A group of marine scientists from the University of Hong Kong called on the government to step up efforts to protect the rich resources of the sea amid growing threats to their survival.
The team from the Swire Institute of Marine Science at the HKU spent one and a half years studying and documenting marine species in local waters, the first comprehensive review of its kind, with financial support from the Environment and Conservation Fund.
According to the group’s findings, which were published recently in the Biodiversity and Conservation journal, Hong Kong waters host a total of 5,943 marine species, or 26 percent of all marine species in the whole of China, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
This shows the abundance of the city’s marine life, considering that the territory only occupies as little as 0.03 percent of China’s waters, the newspaper said.
Project manager Ng Pun-tung said Hong Kong has 84 hard coral species in its waters, more than the 60 found in the Caribbean, and eight mangrove species, which exceed the six in eastern Africa.
He said the waters surrounding Hong Kong play host to more than 30 percent of the marine species found in the entire South China Sea, and these include polychaetes, fish, cephalopods and amphipods, news website hk01.com reported.
Ng attributes the territory’s rich marine life to its unique geographical location and suitable weather conditions, which help attract so many tropical and temperate marine species.
However, Gray Williams, leader of the research team, voiced concern about the fact that the government has only designated slightly more than 2 percent of Hong Kong waters as protected zones.
The team is urging the government to increase the area of protected waters to provide a safe environment for the city’s precious marine species.
The team will soon categorize all of the marine species in Hong Kong based on their habits, distribution, and degree of endangerment as well as create a database for the team’s studies and observations.
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