Date
11 December 2017
This photo of a platygyra coral, Hong Kong's flagship coral species, was taken by a diving team that participated in Reef Check 2014 at Shelter Island. Photo: HK government
This photo of a platygyra coral, Hong Kong's flagship coral species, was taken by a diving team that participated in Reef Check 2014 at Shelter Island. Photo: HK government

Green groups slam govt over ‘inaccurate’ coral reef report

The Hong Kong government has come under criticism from environmental groups for alleged inaccuracies in a status report on coral reefs in local waters.

Two green groups — Eco-Education & Resources Centre (ERC), and Green Power — took issue with the 2014 Hong Kong Reef Check report that was issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), according to Ming Pao Daily News.

The AFCD suggested that coral reef growth in Hong Kong was generally stable and healthy, but the environmentalists claim that coral reef in at least four locations out of the total 33 surveyed by the government department had suffered massive damage, the paper said. 

The situation is the worst in ten years, the green groups said, attributing the damage to a combination of factors including increased marine activities and climate change.

The methodology applied by the AFCD, which measured coral reef coverage in designated areas, may not necessarily reflect the actual status of the entire Hong Kong waters, the environmentalists say.

An AFCD spokesperson said they will follow up on the case and would organize visits with environmental representatives for detailed observation of the affected areas.

The ERC and Green Power conducted surveys on waters in the eastern areas since June this year. They said they discovered massive collapse of coral reef in Port Island, Crescent Island, Tung Wan at Double Island as well as Tsim Chau. The size of the affected areas averaged 100 square meters each.

The survey also found that the number of marine species relying on the coral reef has plunged as a result of the damage.

According to Dr Michelle Cheung, science manager of ERC, increased water sports activities, such as snorkel diving, freestyle water skiing and lowering of marine vessel anchors, in the eastern waters of Hong Kong has led to the destruction of coral reef.

The AFCD has been conducting the annual reef check since 2000, while local groups commenced their own annual surveys since 1997.

The ERC and Green Power have now joined hands in an effort to restore coral reef in a 1,500 square meter site near Tung Wan at Double Island. They are planting small parts of coral reef collected elsewhere onto the broken parts of coral reef at the site with plastic strip, hoping that the coral reef will regrow.

Green Power CEO Man Chi-sum said he hopes the trial can help local scientists find out if coral reef can be repaired artificially.

Dr Cheung added that the growth rate of coral reef is extremely slow, and that it will take three to five years before the results can be assessed.

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