Dynamite Fishing in Daya Bay

Fishermen in Daya Bay – home to Hong Kong’s closest nuclear power plant – face an official crackdown on their use of home-made bombs to blast fish out of the water.

So-called ‘blast fishing’ is outlawed in many countries because of the destructive and unpredictable effect it can have on the marine ecosystems that support fish stocks.

But the practise is nonetheless thriving in Daya Bay, less than 100km northeast of Hong Kong. Visitors there can even pay to go out with the fishermen and throw a few bombs in the water themselves.

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The pictures below were published by the Daily Mail in an area described by travel guides as ‘an unpolluted, quiet paradise for sea-lovers’ and show fishermen hurling explosives into the water to stun or kill fish.

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Their target are yellow croakers (Larimichthys polyactis) that they head out to catch every November. But the explosions also kill other sea life in the area and severely damage the underlying habitat.

Underwater shockwaves from the explosions stun fish and rupture their swim bladders – the tiny gas-filled organs that help fish to control their buoyancy. The rupturing causes an abrupt loss of buoyancy, so while a small number of fish float to the surface, many more sink to the sea floor, where they join any other marine organisms indiscriminately killed by the blasts.

But this irresponsible practise has now apparently become a tourist attraction. An angler who unwittingly signed up to a trip in Dayawan Bay, said:

We saw an advert promising ‘fishing action. We’d been out for about 30 minutes when the men told us they were going to feed the fishes. They were laughing and stuffing the bottles with powder and what looked like stones. They then threw them overboard and just seconds later there was a huge series of explosions.
And then all these dead fish appeared floating on the surface which the fishermen hauled in with nets. I was absolutely disgusted and shocked beyond belief.

A spokesman for the Chinese Fishery Bureau said: ‘These fishermen make most of their money from taking tourists out to watch them at work. We are attempting to crack down on it though.’

Source: MailOnline, 1/12/2014

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Size Matters – Fish No.2: the Yellow Croaker

Scientific Name: Larimichtys crocea or rather polyactis!

Common Names: Yellow Croaker
Origin: China
Date: 2nd August 2012
Where: Fusion in Discovery Bay
Weight: 0.762 catty (460g) – 2 fish
Cost: $54.90 (72$ per catty)
Recipe: steamed in lemongrass, sesame seed oil, kaffir lime leaves, coriander and ginger
WWF Sustainable Seafood Guide: Think twice

Ah what a schoolboy marine biologist error! I thought I bought a Large Yellow Croaker Larimichthys crocea when really I bought a Small Yellow CroakerLarimichthys polyactis! You see the former occurs in Hong Kong waters and is on my list, but the latter is the occurs further north in the East China Sea, not in Hong Kong and is not even on my list! When it comes to Yellow Croakers size matters.
But I am not going to be academically pedantic about it and disqualify this meal. I can not imagine that the Large and Small Yellow Croaker taste very different, so this blog stands. Also I don’t want fish stocks to suffer an additional hit from my idiotic mistake…
I learned some valuable lessons from this: 1) read the label properly, 2) WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is very inadequate as L. polyactis is not on there at all, and 3) ethically eating fish is very difficult!

This fish (Large Yellow Croaker) was on my list again marked ‘Think Twice’ – well, I thought twice, perhaps I should also have read the label twice!

What I was supposed to eat:
Larimichthys crocea, called the Croceine croaker, Large yellow croaker or just the Yellow croaker, is a species of croaker native to the western Pacific, generally in temperate waters such as the Taiwan Strait. Males can reach 80 cm. Once an abundant commercial fish off China, Korea and Japan, its population collapsed in the 1970s due to overfishing.Fishing boats landed 56,088 t of Larimichthys crocea in 2008. The species is aquafarmed in China, and farms have experienced outbreaks of infections. L. crocea is an important enough commercial species to have its genome mapped.
WWF says: Yellow croaker sold in HK is from fish farms (mariculture). Fish farms can only be set up in designated places in Hong Kong and China. The industry is beneficial to local communities. However, the management measures in place to address the environmental impact of yellow croaker farms are weak, and enforcement is poor. The high density of fish promotes disease spread, land-based pond systems discharge the untreated pond effluent (excess feed, faeces) into the sea directly, and the feed consists of smaller often overfished and trawled species.

Herklots & Lin about the Yellow Croaker
Herklots & Lin about the Yellow Croaker

What I actually ate:
Larimichthys polyactis, called the redlip croaker, small yellow croaker, little yellow croaker or yellow corvina, is a species of croaker native to the western Pacific, generally in temperate waters such as the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. They stay in shallow waters above 120 m but avoid brackish conditions. Individual males can reach 42 cm.
Once an abundant commercial fish off China, Korea and Japan, its population collapsed in the 1970s due to overfishing. Global catch has since rebounded, with 388,018 t landed in 2008. Salted and dried, they are a food product known as gulbi (굴비) in Korean. Yeonggwang gulbi is a prized delicacy, selling for over $100 a bunch.

My little beauties
My little beauties

And here are my two beauties before I took them home.

Anyway…What a beautiful fish! Look at that yellow underside! I needed two as it’s quite a small fish ~ 10 inches long.

The meal: steamed Thai-style (ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, sesame seed oil) with stir-fry vegetables in garlic and soy sauce

Steamed (Wrong) Yellow Croaker
Steamed (Wrong) Yellow Croaker

My verdict: 6/10 – a decent fish. But it looks better than it tastes.
Fish was good, but had some more small bones in it and was quite small, so not as good as Pompano. A bit too soggy as it fell apart, but that’s more because I used a deeper steaming dish than last time so it cooked in its own juice more. Recipe was ok. Perhaps I should have had the salted or sun-dried version as it is very important as a salted or dried fish in China, and the Chinese must know best how to prepare their native fish.

The wife’s verdict: 6/10 (we agreed?)
Not as fleshy as the Pompano, more like other white fish. Recipe was better than last week.

And now the aftermath…

Thank you for feeding me wrong yellow croaker
Thank you for feeding me wrong yellow croaker

Stay tuned for an eventual sequel…

“Yellow Croaker – this time its the Big One”

Next week’s likely target: Gold-Thread (Nemipterus spp.) or Japanese Sea-bream (Lateolabrax japonicus)