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LCQ11: Effective and sustainable measures to prevent birds from foraging for cultured fish products and crops

     Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):


     At present, quite a number of wild birds often forage in fish ponds and agricultural fields in the New Territories.  However, the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) provides that no person shall, except in accordance with a special permit, hunt or wilfully disturb any protected wild animal.  Some fish farmers and farmers have repeatedly relayed to me that under the policy for the protection of birds formulated in compliance with that Ordinance, the bird-proof measures which they may take are ineffective and their setting up is cumbersome.  Moreover, even if the bird-proof measures taken by them are lawful, some radical environmentalists still often interfere and complain against them, thus making it difficult for fish farmers and farmers to protect their private properties, and causing heavy losses to them.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective expenditures incurred by the authorities in each of the past three years on (i) the protection of birds, (ii) promoting the development of fish cultivation and agriculture, and (iii) assisting such industries in preventing birds from foraging cultured fish products and crops, together with the details and effectiveness of such efforts;

(2) of the following in the past three years: (i) the number of complaints received by the authorities about alleged unlawful bird-proof measures taken by fish farmers and farmers, (ii) the average and longest periods of time taken by them to handle those cases, (iii) the number of prosecutions instituted by them for violation of Cap 170, and (iv) the number of convictions thereof;

(3) whether it has assessed in the past three years (i) the expenditures incurred by fish farmers and farmers on taking bird-proof measures, and (ii) their financial losses due to birds foraging their cultured fish products and crops; if it has, of the details; if not, whether it will make such an assessment;

(4) how the authorities compensated, in the past three years, fish farmers and farmers for their expenditures and financial losses as mentioned in (3); of the measures the authorities have put in place to assist them in reducing such expenditures and financial losses; and

(5) whether it will review the policy for the protection of birds and implement effective measures so that fish farmers and farmers will not have to bear the expenditures and financial losses arising from their compliance with such a policy, with a view to enabling the sustainable development of fish cultivation and agriculture; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Our response to Hon Steven Ho・s questions is consolidated as follows:

     The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) supports the agriculture and fisheries industries by providing numerous services to promote the development of agriculture and aquaculture, such as promotion of organic farming; development of new farming techniques and introduction of new and improved crop varieties to raise productivity; implementation of the Accredited Fish Farm Scheme and promotion of good aquaculture practice to enhance fish farm management and competitiveness of the local aquaculture industry; identifying suitable new culture species with good market potential; and organising training workshops for local fish farmers.

     On the other hand, the AFCD also actively works to protect wild animals by different means, including conservation management of habitats in the Ramsar Site and other areas, territory-wide law enforcement, public education, as well as animal rescue, studies and research, etc., while bird conservation is also included in all these aspects of work.  In Hong Kong, all wild birds are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170).  According to this ordinance, no person shall, except in accordance with a special permit, wilfully disturb or hunt any protected wild animal, including all wild birds. Over the past three years, the AFCD has prosecuted over 400 cases under Cap 170, and a total of 361 cases were convicted, including two cases involving use of illegal bird prevention measures in farmland or fishponds, subjected to a fine of $1,500 and $2,500. During the same period, the AFCD received a total of 36 complaints about suspected illegal use of bird prevention measures by farmers or fishpond operators. It usually took three to six months to process these cases.

     The AFCD understands the concern of farmers and fishpond operators over their loss due to bird predation in farmland and fishponds.  It aims to strike a balance between supporting the agriculture and fisheries industries as well as bird conservation. It assists farmers and fishpond operators in taking appropriate measures to reduce bird predation in farmland and fishponds without causing harm to birds.  The AFCD provides technical advice to farmers on bird prevention, while farmers who are interested in installing bird preventive netting or other measures can apply for low-interest loans.  The AFCD also regularly organises talks and workshops on good aquaculture practice and general fish farming guidelines, where methods on prevention of bird predation would be introduced, e.g. pond wiring, hanging of reflective materials, etc., to reduce loss of fish produce.

     The AFCD has published two Chinese pamphlets on the prevention of bird predation in fishponds and the methods of preventing birds in farmland for fishpond operators' and farmers' reference respectively. The AFCD will further study other measures of reducing bird predation in fishponds and farmland, and will communicate with fishpond operators and farmers on the pilot project accordingly.

     According to the AFCD・s observations, many fishpond operators and farmers have adopted the AFCD・s recommendations to reduce risk of bird predation in fishponds and farmland.  Nonetheless, the AFCD does not have the information about the cost of bird prevention measures used by the fishpond operators and farmers. On the other hand, the loss due to bird predation is subject to many factors, including species of fish / crops farmed, locality of the fishpond / farmland, and the bird prevention measures implemented on the site, and hence cannot be deduced conclusively.  The AFCD will continue to implement the above work to facilitate farmers and fishpond operators to reduce their loss due to bird predation in fishponds and farmland.

     In the financial years 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16, the AFCD・s expenditure on promoting the sustainable development of agriculture and aquaculture was about $48 million, $53 million and $56 million respectively.  Meanwhile, the AFCD・s works on bird protection cover a wide spectrum of services, from habitat conservation, law enforcement, public education, to bird rescue, study and research.  The AFCD also assists farmers and fishpond operators with respect to bird predation issues.  Since all the above works are related to wild animal protection under the AFCD, there is no separate breakdown of the expenditure in this regard.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:50


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