Category Archives: Conservation

Rescued rare dolphin released back to sea

Xinhua reported on the 22nd of July (2017) that a rare rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), named Jiangjiang, was released back to sea earlier this week, two months after it beached itself and was rescued in Guangdong Province.


The 2.2-meter male dolphin was found stranded on the coast of Heisha Bay near the city of Jiangmen (200 km west of Hong Kong) on May 3. It was suffering breathing troubles, according to Yang Naicai, a vet who joined the rescue operation.


Rescuers checked the dolphin’s breathing, gave an injection of antibiotics, and provided food and medicine to help it regain its strength.

The animal was housed in a pool designated for dolphin rescue at the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin National Nature Reserve.


“We maintained round the clock monitoring, hoping for a miracle,” said Chen Hailiang, from the reserve.

The dolphin, which weighs around 100 kg, was released back to the sea on Thursday as its physical condition had returned to normal.

Although the rough-toothed dolphin, a national second class protected species, can be found in deep tropical, subtropical and temperate waters around the world, it is a rare visitor to Chinese coastal waters.

In 2014, a rough-toothed dolphin stranded in Guangdong died despite rescue efforts.

Dead Chinese White Dolphin Found in Macau

A Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) was found dead on the morning of the 19th of July (2017) floating in the sea near Cheoc Van beach in Coloane.

Local animal rights group Anima (Macau) was alerted to the presence of the deceased animal by a concerned citizen. Anima president, Albano Martins, speculated that the dolphin may have collided with a maritime vessel in the Pearl River Delta estuary.

The Anima president also said that Macau’s Marine and Water Bureau has retrieved the deceased animal and is arranging for the body to be disposed.

Sightings of dead dolphins off the coast of Macau are a relatively rare occurrence, but several have been documented in recent years.

11 Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Sea

On the 29th of June (2017) the AFCD (Agriculture Fisheries & Conservation Department) released 10 green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the southern waters of Hong Kong.

The turtles were among the 35 green turtles and one hawksbill turtle seized from a fish raft in Sok Kwu Wan Fish Culture Zone (Lamma Island) in September 2016.

The 10 green turtles and the hawksbill turtle weighed from 11.5 kilograms to 61 kg and measured about 45 centimetres to 82cm in carapace length. All of them were assessed by veterinarians of OPHK as being in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea. The other green turtles were already released in November 2016.

A green sea turtle released into the sea by AFCD staff

Before the turtles were released to the sea, they were tagged with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to the carapaces of the turtles. By tracking the movement and feeding grounds of green turtles in the sea, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of sea turtles. Satellite tracking revealed that the some of the turtles released in November 2016 headed south to the South China Sea via different routes, reaching Wanshan Archipelago, Dongsha, Nansha and Xisha Islands, Hainan Island and as far as Malaysia.

The green turtle and the hawksbill turtle are globally endangered and critically endangered species respectively. In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance . Of the five sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters, the hawksbill turtle is relatively rare and the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally.

Pregnant Chinese White Dolphin Found Dead On Lamma Island Beach

On the morning of the 2nd July (2017), a man fishing at Kat Tsai Wan, off the west coast of Lamma Island, found a 2.5 meter long pink dolphin washed up on the beach. The man told Apple Daily that he could tell from his boat that the animal was dead.

The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) response team visited the site and conducted a necropsy on the beach. The dolphin was an adult female and was carrying an unborn calf at full term.


The male calf measured 1.02 m in length,  was also dead. The foundation said in a statement that no net entanglement or evidence of physical trauma was found on either carcasses, and both were severely decomposed.


The OPCFHK team said the mother dolphin’s organs and flesh indicated that she was very healthy prior to her death. The team has took organ, blubber, and tissue samples for further testing, inlcuding for microplastics.

Hong Kong’s Only Marine Reserve Under Strain of Unruly Visitors

The SCMP reported yesterday that a surge in visitor numbers to the ecologically sensitive Cape D’Aguilar and its marine reserve has disrupted the work of scientists, with people even collecting animals and fishing illegally.

Quoting Professor Gray Williams of the Swire Institute of Marine Science research facility (SWIMS) it reported that a surge of visitors in the past few years to Cape D’Aguilar at the southeastern tip of Hong Kong Island has disrupted research and experiments and raised safety concerns.

Some of the damage caused was cited as treading on things, changing the water supply, pulling small seedlings out of their pods and not putting them back and so that they die and standing on animals and thereby killing them.

The researchers and students at the station also observed visitors collecting animals or fishing in the area, which is illegal as the area is a no-take marine reserve.

The research centre and nearby residences are private property but visitors have attempted to enter the buildings – some successfully – despite the “private property” signs . The centre has therefore put up barriers and installed locks, but people are still attempting to bypass them. Most visitors were generally “very reasonable” when confronted, but some refused to stop what they were doing and loud arguments with resulted, according to Williams.

Williams said he did not want to impose the “ultimate” solution of putting up a wall, because it would spoil the aesthetics of the place, but may have to consider it if the situation did not improve.

The area surrounding SWIMS at Cape d’Aguilar is a designated site of scientific interest by the government in 1991. SWIMS opened in November 1994 to conduct marine research in and around the marine reserve.

Around 2013 after a number of articles about Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse in local newspapers, researchers saw a marked increase in sightseers to the area . Unobscured by air and light pollution the area also saw many star-gazers who want to study a night sky . There are even websites arranging trips by tour groups, with some even listing the private research facility as a landmark to visit. All of this is putting increased pressure on the site’s ability to handle visitors.

Williams hoped that making people aware of the situation could help to minimise the impact their presence had on the area.
“Trying to go through education, to explain to people, that if you are to come down here then you need to be careful to make sure that [they] don’t disrupt the environment, because we can see that the environment has already been damaged by the number of people coming here,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department said its responsibility was to the marine reserve – the waters below the high tide mark – and not the coastal rocky area or other land areas in Cape D’Aguilar.

(My own commentary on this: Unlike the clear distinction of areas of responsibility in HK government departments, the marine habitats do not generally define so clearly. The cross-over from sea-to-land is not a distinct line but a continuum with dependencies on both sides. Many insects and land invertebrates will feed on marine detritus at low tide, many land plants disperse via the sea, and many marine animals depend on land-based organisms for food. It would be wise for government departments to recognize this and use a more inter-disciplinary approach to protect areas where two departments responsibilities meet instead of sticking to “their area”. The same incidentally applied to the air-pollution problem in HK, when the EPD was responsible for air pollution, but if you saw a ship bellowing out black smoke and reported it to the EPD, they could not do anything about it because that was the Marine Departments responsibility. However, I think this issue has since been addressed and there are inter-department groups now.

Ten Green Sea Turtles Returned to The Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released 10 green turtles seized in an earlier enforcement action in the southern waters of Hong Kong on Monday (November 15). 

The 10 green turtles are among the 35 green turtles and one hawksbill turtle seized from a fish raft in Sok Kwu Wan Fish Culture Zone on September 30. The turtles were assessed by vets at Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) and have been looked after there with constant monitoring and veterinary care.

 An AFCD spokesman said, “This is the largest batch sent to OPHK since it started helping to provide care for rescued sea turtles. The department is thankful to OPHK for making special arrangement to accommodate the sea turtles and the veterinarians and staff for taking care of them.”

The 10 green turtles weighed from 9.6 kilograms to 23kg and measured about 45 centimetres to 61cm in shell length. All of them were considered to be in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea. The AFCD will continue to work together with OPHK on the other turtles seized in the operation and release them in batches later according to their health condition and the weather.

A green sea turtle being fitted with tracking devices

Before the turtles were released to the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to the carapaces of some of the turtles. By tracking the movement and feeding grounds of green turtles in the sea, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of sea turtles.

Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via 1823. 

Hong Kong Underwater Photo & Video Competition Winners 2016 Announced

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition 2016, jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Hong Kong Underwater Association, announced its winning entries.

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition, in its 5th year now, received 443 entries this year, featuring marine ecology, habitats and marine life in Hong Kong waters.

An AFCD spokesman said, “Entries over the years have showcased the beauty of marine life and habitats in Hong Kong waters, and have helped promote the conservation of the marine environment.”

The event comprised a photo competition and a video competition. In the photo competition the categories were Macros/Close-ups and Standard/Wide Angle. In addition to prizes for champions and runners-up in each group, there were Special Prizes for Junior Underwater Photographers presented by the judging panel to encourage less experienced underwater photographers to participate in the competition.

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Macro/Close-up Category Winner: Vania KAM
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Macro/Close-up Category 1st runner-up: AU Wai Chi
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Macro/Close-up Category: 2nd runner-up: Thomas LAM
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Macro/Close-up Category Junior Underwater Photographer Winner: SO Chun Fung
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Thomas LAM
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Thomas LAM
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Tang Wai Chung
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Vania KAM
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Macro/Close-up Category Merity Award: Tang Wai Chung
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Vania KAM
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Wan Sheung Yue
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Lau Pong Wing Atim
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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: LEUNG Yu Yick

 

 

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Macro/Close-up Category Merit Award: Leung Wun Cheung
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Winner: Yu Wing Chung
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category 1st runner-up: Wan Sheung Yue
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category 2nd runner-up: Thomas LAM
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Junior Underwater Photographer Prize: SO Chun Fung
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Thomas LAM
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Ho Tsz Hung
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Markus Klemmer
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Vania KAM
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Lau Man Chi Vanessa
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Lo Wai Yip Derek
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Poon Yiu Nam David
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Yu Wing Chung
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Poon Yiu Nam David
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Standard/Wide-Angle Category Merit Award: Lau Pong Wing Atim

I have added the winning video entries to this Youtube playlist. The winning photos as well as the video entries can also be found on the AFCD Chinese page for the competition and the competitions Facebook page.