We always enjoyed the view from our living room window, overlooking the bay and seeing the boats, small ferries and sometimes a trawling boat fishing in the waters around Lantau.
This view will now change, as a ban on trawling has been enforced on January 1 2013, in Hong Kong after it was first proposed 14 years ago. Back then a report claimed that many fish species were overfished.
The government blamed the trawlers for sweeping out everything and destroying the ocean floor. The fisher men blamed large scale constructions such as the airport for dumping of garbage and the big ships churning up the ocean floor. There is probably some truth on both sides.
Fifty square kilometres of sea are now protected – trawlers can’t fish there anymore. This is likely to just more pressure on overfished mainland waters. Are we just moving this problem away from our doorstep?
The government approved a HK$1.7 billion compensation scheme under which it will buy back trawling boats and support the affected fishers to buy new vessels for open-water fishing. According to this article in the SCMP, Hong Kong has 1,200 trawlers and “the buyout option applies only to about 260 trawlers fishing in local waters, while the other 900 trawlers, which work mostly in mainland waters, will be given a lump sum of HK$150,000 for deprivation of their local trawling rights.”
Let’s hope that this will mean the fishers will find a new way of earning a living and that the groupers, crabs, shrimp and so on will recover.