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Painted Sweetlips and quiz!

A good post from fellow HK undersea blogger ‘green blue sea’ about the lovely sweet lips fish of HK.

green blue sea ∙ 蔚藍碧海

A strong contender for the ‘fish with the sexiest name’ award, the sweetlips are a big family of around 140 species, many of which are very pretty. If you’ve ever dived much in tropical reefs you will probably recognise these fairly large and unmistakeable spotted or stripey fish. They do indeed have big lips, and big doe eyes as well, giving them a bit of a dopey look. Here are some I spotted in the Philippines:

Left: Lined Sweetlips at Tubbataha Reefs; Right: Ribbon Sweetlips at Kerikite Island (and spot the odd one out — it’s a Painted Sweetlips)

In Hong Kong waters we have a few resident species of sweetlips. They are shyer and less flashy than the tropical species and a 2013 fish survey concluded that three out of the four local species they recorded were either ‘uncommon’ or ‘rare’. The one common species which local divers are most likely to…

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Whale Shark Spotted off Sai Kung

On Monday morning (20/7/15) at around 9am, a fisherman was out on his 20-foot-long boat off the shores of Tung Lung Chau Island, south of Sai Kung, when he spotted what he thought to be a shark.

It was a gentle whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean which feeds on plankton with the occasional small squid or fish.

Once the fisherman realised that the animal posed him no harm, he observed it and took photos for the next half hour before it swam away, reports Headline News.

Whale sharks can reach up to about 13 metres in length and 21 tons in weight.

The last time a whale shark was sighted in Hong Kong was in 2012.

The president of the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong believes that the trawling ban has led to healthier fish populations. He predicts that in the future, we’ll be seeing even more sharks in Hong Kong.

Spotted Seal Pup Dies at Ocean Park

Ocean Park is investigating what the accidental death of a year-old male spotted seal.

The seal died during an incident at about 2.30pm on Monday (1/6/2015) during a backwash cycle on filters at the Polar Adventure attraction which opened in 2012 and features different species of penguins, walruses, seals and sealions. In subtropical Hong Kong the energy-intensive attraction is kept at 8-10 degrees C for species native to the South Pole, with 15 to 17 degrees C for North Pole species.

The accident appeared to be the result of the animal becoming trapped against an outlet during the backwash operation, but the exact cause of death had not been confirmed after an examination of the body was carried out on Monday.

The dead seal had been born in captivity at the park.

Animal deaths are quite a frequent occurrence at Ocean Park. In 2014, 59 fish died at the Ocean Aquarium due to human error. Also in 2014, 2 rare Chinese sturgeons died from viral infections.

Waterspout over Pearl River off Shenzhen Bao’an Airport

Apple Daily and the Standard reported a ‘tornado’ as Shenzhen was battered by thunderstorms and rain yesterday (11th May 2015). As the tornado was over the Pearl River Estuary and not actually on land it wasn’t a tornado, but a waterspout. 

The last report of a waterspout in the waters of Shenzhen Bay was in July 2010.

Does the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant Affect the Marine Environment?

As most HKers know there is a nuclear power plant less than 100km away in nearby Longgang District of Shenzhen. Have you ever wondered wether it’s leaking radioactivity into the sea close to HK?

Well, a study about to be published in the Journal of Environmentsl Radioactivity looked at a sediment core just off the water spout if the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to see if the power plant had caused any new radioactivity in the sediment beyond normal background radiation. A sediment core is sort of like a layered-cake with each layer capturing the chemistry of the environment at a certain time. The deeper you dig the further back in time you go. In the deep sea at 5000 meters a sediment slice of 1 mm can be the result of 1000 years of sedimentation, but in coastal environment it’s more like 10 cm per year depending on local sediment inputs.


Core samples – chemical time machines.
The answer to the question of extra radiation from the Daya Bay NPP seems to be no. No new radiation was added to the marine ecosystem, as nothing more than natural background radiation was found in the layers following the operation of the NPP. But the researchers did find a substantial impact on the marine ecosystem from the NPP’s cooling water discharge which caused changes in the level of organic carbon in the sediment. NPP’ require a lot of cooling water taken from nearby seawater. This water should not come into contact with radioactive material but should just absorb heat. The heated water is then discharged back into the sea where it raises the sea temperature locally creating localised changes to the environment. 

