"Save Our Seas"
Thirty members and guests gathered at The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 20 June to hear Markus Shaw, Chairman of the Worldwide Fund For Nature Hong Kong, speak on their SOS campaign. Mr Shaw began by pointing out that fishing is in crisis around the world. In the 1950s. 70 per cent of the world's fisheries were classified as "undeveloped" but by the year 2000, 60 per cent were "fully exploited" and 20 per cent were "collapsed". Over fishing dates from the 1960s, when there was a massive increase in catches due to improvements in fishing technology. At the present rate of decline, commercial fisheries will be exhausted by 2048.
One of the most deadly threats is posed by inshore trawlers. One pass of such a trawler can destroy 20 per cent of life on the seabed, and the practice is banned in most countries, including
. However, it is not banned in
Hong Kong and it is estimated that each square metre
of China is trawled on average three times a day.
The average weight of each fish caught in Tolo Harbour Hong Kong waters is just 10 grams — useless for
feeding the population, so most of the catch is used to produce fish food for the local fish farms.
The WWF campaign is calling on the HKSAR government to ban inshore trawling and create reserves which will be designated as no-take zones. At present, fishing is not prohibited in our marine reserves, but studies show that no-take zones allow fish to grow to maturity within their boundaries and then spread out to improve the fishing in surrounding areas.
WWF Hong Kong has proposed making Port Shelter and Tolo Harbour no-take zones. It claims that, although this is only 9.8 per cent of our water area, it will demonstrate to local fishermen and to government the benefits of such a scheme. Furthermore, it would turn these areas into `underwater wonderlands' which would attract divers and others, and create jobs for the fishermen affected by the loss of fishing areas. Markus Shaw is calling for a new economic model based upon recreation and tourism, and is actively promoting his ideas to government and the local fishing community. WWF Hong Kong has even organised seminars where local fishermen are invited to meet fishermen from New Zealand and the Philippines who can describe to them the success of such schemes in those countries.
Mr Shaw concluded by pointing out that the world's population has tripled since 1930, and feeding such vast numbers is only sustainable if our resources are managed in new and imaginative ways.
The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session which indicated that the talk had generated a great deal of interest and concern. At the end of the evening, Branch Chairman John Wilson presented Mr Shaw with a Nautical Institute plaque to thank him for taking the time to give us such a thought-provoking paper: (see picture.)
Captain Alan Loynd FNI
Seaways August 2007