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LCQ8: Trawl ban

     Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (January 28):


     The legislation which bans trawling activities (trawl ban) came into operation on December 31, 2012, and the Fishermen Claims Appeal Board (FCAB) was also set up in November of the same year to handle appeals lodged by fishermen concerning ex-gratia allowances and one-off grants related to the trawl ban. However, some fishermen have recently pointed out that FCAB has procrastinated the processing of appeal cases, resulting in more than 800 outstanding cases at present. Regarding the processing of appeal cases by FCAB, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) why there are still many outstanding appeal cases awaiting processing;

(2) of the criteria adopted by the authorities for determining the order of priority for processing appeal cases; and

(3) of the time, as estimated by the authorities, still needed to complete the processing of all the appeal cases?



     The legislation which bans trawling in Hong Kong waters came into operation on December 31, 2012. Under the one-off assistance package approved by the Legislative Council Finance Committee on June 10, 2011, an ex-gratia allowance (EGA) is payable to eligible trawler owners affected by the trawl ban.

     An Inter-departmental Working Group (IWG) was set up by the Government to handle matters relating to applications received from parties affected by the trawl ban. Applicants who are not satisfied with the decisions of the IWG may lodge appeals to the Fishermen Claims Appeal Board (FCAB).

     EGA amounting to $941.3 million had been paid out from the sum approved by the Finance Committee.  For owners of larger trawlers, a lump sum EGA of $150,000 had been disbursed to each eligible applicant.  For owners of inshore trawlers, the amount of EGA payable to individual applicants depended on the number of successful applications and the apportionment criteria (e.g. vessel type, length of eligible inshore trawlers, the capacity of the engine(s), equipment on board, the percentage of time spent on trawling and/or production in Hong Kong waters).  Around 30% of the total amount of EGA, together with the contingency amount, have been reserved to cover successful appeal cases as may be determined by the FCAB.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) The FCAB has received 858 appeal applications.  Each appeal case is based on its own account of complex and technical information.  Having meticulously reviewed such information, the FCAB might need to follow up as necessary. To ensure that the appeal cases are processed in a just and fair manner, the FCAB will conduct hearing for each individual appeal. Before handing down the decisions, the FCAB would need to digest the statements submitted by the appellants and the IWG, carefully consider the justifications and allow a reasonable period of time for both parties to respond to each other's submissions.  In view of the large number of appeals lodged and the enormous amount of information involved, it would take time for the FCAB to complete the processing task.

     To ensure that the appeal process is completed within a reasonable timeframe, the Government had hitherto expanded the FCAB to a pool of five Chairmen and 20 Members, and appointed three additional legal advisers in mid-2014.  With the introduction of roster mechanism, the Chairmen and Members have been assigned to sit in relevant hearing sessions with the number as well as frequency of hearings increased such that the hearing process could be expedited.  To ensure that the appeal cases are processed in a just, fair, smooth, economical and expeditious manner, we would need to make sure that there is a good measure of consistency among Chairmen and Members in their work.  In the first stage and the second stage, the FCAB will conduct hearings on 32 cases and the remaining cases respectively.  The FCAB has conducted hearings for nine cases in the first stage, and has promptly scheduled to process the remaining 20 or so cases under the first stage as well as the remaining 800 or so cases under the second stage.  After completing action on the appeal cases under the first stage, we expect that the processing of appeal cases under the second stage would take less time.

 (2) The 32 cases under the first stage are extracted from a cross-section of the appeal cases based on vessel type (i.e. stern trawlers, pair trawlers, hand trawlers and shrimp trawlers) and classification (i.e. inshore trawlers (upper tier), inshore trawlers (lower tier), larger trawlers which generally do not operate in Hong Kong waters, and ineligible trawlers) with a view to covering all the parameters and criteria that had been taken into consideration in the IWG's assessments. During the second stage, the FCAB will hear the remaining appeal cases in a sequence that accords with the date on which the appeal was lodged.

Ends/Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:09


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