Stunning reef fish with cyanide so they are easy to catch remains a serious problem in Sai Kung waters, according to marine surveyor Paul Hodgson. Don’t eat the biggest fish you see in restaurant tanks because they were almost certainly caught with the poison.
Paul is a director of Oceanway Corporation, a Sai Kung-based environmental engineering firm, and a former City University academic.
Cyanide fishing in our waters is illegal, but it is hard to prevent. To avoid marine police detection, cyanide may be on one boat and big nets one hundred feet deep on another, Paul said.
Divers take plastic containers of sodium cyanide to coral reefs and release the chemicals between reef layers to stun fish. They risk the health effects and possible prosecution because of the high prices restaurants will pay. “A Napoleon wrasse, the largest fish you will see in restaurant tanks, is worth $3000,” Paul said.
The practice is extraordinarily harmful. Three-quarters of fish caught in this way will die because of the combination of cyanide and stress of capture. This can make the fishermen even more aggressive. Sometimes drums of cyanide are dropped into the sea to increase the catch. Most marine organisms are killed including the coral.
Fish caught with cyanide may be kept in fish farms for weeks to allow time for the poison to be eliminated. And then they may not. Don’t eat the biggest fish in restaurants, Paul says. Wrasse and coral trout, which hide in reefs, will probably have been caught this way. Grouper may be all right because the fish is easily caught. Eating fish caught this way may lead to accumulation of carcinogenic heavy metals in your body.
Biggest fish in restaurant tanks are almost certainly caught with cyanide. Widespread environmental damage is caused by fishing with cyanide. It is illegal, but very hard for the marine police to stop.