Wed, Dec 04, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Barely staying afloat

Hong Kong, once home to thriving fishing communities that helped shape its culture and cuisine, has witnessed rapid decline since a government ban on trawling last year

By Issam Ahmed  /  AFP, HONG KONG

“It was a really hard life before. We would go out fishing at sea and it was a dangerous life,” said Cheung. “We do not miss that.”


Today Hong Kong gets the bulk of its supply from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the territory imports 85 percent of seafood consumed there, including popular species such as the Tiger Grouper and Leopard Coral Trout commonly found in the city’s wet markets. Others are determined that the legacy of Hong Kong’s earliest primary industry remains.

Ming Cheng-Wah, who was a fisherman until 2004, now helps run a floating fishing village where tourists can try their hand at traditional fishing.

The 55-year-old’s boat was home to him and a family of 12 people spanning three generations until 1980.

“It is very important to preserve what we have.

“Normal people and the government do not pay much attention to what fishermen contributed to the Hong Kong story. Before I die I want more people to know about this.”

Last year, fishing contributed less than HK$1.9 billion to Hong Kong’s GDP of HK$1.89 trillion and for many there is no doubt that the local industry is in decline.

Professor Liu is critical of the manner in which fishermen have been “bought out” with one-off payments, saying such a system can lead to alienation.

Helping fishermen to continue fishing will contribute not only to societal diversity, but could also give the city an economic fallback should conditions ever change, Liu argues.

“A good, healthy society should have a diverse culture. So we have to help people keep their traditions. “Hong Kong is a financial center now, but we don’t know what will happen in the future.”

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