Could high-rise fish farms revive Hong Kong's fishing industry?
Could high-rise fish farms revive Hong Kong's fishing
Hong Kong ban on trawling puts emphasis on aquaculture to meet growing demand for seafood
Fish farms provide around 70% of fish to local wholesale markets
Many fear the traditional fisherman's life will soon be a thing of the past
High-tech indoor fish farm in Hong Kong provides new method of aquaculture
ix mornings each week Hong Kong's Aberdeen fish market is one of the busiest places in an already
Fishing boats unload their catch: still thrashing live fish caught in the South China Sea and more
tropical waters further afield.
From the murky holding tanks they're soon dispatched in lorries to feed the city's hearty appetite for
live seafood. Around 30 tons each day are landed at the Aberdeen market alone, according to the
Hong Kong's Fish Marketing Organization, with six other live fish markets dotted across the
But while the market continues to do brisk business, the livelihood of the city's fishermen has been
in slow decline for years.
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Mr Lee, fishman
"It's quite hard to do business now because there is not much supply," says fisherman Mr Lee,
proudly holding up his prize catch, a grouper large enough to make a dining table groan.
"We now do one trip only, with little supply we cannot even out the cost. There is not much fish in
The specimen he was showing off came from thousands of miles away. That alone tells the story.
Hong Kong's territorial waters have severely depleted since the 1980s, according to the
environmental group WWF. Although being close to fished out for years, it was only in January of
this year that a five-year ban on trawling in Hong Kong waters came into effect.
Championed by environmental groups, it's proved controversial among some of the trawler owners
and the fishermen and families that rely on the fishing fleet. The trawlers can still fish outside the
banned area, but many of the vessels with their characteristic high bows remain idle in port with
their nets folded; their owners and crew relying on a slice of a $200 million government
Even if fishing stocks do recover, many are doubtful the traditional way of life -- a part of Hong
Kong's culture for as long as the city has existed -- will ever really return.
Cheng Wah Ming was a lifelong fisherman who saw out many stormy periods in the industry until
2004, when he swapped the high seas to join the Lamma Fisherfolk Village, located a few kilometers
from Hong Kong's main island. In place of nets and rigging, he now has buckets of fish feed at the
fish farm and education center.
"From what I remember, in the 1950s and 1960s, the fishermen population in Hong Kong was close
to 100,000. Now I believe it's less than 10,000," he says.
There's a lot of lip service from wholesalers about a sustainable product, but really it comes down to
Lloyd Moskalik, OceanEthix
Citing numerous reasons for the decline -- from fuel prices to declining stocks and the unstable
income from fishing -- Cheng fears the recent ban could prove a final nail in the coffin of the local
industry, one he wishes will be preserved as much as possible.
"I hope that people who have the passion can continue to work in the fishing industry. Hong Kong
was a small fishing port and has now developed and become an international financial center. Not a
lot of people know about Hong Kong's fishing history and culture, so I think this project is worth
Farming for the
abate for seafood
and fish farming
seems to be the
70%-80% of fish
sold at Aberdeen
fish market already
comes from fish
sound is another
issue; much of the
feed for fish farms
comes from live caught "trash fish" -- the price of which has increased in Hong Kong since the
High-tech schemes, like OceanEthix http://www.oregon.com/fishing indoor fish farm technology,
housed on the 15th floor of a skyscraper 30 miles from the sea, offer some ingenious solutions to
aquaculture's problems of sustainability and quality. Using vast tanks to grow out valuable fish for
the restaurant trade, the company has developed a method where the water is recycled and fish feed
comes from sustainable sources, not trash fish.
The demand for its fish, like live coral grouper, is in good health says Lloyd Moskalik, managing
director of OceanEthix, but making it as affordable or cheaper than other products will be key to its
"In the long term the fishermen of Hong Kong don't have much of a future," Moskalik says.
"There's a lot of lip service from wholesalers about a sustainable product, but really it comes down
to the price mechanism."