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Relief to Fisheries Promised After Plastic Pellet Spill

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

HONG KONG - Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government will offer relief to those in the fisheries industry, who were affected by the spillage of plastic pellet during typhoon Vicente. She also said efforts will be undertaken to try to determine who should be held responsible for the incident and subsequent cleanup.

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Ms Lam spoke to workers at a fish farm at Chi Ma Wan, one of the five fish culture zones affected by the spill. About 150 tons of plastic pellets spilled into Hong Kong's southern waters when several containers fell into the sea during the typhoon two weeks ago. It was the first Signal 10 typhoon to strike the city in 13 years.

During Ms Lam's visit to the farm, several plastic pellets were found inside the stomach of a fish after workers offered to dissect the fish on site.

"The Department of Justice and the Marine Departments are working together and tracing the whole incident and looking at various parties involved to find out who is responsible and whether any remedial measures have been taken," said Ms Lam.

Stressing that the fish are not harmful, since the pellets are not toxic; Ms Lam said the government still needs to find out whether swallowing the pellets will affect the growth of the fish. In the coming months, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will monitor the production of every fish farm affected and continue to help the fishing industry to remove the pellets.

"Up to this moment we have not observed any abnormal increase in mortality rates, and we will continue to monitor in the next few weeks to see the impact of this incident on some of the mariculturists," said Alan Wong Chi-kong, director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

In that way, Ms Lam said the government can determine the impact of the pellet spill on the local fish farms.

About 24 tons of plastic pellets were found scattered on the beaches and at the fish culture zones by Wednesday, according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

In the meantime, a dozen industry workers petitioned the fisheries department, demanding compensation for the damage to their operations. After the meeting, chairman of the Cheung Chau Off-shore Islands Fisheries Group, Cheng Siu-wah, said the department has promised to provide financial compensation to the those affected.

Cheng, who owns a fish farm, said the farm's fishes have been rejected by the local market since last Thursday. In addition, he has had to hire people to clear up the pellets. The amount of the compensation that would be required was, however, still unknown, added Cheng.

In response, the fisheries department said the relief arrangement may not be cash compensation and the priority now is to clear up the pellets and evaluate the impact of the spill.