- Marine Science
Marine ecosystems in Hong Kong, as well as globally, have been in decline for the past 50 years for an array of reasons. These include; habitat loss from coastal development, overfishing/harvesting of marine life, excess pollution from the steady increase in population and climate change from the burning of fossil fuels.
Global leaders have realized that in order to protect marine ecosystems and vitality, 30% of the world's oceans need to be protected. The UN Convention on Biodiversity Proposes Protection of at least 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.
Hong Kong is not only a busy and lively city but also a hotspot of biodiversity, hosting an incredible variety of plants and animals. A reduction in biodiversity can lead to a substantial decrease in the services that ecosystems provide.
Ecosystems represent the complex relationships and interdependence of living organisms and their physical environment in a particular unit of space. They provide services to the world making our life possible; such as providing food and clean water, regulation of diseases and climate, pollination of crops as well as recreational, cultural and spiritual benefits.
Hong Kong has a variety of ecosystems that provide essential services to the community, in particular marine ecosystems. If we reduce habitat, food resources and protection for the organisms of an ecosystem, the entire system will stop working.
Hong Kong hosts an incredible variety of corals. With more than 90 species, Hong Kong is home to more hard coral species than the Caribbean. Local corals are very special as they are able to endure Hong Kong’s short winters and urban development, continuing to tough it out, despite low sea water temperatures and high turbidity compared to tropical areas.
Coral health is important because these fragile ecosystems are widely regarded as the nurseries of the seas and oases of marine life. Although they cover less than 0.2 per cent of the ocean floor, they represent 30 percent of all marine diversity. Unfortunately, fishery, urban development and anchoring are decreasing the abundance of these animals in Hong Kong and we need to keep track of their conditions over time in order to develop proper management measures.
How do we protect a part of the ocean? A marine protected area (MPA) is a section of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity. Many MPAs allow people to use the area in ways that do not damage the environment. This means, in the protected areas, there is to be no fishing or organism collection of any kind, no dumping of pollutants, no regular transport through the area and no dredging/mining or drilling activities.
The Hong Kong Government announced Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050, setting out the vision of "Zero-carbon Emissions‧Liveable City‧Sustainable Development", and outlining the strategies and targets for combating climate change and achieving carbon neutrality.
The Harbour School Marine Science Center has recently joined the Hong Kong Marine Protection Alliance (HKMPA) which was officially launched in August 2022. HKMPA is the first collective in Hong Kong that focuses on marine conservation and sustainability. HKMPA comprises a unique network of academics, educators, researchers, environmental advocates and corporate entities working together towards common goals and agreed targets. There are 17 organizations, 9 individual members and 3 contributing members as of August 2022.
The aim of the HKMPA is to support government decisions that will lead to marine protected areas in Hong Kong waters. Currently only 5% of Hong Kong waters are designated or planned as marine protected areas (MPA) by 2023, which is grossly inadequate to conserve Hong Kong’s precious marine resources, especially after decades of intense coastal development.
Less than 0.1% are true no-take zones. The rest of Hong Kong’s coastal waters receive little or no protection. This is in stark contrast to the protected land network where 40% of the land is designated as country parks in Hong Kong.
With the help and guidance from places like WWF, Hong Kong Universities, The Nature Conservancy, various NGOs, SWIMS and THS, HKMPA hopes to assist the government in creating, maintaining and policing Hong Kong Marine Protected Areas and alert the officials to the best most valuable places to conserve for the future.