December 21, 2016

Reef Check Hong Kong Celebrates 20 Years

To mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong Reef Check, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced the results of Hong Kong Reef Check 2016 and presented specially designed commemorative trophies to participating teams and scientists at a December 3 ceremony, in recognition of their efforts and contributions to the success of the program.

The first Reef Check survey was carried out by the Hong Kong Reef Check Foundation in 1997. The AFCD began collaborating with the Foundation in conducting the survey in 2000.

The number of participating volunteer divers and teams has continued to increase over the years. This year, 68 dive teams comprising more than 750 volunteer divers from different sectors of the community took part in the Reef Check surveys.

Hong Kong Reef Check 2016, a four-month exercise that started in June, covered marine areas in the eastern part of Hong Kong extending from Tung Ping Chau in the north to the Ninepin Group in the south, including a number of sites of ecological importance. Among the 33 survey sites, nine were within the Hoi Ha Wan, Yan Chau Tong and Tung Ping Chau marine parks.

The results this year showed that local corals are generally in a healthy and stable condition and exhibit a rich diversity of fauna species. Coral coverage ranged from 9.3% to 82.8% among the survey sites. Nineteen sites recorded high coral coverage (above 50%). This is above the Indo-Pacific average! Among all sites, Sharp Island North recorded the highest coral coverage of 82.8%.

A notable decrease in coral coverage was observed at Moon Island, Hoi Ha Wan, while minor coral bleaching was noted at a few sites, but the impact was localized. “In view of the situation of the coral community at Moon Island, the department has commissioned coral experts of the University of Hong Kong to study the cause of the incident and to conduct a research study on restoration of corals,” reported an AFCD spokesman.

Reef Check 2016 also assessed the condition of corals at eight sites using the Coral Watch tool. By measuring the color intensity of the coral using a specially designed Coral Health Monitoring Chart, the health condition of corals can then be determined. The average health index of the sites was 4.11 (ranging from 3.65 to 4.67), which was similar to last year's figure (4.23). The average health index is well above the general average value (3), indicating the corals are in a healthy and stable condition.

Most of the survey sites were found to have a high species diversity. All of the 20 assigned indicator species were recorded in the survey sites, with wrasses, groupers, butterfly fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and cowries commonly found.

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