(CN - HKG) Trawling ban
- Hong Kong's trawling ban is big step to sustainable fishery
Friday, 04 January, 2013
South China Morning Post
About 800 school children and teachers form the shape of a Chinese white
dolphin, along with the word "Protect" and Chinese characters "Ocean" to
complement the government's ban of trawling in Hong Kong from 2013. Photo:
Free markets have their place, but not when it comes to fishing. That is why
the ban on bottom and mid-water trawling in our waters took effect at the
start of the new year and is so welcome. Limited restrictions and a ravenous
appetite for seafood have led to the fishing industry harvesting a greater
catch than is sustainable. Fish stocks are in crisis, the marine environment
dangerously stressed and fleet restructuring urgently needed.
The ban is a first, but giant, step in that direction. It puts 50 square
kilometres of our waters off-limits to trawlers, banishing their nets that
can indiscriminately scoop up all marine life from bed to surface. With our
island and reef-studded waters a breeding and nursery ground for a rich
variety of fish, the lack of regulation has been particularly destructive.
After 14 years of discussion, moves that will allow for recovery of
populations and habitats are finally in place.
There are understandable worries about the government's HK$1.7 billion
compensation scheme that aims to buy back boats, retrain and pay fishermen
for their business losses and help purchase new vessels for open-sea
fishing. Determining who should be paid and how much they should receive
have to be carefully considered from livelihood and fairness perspectives.
Fishing is, after all, one of Hong Kong's foundation industries, as much a
part of our culture as history. Rejuvenating damaged ecosystems has to be
coupled with sustainable fisheries management.
That is why the ban is best viewed as a new beginning. With intelligent
implementation, understanding and co-operation, our waters can in a matter
of a decade or so be again teeming with species that have been fished away
or into near extinction. Coupled with education, it has to be vigorously
enforced and followed with even more far-reaching oversight.
Our fishing fleet will be smaller, but its methods will no longer be
exploitative and damaging to so fragile a resource. The quality and supply
of the seafood on our tables will improve, while our marine environment will