Saving the ocean

Together with a few Coral Monitors and Eco-Monitors I attended a lecture on marine biodiversity and conservation of Hong Kong at the Hong Kong University. The lecture was held by Professor Brian Morton, a world-renowned professor specializing in marine biology, marine ecology and malacology.

He spent almost 34 years working in The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and carried out pioneering investigations that revealed the life histories and ecologies of Hong Kong’s local marine fauna and flora. During his tenure at HKU, Professor Morton supervised 39 PhD, 23 MPhil and 14 MSc students in the field of marine ecology and biodiversity conservation. Many of his students are now senior scientists in both Hong Kong and overseas, working in environmental management and contributing their professional knowledge and skills towards marine conservation and environmental sustainability. He also held numerous advisory posts in Hong Kong to assist the Hong Kong Government with issues related to marine conservation and he was instrumental in first proposing and then helping to establish marine conservation in Hong Kong. This included the creation of various Sites of Special Scientific Interest, our Marine Parks and the Cape d’Aguilar Marine Reserve in Hong Kong. He has published extensively on the marine biology and ecology of Hong Kong, China, the Azores and the Gulf of Mexico.

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For his many achievements, Professor Morton was made a Life Fellow of the Pacific Science Association (1993) and elected to the Global 500 by UNEP in recognition of his contributions to Pacific marine science and conservation, respectively. In 1997, he was invested as a Knight (Ridder) in the Order of the Golden Ark, The Netherlands, and in 1999 he was invested O.B.E., the United Kingdom, for contributions to marine conservation and marine science, respectively, and, most recently, was the 2004 recipient of the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Gold Medal.

About the talk
While Hong Kong is surrounded by marine waters with a long coastline, the territorial sea area is relatively small (ca. 1,650 km2) and there are numerous conflicts with regard to the use of such a small marine environment ranging from ship navigation, ports, marinas and piers, to fisheries, sea bathing and diving, marine protected areas and, notably, the habitat of the Chinese white dolphin. Given the ever-increasing local human population and demands for land supply to build infrastructures (e.g. sites for bridge and causeways, the 3rd runway for the airport) and residential accommodation, reclamation has been proposed as a possible option to achieve this. There is also an on-going debate about whether the Government should turn the shore at Lung Mei into an artificial beach as a way to promote tourism and the local economy. Controversially too, the area around the marine park of Hoi Ha is being developed. In this talk, Professor Morton talked to us about the history and character of our marine environment, the local rich marine biodiversity and the ecology and conservation of our marine environment. Professor Morton’s talk was followed by a panel and open discussion. Representatives from the Hong Kong Government, green groups and academia were  invited to serve as panel members:

  • Dr. Samuel Hung (Director, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society)
  • Mr. Kevin Laurie (Member, Marine Biodiversity Work Group)
  • Ms. Samantha Lee (Senior Marine Conservation Committee WWF Hong Kong)
  • Mr. Joseph Sham (Assistant Director, AFCD)
  • Mr. Ken So Kwok-yin (Chief Executive Officer, The Conservancy Association)
  • Mr. Dickson Wong (Representative, Save Lung Mei Alliance)

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The following questions were addressed:

  • Should the Marine Parks and Reserve network be expanded? If so, where?
  • How much more reclamation of land can there be in Hong Kong? If more is needed, what for and where?
  • Can a swimming beach be built at Lung Mei? If so, why? And will it thrive?
  • How can we strive for a balance between coastal development and marine conservation?
  • What is most needed to help scientists (Government and University), consultants and environmentalists plan a biodiversity strategy for Hong Kong?

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The lecture was very informative and I was amazed to find out about the uniqueness of Hong Kong’s marine biodiversity. Did you know that there are more than 1000 species of fish and 80 species of hard coral (more than in the entire Caribbean Sea!) I will write a blog post dedicated to our work as Coral Monitors very soon! Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

adapted from HKU