HONG KONG - Hong Kong is considering banning fishing trawlers in its waters to save fish stocks, a report said Thursday. The drastic proposal comes as annual catches were estimated to be 30 percent above sustainable levels, the South China Morning Post said, citing a consultation paper from the Food and Health bureau.
"Most Hong Kong waters are fish spawning and nursery grounds," said the consultation document, which will be released by the bureau's committee on sustainable fisheries next week.
"The indiscriminate trawling activity will lead to catches of infant fish that lack... economic value and seriously disrupt reproduction capacity."
Under the proposals, the government could buy out some of the 550 fishing trawlers operating in Hong Kong waters.
Environmental groups have long said that of all methods used, trawling has the most damaging effect on the seabed and fish stocks.
The document said annual production of fish in local waters has reached 26,700 tonnes, 30 percent above the maximum sustainable yield set by a recent study on sustainable fishing, the Post said.
The proposal is likely to draw opposition from the beleaguered fishing industry, which provides 12,000 jobs in Hong Kong.
Fishermen have been plagued by a string of problems including marine pollution from China, soaring oil prices, ageing operators, and mounting calls to protect international fish stocks.
Financial help and retraining could be offered to the affected fishermen, with the hope that they could turn to the leisure fishing business or fish farming, the report said.
Other suggestions in the paper included limiting new entrants and capping the number of fishing vessels, the English-language newspaper reported.
A spokesman for the department said the report was not yet available to the public.