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Big Fish Count 2004

by Allen To, Anna Situ & Kevin Kwon

On Sunday, 20 June, the first "underwater" version of the Big Bird Race, the Big Fish Count, was hosted by WWF Hong Kong. The event was to echo the World Oceans Day on 8 June, aiming to raise public awareness about marine life and funds for WWF Hong Kong. In addition, the event contributes to scientific knowledge of the local environment by gathering data on local fish species diversity to build up a database. Participating teams can go to up to three sites of their choice in search of fish species in a 45-minute dive at each site. The team finding most fish species is the winner. We three teamed up with Kenny Leung and four other fish-loving divers to form the "HKU Diving Team" to compete with three other local diving teams (Fig. 1).

The three sites we chose were Bluff Island, Port Shelter and Sharp Island. Climate was ideal for diving: sunny, good visibility and warm water. However, the tide was very low on that afternoon and the water level was too shallow to do SCUBA diving. Therefore most of us snorkeled instead. Nevertheless, we still had a great opportunity to see many beautiful fishes. We swam amongst schools of Chinese Demoiselle and Regal Demoiselle and saw the common clownfish (Fig. 2). Some of us encountered a number of less common fish species in Hong Kong, including Bird wrasse (Gomphosus varius), Western gregory (Stegastes obreptus), Spotted knifejaw (Oplegnathus punctatus), Chevron butterflyfish (Chaetodon trifascialis) and Racoon butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula). Kenny even saw a 12-inch long abalone during the survey!

Fig. 1. Team photo of HKU diving team (Photo: WWF).

The 8-hour intensive survey was challenging and physically demanding. We were relieved when it ended. A celebration barbecue party was held at WWF HK Island House Conservation Studies Centre that night. Kenny of course did not miss the chance to refuel himself with chilled beer. Our team effort was highly acknowledged when our team was announced to be the winner. A record of 90 valid fish species by our group was far more than that of other teams. We were presented with the trophy and certificates by the competition judge, our beloved fish expert Dr. Andy Cornish.

This event enhanced our knowledge of fish species diversity in local waters. It surprised us that such a high diversity of fish was readily observable in the Hong Kong waters. Fish-watching can be an equally enjoyable and accessible activity as bird-watching. Hopefully Hong Kong people will begin to treasure and protect this beautiful underwater world, starting with an appreciation of its beauty.

Lastly we are thankful to our teammates including Dr. Kenneth Leung, Ken Ching, Raymond Chu, Rosemary Torrance and Marija Minic for their efforts and Cheung Ming and Cheung Ming Hong for logistics and technical support.

Fig. 2. A photo of a Clark's anemone fish, Amphiprion clarkii, a common fish species encoutered at Big Fish Count (Photo: Ken Ching).



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