Tag Archives: south china sea

New Species of Tree-Climbing Crab Discovered in HK

Haberma tingkok that’s the name given to a new species of mangrove crab that climbs in trees along the eastern coast of Hong Kong. It was collected from branches between five and six feet high.

It has a dark brown upper shell, or carapace, long, thin legs that are light brown, and its claws, or chelipeds, are a brownish orange.

Mangrove crabs are quite small. The collected specimens measured between 8 and 9 millimeters in length, less than a third of an inch.

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore described the new species in the journal ZooKeys.

The genus Haberma now contains three species. Peter Ng, a marine biologist at NUS and co-author of the latest study, established the genus 15 years ago and helped discover all three species (the other two are H. nanum and H. kamora).

H. tingkok was named after the Ting Kok mangrove stand, in Tolo Harbour, where it was found in the mid intertidal area. The area is the largest mangrove stand on the eastern coast of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s mangroves and the species they shelter are under threat from pollution and land reclamation projects.

Image credit: Dr Peter Ng

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.

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. 

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.

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.