Tag Archives: marine conservation

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.

Dead Huizhou Sperm Whale Was Pregnant Female

China Daily reported that an autopsy on the sperm whale that became stranded in Daya Bay, in South China’s Guangdong province, has revealed the whale was pregnant. A crane hoisted the dead sperm whale out of the Harbor last Wednesday. 
A developing 110 kg male fetus, about two meters in length, was recovered.

“It is the first time that an unborn baby has been found inside a stranded sperm whale in the world,” said Tong Shenhan, head of the land and marine life research institute of Xiamen city, who participated in the autopsy.

He believed that the finding would be of significance to the protection and rescue of sperm whale.

On Thursday, a group of about 20 experts from the School of Marine Sciences of Sun Yat-Sen University, Hong Kong Ocean Park and other institutes, conducted the autopsy in Huizhou Fishery Research and Extension Center, in Guangdong, taking samples of skin, fat, muscle and blood from the adult sperm whale.

They unexpectedly found milk in the whale’s breasts and then a placenta 2.6 meters in length.

The fetus will also undergo an autopsy, which is expected to take about one month due to its difficulty.

On Sunday morning, fishery authorities in Shenzhen city received a report of an adult whale trapped in fishing nets in waters off Daya Bay.

After the whale was freed from the nets, authorities and zoologists tried to guide it back into deep sea. However, it continued to swim in shallow waters off Shenzhen and Huizhou cities. It was confirmed to have been stranded near a wharf Tuesday afternoon and died Wednesday.

Tong said that the whale, estimated to be about 5 years old, was healthy and had no visible injuries.

He does not think it was tangled to death by fishing nets but the cause of death will be verified in at least a month.

The animal, weighing 14 tons and stretching 10 meters long, was lifted by a crane from the water in Huizhou port on Wednesday and was transported to Huizhou Fishery Research and Extension Center.

Huizhou has invited experts to conduct research on the whale examining its physiological structure, molecular biology, zoology and pathology, to provide more scientific data and theory for the protection of the endangered sperm whale.

The autopsy on the adult whale will continue over the next two days.

The city also plans to preserve four specimens of the animal’s skin, bone, viscera and placenta.

Sperm Whale Injured By Fishing Nets Trapped in Huizhou Harbor

A sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) received serious injuries to its tail while caught in a fishing net, which have left it only able to swim in circles, according to news portal chinanews.com (14/3/17).

The whale may have also damaged its sonar system, meaning it cannot find its way back to deeper waters.
The 12-meter-long mammal was found struggling in waters near Shenzhen on Sunday, suffering from several gashes with a tail fin that had been damaged by a fishing net.

Local divers and fishery officials worked together to release it from the net and guide it back to open waters.

However, the animal was too tired to make it away from the shore, and ended up in Huizhou Port on Monday, mere meters from the land. Huizhou is about 50 kilometers away from Shenzhen.

Local officials and 30 experts from the Hong Kong Ocean Park and the Institute of Deep-Sea Science and Engineering under the Chinese Academy of Sciences are monitoring the animal. 

One expert suggested luring or driving the whale back to the sea by using whale sounds or those of predators.

However, the expert warned that the whale may have to be poisoned or blown up if rescue efforts fail.

Wu Gang, deputy director of the Huizhou Marine and Fisheries Bureau, said they will first try to treat the whale’s injuries and that euthanasia will only be considered as a last resort.

Chinese White Dolphin Stuck in Pearl River Tributary

Wildlife experts in south China are trying to rescue an endangered Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) that is in worsening health after swimming into a tributary of the Pearl river a week ago. The dolphin is approximately 30 years old and swam into the Baisha Rivernear Jiangmen in Guangdong Province on the 1st of February. It is now in a stretch of water about 100 km from the sea. “[…] the skin of the dolphin is festering and its health is deteriorating … its moving area is shrinking,” said Feng Kangkang, a worker with Jiangmen Chinese White Dolphin Nature Reserve, on Thursday. The team is watching the dolphin around-the-clock and recording its health condition, according to the Guangdong provincial ocean and fishery department. Dubbed the “giant pandas of the sea” by some, the Chinese white dolphins are mainly scattered in a few coastal areas where they exist in small numbers. About 2,000 are known from areas around the Pearl River, including HK which at the last count, was down to about 60 dolphins. (Photo/Xinhua)

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.

Turtles Returned to Sea

On Friday (12/8/16) the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released three juvenile green turtles in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong.
The green turtles were found by members of the public at Pak Lap Beach and Silverstrand Beach in Sai Kung and a refuse collection depot on Tin Hau Temple Street in North Point between January 2014 and July this year.

After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) for a thorough veterinary assessment and necessary medical treatment. Since then, they have been looked after at OPHK.

The three green turtles weighed 8.6 kg to 34.5 kg and measured about 45 cm to 66 cm in shell length. All of the turtles were in good condition and ready to be returned to sea.

Before the turtles were released into the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to their shells. By tracking the oceanic movement and feeding grounds of green turtles, 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.

The green turtle is a globally endangered species. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via the government hotline 1823 to help protect them.