Crustaceans were among the most valuable fishery resources in Hong Kong. However, the unrestricted and intensive use of different fishing gears, especially bottom trawling, has led to the depletion of commercially important crustaceans in Hong Kong since the 1980s. This study investigated whether commercial crustaceans recovered after the implementation of a permanent Hong Kong-wide trawl ban that began on December 31, 2012. Standardized field surveys were conducted using a commercial shrimp trawler at two sites in eastern and western waters of Hong Kong before (2004) and after the trawl ban (2013–2014 and 2015–2016) and two sites in southern waters after the trawl ban. Diversity, mean size, abundance, biomass and level of disturbance of commercial crustaceans from the three periods were investigated. The eastern waters exhibited an increased diversity of crustacean assemblages in Inner Tolo, and a higher abundance and biomass of crabs were detected in Outer Tolo after the trawl ban. Reduced disturbance, higher diversity in crustacean assemblages and greater abundance and biomass of predatory crabs were observed after the trawl ban in the outer estuary of western waters, and increased abundance and biomass of shrimp were detected in the inner estuary of western waters. No temporal or negative changes were detected in the southeast and southern waters of Lamma Island. The various responses of crustacean assemblages in Hong Kong waters revealed the critical role of complex interactions among multiple stresses, such as ongoing reclamation works, illegal trawling activities and increased fishing efforts using other (legal) fishing methods.
Bibliographical noteThis research was substantially funded by the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong SAR Government via its Collaborative Research Fund (Project No.: HKU5/CRF/12G) to Kenneth Leung. Lily Tao, Yanny Mak, Ronia C.T. Sham and Jason Yau thanked the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for partially funding their PhD studies. The authors sincerely thank Ms. Helen Leung for her technical support and Dr. S.F. Leung, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, for granting us a scientific research permit (R1710007) for conducting the sample collection using a shrimp trawler.
- coastal ecosystem
- invertebrate assemblage
- South China Sea
- trawl closures