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Advisory Council on the Environment

Hong Kong Trade in Live Reef Fish for Food - Measures Taken by Government

(ACE Paper 31/2000)
For information

INTRODUCTION

A report on the trade in live reef fish was published by TRAFFIC East Asia and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hong Kong in June 1999. The report proposes a number of recommendations to keep the live reef fish trade sustainable and is the subject of a presentation to be made at the ACE meeting on 28 August 2000. The purpose of this paper is to brief Members on the measures taken by Government to monitor the trade and to promote its sustainable development.

BACKGROUND

  1. The report entitled "The Hong Kong Trade in Live Reef Fish for Food" concludes that the current live reef fish trade is unsustainable. Hong Kong is believed to be the largest consumer of reef fish in Asia and an important entrepot for their re-export. The report makes a series of recommendations to keep the trade sustainable. The major recommendations are summarized below :-
         (a) Government should amend the licensing and classification system for locally registered fishing vessels and fish transportation vessels bringing in live marine fish so as to enable recording of all live reef fish import into Hong Kong. The Marine Fish (Marketing) Ordinance (Cap. 291) should be amended to include "live fish" in the definition of "marine fish". Trade records should be amended to specify Tiger Grouper, Flowery Grouper, Leopard Coral Trout, Spotted Coral Trout, Green Grouper and Mangrove Snapper;
 
  (b) Government should take the initiative in working with member-economies of Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) towards establishing a comprehensive and standardized system for monitoring of the live reef fish trade;
 
  (c) Government should strongly recommend that nations which have banned the export of Humphead Wrasse and Giant Grouper explore the possibility of listing these two species on Appendix II or Appendix III of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Countries exporting live reef fish should establish quota to ensure the long term sustainability of their fisheries;
 
  (d) An identification manual should be prepared to assist Government officers in the recognition of fish species and to assist traders in making consistent declarations;
 
  (e) Effective channels of communication should be established in Hong Kong among stakeholders in the live reef fish trade. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) should also closely liaise with Governments of exporting countries;
 
  (f) Research should be conducted to ascertain the most effective means of involving the pubic in the protection of reef fish and habitats; and
 
  (g) Further research into hatchery-based mariculture should be encouraged.
 

GOVERNMENT'S MEASURES

  1. The Government fully recognizes the need for conservation of fisheries resources including live reef fish and promotion of a sustainable fish trade. The issue can best be dealt with through international co-operation. In addition, we appreciate the importance of trade monitoring. Hence, we have already put in place a number of measures to pursue international co-operation and to monitor the live reef fish trade. These measures are in line with the recommendations made in the report and are set out in the following paragraphs.

Participation at international forum for conservation of fisheries resources

  1. Government has kept close liaison with other economies in the Asia Pacific Region through active participation at APEC forums to promote sustainable fisheries. Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) took the initiative in raising the issue of destructive fishing practices at both the APEC Marine Resources Working Group and APEC Fisheries Working Group in 1996. A workshop with the collaboration of the Mainland and Taiwan was held in Hong Kong in 1997. To promote regional co-operation in addressing issues of the live fish trade, Hong Kong has been participating in Asia Pacific Conference on the Live Reef Fish Trade. The second Conference was held in early August 2000.

Collection of information on live reef fish import

  1. AFCD, with the co-operation of the trade, monitors the live reef fish trade closely. While import of fish through vessels or flights has to comply with the trade declaration requirement, fish caught by local fishing vessels are exempted from making trade declarations in line with the international practice. To monitor the overall situation of the trade, AFCD collects information on imported fish from major live reef fish traders in Hong Kong on a monthly basis.
     
  2. Moreover, the Hong Kong Imports and Exports Classification List (Harmonized System) used for trade declaration purposes was revised in 1998 to obtain more information (including quantity, origin and value) of the species of live reef fish susceptible to cyanide fishing (including Tiger Grouper, Flowery Grouper, Leopard Coral Trout, Spotted Coral Trout, Green Grouper and Mangrove Snapper). The revised list helps to improve the live reef fish trade monitoring system. The level of details of fish import declarations is regarded by other economies as a good example to follow.
     
  3. Furthermore, AFCD and WWF have jointly published an identification manual to assist Government officers in the recognition of fish species and to assist traders in making consistent trade declarations.
     

Communication with the trade and public involvement

  1. AFCD holds meetings periodically with the Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants Ltd, which represents the majority of live reef fish traders in Hong Kong, to discuss and to seek their co-operation in issues related to the live reef fish trade. In addition, AFCD is preparing a pamphlet for both fish traders and the public to educate them on the damage caused by destructive fishing practices to marine ecology and the need for protection of reef fish and habitats.

Research

  1. Development of hatchery-based mariculture is one of the means to reduce fishing pressure. In this connection, AFCD explores the application of new techniques in mariculture, including fish fry hatching, through trial and experiment. A research on grouper fry culture is being undertaken by AFCD and the University of Hong Kong, with a view to transferring successful techniques to fish farmers.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE REPORT

  1. The report has made other recommendations to improve collection of statistics on live reef fish import and the protection of fish stocks. Government's views are set out in the following paragraphs.
     
  2. The report suggests that the locally licensed fishing vessels and fish transportation vessels should be required to make trade declarations. However, we consider that the current information collection system described in paragraphs 5 and 6 above works effectively and provides the necessary information for monitoring purposes. Therefore, we see no imminent need to impose an additional requirement on these vessels. Moreover, most fishing vessels go in and out of Hong Kong waters every day and the declaration requirement would unnecessarily impose burden on their daily operations. Such a requirement would likely attract objection from fishermen.
     
  3. The report also suggests that "live fish" should be included in the definition of "marine fish" under the Marine Fish (Marketing) Ordinance. At present, the Ordinance restricts the landing and wholesale of marine fish to seven designated wholesale markets run by the Fish Marketing Organization and live fish are not covered in the Ordinance. The current system works well so far. Restricting loading and wholesaling of live fish to the designated locations solely for the purpose of collection of data would likely be perceived as an unnecessary trade restriction and unacceptable to the trade.
     
  4. The report further suggests that Government should strongly recommend that nations which have banned the export of Humphead Wrasse and Giant Grouper explore the possibility of listing these species on Appendix II or Appendix III of CITES and that the exporting countries should impose quota on their live reef fish export. However, it should be noted that China is a member of CITES and HKSAR is part of China's delegation only. HKSAR is therefore not in a position to propose listing of endangered species on its own. Nevertheless, AFCD has sent the report to the CITES Management Authority of the Mainland and to major live reef fish exporting countries (including the Philippines, Maldives and Indonesia) for their consideration of the findings and recommendations therein.
     

CONCLUSION

  1. We will continue to monitor the live reef fish trade closely. We will also continue to pursue international co-operation and strengthen public education on the protection of reef fish with a view to promoting the sustainable development of the trade.



Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
August 2000

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