Irresponsible Fishery

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This is Billy Hau

The Virtual School of Biodiversity

Salzburg, Austria-Hong Kong, China: connected





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The bad news and the good news

The bad news

I am writing this three days after Mrs Lily Yam’s speech about conservation policy, made in the context of a Legislative Council motion debate on 21 November, 2001. For those who came in late, Lily Yam is the Secretary for Environment and Food, and the motion debate proposed by Hon. Ms Choy So-yuk: was that LegCo urges the Government to "… formulate a set of comprehensive policies on conservation of the natural environment and ecology ..." including neat things like setting clear and specific conservation objectives, reviewing and improving the existing legislation and mechanisms relating to conservation, increasing the funding for education and research on conservation in local tertiary institutions, enhancing training for personnel work in protected areas, and encouraging discussion on conservation issues among government departments, green groups and other stakeholders. This all sounds rather wonderful, and it is the sort of thing that many of us have been hoping that government would get around to. The Hon. Ms Choy iced the cake by adding to her motion the hope that government would take account of the findings of the Hong Kong Biodiversity Survey recently completed by the University of Hong Kong …" as well as other relevant data and use it "… to plan and set priorities for conservation work…". Well, my cup runneth over. Inevitably, there were proposals to amend the motion. My favourite comes from the Hon. Mrs Sophie Leung who wished to include a statement that conservation action should "… avoid hampering the business environment and creating a heavy financial burden on the Government …". She also proposed deleting the statement "…based on the findings of the Hong Kong Biodiversity Survey recently completed by the University of Hong Kong …" and the bit about increasing funding for tertiary institutions. Why am I not surprised by this? The Hon. Law Chi-kwong, on the other hand, had a more positive amendment in mind, proposing " … penalizing those who cause wanton destruction of such ecological environment, and strictly prohibiting any developments in the sites designated as of high ecological value …". Way to go, Mr Law!

You may be able to guess – or already know – the substance of Mrs Yam’s speech. She remarked that conservation objectives could not be easily quantified, and that it was difficult to decide on objective standards and levels of protection needed – especially in the absence of clear international guidelines. So government would need to conduct a review in order to find a set of generally accepted criteria (accepted by whom, I wonder?) that could be used to assess and decide on the conservation measures needed. Mrs Yam hoped that the review would be finished next year, whereupon there would be a phase of public consultation. (I am unsure as to why a completed review should be followed by consultation, since a review does not include any legislation and is only the first step along the road toward setting policy. But never mind that.) Note that Mrs Yam did not make a clear statement as to when, or even if, a conservation policy would be put in place. She also appeared to rule out government resumption of private land for conservation purposes because of the "… enormous financial burden". Concluding her speech, Mrs Yam noted that government needed more time for deliberation, but would strengthen conservation work using existing mechanisms. (Does this mean that, previously, government has not been using all of the mechanisms at its disposal?) In the face of such prevarication, I am beginning to wonder whether we will ever have any sites of conservation importance added to the existing tally of protected areas. It is also disturbing to discover that the Secretary for the Environment and Food does not seem to regard setting a conservation policy for Hong Kong as a priority. Odd that, since Article 6 of the 1992 Rio Convention binds signatories to putting such a policy in place.

The good news

Yes, there is some! I am pleased to be able to tell you that Dr Billy Hau was recently appointed as an Assistant Professor in DEB. Many of you will know Billy because of his work with WWF and, more recently, KFBG. He has written an article of introduction that is printed elsewhere in this issue. In the next Porcupine! I will have even more good news about DEB recruitment and, hopefully, less of the bad stuff.

David Dudgeon

Thanks to Lisa Hopkinson and Jackie Yip for some of the information used to prepare this piece.




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