Advocating for more Marine Protected Areas
Less than 1.5 per cent of Hong Kong waters are set aside as Marine Protected Areas. And fishing and vessels are banned from only less than 0.5 per cent of Hong Kong waters. This is simply not enough to help our depleted marine ecosystems rebound. WWF is advocating for at least 10 per cent of Hong Kong waters to be established as Marine Protected Areas that includes no-take zones.
A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a zone designated and managed to protect marine habitats, and species for the good of the ocean, society, economy and culture. Within MPAs, human activities such as fishing, vessel speed and tourism could be regulated. MPAs can come in the form of a fully protected Marine Reserve, a moderately protected Marine Park, or a no-take zone to name a few.
Improving Hong Kong’s existing Marine Protected Areas
One of the problems with our current MPAs is that they are small, scattered and inadequately managed. Commercial fishermen with permits can still fish within Marine Parks.
To compound the shortcomings of the existing MPAs, those soon-to-be-established MPAs aren’t located in the right places – by right places, we mean zones that are ecologically important, and faces development pressure and other threats. Those new MPAs are only there to compensate for the environmental impact of development projects, and will only be in place after the development completes. This “develop first conserve later” approach will seriously erode the integrity and effectiveness of MPAs.
We also need to fill information gaps to improve our MPAs. For example, we need to understand how effective the current MPAs are and whether marine hotspots are protected by MPAs. This information is key to improve our MPA systems. In order to provide such resourceful data, WWF constantly works with experts in the field to carry out studies to seek answers that are much needed for formulating a sound science-based solution.
Boosting ocean economy
By engaging the local fishing community in the management of MPAs – like what the Philippines has been doing successfully, we empower the people, create a greater sense of belonging and responsibility, generate job opportunities and help tackle illegal fishing.
- By 2020, the government should set aside at least 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s waters, especially areas of high ecological value, as MPAs and manage them properly to restore biodiversity.
- The government should adopt the recommendations of the Marine Biodiversity Hotspots assessment into the final Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) document.