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"InnoFriday" Talk #9 Review: Fishery towards a Sustainable Future

Once a fishing port, Hong Kong is famous for its seafood. Nevertheless, as the problem of overfishing continues to worsen and fish stocks are greatly reduced, some scientists have warned that the ocean fish stock might be totally depleted by 2048. How can the people of Hong Kong, who crave so much for seafood, satisfy their appetite without harming the marine ecosystem? Three representatives from the fishery sector were invited to speak at this InnoFriday talk entitled ‘Fishery towards a Sustainable Future’ held on 26 February. Our guest speakers examined the path of sustainable development for both Hong Kong and international fishing industries and explored the possible directions towards a more sustainable future for the sector.

Ms Mariah Stewart, Sustainability & Research Officer of Pacific Andes Enterprises (Hong Kong) Limited, started by sharing with the audience her experience in how international fishing industries have leaped forward in sustainable development. She pointed out that continuous world population growth has led to an upsurge in global demand for seafood, creating huge and profound impacts on the marine ecosystem, global economy and the human society.  Consequently, integrating sustainability into the seafood businesses has become a major world trend in recent years. The sustainability principles involved include ‘product responsibility’, ‘environmental protection’ and ‘social compliance’. To uphold these principles,Mariah suggested several means, such as tracking the supply chain, effective fishery management and product certification. Good examples can be found in Europe, where the online cloud platform is being widely used by consumers to track down the source of their seafood supply and find out whether the principles of sustainability have been followed during the production and sales processes. This was something Mariah believed Hong Kong could well follow suit. 

Two other speakers representing Fish & Season, a European organization advocating for sustainable fishing and respect for the spawning season, were Mr Wong Ping-chai and his daughter Ms Wong Wan-ying. Both come from a long-established local seafood supplier and have rich knowledge on Hong Kong’s fishing industry. In Ms Wong’s eyes, most Hong Kong people do not know much about ‘sustainable seafood’. While some people confuse ‘farm fish’ with ‘sustainable fish’, ignoring the possible impacts of water pollution arising from aquaculture, others might show little concern on whether the seafood they consume is produced in line with the principles of sustainability. To arouse public awareness on sustainable seafood, father and daughter joined Fish & Season two years ago. The organisation promotes ‘3 x NOs‘ during the spawning season --–  “NO Catch”, “NO Commerce” and “NO Consumption”. The aim is to ensure that marine species can spawn and grow safely in a balanced and healthy ecosystem. Instead of observing a uniform fishing moratorium as fixed by the government annually, Mr Wong hoped that Fish & Season could cooperate with local fishery associations and wholesalers to stop the catching and selling of specific marine / fish species during their spawning season. He saw this as more beneficial to both the Hong Kong fishing industry and the marine ecosystem.

During the discussion session, three guest speakers and the participants examined how the fishing and seafood industries could be made more sustainable. Several suggestions were raised, including the development of a mobile app to inform consumers about the spawning season of various fish species and their production processes, as well as educating citizens about the importance of sustainable seafood. Mr Chong Dee Hwa, President of the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong who also joined this talk, suggested us to begin with a research on the spawning seasons of local fish species, followed by cooperation with local fishermen to educate the seafood suppliers and consumers on the concepts of sustainable seafood. By doing so, Mr Chong hoped that the local marine ecosystem could be better conserved. 

We welcome anyone who has got innovative ideas to join us as an InnoTeam member and contribute to further discussions on this topic. Those interested please leave your personal particulars here.  Let’s work together to bring Hong Kong’s fishing industry to a more sustainable future.