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Dear Feedback,

I refer to the front-page article in the last issue of Porcupine! (issue 24), entitled, "Irresponsible Fishery" by Dr. Yvonne Sadovy. Yvonne states, "the principle (sic) recommendation from top fishery experts of the University of British Colombia (UBC) to address overfishing in Hong Kong was a substantial reduction in fishing effort." Yvonne goes on to criticise Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) for not heeding this advice and instead implementing costly artificial reef (AR) and restocking programmes. These comments are misleading and do not reflect the recommendations of the UBC consultants. In the fisheries consultancy study conducted by ERM-HK, with UBC acting as a subconsultant (ERM-HK, 1998), six high priority recommendations were made. These recommendations are summarised below: -

(i) Establish a fishing licence programme;
(ii) Limit new entrants to the fishery (i.e. reduce fishing pressure);
(iii) Establish nursery and spawning ground protection areas (i.e. Fisheries Protection Areas, Marine Parks and Reserves);
(iv) Enhance habitat;
(v) Restore habitat;
(vi) Conduct fish restocking trials.

The first two recommendations do indeed relate directly to reduction in fishing effort but recommendations (iv) and (vi) also relate directly to the AR programme and the fish restocking trials. These were both high priority recommendations made by ERM and UBC in favour of these programmes. UBC’s position on AR was made very clear in a recent ‘Ghoti’* paper (Pitcher & Seaman, 2000). Interestingly they invoke Petrarch's principle i.e. "to know things unseen, yet to ignore things seen". Pitcher and Seaman conclude, "that we should act to use common sense methods to restore and protect today's depleted ecosystems even when we do not yet have definitive scientific evaluation". It is clear from this paper that Pitcher is in favour of well-planned AR programmes, provided they are managed effectively and sited in hard bottom, habitat limited areas. Since January 1993, Dr Tony Pitcher, has been Professor of Fisheries and the first Director of the Fisheries Centre, at UBC.

AFCD is pursuing all the high priority recommendations of the ERM/UBC consultancy. However, the speed of implementation is largely dictated by the lengthy consultation process necessary to address all stakeholders legitimate concerns. A Working Group on Fisheries Management was set up in mid-1999 to advise AFCD on matters relating to fisheries resources conservation and management strategies. Fisheries management proposals supported by the working group include a territorial-wide fishing licence system, the establishment of Fisheries Protection Areas (FPAs) at Tolo Channel and Port Shelter waters, the deployment of ARs and restocking of fish fry.

ARs are one of the cheapest anti-trawl enforcement measures available and undoubtedly represent one of the simplest and most pragmatic ways of protecting important spawning and nursery areas subjected to heavy bottom trawling pressure. Our experience with AR to date demonstrates they are very effective at preventing bottom trawling and have been heavily used by commercial fishes for shelter and feeding. Many species of snapper, bream, grunt, sweetlip and grouper have also made extensive use of AR for nursery and spawning purposes. Over 150 species have been recorded on ARs in Hong Kong as part of AFCD’s post deployment monitoring programme.

AFCD sponsored UBC to forecast potential benefits and to conduct a cost benefit analysis of the use of ARs in fisheries protection areas, using sophisticated ecosystem simulation techniques and bioeconomic analysis. The results were published in the Bulletin of Marine Science (Pitcher et al., 2000). Pitcher and his team concluded that a successful implementation of AFCD’s fisheries protection area proposals, protected and enhanced by AR, could provide significant benefits within 10 years, with shifts to a low-value pelagic fish reversed and an additional 50% discounted profit over 30 years.

The proposed Fisheries Protection Areas (FPA), which are much larger in extent than existing and proposed Marine Parks, are expressly designed to manage fisheries. This approach greatly simplifies the necessary consultation procedures and potential sources of objection, which beset the establishment of Marine Parks and Marine Reserves, which in addition to fisheries also involve management of recreational and commercial activities including navigation, mooring and anchoring etc. The implementation of extensive FPA, linked to an AR programme with appropriate fisheries management controls of Hong Kong waters, will help to ensure the development of sustainable fisheries in Hong Kong waters. This strategy was discussed in a paper presented at an International Conference on Artificial Reefs, Sanremo, Liguria, Italy in 1999 (Wilson et al., in press) and the advantages of using FPAs protected with AR were detailed in a paper presented at the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) East Asia Conference (Wilson & Leung, 2001).


Environmental Resources Management Consultants Hong Kong Ltd. (ERM-HK). (1998). Fisheries Resources and Fishing Operations in Hong Kong Waters. Final Report. Agriculture and Fisheries Department, Hong Kong Government.

