relevant authorities from China have arrived at the scene,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “We ask the Philippines side to give their explanation and deal with this case properly,” Hua added.

“We ask the Philippines side to release the vessel and the crew.”

Lying around 111 kilometers west of Palawan, the shoal is located on the eastern edge of the Spratlys and is believed to harbor vast oil and gas resources.

Sindac said the vessel was intercepted along with a Filipino-manned fishing boat that also had a catch of around 40 protected turtles.

Half of the turtles aboard the two boats were already dead.

The Filipino fishermen were also detained.

It was not clear whether the two boats were working together when they were caught.

Source: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 8/5/2014

500 turtles seized on a Chinese vessel by Philippines in the South China Sea

According to BBC News (7/5/2014) Philippine police have seized a Chinese fishing boat carrying 500 endangered sea turtles near the disputed Spratly islands in South China Sea. Its 11 crew
Members were detained.
China’s Xinhua state news agency said the fishing boat – named as Qiongqionghai 09063 – had been seized.
Sunstar reports that the Chinese vessel was carrying 120 live turtles and 234 dead turtles.
Hong Kong has recorded instances of Green sea turtles, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles (AFCD). Of these the endangered Green Sea turtle is known to breed in Hong Kong. Sea turtles have very long migration routes, so the turtles seized near the Spratlys could be on their way to nesting sites in Malaysia, gain an, Hong Kong or anywhere in the Pacific.
If you are interested in sea turtle conservation in China, Sea Turtles 911 has a good website with information and volunteering opportunities.

Two hawksbill turtles returned to sea

Press Release from Wednesday, June 27, 2012 from the AFCD Website (click here for original)

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) today (June 27) released two sub-adult hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the southern waters of Hong Kong. They were handed in to the AFCD in October 2010 and May 2012.

After initial assessment by the AFCD, the turtles were delivered to Hong Kong Ocean Park (Ocean Park) for appropriate veterinary treatment, where they have since been kept with constant monitoring and veterinary care. Ocean Park staff hand-fed the hawksbill turtles with squid, shrimp and fish, which form part of their natural diet.

“The first hawksbill turtle was found underweight and had abrasions on the carapace when it first arrived at Ocean Park in 2010. When the second turtle arrived in 2012, foreign objects such as zip ties and straws were found in its stool. It also showed signs of strained and stressed muscles. However, the turtles showed great improvement in their health and behaviour, and recovered well under our team’s close observation and intensive veterinary care,” the Chief Veterinarian of Ocean Park, Dr Paolo Martelli said.

During rehabilitation, the two turtles exhibited considerable growth in size and improvement in activity, and were finally deemed physically fit for release to the wild. They currently measure approximately 57 cm and 49 cm in carapace length and weigh about 15kg and 10kg respectively.


Before the turtles were released into the sea, the AFCD inserted microchips and metal tags with unique codes on their flippers for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to their carapaces. By tracing the oceanic movement and feeding grounds of hawksbill turtles, the AFCD can formulate appropriate protection measures and seek co-operation with relevant authorities to better conserve this critically-endangered species.

The AFCD is very thankful to the veterinarians and staff of Ocean Park for their assistance and efforts in taking care of the turtles, and will continue to work with Ocean Park in handling such cases.

In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). Of the five species of sea turtles that can be found in local waters, hawksbills are the rarest. Hawksbill turtles are renowned for their strong bird-like beak and beautiful honey-marble carapace.

Members of the public are urged to report any sighting or stranding of sea turtles to the department via the 1823 Call Centre to help protect them. The AFCD will continue to promote public engagement in sea turtle conservation through educational materials and activities.