But at least we can rest at ease that we are not eating radioactive seafood! (unless it’s imported from the Fukushima Coast…)

Lionfish in Hong Kong

green blue sea ∙ 蔚藍碧海

This Hong-Kong based blog has not actually featured much about Hong Kong diving recently due to my Philippines trip! Moreover, I was supposed to go on a local dive today in Hong Kong but it was cancelled. Instead, (and partly to console myself) let me continue with my series of posts about Hong Kong marine life that divers can spot. After the adorable Hong Kong Pufferfish, I would like to talk about an unmistakeable and beautiful fish that all divers will recognise: the lionfish.

Zebra turkeyfish at night Hong Kong

Lionfishes are members of Scorpaenidae family (Scorpionfishes). These fishes are among the world’s most venomous fish species. The spines on their fins, with venom glands at their base, can inflict a very painful wound to humans. In Hong Kong, there are two kinds of fish that divers refer to as ‘lionfish’. When you know the difference, they are easy to tell apart.

The Zebra Turkeyfish

Lionfish Zebra Turkeyfish Hong Kong

The most common of the…

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Injured Chinese White Dolphin Caught and Under Care of Ocean Park

The Chinese white dolphin injured in Hong Kong waters in January (2015) was caught last Friday (6th of February) after 18 days of search efforts and sent to Ocean Park for treatment.

The animal, nicknamed ‘Hope’ , was found off Shek Pik, on southern Lantau Island, by experts from Ocean Park (amusement park) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department who had been searching for the dolphin since January 20.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

The team captured it using a specially adapted net and a sedative to slow the dolphin down. The  preliminary health assessment found multiple serious wounds with three exposed vertebrae in front of its tail. Also the caudal (tail) vertebrae in front of its fluke was cut through and Hope suffered at least 4 deep transversal wounds on its tail stock, extending back from its dorsal fin toward the tail.

Over the next few days Hope will have 24-hour care and undergo a thorough examination – including X-rays, ultrasound, bacterial swabs and blood tests – and receive medical treatment at the hands of experts from the park, the conservation department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

The dolphin is a male, 2.3 metres long and weighs 135 kg. It was first spotted by a group of University of Hong Kong students off the Lantau village of Tai O on January 16. They saw severe cuts on its fin and back, probably caused by the propeller of an outboard motor.

Some marine conservation specialists argued that it should be left to recover in the wild. Images of the wounded animal were circulated on the internet, causing widespread concern and pressure that probably led to the current capture.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

Chinese white dolphins are a protected species in the city, with only 60 of them living in Hong Kong waters.

Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, who inspected the dolphin after its rescue, said there was no immediate threat to its survival, but judging from its condition it faced a long road to recovery.

Yesterday’s success was the sixth attempt to capture the animal. The society provided a boat for the search team to use in the operation, and sent its own team to observe the process. Asked whether the rescue procedure had caused any further injury to the dolphin, Hung said his society had shot a video of the rescue process for the park to release and it was better to leave that judgment to the public. Watch the capture of the dolphin posted by Apple Daily here.

HK Marine Life’s Opinion:

It is questionable whether the dolphin can recover from such severe injuries. Only the veterinarian and experts can judge that. But the public should know that Ocean Park for many years ran a so-called captive breeding program for dolphins that in reality managed to kill 10 times more dolphins than were born. In fact the survivorship of healthy dolphins in captivity is preety poor. A study published in 1994 examined survivorship of dolphins and whales at Ocean Park (article online here), and showed that Ocean park was not unique – all captive dolphins and whales have relatively poor survivorship.
The dolphins injuries look extremely severe. A severed or partially severed vertebrae in front of the fluke would deprive it of proper locomotion and condemn it to early death. Now if the dolphin were to die as a direct or indirect result of these injuries, the humane question to ask would be how and where should it die? In the wild where it grew up where its social contacts are? Or alone in a clinical tank at Ocean Park.
Dr Hung has been very cautious in his statements. Part of the reason may be his well-founded opposition to Ocean Park’s dolphin facilities which serve to foster public appetite for dolphin shows and captive dolphins (see SCMP articel here).