LCQ7: Mitigation measures implemented under Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project
According to the environmental impact assessment report of the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities and the Hong Kong Link Road projects of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (the projects), the mitigation measures that must be taken by the authorities include conducting fry release within the boundaries of the newly established Brothers Marine Park as well as the existing Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park, so as to enhance the fishery resources in such waters. In September 2014, the Highways Department (HyD) conducted a release trial in the waters near the Brothers, releasing about 40 000 fry of Yellow Croaker and about 60 000 fry of Threadfin. However, it has been reported that as HyD has not taken any post-release actions to monitor the fry released, information on the whereabouts and the mortality and survival rates of the fry was not available. On the other hand, HyD consulted the Country and Marine Parks Board in July last year about the specific arrangements of the fry release, and some Board members expressed concern about the HyD's plan of releasing the fry of Hong Kong Grouper and the fry of Longtooth Grouper because groupers might have an adverse impact on the existing fish community of the aforesaid marine parks. On monitoring of the mitigation measures implemented under the projects, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the dates on which the tendering exercise for the contracts of the fry release were/will be conducted, as well as the names of all tenderers and the successful tenderers; whether the relevant tender documents can be made public;
(2) of the details of the aforesaid fry release trial (including the dates, the number of releases and the relevant reports); why the species of fish subsequently suggested to be released by HyD were different from those adopted in the fry release trial;
(3) given that a fry release trial was conducted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in 2001, whether HyD has, in preparing the contracts for the fry release, made reference to the relevant arrangements and the outcome of the trial; if so, of the lessons learnt; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) given that some environmentalists have relayed that the projects will destroy the natural seabed, thereby affecting the marine ecology and fisheries resources, whether HyD has regularly deployed staff to conduct at-sea inspections to collect data on marine ecology and fisheries resources in the waters concerned before and after the works, for assessing the impacts of such works more accurately; if so, of the number and date of such inspections; and
(5) whether a mechanism is in place to (i) ensure that the contractors of the projects will adopt the various mitigation measures according to the contractual requirements, and (ii) impose penalties on the contractors who have breached the contractual requirements; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will establish such a mechanism?
My reply to the various parts of the Hon Chu Hoi-dick's question is as follows:
(1) and (2) A fry release trial was conducted on September 5, 2014 in the waters near the Brothers, with a total of about 40 000 fry of Yellow Croaker and about 60 000 fry of Threadfin released. The release trial was conducted by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, the contractor of reclamation works for the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) of the Highways Department (HyD). The trial was covered by variation order under the contract terms.
The key factors considered in selecting the fry species to be released in the trial in 2014 included: whether they were native species adaptive to Hong Kong's western waters and whether they were fries provided by artificial incubation facilities in neighbouring areas, etc. Ten native fry species were considered in the release trial, such as Yellow Croaker, Threadfin and Groupers (Longtooth Grouper and Orange-Spotted Grouper), etc. Upon consideration of various factors and in consultation with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the HyD reckoned that the fries of Yellow Croaker and Threadfin were the most suitable species for the release trial.
As the major purpose of the release trial was to gather information on the detailed arrangements (such as the time the fry supplier needed to deliver the fry to Hong Kong, the mortality rate of the fry during the delivery and important points to note during the delivery) and is not a formal release to enhance fisheries resources, the HyD did not take any monitoring action after the trial.
In terms of the species of fry to be selected for the future formal release, there are more factors to be considered when compared to the trial in 2014. Taking into account various factors, the marine biology consultants commissioned by the HyD proposed releasing fry of Hong Kong Grouper and Longtooth Grouper, in anticipation that these two species will help revive the fisheries resources in Hong Kong's western waters.
When the HyD consulted the Country and Marine Parks Board (the Board) in July 2017 on the preliminary proposal for the fry release, the Board expressed concerns about the species of fry to be released, worrying that the proposed release of Hong Kong Grouper fry and Longtooth Grouper fry might have an adverse impact on the existing fishery community at the location of release. The Board therefore suggested that the HyD should reconsider the suitable species of fry to be released. The marine biology consultants commissioned by the HyD are currently deliberating on the comments of the Board, and are discussing with relevant departments. The Board will be consulted again on the fry release proposal in due course. Since the fry release programme is still subject to study and consultation, the relevant tendering exercise will only commence after further consultation with the Board.
(3) For the purpose of its programme of fry release, the HyD had drawn reference from the AFCD's fish restocking trial at the sites with artificial reefs deployment in the eastern waters of Hong Kong in 2001. However, it was noted that the waters for the AFCD's restocking trial were different from the waters and environment planned for the HyD's formal release of fry, making the AFCD's trial of limited reference value for HyD's programme of fry release. Hence, it was necessary for the HyD to conduct a fry release trial in 2014 to collect data on the feasibility and operational details of releasing fry in the western waters, especially the waters around the Brothers. The data, including the logistics arrangements and the procedure for releasing fry mentioned above, are used to facilitate the preparatory work for the formal fry release in the future.
(4) Prior to the construction of the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), the HyD had conducted baseline environmental monitoring in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report. The aim was to gather data on the water quality and Chinese white dolphins at the waters in the vicinity of the construction sites before the commencement of the project, thereby enabling assessment of the environmental impact on neighbouring areas during the construction stage.
During the construction stage, the HyD has been strictly implementing environmental monitoring and audit programme as required by the EIA Report and the Environmental Monitoring and Audit Manual. The programme includes regular monitoring of the water quality of the waters in the vicinity of the construction sites (three times per week, including one time during high tide and one during ebb tide) and the conditions of Chinese white dolphins (two times per month), etc. The programme is carried out by the resident engineer, the Environmental Team, the Independent Environmental Checker and the Environmental Project Office. The Chinese white dolphin experts in the Environmental Team are responsible for monitoring the distribution and number of Chinese white dolphins. The monitoring data and investigation reports are attached to the quarterly environmental monitoring and audit report released by the HyD, and are uploaded to the website of the Environmental Project Office for the HZMB projects for public viewing.
(5) During the construction stage, apart from the above-mentioned environmental monitoring and audit programme, the contractors shall also carry out works in accordance with the requirements in the environmental permit and the Environmental Monitoring and Audit Manual, and strictly implement the measures set out in the EIA report to mitigate the environmental impact. The HyD will closely monitor the performance and effectiveness of the measures undertaken by the contractors to ensure proper implementation of the relevant environmental protection measures.
If the results turn out to be unsatisfactory, the HyD will review whether the problem is related to the performance of the contractors and will take appropriate follow-up actions. The HyD will impose penalties according to the existing mechanism, including reflecting the unsatisfactory performance in the assessment report of the contractors. Moreover, as stated in the Contractor Management Handbook and the Development Bureau Technical Circular (Works) No. 3/2009, the HyD can issue warning letters to contractors who violate environmental protection laws or whose performance in implementing environmental protection measures are unsatisfactory, suspend them from tendering for public works, or even remove them from the Lists of Approved Contractors, etc.
Ends/Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:00
Issued at HKT 15:00