Hong Kong is a city of seafood lovers and a trade hub for marine products. Despite its relatively small size (population: 7.5 million), in 2013, Hong Kong imported USD 3.2 billion of fish and seafood products, making it the tenth largest global importer of seafood by value. Knowledge and awareness of the plight of our oceans and deteriorating fish stocks in the region is, however, low, with many Hong Kong residents believing the ocean has an unlimited supply of fish. As a result, the sustainable seafood market is nascent.
Hong Kong is also a significant global market for ecologically vulnerable and poorly governed, yet highly valuable seafood products such as shark fin, live reef fish, abalone and sea cucumber. It is a hub for illegal and undocumented products, facilitated in large part by its free port status, excellent port facilities and proximity to mainland China.
Responding to this situation and with the support of the Swire Charitable Trust, ADMCF has developed and on- going programme to facilitate the development of a local sustainable seafood market. We aim to achieve this by supporting efforts to raise awareness and increase the demand and supply of sustainable seafood via informed campaigns and programmes based on sound science targeting seafood retailers, consumers, restaurateurs and suppliers.
On the Demand Side:
In 2016, ADMCF launched the Choose Right Today, Hong Kong’s first consumer-facing bilingual web platform dedicated to informing Hong Kong’s seafood lovers about the over-exploitation of our marine resources. The site provides guidance on how to identify sustainable seafood products and where to find them. Directories of restaurants and retailers that provide sustainable seafood and information on eco-labels are all available on the website.
Working with the Ocean Recovery Alliance, ADMF also launched the Kin Hong Seafood Festival, which took place in 2015 and 2017. The month-long festivals involved partnering with leading restaurant chains, hotels, parks and catering companies to build knowledge and provide the opportunity for Hong Kong residents to experience sustainable seafood first hand. At the same time, they encouraged the Food & Beverage industry to source and serve sustainable seafood. Some participants, such as Cali-Mex and the Grand Hyatt Hotel, committed to only serving sustainable seafood in the future, while others, like Hong Kong University, extended the festival for several months. Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive and the majority have pledged to participate in future events.
In 2019, ADMCF published the ‘Identification Guide to Live Reef Food Fish in Hong Kong’s Wet Markets’, with the aim of providing a user-friendly handbook to assist identification of live fish species commonly encountered in local wet markets. The guide is accessible to the general public and can also be used by customs and fisheries officers, traders, retailers and fishermen, to improve understanding and inspire more sustainable and healthy choices.
On the Supply Side:
In 2015-2016, ADMCF supported WWF-HK to survey seafood being sold locally with a view to influencing the companies’ sourcing policies to ensure their supply chains are more sustainable.
In May 2017, ADMCF and Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation organised a Symposium: ‘Safeguarding Seafood for our Future –Hard Truths Challenges and Solutions’ to engage the local seafood industry, specifically what can be done to overcome and address concerns of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Over 100 participants attended, representing supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, catering services, distributors, wholesalers and producers from across Hong Kong. The outcome was broad agreement to develop Voluntary Codes of Conduct to help guide responsible seafood procurement across Hong Kong’s seafood industry.
As a result, The Hong Kong Sustainable Seafood Coalition (HKSSC) was formed in November 2017 and hosted its first Member’s meeting in January 2018. The vision of the HKSSC is for all seafood supplied to be legal, traceable and biologically sustainable. Through the course of 12 months, members were guided to review and amend a set of Voluntary Codes of Conduct first developed by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (UK). These codes were finalised in February 2019, setting a minimum standard for sustainability and traceability criteria that is needed in order to make responsible sourcing claims. The Coalition is now actively recruiting members across the industry in Hong Kong.
To support HKSSC members implement the Voluntary Code of Conduct, RS Standards with support of ADMCF, the Estee Lauder Foundation and the Swire Charitable Trust are developing a Seafood Sustainability Risk Assessment Tool for Both Wild-Capture Fisheries and Farmed (aquaculture) Seafood. The overall aim is to synthesise information for a variety of popular seafood species sourced by HKSSC members to determine a level of sustainability. The risk assessment approach undertaken will be tailored to the requirements of the Hong Kong Seafood Market and advised by local academics. The intention is to make the assessments available through the development of a website.
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