Category Archives: Conservation

New Acoustic Monitoring Programme for Dolphins

According to a Marine Department notice, acoustic monitoring stations will be temporarily established on the seabed at Lung Kwu Tan (NW New Territories near Tuen Mun) and Siu Ho Wan (N. Lantau) for the next 9 months.

The acoustic monitoring stations will collect data on dolphin vocalisations in the area. They are structures of pyramid shape with a height of about 0.8 m and a square base of 1 x 1 m. Its bottom will be embedded in the seabed.

Regular diving operations for inspecting and retrieving data from the acoustic monitors will be carried out by a work boat in the above locations every month.

Source: Government of Hong Kong SAR Marine Department Notice No.12 of 2016 dated 22 January 2016

Dead Finless Porpoise Off Shek O

A locally-rare finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) was found dead in the waters off Shek O, last week (19th November 2015). 

The adult female finless porpoise was discovered on Wednesday at Tai Long Pai, bringing the total number of cetacean strandings this year up to 35. It measured 162 centimetres in length and was already severely decomposed. Dissection revealed a fishing rod in its stomach, but the cause of death is still unknown.

Marine Police received information that the corpse of a finless porpoise had been spotted floating near Shek O. The porpoise was then collected and brought to Marine Police Regional Headquarters at Sai Wan Ho, where Ocean Park Conservation Foundation’s Cetacean Stranding Response Team took on the cadaver for autopsy.

Elsewhere in China the Global Times reports another finless porpoise washed up dead in Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province. Poyang Lake is a freshwater lake which along with the Dongting Lake is host to an estimated 500 finless porpoises. This stranding brings the total for Poyang Lake for 2015 to 5.

Dead Green Turtle Found with Plastic in Stomach

A green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was found dead in Sai Kung over the weekend, apparently after ingesting too much trash.
Click here for the Coastal Watch HK Facebook page with images of the turtle.

On Saturday (24 Oct), the lifeless body of a green turtle was spotted on a beach at Pak Lap village, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The turtle’s body was said to have been dragged by stray dogs and its stomach mauled. An examination revealed that the stomach was full of litter.

The trash found inside the turtle, which was about 40-50 centimeters long, included nylon string and plastic bags.

It was the first time that evidence has been found in Hong Kong of green turtles consuming marine litter the report cited the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as saying.

After looking at the pictures of the turtle’s body, Chong Dee-hwa, the founder of the Hong Kong Ichthyological Society, believes the green turtle was a female aged around 10 years.

Patrick Yeung, project manager of the Coastal Watch Project under the WWF, said the case can be taken as evidence that sea turtles in Hong Kong are eating a lot of trash, which is a worrying situation.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was quoted as saying that it has been informed about the case and that it will send an officer to look into the matter.

The green turtle is a protected species in Hong Kong. The beach area in Sham Wan on Lamma Island and nearby shallow waters is one of the last nesting sites of the highly endangered green turtles of southern China.

Since 1999, the area was being closed to the public from June to October every year to enable the turtles to carry out their nesting activities.

Chinese White Dolphin spotted in Pearl River near Guangzhou

As reported by several news outlets this week, a Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis) – aluas Indopacific Humpback Dolphin or ‘pink dolphin’ – was spotted near Guangzhou in the Pearl River on Wednesday the 21st of October. This drew some crowds as the dolphin stayed for about an hour. Conservation staff later used sonar equipment to try to herd it back out towards the sea -apparently with some success.

  
This story is however quite hyped-up, because these dolphins live near estuaries and previous studies have shown they move further into the estuary in the dry winter months when less freshwater is flushed into the sea by the Pearl River. In summer when the heavy rains come and the river swells the dolphins range extends further out. This is likely because they are following fish stocks that themselves track a line of salinity which mobmves in and out of the estuary with the seasons. Some fish like the flathead mullet (Mugil cephalus) commonly sold in fish markets also move in and out of fresh and seawater depending on their stage in life.

Speaking of which, I saw another prize catch of a mullet on the central waterfront yesterday. It’s a bigger fish than I have seen in any market at about 40 cm and probably 2+ kg – it drew a small crowd and plenty of mobile phone cameras. congratulations to the lucky angler!