Pitcher, T.J., R. Watson, N. Haggan, S. Guénette, R. Kennish, R. Sumaila, D. Cook, K.D.P. Wilson & Leung, A. (2001). Marine reserves and the restoration of fisheries and marine ecosystems in the South China Sea. Bull. Mar. Sci. 66(3): 543-566.

Pitcher, T.J. & Seaman W. Jr. (2000). Petrarch's Principle: how protected human-made reefs can help the reconstruction of fisheries and marine ecosystems. Fish & Fisheries 1: 73-81.

Wilson, K.D.P. & Leung, A.Y.W. (2001). Role of Artificial Reefs in Marine Protected Areas. Presented at the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) East Asia Conference, "Challenges of Nature Conservation in the Face of Development Pressure", June 2001.

Wilson, K.D.P., Leung, A.Y.W. & Kennish, R. (2002 in press). Restoration of fisheries through deployment of artificial reefs in marine protected areas. Presented at the Seventh International Conference on Artificial Reefs and Related Aquatic Habitats (7th CARAH), October, 1999, Sanremo, Liguria, Italy, to be publ in ICES JMS.

*‘Ghoti’ is another way of spelling fish (‘gh’ sound from rough, ‘o’ from women, and ‘ti’ from palatial).

Keith DP Wilson (

Editor’s note: the original article in Porcupine! 24 referred to the expert sub-consultant’s report. The report referred to in this letter was prepared by the consultant in collaboration with AFCD and includes several recommendations (including iv – vi above) not made by the sub-consultant. It was these additional recommendations that were addressed in Porcupine! 24.


Dear Feedback,

In a recent issue (No. 35) of the Bulletin of the Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management, the editorial identified gaps in the skills possessed by ecology graduates, and those demanded by the commercial and statutory sectors in the UK. I was surprised to read that, in a country pioneering the studies of natural history, ‘very few graduates are able to identify taxa to a level which would make them proficient as a practicing ecologist’. It also specified that ‘plant identification skills are often very poor’, even among botany graduates. This sounds surprisingly similar to the situation in Hong Kong. In the consultancy sector that I previously worked in, well-qualified ecologists who can do decent fieldwork and correctly identify the organisms are always lacking. The shortage of expertise was highlighted in a survey of Environmental Impact Assessments in a past issue of Porcupine!16.

Many of the best field ecologists I know started studying the organisms when they were teenagers. Is it reasonable to expect ecology graduates to acquire such skills during their three years in university? Has our curriculum given enough opportunities for them to explore and develop these skills? Having graduated so long ago, I am not the best person to answer this. From my personal experience, however, I believe that the ability to identify a group of organisms is essential for ecological professionals, whether in consultancy, government, or NGOs, and I am now trying to make up for lost time.

Jackie Yip


Dear Feedback,

One of many responses to my article on Irresponsible Fishing in the last issue of Porcupine! was to ask what consumers themselves can do if they want to contribute to sustainable fisheries, not only in Hong Kong waters (which only supplies 10% of our seafood anyway), but in general. It is an excellent question (thanks SM), for although many of us care very much about questionable fishing practices, both locally and globally, few have enough information to make even simple day-to-day decisions that could contribute to positive change.

With increasing concern about overfishing, there is also a growing recognition that consumers can (should?) effect change through their actions (the tuna/dolphin case is a good example). When choosing what seafood to eat, here are some good and not so good choices, as recommended by the Living Oceans Program of The National Audubon Society, (, and Ocean Conservation Seafood Watch (Monterey Bay Aquarium) ( The following is a brief summary of these lists. Best seafood choices likely to be available in local outlets are Pacific albacore tuna, Pacific squid, farmed clams, mussels, oysters, rainbow trout, striped bass and tilapia, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, mahi-mahi (or dolphinfish), and New Zealand Hoki.

On the lists of seafood to be avoided are bluefin tuna, caviar from wild-caught sturgeon, Patagonian toothfish, Atlantic cod, orange roughy, rockfish, farmed and Atlantic salmon, all sharks, most wild-caught and farmed prawns or shrimp, swordfish, and grouper (the implication being wild-caught grouper). It is interesting to note that among the listed species, wild-caught sources are not always ¡¥bad¡¦, nor mariculture sources always ¡¥good¡¦. Please remember that the above is just a summary of species on the two lists so do check the websites. There is also an ¡¥in-between¡¦ list. If you are not sure of the source of seafood you want to buy or order, it may well be worth asking in the restaurant, market or shop. You may or may not receive an informed answer but you will at least draw attention to the fact that the source might matter.

For local recommendations of seafood 'does and don'ts' see [Note, however, that since this campaign was launched it has become possible to hatchery-rear giant grouper.] The humphead wrasse (locally known as So Mei) should always be avoided - it is listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Yvonne Sadovy




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