From left: Hua-hei, the first mate of the Duk Ling; Gloria Lai, of WWF; Ngau-gor, captain of the Duk Ling. Photo: Sinclair Communications
From left: Hua-hei, the first mate of the Duk Ling; Gloria Lai, of WWF; Ngau-gor, captain of the Duk Ling. Photo: Sinclair Communications

Seafood supply in Hong Kong will be further squeezed if the city pushes forward with its proposed reclamation plan, critics say.

The number of fishing vessels in Hong Kong has declined from 15,000 to 400 over the past 50 years, and that has meant a drastic drop in local seafood supply.

There has also been intensifying pollution problems, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), who organized a press tour to the Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market on southwest Hong Kong Island on October 13.

The tour was aimed at giving the media a sneak peek at the upcoming Sustainable Seafood Week.

Hong Kong skyline at twilight time with traditional cruise sailboat (Dukling) at Victoria harbor.
The Duk Ling. Photo: iStock.

“Back in the day, we would fish at night. We’d attract the fish with bright lights and then we’d catch them,” said Ngau Gor, captain of the Duk Ling (Clever Duck), which is one of the oldest vessels in Hong Kong.

Ngau-gor talks about the golden days of local fishing. Photo: Asia Times

Ngau Gor said the haul of fish today is meager compared to 30 years ago as reclamation, dynamite fishing and water pollution have hit the marine ecology. He said the declining supply of seafood forced most fishing vessels to be converted into sightseeing ships.

The captain said fish like sardines, yellow croakers and mullet were slowly disappearing due to excessive urban development. He worried that reclamation in the future may see even more fish vanish from the sea, and urged authorities to think of other ways to create land before considering reclamation projects.

On October 10, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave a policy address that proposed an HK$500 billion (US$64 billion) reclamation project to create around 1,700 hectares of land on artificial islands off the east coast of Lantau Island. However, the idea faced heavy criticism from the public as it will use half the city’s fiscal reserves and threaten marine life.

Hong Kong has been praised as a food paradise over recent decades. The average citizen in Hong Kong consumes 65 kilograms of seafood annually, which is more than three times the global average. Much of the food is imported from mainland China and Southeast Asia.

The WWF has also launched a Seafood Guide pamphlet, which categorizes different types of seafood in the city.

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The Seafood Guide.

Gloria Lai Pui Ting, WWF’s senior program officer in Hong Kong, said Sustainable Seafood Week — a month-long event — aims to create a positive change for the ocean. She said WWF would work with the seafood industry to show that supply chains are transparent and accountable.

The Savour Local Flavours Market will be held from November 9-11 at Kwun Tong Promenade, where food made from sustainable seafood will be served to the public – such as fish balls, pompano and even giant groupers. Eco-friendly products will also be sold.

People will also be able to take two different Aquaculture Tours, with one to the Lau Fau Shan Oyster Farm, Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market and Lamma Fisherfolk’s Village. Details of the tours can be found at the WWF website.

The Aberdeen Wholesale fish market.

Hotels, restaurants and supermarkets will also take part in the Seafood Week by offering an “Ocean Friendly Menu.” Participants include Cafe de Coral, Wellcome and AEON department stores.