22 new species on Hong Kong reefs

Local | Cissy So 27 Jun 2019

A local marine conservation group discovered at least 22 species of fish that are new to Hong Kong and launched the city's very own comprehensive reef fish web portal yesterday.

Bloom Association Hong Kong, along with a volunteer group of recreational scuba divers, spent more than 2,900 hours underwater and recorded nearly 400 species of fish, including several that are threatened, since the project's inception in 2014.

The Humphead Wrasse - a threatened species - was last seen at least a decade ago, and others like the Hong Kong grouper were common locally in the 1960s but are now rare and endangered.

The website, 114?E Hong Kong Reef Fish Web-Portal, is a citizen-run online directory for reef fish. It contains live photographs and full profiles of the species that were found from at least 88 families of reef fish in Hong Kong waters.

"The website will not show endangered species in order to protect the privacy of the fish and to prevent them from being caught," said Stan Shea Kwok-ho, the marine program director of the Bloom Association and co-founder of the project.

He said data will be provided if it is for scientific and academic purposes, such as environmental impact assessments. The bilingual portal is a comprehensive reef fish database that will be continuously updated.

It not only offers information on different species but also about common dive sites and their mobile reception in Hong Kong.

Currently, less than 2.5 percent of Hong Kong waters are classified as marine protected areas, while at least 40 percent of the city's land is protected as they are country parks. The geographical distribution and species diversity data that is collected will provide strong evidence to authorities to increase protection in marine protected areas.

Shea hopes that the website can become one of the go-to resources for reef fish in Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

In the next phase of the website's development, citizens can take part in contributing to the database by uploading their own photographs taken underwater in Hong Kong.

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