New Zealand's Marine Biologist Dr. Bill Ballantine Visits Hong Kong's Only Marine Reserve at Cape d'Aguilar
As part of the seven-day visit to Hong Kong to share his experiences from New Zealand on marine reserves, marine biologist Dr Bill Ballantine arrives at Hong Kong's only Marine Reserve, adjacent to the Swire Institute of Marine Science at Cape d'Aguilar.
Only decades ago, Hong Kong waters were incredibly rich with manta rays, hammerhead sharks, giant grouper and croakers taller than a man. In less than a lifetime Hong Kong has lost them all and the average size of fish caught by our fishermen is a mere 10g. Two-thirds of our commercially important species are over exploited. Hong Kong's marine ecosystem is close to collapse as a result of abuses caused by constant dredging, pollution and reclamation.
"In all regions, we need 10% of all marine habitats in fully-protected marine reserves for education and recreation. For effective conservation of marine life, we need at least 20%. For maximum benefits to fisheries, this should be at least 30%. In areas of very intensive use, such as Hong Kong, I would recommend 50%," commented Dr. Ballantine. He was accompanied by Dr Cynthia Yau, Assistant Professor of the Division of Ecology & Biodiversity, The University of Hong Kong and Dr Andy Cornish, Director of Conservation, WWF Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Government has designated four marine parks and one marine reserve. These areas cover roughly 1.5% of Hong Kong waters. Only the Marine Reserve (0.016%) is no-take, which is hardly sufficient to protect Hong Kong's remarkable sub-tropical marine biodiversity. Commercial fishing is licensed in all the Marine Parks.
Dr Ballantine was closely involved in the 12-years battle to establish New Zealand's first marine reserve. He argues that highly-protected marine reserves are needed to restore the natural balance of marine life. Systems of such reserves are necessary to prevent fish stock collapses and achieve sustainable fisheries.
New Zealand's first marine reserve was proposed in 1965. Despite initial screams and protests, the idea has become widely accepted. The country now has 31 such no-take reserves and is moving towards a fully representative system.
WWF globally has called for 20 percent no-take protection of the world's oceans by 2020. In Hong Kong, WWF launched the Save our Seas Campaign in 2005, advocating for the creation of no-take zones, where fishing is prohibited, covering 10% of Hong Kong waters to allow fish stocks to recover and reproduce undisturbed.