ASIA: A STRATEGIC PRIORITY
Asia is an area of strategic priority for marine conservation work, since the region catches, processes, trade and consumes many of the world’s marine resources. Asia is also, statistically, one of the regions with the greatest pressure on its coastlines, yet dedicated marine conservation barely exists. BLOOM has noted a large number of pressing issues which require ambitious, extensive and strategic intervention, and has decided to start to take appropriate action in Hong Kong.
WHY HONG KONG?
In early 2009, BLOOM set up an office in Hong Kong, because few places have such a catastrophic environmental record. Hong Kong’s waters, once alive with manta rays, green sea turtles, Hong Kong groupers, Chinese Bahaba and hammerhead sharks, have been exploited to such an extent that fisheries have collapsed, and the ecosystem’s productivity has been almost lost. At the turn of the 21st century, the average weight of fish caught in Hong Kong was 10 grams; that is three times lighter than a sparrow. Moreover, Hong Kong’s waters are full of toxins and heavy metals.
UNSUSTAINABLE EATING HABITS
Asian eating habits, when it comes to seafood, particularly those of the Chinese in Hong Kong, are highly unsustainable. Hong Kong’s marine footprint is alarming, with 71.2 kg (second highest in the Asia) of seafood consumed by each inhabitant each year, compared to a world average of 18.9kg. Despite having a very large surrounding maritime area, Hong Kong imports 90% of the seafood products it consumes every year. In Hong Kong, more than anywhere else in the world, the abundant choice of fish hides the real problems.
THE HIDDEN SERVICES NATURE PROVIDES, THE TRUE COST TO THE ENVIRONMENT
These staggering statistics mean that Hong Kong’s fish consumption (particularly of sharks, groupers, wrasses and snappers) by far exceeds the possible sustainable production levels of fisheries. Hong Kong alone consumes around 25% of the biological production capacity of reef fish for the whole of South-East Asia. On top of this, Hong Kong is the world’s greatest importer of shark fins, despite the fact that certain shark species are on the verge of extinction (with up to 99.99% decline for some species in the Mediterranean).
OUR ACTION FOR SHARKS
BLOOM’s actions in Hong Kong are mainly focused on sharks, with the aim of educating children and the public. We work with visionary private partners who have understood that the world has fallen into an unprecedented ecological crisis, and that unprepared societies will be the first to suffer.
After a long collaboration with the University of Hong Kong and an in-depth study on Hong Kong’s shark consumption habits (read the study Survey on shark consumption habits and attitudes in Hong-Kong_April 2011), BLOOM conducted an awareness campaign targeting luxury hotels, in order to persuade them to stop selling unsustainable shark-related products.
Just three years after the establishment of the Hong Kong office, BLOOM’s actions on sharks have known phenomenal success.
OUR ACTION FOR MARINE SCIENCE AND POLICY
Knowledge on marine science and interest in conservation topics in Hong Kong has only begun to gain interest in recent years. Following the success of BLOOM’s actions on sharks, our work is now expanding to cater other equally pressing marine issues, including research into the trade and consumption of live reef food fish (LRFF) and manta ray gill plates, and species composition of reef fish species in Hong Kong and adjacent waters. We hope that through these projects, the gaping gaps of the existing knowledge on marine science and conservation in Hong Kong may be filled.
The stage has also been set for the formation of more stringent marine policies in Hong Kong and the update of existing ones. With the growing momentum for marine conservation, BLOOM will be taking initiative to advise and develop possible directions for the future of local marine policy in view of the international scene.