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September 4th, 2008:

Hong Kong Considers Ban On Fishing Trawlers

AFP – Sep 4, 2008

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.

Guangdong’s Air And Water Dirtier Despite Factory Closures

He Huifeng – SCMP – Updated on Sep 04, 2008

Air and water contamination in Guangdong worsened in the first half of the year despite the closure of thousands of polluting factories – many of them Hong Kong-owned – in the Pearl River Delta.

A total of 53.4 per cent of the province’s rainfall in the first six months was categorised as acid rain, a 7.1 percentage point rise over the same time last year, a report released yesterday by the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau showed.

Two-thirds of the 21 cities in the province were affected by acid rain. Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan , Zhuhai , Foshan , Maoming , Zhaoqing , Huizhou and Zhongshan were among the worst-hit.

Provincial meteorologists said the average pH level of rain – the measure of its acidity – was 4.81 in Guangdong during the period. Rain with a pH level below 5.6 is regarded as acidic.

Acid rain increases the acidity of soil and water, lowers crop output and kills animals in rivers and lakes.

Guangdong authorities have pledged to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain, by 4 per cent and chemical oxygen demand, a measure of water pollution, by 3.5 per cent this year.

The bureau’s report said sulfur dioxide emissions in 13 cities had dropped, but did not say by how much.

Guangdong recorded an 8 per cent drop in acid rain last year but the bureau did not explain why levels had risen this year.

Chinese Academy of Sciences researcher Kuang Yaoqiu said acid rain in the Pearl River Delta was caused by high levels of vehicle fumes and sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and polluting factories driven by rapid economic development.

“We saw a big reduction in acid rain frequency last year because Guangdong authorities shut down all the province’s coal mines at the end of 2005 for safety inspections,” he said.

“During 2006 and 2007, Guangdong also ordered its industrial sector to use imported coal, which led to lower sulfur dioxide emissions and helped to lower pollution.

“I think many factors, like reopened underground coal mines, and power plants, have led to a pick up in acid rain in Guangdong this year.”

Professor Kuang said he was not optimistic that Guangdong would see reductions in acid rain or improvements in air quality even though authorities had moved many high-polluting factories from the Pearl River Delta.

“Many of those factories just moved to neighbouring places, like west and north Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi province . Those local governments do not have environmental protection rules or pollution-treatment regulations as strict as the delta,” he said.

Environment Satellites To Watch For Potential Disasters

Shi Jiangtao – SCMP – Updated on Sep 04, 2008

Two environmental satellites will be launched this week to track degradation and cope with natural disasters, state media reported.

The optical satellites, Environment 1A and 1B, would be sent into orbit by a Long March 2C carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi province tomorrow or on Saturday, the People’s Daily website said.

The announcement was made yesterday by the Bureau of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, formerly a ministry-level body and now part of the new Ministry of Industry and Information.

Environmental officials hailed the move as a major step in the fight against pollution and natural disasters.

Environmental protection vice-minister Wu Xiaoqing told the China Business News that the satellites, which would cover most of the country, would significantly enhance the ability to monitor environmental changes and provide real-time data. Although there are more than 2,000 stations across the mainland to monitor environment and natural disasters, environmental watchdogs have complained about a data shortage in Earth observations.

Environmental authorities have pushed for the launch of satellites for years, which they said was a necessary move to “cope with the dynamic environment and the occurrence of natural disasters”. But their launch had been postponed several times.

The two satellites being launched this week are the first of eight to be launched in the next few years, which will eventually work as a network.

Mr Wu said the satellites would play an important role in forecasting a wide range of disasters, such as floods, droughts, typhoons, landslides, earthquakes, forest fires and sandstorms, and help with disaster relief. He gave no further details.

Cases of rampant pollution, degradation and natural disasters have wreaked havoc, causing huge economic losses. Disaster-relief efforts were hampered by lack of satellite information following the magnitude-8 earthquake that hit Sichuan in May, leaving nearly 88,000 dead or missing and millions homeless.

The nation has launched land resources satellites before in an attempt to collect and analyse warning signs of potential natural disasters.