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LCQ8: Trawler fishermen

     Following is a question by the Hon Margaret Ng and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (December 15):


     Earlier, a newspaper published an interview with a girl from a fishing family, pointing out that the girl's six-member family earns a living by fishing, and she has been involved in the fishing industry along with her family since she was small, and she plans to make fishing her life-long career.  The article also says that the girl's aspiration of leading a simple life may be dashed very soon because this year's Policy Address has announced a voluntary trawler buyout scheme and proposed to ban trawling in Hong Kong waters through legislation.  Regarding the Government's proposal of banning trawling in Hong Kong waters through legislation, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) how the Government will implement the relevant policies or measures proposed in the Report of the Committee on Sustainable Fisheries (the Report) released in March 2010 for assisting the affected fishermen so that they can choose to remain in the fishing industry;

(b) whether the Government will consider adopting a natural phasing out policy, i.e. allowing the existing owners of fishing vessels to continue their operations until they voluntarily give up the operations or die; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) given that, while one of the proposals in the Report is the Government to assist the affected fishermen in switching to the aquaculture industry, the Report has also indicated that the annual production of both marine fish culture and pond fish culture in Hong Kong has been dropping persistently and shrinking significantly for more than a decade, whether the Government has assessed if the affected fishermen can earn a living if they switch to the aquaculture industry; of the land and resources that the Government will reserve for assisting the affected fishermen in switching to the aquaculture industry?



(a) In this year's Policy Address, the Chief Executive proposed to ban trawling in Hong Kong waters to protect our precious marine resources and ecology.  We intend to introduce a special training programme for the trawler fishermen who have to give up their operations as a result of the ban, with a view to equipping them with the skills and knowledge for switching to selective fishing methods to continue with their operations, or to other sustainable fisheries operations, including mariculture and recreational fishing.  Fishermen who have such needs may also apply to the Fisheries Development Loan Fund for low interest loans to put their plans of switching to other fisheries operations into action.

     Besides, we plan to seek funding approval from the Legislative Council for introducing a one-off buy-out scheme for eligible trawler fishermen, with a view to adequately addressing the impact of the measure on their livelihood.  The scheme will include: (1) offering ex-gratia allowance payments to trawler vessel owners affected by the afore-mentioned measure; (2) proposing to the affected trawler vessel owners to buy out their trawler vessels on a voluntary basis; and (3) providing one-off grants to assist the local deckhands employed by the trawler vessel owners who take part in the buy-out scheme.

     We believe the above proposed measures will assist the affected fishermen to switch to other sustainable fisheries or related operations.  As to the local deckhands employed by the trawler vessel owners who take part in the buy-out scheme, they will be given one-off grants to help them meet their short-term needs during the period when they are looking for another job.  They can also join the training programmes provided by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) or the Employees Retraining Board, in order to switch to other fisheries-related or non-fisheries-related trades.

(b) While non-selective means of fisheries operations have resulted in a decline in fisheries resources, there is evidence that some over-exploited local species still survive in sufficient numbers for successful restoration.  However, if we do not take decisive action now to prevent the continued depletion of our fisheries resources and the destruction of the marine ecosystems, the damage to our marine ecosystems will become irreversible.  In addition, the trade may also continue to exploit the remaining meagre fisheries resources until their complete depletion, thus seriously damaging the marine ecosystems and the capture fisheries sector.

     In view of the above factors, we consider that the ban on trawling in Hong Kong waters should be implemented as early as possible to halt the harmful depletion of marine resources, thereby enabling the marine ecosystems to be gradually rehabilitated to an ecologically sustainable level.  The restoration of fisheries resources in Hong Kong waters will in turn improve the cost efficiency and the operating environment of the fisheries industry, thus enhancing the vibrancy of the trade and livelihood of the practitioners.

(c) The Committee on Sustainable Fisheries considers that given the growing concern of Hong Kong people over food quality and safety, there is an increasing demand for quality fisheries products.  If the trade can strengthen the management of the local aquaculture industry, improve the culture techniques, as well as raise the quality of fisheries products and the level of food safety, the competitiveness of local fisheries products will be enhanced, providing room for further development for the industry.

     The AFCD is currently assisting fishermen who are interested in the aquaculture industry to acquire the techniques required and promoting the development of the aquaculture industry through the provision of training and technical support, including organising aquaculture training courses in cooperation with mainland universities and research institutions; inviting mainland and overseas experts to provide technical support and training; arranging visits for local fishermen to the mainland and overseas to study aquaculture techniques; developing fish fry hatching and breeding techniques and introducing new fish species, as well as introducing the "Fish Health Management Programme", the "Good Aquaculture Practices Programme" and the "Accredited Fish Farm Scheme".

     Moreover, the AFCD has been following up with relevant bureaux/departments in reviewing the moratorium on the issue of new marine fish culture licences, and studying the expansion and rotation of fish culture zones to facilitate trawler fishermen to switch to mariculture.

Ends/Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Issued at HKT 11:57


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