Greenpeace Ship Has a Message for Hong Kong

Written for Reporting and Writing course, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza welcomed thousands of curious Hong Kong residents on board yesterday for its third and final “Open Ship” day.


The boatis in Hong Kong this week to educate the public on overfishing and marine health, Greenpeace organizers said.


“Hong Kong people are emotionally attached to the harbor, they are emotionally attached to the ocean.  They really want to come and take a look and get to know more about what we are doing,” said Gloria Chang, Hong Kong Campaign Manager for Greenpeace.


Over 4,500 guests toured the boat docked in Kennedy Town over the weekend, Greenpeace organizers said.  Last Friday, the ship also hosted the Ocean Forum, a conversation with NGOs, local fishing representatives, and academics about how to improve the health of local seas and fisheries.


This is the last port on the East Asia “Save the Ocean” regional ship tour, which also included stops in South Korea and Taiwan.  Overfishing is the major focus of the tour.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that over 75% of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or over-exploited by commercial fishing.  The main culprits are large-scale fishing methods like trawling and purse-seine fishing, which use enormous nets to catch thousands of fish and other creatures, including sharks, turtles, and coral.


Unlike in Taiwan and Korea, Greenpeace will not pursue any direct action in Hong Kong.  The main goal here is “research and investigation,” as well as public education, said Chang.


Hong Kong has a comparatively small fishing fleet, and a government ban on trawling will go into effect at the end of 2012.  Greenpeace hopes to use its time in Hong Kong to decide on key targets for the future, possibly including shark finning, marine pollution, and expanding protected areas, according to Chang.


Local student Dan Chung toured the ship for the second time yesterday.  He said he had brought his family on Sunday and decided to return with friends.


“I want to educate them.  I want my friends and family to know more about what we put into the environment,” said Chung.  He said that he didn’t know much about overfishing as a specific problem, but hoped to learn how he might help.


The biggest fisheries issue in Hong Kong is consumption, Chang said.  Hong Kong has the second largest per capita seafood consumption in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund – Hong Kong.  Greenpeaceorganizers hope the ship’s presence in Hong Kong will educate people on the seafood they eat.


But Greenpeace wants change at a policy, not just an individual, level, said Chang.  Greenpeace calls for 40% of oceans globally to be set aside as marine reserve areas.  In Hong Kong, 2% of the local ocean is currently reserved.  WWF-HK has been calling to increase that number to 10%.


“We hope that Hong Kong people’s behaviors will change and they make a better consumption choice, but also we do believe that government can be more proactive,” Chang said.


Hong Kong resident Angela Hancock was encouraged by the crowds.


“Hong Kong people are getting more and more fed up with the pollution, but the government is slow to act.  The people are starting to take an interest for themselves,” said Hancock.


The Esperanza will be at the China Merchant’s Pier in Kennedy Town for ten days before it departs for the Philippines.

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