Blast fishing in Sai Kung waters has escalated suddenly in the last six months, marine consultant Paul Hodgson said. About 100 cases of fishing with explosives have been detected in our area by sensors in the sea belonging to Paul’s company, Oceanway Corporation.
A former City University academic, Paul is a director of Oceanway, which carries out marine area surveys for the government and other clients. Until recently there were about 20 blast fishing cases detected on average each year. Paul said the recent increase is probably due to the return of fish stocks since the AFCD banned in-shore trawling and started licensing net fishers.
“Mainland men look for schools of fish and usually spread bait in the water from their boats and wait for fish to congregate. Then they blast,” Paul said. “Typically, the bomb is a mixture of fertilizer and fuel oil in a beer bottle.” Tests have shown fish bombs can blow an SUV 15 metres into the air.
“All the fish within a ten-metre radius are killed or injured. About 30% float and are picked up, the rest sink and are lost.” Coral and other marine habitats are destroyed and take years to regenerate.
“The Hong Kong Government and the Guangdong Government have been marvelous at tackling the problem in the past,” Paul said. They reached an agreement in 2000 and the mainland changed its law so that it is an offence to fish illegally anywhere, especially in protected areas. This stopped much cross-border activity and the message was driven home when the Chinese started publicly cutting boats in half as punishment. In 2006 the marine police staked out the Ninepins and caught fishermen with explosives.
“Now the problem seems to be returning,” Paul said. “We’ve had seven blast detection sensors in Sai Kung waters for about 20 years and recently increased them to 10. We can work out the locations of blast fishing through timing.” Oceanway designed and built the blast detectors themselves in 1995.
Laxity appears to have returned on the mainland. In Daya Bay, fishing with explosives goes on almost daily as a tourist attraction. “You pay 300rmb and watch the fun.”