(January 10 2015 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) today celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Ocean Park Conservation Day. OPCFHK announced the preliminary findings of Hong Kong’s first-ever systematic reef fish survey, which spans over 20 sites with significant coral coverage and reef fish diversity for a detailed assessment of the diversity, distribution and abundance of reef fish species in local waters. Findings from 146 dives conducted at 17 sites from June to November 2014 have amply demonstrated the immense value of the survey, highlighted by three sightings of the Sabah grouper, an exotic species that could potentially have a devastating impact on local marine ecology. Other significant results include the rare sightings of a humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) and a Hong Kong grouper (Epinephelus akaara) both of which are listed as Endangered. These sightings may be a reflection of improving marine ecological conditions in Hong Kong. In addition, first sightings of a Yellowbar sandperch (Parapercis xanthozona) and a goby (Istigobius hoshinonis) were noted; both of which have never been documented in Hong Kong before. The survey is one of the joint initiatives between Ocean Park and OPCFHK under the Park’s Blue Matters Campaign. Over the coming year, Ocean Park will continue to introduce different activities under the Blue Matters campaign initiated last year to instil awareness and inspire action concerning marine conservation.
Mr. Leo Kung, Chairman of Ocean Park, said, “The partnership between Ocean Park and OPCFHK over the past 19 years has played a critical and unique role in raising conservation awareness in Hong Kong and supporting conservation projects across Asia. Through different donation mechanisms and channels, we have donated HK$96.2 million to OPCFHK over the past 19 years. In the 2013/14 fiscal year, the Foundation received HK$13.1 million from Ocean Park. Park guests have directly contributed an additional HK$3.5 million to OPCFHK through donation boxes and our Octopus donation mechanisms across the Park since 2005.”
Mr. Kung added, “Ocean Park has always been a leading advocate of environmental protection and wildlife conservation in the region. Our Blue Matters campaign, launched in 2013, pursues non-confrontational, pragmatic solutions to conservation challenges such as marine debris, sustainable seafood and marine biodiversity. Initiatives launched under Blue Matters campaign to date include animal exhibit interpretive elements, school outreach talks, student competitions, as well as different beach clean-up actions. To strengthen our leadership in marine conservation and maximise public resonance, Blue Matters campaign is not only empowered by the close collaboration between Ocean Park and OPCFHK, it is also supported by a network of strategic affiliates such as the Environmental Protection Department and Wild Aid Shark Savers.”
Ms. Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK, said, “OPCFHK is deeply grateful to Ocean Park for its generous support over the years. Since 1995, we have funded over 420 conservation projects, spanning 18 Asian countries and involving over 85 threatened species. For the fiscal year of 2014/15, we have allocated HK$8 million to support 46 conservation projects. Several projects concern new species for OPCFHK conservation support, including the Helen’s flying frog, the Malayan sun bear, the Eld’s deer and the Sumatran rhinoceros. Another area of achievement is community education. Over half of the 249 participants of our University Student Sponsorship Programme in the past 10 years are now working or studying in conservation-related field. Also, 2,777 local students have participated in our Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme and have released over 1,255 horseshoe crabs to the wild, accounting for over 10% of the juvenile population in Hong Kong.”
Ms. Chen continued, “Complementing our ongoing seahorse survey, the reef fish survey is a testament to our growing direct involvement in conserving local species and habitats. This initiative helps establish the first systematic reef fish database. Not only will it be accessible by the public, it will give the government and NGOs an objective and scientific reference when devising long-term conservation strategies. At a later stage of the project, we will engage divers to become ‘citizen scientists’ by encouraging them to take and submit photos of locally sighted reef fishes, thereby helping enrich our database and photo catalogue.”
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, said, “The presence of exotic species such as the Sabah grouper, is a disturbing development. An introduction of a foreign species into our waters could potentially upset the existing ecological harmony, especially when the Sabah grouper is fast growing and does not have any natural predators here. We urge the public to refrain from releasing live animals into the wild. On the other hand, we are glad to discover a humphead wrasse. As there has been no known sighting of the species in local waters in the past ten years, this might be taken as an indication of improving marine ecological conditions. However, this has to be verified through long-term monitoring. This is precisely why a comprehensive marine survey is needed and we hope our reef fish survey can make a key contribution in this critical endeavour.”
Ms. Gendron said, “Since 2005, OPCFHK allocated about HK$6.9 million to support 51 Chinese white dolphin research projects and workshops that have produced many significant conservation results. For instance, data from research supported by OPCFHK culminated in an unprecedented government decision to designate up to 80% of the habitat of the eastern Taiwan Strait Chinese white dolphin subpopulation as part of a wildlife sanctuary. OPCFHK also facilitated the success of China’s first successful seabird restoration project, which helped conserve the critically endangered Chinese crested terns, with only 50 individuals remaining. At least 13 chicks have successfully fledged during the breeding season in 2014 as a result. As well, OPCFHK has long played a leadership role in giant panda conservation, supporting projects on a wide range of projects, including habitat restoration, field monitoring, foraging strategy, as well as assisting Chinese government efforts to conserve giant pandas across multiple provinces.”
Mr. Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment, said both Ocean Park and OPCFHK all along spared no effort in making nature conservation an important part of Hong Kong culture while OPCFHK also forged close partnership with the Government. This latest reef fish survey initiative would provide information critical to our understanding of local marine ecology and give impetus to the government’s long-term conservation work.
Ms. Michelle Reis said, “As a parent, I very much appreciate Ocean Park’s work in raising conservation awareness and OPCFHK’s efforts in conserving wild animals and their habitats as both are critical to ensuring a sustainable future for the younger generation. Ocean Park is also my son’s favourite place for encountering animals and learning about nature.”
Ms. Chen concluded, “OPCFHK will be presenting Run for Survival, our first-ever fundraising charity run, on 8 March this year. I encourage everyone to join us for an opportunity to learn about the threats faced by marine wildlife through a fun and meaningful activity.”
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