LCQ1: Promotion of sustainable development of fisheries industry

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Steve Ho and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):


     In the Policy Address she deliveredlast month, the Chief Executive indicated that the Government would "expand the existing fish culture zones, improve the fish culture environment and promote the development of marine fish culture". However, some fishermen have pointed out that following the changes in the industry profile and society, the existing policies and legislation have become outdated and have hindered the development of marine fish culture, but the Government has not conducted any review of such policies and legislation over the years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the authorities have banned raft area extensions in existing fish culture zones (FCZs) by mariculturists since the 90s of the last century, and those mariculturists who wish to expand the sizes of their culture areas can only purchase fish culture licences from other mariculturists, making it difficult for mariculturists to expand their businesses, whether the authorities will lift the ban; whether, in the long run, the authorities will, by making reference to the development plan for the Lok Ma Chau Loop and the development approach of the Hengqin Macau Youth Innovation Valley, discuss with the Mainland authorities the designation of an area in the waters near Hong Kong for use as a marine FCZ for Hong Kong or for other agriculture and fisheries related purposes, and provide related complementary facilities, in order to solve the problem of shortage of space in Hong Kong waters for the development of the fisheries industry; if not, whether they will expeditiously explore other alternatives to solve the problem;

(2) given that mariculturists are required to obtain permits issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department before they may temporarily move their mariculture rafts out of FCZs, but the vetting and approval of the permits takes time although the authorities have streamlined the relevant administrative procedure, whether the authorities will consider the proposal of setting up temporary sites for relocating mariculture rafts to avoid massive fish deaths in FCZs in case of contingencies (e.g.

red tides, parasites or aquatic hypoxia); whether the authorities will consider amending the existing legislation to protect mariculturists’ rights and interests more effectively; and

(3) as I have learnt that at present, the authorities will remove sediment in an FCZ or approve individual mariculturists to conduct recreational fishing activities on mariculture rafts only with the consent of all the mariculturists of the FCZ concerned, but it is impossible to obtain the consent of all mariculturists, thus causing difficulties in the improvement of the water quality of FCZs and the livelihood of mariculturists, whether the authorities will adjust the said practice, e.g.  by making reference to the arrangement under which the retrofitting of air-conditioning systems in public markets may be carried out provided 80 per cent of the tenants have given support, so as not to hinder the sustainable development of marine fish culture; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government strives to promote the sustainable development of the fisheries industry. To this end, in the past few years the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has undertaken various work including among others reviewing the existing aquaculture management regime and encouraging mariculturists to adopt advanced and environmentally friendly culture practices. This notwithstanding, given that the marine resources belong to the Hong Kong society, we would have to factor in other public policy considerations (including ecological balance, marine conservation, navigation safety, etc.) and the statutory responsibilities of law enforcement departments under various legislations while promoting the sustainable development of the fisheries industry.
My reply to various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The Marine Fish Culture Ordinance (Cap. 353) (the Ordinance) stipulates that any person conducting marine fish culture activities in Hong Kong waters must possess a valid marine fish culture licence, and such activities should be carried out in designated fish culture zones (FCZs).   
     Having considered the impact of FCZs on the environment, the Government imposed a moratorium on granting new marine fish culture licences and designating new FCZs in 1990. In response to the operational needs of the industry, the Government amended the Ordinance in 2002 to allow licence transfer, so that mariculturists who wish to expand their business and those who are interested in joining the industry would be able to acquire the necessary fish culture areas through the transfer. At present, there are on average about 100 licence transfer cases each year. After completing a review on mariculture in 2013, the Government launched a pilot scheme in 2014 to issue new marine fish culture licences on a limited basis, with the aim of collecting data for assessing the environmental impact of issuing the new licences.
     Currently, the waters of Hong Kong are sufficient for the development of the mariculture industry.

AFCD is planning to expand the area of Yim Tin Tsai FCZ to improve its the raft density, and conducting a consultancy study to identify sites for designating new FCZs, with a view to providing more room for the development of the mariculture industry. AFCD will also examine the introduction of complementary measures, including the issuing new marine fish culture licences and providing technical support to assist mariculturists in adopting advanced culture practices or experimenting culturing new species, etc.
(2) In case of contingencies (such as red tides) in the aquatic environment of FCZs, AFCD will allow mariculturists to temporarily move their fish rafts out of FCZs to reduce the impact on cultured fishes. Under the Ordinance, marine fish culture licensees shall obtain a permit from AFCD to operate in designated areas under the required conditions. AFCD will seek advice from the Marine Department (MD) on the relocation site for the sake of ensuring marine and navigation safety, and consider the water quality of the FCZ concerned before issuing the permit. As the environmental factors and marine and navigation safety vary in each case, setting up fixed sites for temporarily relocating fish rafts is not viable.

Nevertheless, in case of contingencies and emergencies, AFCD will, with the consent of MD, allow mariculturists to move their fish rafts to designated areas before their permit applications are processed. AFCD will continue to maintain close liaison with MD so as to provide assistance to the affected mariculturists as soon as possible.
(3) As most FCZs have been in operation for years, and as a result of trash fish feeding and intensive fish culturing previously adopted by mariculturists, some FCZs have found sediments settle at the bottom. As a matter of principle, sediments should be removed by mariculturists on their own as fish culturing is a commercial operation. That said, in response to the requests from the industry and where resources permit, the Government had assisted in removing sediments in some FCZs to improve water quality. Since the sediment removal work involves the use of large-scale machineries that would have short-term impact on the aquatic environment, it is not suitable to conduct culture activities during such period.

To avoid affecting the mariculturists in an FCZ by the work, all the fish rafts therein should be temporarily relocated during the process. As such, we consider that only with consensus among all the mariculturists in an FCZ and where resources permit will the Government consider the request for removing bottom sediment. AFCD would deploy biofilters in FCZs and encourage the adoption of advanced and environmentally friendly culture practices in order to maintain a favourable culture environment. 
     FCZs are established for carrying out mariculture activities. To meet the growing public demand for recreational fishing facilities and provide an additional source of income for mariculturists, starting from 2002, AFCD allows marine fish culture licensees to operate recreational fishing business on their rafts as long as public safety can be ensured and that the mariculture activities and environment in FCZs will not be affected. As the recreational fishing business may impact on other fish rafts and the fish culture environment of the FCZ concerned, AFCD will consult relevant stakeholders, including mariculturists in the FCZ concerned and the locals, when considering applications for conducting recreational fishing activities.

To improve the management of FCZs, AFCD is considering designation of sub-zones where practicable for conducting recreational fishing activities in FCZs in order to reduce their impact on the mariculture operation. AFCD will gauge the views of different stakeholders in the FCZs concerned.
     Thank you, President.

Published on: 2017-11-29

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