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LCQ22: Prevention of alien species' invasion of Hong Kong's natural environment

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (November 11):


     It is learnt that some alien species (such as Red-eared Sliders, White Popinac and Mikania micrantha) have proliferated after they were brought into Hong Kong's natural environment, thereby posing threats to the native species and the local natural environment. However, Hong Kong currently does not have any measure in place to deal with such alien species. On the other hand, to deal with and prevent the invasion of alien species, the United States established her National Invasive Species Council as early as in 1999, while New Zealand proposed her bio-security programme in 2002 and Japan enacted specific legislation in 2005. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Government has currently maintained a detailed database on invasive alien species; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the Government conducted on its own or commissioned experts to conduct, in the past 10 years, any assessment and study on the impacts of alien species on the local natural environment; if it did, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) regarding certain alien species which are known to be posing threats to the local natural environment, whether the Government will make reference to the practices of the aforesaid countries and enact legislation to regulate the import of such species; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) given that the 2015 Policy Address mentioned that the Government was formulating the first Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of Hong Kong, of the measures under the Plan to prevent and mitigate the impacts of alien species on the local natural environment, so as to maintain the diversity of native species; of the progress of formulating the Plan; and

(5) whether the Government will step up publicity efforts to educate the public not to casually release animals, and to encourage them to report to the authorities when they find alien species invading the local natural environment; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) The Government is committed to the conservation of Hong Kong's natural environment and biodiversity, and has been soliciting public support to protecting the local natural environment through education and publicity activities and other appropriate measures.

     A wide range of species of animals and plants in Hong Kong are introduced from elsewhere. Although a detailed database on invasive alien species is currently not available, the Government has recorded information related to alien species; for instance, Hong Kong currently has over 3 000 plant species, among which about one-third are alien species, including some common fruit trees and ornamental plants. A large number of introduced species have long been naturalised in Hong Kong, and have no significant impact on the local ecology. In fact, many alien species are beneficial to agriculture, horticulture, forestry and aquaculture sectors.

     At present, only a few alien species have had an impact on the local ecology and are considered invasive. These known invasive alien species, such as Apple Snail, Red Imported Fire Ant, House Crow, Sonneratia and Mikania micrantha, may pose a threat to the local ecology and even have influence to human living. The Government will take control measures in accordance with the actual circumstances to safeguard the local biodiversity.

(2) The Government has commissioned or funded local research institutions to conduct research projects on alien species, including the research on the characteristics and distribution of Sonneratia in Inner Deep Bay, as well as the research on the ecological impact and control of Apple Snail funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund.

(3) At present, the Government has put in place measures to regulate the import of animals and plants for the purpose of pest control, quarantine and prevention of disease. As mentioned above, most of the alien species do not pose adverse effect to the local ecology. In this connection, the Government focuses its work on controlling the known invasive alien species to prevent them from further proliferation, and will continue to monitor the situation by conducting the Biodiversity Survey. Nevertheless, if certain species are discovered to be potentially invasive, further investigations and control measures will be initiated accordingly.

     The existing measures implemented to control the invasive alien species mainly include:

* regular inspection of country parks, special areas and sites of special scientific interest conducted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) for the control of proliferation of Mikania micrantha. Once Mikania micrantha is found in the above areas, the AFCD will arrange for removal;

* removal of the two alien species of Sonneratia from the mudflat and intertidal mangroves in Inner Deep Bay in order to prevent them from having potential impacts on the native mangrove; and

* preventive measures to reduce the potential impacts caused by House Crows; control of House Crow population by baiting and removing their nests; and at the same time, monitoring of the number and distribution of House Crows to minimise the potential impacts caused by them on the local environment.

     As for whether there is a need to implement more import control on alien species as preventive measures for the introduction of invasive alien species, the Government will handle the issue in a prudent manner. On one hand, we have to assess the impact on the local ecology and the effectiveness of the existing control measures. On the other hand, we have to consider the potential impact of introducing other legislative regulations on the society and the economy, as well as the relevant requirements of international trade.

(4) When preparing the first Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) for Hong Kong, there were calls for concern on the invasive alien species. It was suggested that the Government, apart from continuing the implementation of the existing control measures, should carry out a comprehensive review on the current situation of the alien species in Hong Kong and collect information about the pathways of introduction and the risks to the local ecology. Besides, some suggested strengthening the monitoring and regulation of some invasive alien species. The Government is considering these suggestions, and will consult the public on the BSAP.

(5) Release of animals into the wild not only affects the equilibrium of local ecosystems but is also detrimental to animal welfare and may spread disease. Therefore, such activity is discouraged by the AFCD. The AFCD has set up a dedicated team to devise, implement and fortify public education and publicity programmes for disseminating messages that help promote care for animals and responsible pet ownership, and appeal to the public not to abandon their pets. Apart from producing announcements in the public interest on television and radio, the AFCD places advertisements on different platforms, organising promotional events and publicity projects to promote the message.

     The AFCD has been reminding the public not to feed wild birds or House Crows through public education in order not to encourage the breeding and spreading of House Crows.

     The AFCD will continue to monitor the situation and consolidate our efforts in public education with a view to safeguarding animal health and welfare as well as the local ecosystem.

Ends/Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:03


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