Tai Sang Wai in the southwest of Yuen Long is a wide open plain dotted with hundreds of fishponds.
I was told that fishponds like these are rare in South China nowadays. Today, their biggest beneficiary is Shenzhen.
Without their cooling effect on the environment, Shenzhen would be unbearably hot.
On this plain is a fishing village founded in the 1970s, with its detached houses looking neat and tidy.
I went there when I was invited to the Hong Kong Fishpond Festival which was celebrating its third year.
The main highlight of the festival was the gray mullet.
According to local fishermen, there are four major freshwater fish imported from mainland China. The gray mullet, a renowned Yuen Long specialty, competes in the market with other top species from the mainland.
Interestingly, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, is one of the co-organizers of the event.
Fish farming and wild bird protection may be disparate ideas. After all, wild birds prey on fish, which means fishermen could suffer losses.
The society is acting as a mediator through the Hong Kong Fishpond Conservation Scheme.
Under the program, the government subsidizes fishpond owners about HK$5,000 per hectare a year to encourage them to dry the pond.
The process takes place after harvest during the dry season when the farmers have to drain out the water and the pond would then be left to dry under the sun.
When the water level falls, the pond would attract wild birds to feed on the small fish.
Negotiations are expected to bridge the gap between what fishermen are expected to receive and what the government is willing to pay.
Anyway, it is a good start for conservation. Hongkongers should be grateful that we have not been deprived of access to Mother Nature.
It is important that we help fisheries authorities ensure sustainable growth for our ecological resources.
As a foodie, I strongly support the development of local agriculture and fisheries.
In order to ease the hardship of fisherfolk, I suggested to Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing that the government allow pond owners to run restaurants featuring fresh produce and seasonal catches.
That would not only support the livelihood of the fishermen but also promote local agriculture and fisheries, and enrich our food culture as a gourmet paradise.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 14.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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