Have you ever thought to go diving in Hong Kong? While it may not be considered the most popular scuba diving destination in Asia, its long coastline, rocky reefs and coral areas provide habitats to an enormous diversity and abundance of reef fishes, comparable even to that of the entire Caribbean Sea.
However, it is also true that after decades of overexploitation, Hong Kong’s reef and marine environment has become increasingly strained. With historically high fishing pressures, habitat destruction and degradation, uninformed fish release activities and a general lack of understanding of the state of our marine ecosystem, our reefs are facing growing challenges to survival. Most importantly, documentation and status on local reef fish species is scarce, so we may not even know what we are losing.
Since July 2016, BLOOM Association HK has embarked on a continuous survey of Hong Kong’s reef fish, with the ultimate aim of creating a database that is publicly accessible, engages members of the local diving community and also allows citizens to discover the beauty and diversity of their local marine environment.
On the 26th June 2019, BLOOM HK proudly launched the 114˚E Hong Kong Reef Fish Web-Portal. Not only is it a highly comprehensive reef fish database, offering information on nearly 400 Hong Kong reef fish species, but it also makes information about common dive sites in Hong Kong more accessible than ever. All photographs in the database are taken in Hong Kong by the project’s volunteers, and unlike many existing databases for fishes in the region, only photographs of live fish in their natural environment are used. A special function allows users to look up fish species by its colour, giving non-experts a way to use the tool for fish identification.
Key features of the site include:
To date over 176,537 minutes have been spent underwater by volunteer groups of recreational scuba divers, which has led to the discovery of the 22 species new to Hong Kong’s official records. Indicating the importance and need for more research focusing on the local marine life. Particularly as the surveys have also documented a number of threatened species, including the Humphead wrasse.
The benefit of continual surveying means that the site and database will be frequently updated with information on species diversity, qualitative abundance, and distribution. In the long term, the data could ultimately be used to gain a better understanding in the changes in local reef fish presence, changes in species dominance, prevalence of alien and invasive species, potential impacts of climate change, and the local reef ecology in general. At present, the reliable data can already be used to inform future conservation actions, environmental impact assessments, identify important sites for setting up Marine Protected Areas, species conservation assessments and other academic and scientific research.