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Let's Protect Habitats to Conserve Native Freshwater Fish

HONG KONG - Like every child, I have a passion for fish since I had my first own aquarium at home and I enjoy finding wild fish at streams or brooks in Hong Kong, writes the marketing development director of conservations and ecological organisation HK Discovery, David Man.

I have kept last year's calendar published by a green group, Native Freshwater Fishes 2007, because I have seen almost all twelve of the fish featuring in the calendar. April is a photo of a Chinese barb, a small cyprinid about 7-8 cm in length. This freshwater fish lives in streams, reservoirs and marshes, feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, plankton or algae and detritus. They are found in most freshwater and their population is stable. When I was six, I came to know that this small fish are gregarious, diurnal and omnivorous. Nowadays I love to bring children to identify all these beautiful creatures.

Hong Kong was once a fishing village and the relationship between fish and the local people has been inseparable in Hong Kong's history. People tend to prefer living near water sources, and all ancient civilizations began and flourished with farming and fishing near rivers. We also know how important fish is in our daily lives. Hong Kong has rugged terrains with many small streams and rivers. There are no large rivers and lakes. Thus the native fish of Hong Kong are usually relatively small. Apart from a few species, they are generally less than 20-30 cm in length.

Zacco Platyps, a small carp (10-12cm), one of the middle course representative species of South China
Chong Dee Hwa

The calendar features 12 native fish species with photos of wild fish along with key information. They are giant mottled eel, Chinese rasbora, predaceous chub, Chinese barb, rose bitterling, flat-headed loach, sucker-belly loach, rice fish, sharphead sleeper, stream goley, spiny eel and Hong Kong paradise fish.

Rapid urban development in Hong Kong over the last two decades led to an unbalanced development and conservation of our environment. Natural freshwater habitats are polluted and fish species are fast disappearing. Now there is less opportunity for today's children to explore rivers and stream. Our young generation has not only forgotten how to appreciate fish but also the culture behind fish. Fish is an important food source and freshwater fish is good for health. Fishing and farming have been recorded in our history for a long. Pond fish culture started from the Shang Dynasty in 12 BC and flourished in the Zhou Dynasty. At that time, Carp was regarded as treasures and was kept in ponds. There are many kinds of carps now and countries like Japan are running a big fishing business. Fish entertainment has also become a trend now.

In fact, fish plays a very important role in environmental engineering.

Ancient people realized the importance of fish and built mulberry-based fish ponds. Faeces of mulberry silkworms are fed to fish in the ponds. Water hyacinth in the ponds is fed to pigs. Pig manure is used to fertilize the land that grows mulberry trees. This production cycle fully utilizes every resource, and eliminates wastes that may pollute the environment. Very often, dams in river valleys turn a large section of lotic water into lentic water. Artificial environments like ponds are then introduced to keep the balance of the ecosystem, and provide recreational activities such as leisure fishing.

By appreciating the creature and through research and education, people will understand the need to protect fish habitats so that we can truly achieve conservation.

Find out more about HK Discovery by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy

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