  

Extend restricted zone at Lamma turtle beach to keep out junk parties, urge green groups

A wider restricted area in southern Lamma would keep out the noisy junk parties that threaten the nesting site of rare creatures

It’s a sunny September day and half a dozen junks and pleasure boats are anchored in a scenic inlet on southern Lamma Island.
House music is booming and banana boat-tugging speedboats zip across the bay, while those with the energy make the 50-metre swim to shore – unknowingly committing an illegal act by frolicking on the sandy shores of Sham Wan beach.
The beach is one of the few regular nesting sites for endangered green sea turtles in southern China and is a restricted area during the breeding season between June and October. It was designated a site of special scientific interest in 1999.
Illegal entry is liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000, but that’s only if nature wardens are able to stop such violations.
Scientists and green groups want the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to ramp up protection efforts by expanding the 0.5-hectare restricted zone to the entire bay to keep out junk parties.
A study by the Eco-Education and Resources Centre between 2013 and 2015 recorded anywhere between 12 and 17 boats anchored in the bay at weekends. Average noise levels went as high as 80 decibels, similar to a police siren, in some parts of the bay.
Green turtles are known for their migratory behaviour and loyalty to feeding sites and nesting grounds. Tracking efforts show they usually swim to Wanshan Archipelago, Fujian waters, the Pratas Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Philippines after visiting Hong Kong.
“Nesting sea turtles are easily affected by human activity,” said ERC science manager Dr Michelle Cheung Ma-shan.

  

“If a turtle is put off from approaching the beach, it will be forced to lay its eggs underwater, where they will die.”
There have already been notable drops over the years. Between 1998 and 2006, there were 14 records of nesting turtles in Sham Wan. But only two have been documented since 2006, with the last sighting in 2012.
Floating markers similar to ones used in marine parks could be set up to demarcate the entire bay as a protected area.

  

The ultimate goal is to establish a marine park in hopes that strengthened conservation efforts can bring back sea turtles in greater numbers, says Ken Ching See-ho, the ERC’s founder and director.
“The first step is to expand the restricted area under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance.”
Cheung said nature wardens should be patrolling the beach to keep people out, but their field studies showed they were only present about “60 to 70 per cent of the time”.
Ching said the department could look to successful examples of turtle protection areas overseas, such as the Sandakan Turtle Island Park in Sabah, Malaysia, and a protected area in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands.
Green Power chief executive Dr Man Chi-sam said Hong Kong’s efforts at turtle conservation were “very behind” and “very passive”. “[The findings] also reflect the low public awareness and understanding of this species in Hong Kong,” he said.
A department spokesman said regular patrols were conducted in the area to control unauthorised entry and to monitor the nesting activities of green turtles. “We will step up patrols and put up more warning signs to alert the public not to enter during the restricted period.”

Source: SCMP, 15 Oct 2015

6-Foot Black-Tip Reef Shark Caught by Handline in Victoria Harbour – This Day in 1932

On the 9th of October 1932: a 6 foot 6 inch, 186 lbs black-tip reef shark (Carcharinus melanopterus) was caught by fishermen off th Kowloon Docks (between present day Hung Hom and the Laguna Verde residential blocks). It was caught on a hand line made of hemp with a half-pound snapper as bait on a large iron hook. The fisherman was definitely trying to catch a shark and had a large bait and strong tackle on purpose. The sea was choppy, a fresh N.E. wind was blowing and few small fish were about. The previous week a number of shark were about off Kowloon Docks and on 25th September […] at least 50 snapper were lost through sharks taking them before they had been pulled up to the surface. This particular fish was played 20 minutes, pulled in to within 2 feet of the surface and then harpooned. It was not pulled on board but was lashed to the side of the sam pan. Market value about $7.00 – roughly equal to HKD 2,280  today. Stunning to think that shark was abundant enough locally to cost that little: a whole 6-foot, 84.3 kg black-tip reef shark for only HKD 2,280! Compare this with a recently quoted wholesale price for 1 kg of shark’s fin in Guangzhou (roughly  comparable to the shark discussed here) of USD 960 or HKD 7,480! Why the difference? Rarity. Sharks have become so rare, that the prices are soaring and they face more and more risk of extinction from over fishing.

Two Green Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released two juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday (September 21).
The turtles were found by members of the public at the Ma Wan Public Pier and Victoria Harbour in September 2013 and July this year. After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) for veterinary assessment and have since been looked after at OPHK.
They weighed 8.4 kilograms and 26kg and measured about 42 and 60 cm in shell length. Both were in good condition, indicating that they were ready to be returned to sea. 

Before the release into the sea, the AFCD tagged them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification and attached satellite transmitters to their shells. Tracking their movements and feeding grounds provides the AFCD with valuable data to formulate appropriate conservation measures and it can then share its findings with other conservation authorities for better conservation of sea turtles.
Green sea turtles are a globally endangered species. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department by calling 1823 to help protect them. 

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 sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters, the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally.