Category Archives: Corals

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.

South China Sea Reef Destroyers Want Your Money

According to a recent FT.com article the company responsible for most of the destruction of coral reefs and reef habitat in the disputed Spratly Islands is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and is planning an overseas listing.

China Communications Construction Company (HK:1800), a large state-owned infrastructure group, announced in March that it was integrating its three dredging assets into a new company, CCCC Dredging, which it would eventually list overseas. That entity was set up in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone on Wednesday.

China’s dredging programme has created about half a dozen islands in the South China Sea with deepwater harbours and at least one airstrip.

In the past 18 months, according to the US defence secretary, at least 2,000 acres of land have been reclaimed — more than has been done in 60 years by other claimants to the territory, including Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Satellite images analysed by IHS Jane’s, the defence consultancy, show that Tianjin Dredging Company, one of CCCC Dredging’s three subsidiaries, operates most of the giant barges that have been digging sand from the seabed and piling it on remote coral atolls with names such as Mischief Reef, Suba Reef and Fiery Cross.

The flotation plans are curious for secretive Tianjin. A listing would require greater transparency and focus more attention on its activities.

In March CCCC said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where it has been listed since 2006, that it “intends to seek listing of CCCC Dredging overseas at an appropriate market timing”.

Hongkongers and potential overseas investors should be aware that CCCC is not an ethical investment. 

Source: FT,com June 11th, 2015

Vietnam Also Guilty of Destroying Reefs in S. China Sea

It is not just China destroying reefs in the South China Sea by reclaiming land to form island outposts to boost territorial claims. Vietnam is also reclaiming land by dumping enormous amounts of sand on two reefs destroying coral communities and changing the local ecology and likely adversely affecting fish stocks.

The photographs, shared with Reuters by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), show an expansion of the land area of Vietnamese-controlled Sand Cay and West London Reef in the Spratly archipelego and the addition of buildings.

 

Sandy Cay (largest islet in the image) is small islet in the South China Sea occupied by Vietnam. it is visited by seabirds and was home to a rich marine diversity.
 

The director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (http://amti.csis.org/), said the work included military installations and appeared to have started before China began a flurry of reclamation projects last year. “On one site, it has constructed a significant new area that was formerly under water and at another it has used land reclamation to add acreage to an existing island,” Rapp-Hooper said.

The images showed that Vietnam had reclaimed about 65,000 square meters (699,654 square feet) of land at West London Reef and 21,000 square meters (226,042 square feet) at Sand Cay. This compared to 900,000 square meters (9.6 million square feet) reclaimed by China at a single reef, Fiery Cross.
 
Satellite images show that since about March 2014, China had conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and was constructing a military-sized air strip on one artificial island and possibly a second on another.

It appears that claimants to the South China Sea have entered into a land building race that destroys ecology and depletes fish stocks as a result. There can be no real winners in such a race – everybody will lose.

Illegal Tourism & Poaching of Endangered Species in the Paracel Islands

Photographs posted online recently show Chinese tourists posing with endangered species off the Paracel Islands, a disputed area of the South China Sea. Tourists were posing with red coral, thresher sharks and other fish according to the China News Service . All three thresher shark species have been recently listed as vulnerable to extinction by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The photos were widely condemned by internet users on the mainland, and raised concerns among conservationists.

The Crescent Group of the Paracel Islands (Image: WikiCommons)
The Crescent Group of the Paracel Islands (Image: WikiCommons)

The authorities have since pledged to crack down on “illegal tourist activity”. Feng Wenhai, the deputy mayor of Sansha said that a task force of police, national security agencies and the coastguard would target illegal tourism boats operating in the area. Other officials and fishermen would apparently also carry out patrols to search for such boats according to Feng.

A tour operator in Hainan province who arranges trips to the Paracel Islands told the South China Morning Post that tourists who wanted to go fishing often chartered illegal boats costing much more than authorised cruises. “They need to find their own charter vessels and gather enough people as the cost is quite high, normally tens of thousands of yuan,” he said.

Given recent Japanese accusation of red coral poaching in disputed waters against China’s government-subsidized fishing fleet and the high-profile arrest and conviction of Chinese fisherman poaching close to 500 endangered sea turtles in Philippine waters, the statement by Feng Wenhai has almost no credibility. How after all can the government control illegal fishing and poaching by tourists when it can’t even stop its own government-funded fishing fleet from raping the sea and ignoring all rules?

In 2012, amid intensifying territorial disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, China established the city of Sansha to administer the disputed Paracels – known as Xisha in Chinese – and the disputed Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank in the South China Sea. That was two years after the Chinese authorities announced plans to develop the tourism industry in the Paracels.

Map showing the poisition of the Paracels Islands in the South China Sea (Image: WikiCommons)
Map showing the position of the Paracels Islands in the South China Sea (Image: WikiCommons)

The first tourist cruises in 2013 were run by state-owned operators aboard the “Coconut Princess” and set sail from Sanya , the capital of Hainan Island. The four-day, three-night cruises to three of the islets cost from 4,000 yuan (HK$5,000) to 10,000 yuan. However, they are only open to mainland Chinese – foreigners, tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and those with criminal records are not allowed.

Satellite Image Shows Reef Destruction in the South China Sea

A report from US information company IHS has confirmed earlier reports that China has been dredging to create an island about 3,000 metres long and 200-300 metres wide on Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly Islands. The reef, called Yongshu in Chinese, was previously underwater.

In the space of three months China has turned the reef into an island by dredging soil and sand from the seabed and dumping it on top. The island, shown in a satellite image obtained by IHS, will be large enough to accommodate China’s first airstrip in the Spratly Islands when completed.

“The land reclamation at Fiery Cross is the fourth such project undertaken by China in the Spratly Islands in the last 12-18 months and by far the largest in scope,” the report said.

A harbour is also under construction to the east of the reef, which appears to have the capacity for tankers and naval warships.

The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei. All but Brunei have asserted their own claims by building structures on reefs and shoals.

State-run Global Times said the reclamation projects had been undertaken to improve living conditions for soldiers stationed in the South China Sea, quoting an anonymous commander. The commander said land reclamation was necessary because soldiers had been forced to patrol in sea water as their stations occupied most of the available space on reefs and were too confined.

Boo-hoo, the station is too cramped, so let’s destroy a coral reef by smothering it with sediment. Clearly no one mentioned the environmental damage and loss of fisheries to the military. All this while countries like Australia are trying to save reefs…its sad day for planet Earth again.

The Silent Destruction of a South China Sea Coral Reef

In an article published today (21/10/2014) the SCMP details how a disputed reef in the South China Sea has been transformed into the largest island in the Spratlys. (“From reef to biggest island in Spratlys, and China’s not done yet at Fiery Cross“). Coral reefs are the predominant structure of these islands; the Spratly group contains over 600 coral reefs in total.

Fiery Cross – the reef – is China strategically important to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and it has been using reclamation to build it into an island to bolster its claim with a vital outpost for the Chinese military and civilian commercial activities to be based there. Fiery Cross Reef is about 740 nautical miles south of the Chinese mainland, but closer to the Vietnamese coast.

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Last week, Taiwan’s top intelligence official, publicly said that Beijing was conducting seven construction projects in the South China Sea.

Wang Hanling, an expert on the South China Sea from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Fiery Cross Reef now nearly covered about 1 sq km and reclamation work would probably continue.

Over the weekend, Chinese website Guancha.cn published a report saying Fiery Cross Reef had been upgraded to an island. It cited unnamed sources and satellite images from DigitalGlobe taken between late September and October 16. It said it was now bigger than Taiping island. However, Jin from Renmin University said it was unlikely the reef would be renamed an island, since it “would involve international law and would be too complicated”.

But among all the discussion of the strategic, military and geographical questions, one issue that should concern us all was completely omitted. The People’s Republic of China has clandestinely destroyed a reef in the South China Sea by dumping sand and rubble onto it and obliterating coral and marine life. All this has only now come out and assessing the damage to get a true picture will be almost impossible because according to China it isn’t doing anything and it’s virtually guaranteed they will not let any foreign scientists visit Fiery Cross. So while the West is doing its best to protect, conserve and rehabilitate reefs, China has just secretly destroyed one. This is the real news item that should have been the focus of the article.

Hong Kong Divers Damage Corals

A new study published this year has found that divers cause significant damage to corals on Hong Kong reefs. At most of the locations studied, the percentage of broken corals exceeded the recommended no-action threshold of 4%, which means management intervention is justified.

Scientists from Hong Kong’s Baptist University surveyed coral breakage from diving activities in Hong Kong using transects at seven different sites. The results show a total of 81 broken corals with 3–19 broken colonies per site. The team found a significant link between the number of broken coral colonies and the number of divers visiting the site.

Broken corals
Damaged Corals

The branching Acropora and the plate-like Montipora suffered more frequent damage than expected from their numbers. This means that some corals species are more vulnerable to damage from divers. The implication is that high numbers of divers may alter the species composition and ecology of the coral reefs as a whole.

 

Acropora coral
Acropora coral
Montipora
Montipora coral

The study concludes that popular dive sites should be classed as “no-go’ areas for training divers.