Deadly red tide slaughters fish in Hong Kong

IT LOOKS like a biblical plague. The waters around Hong Kong have succumbed to a scourge known as the red tide, which is gobbling up marine life. This lethal build-up of toxic microscopic organisms has happened before but never with the vengeance with which it has hit Hong Kong in recent weeks. Sham Chun-hung, assistant director of agriculture and fisheries, said yesterday that it had wiped out 150,000 tons of fish, half of Hong Kong's fish stock, in just four weeks. It is still spreading fast.

The red tide gets its name from the tinge that colours the sea when it is filled with algae carrying toxic substances. When these are released into the water the fish suffocate. Humans entering the affected water suffer from skin irritations, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in extreme cases, paralysis.

Mr Sham graphically described the speed with which the red tide moves: "Within a couple of hours it multiplies to a level that the fish cannot tolerate and they are wiped out." The waters around Hong Kong are filled with the inert bodies of dead fish floating on the surface surrounded by a blood-coloured murky mess.

The authorities are not sure why this year's red tide is so much worse than previously, when it came and went much more quickly. One theory is that Hong Kong has fallen victim to climatic changes induced by the phenomenon El Nino, which have been warming the oceans and causing droughts elsewhere in Asia.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth in Hong Kong is convinced that the problem has been worsened by the illegal discharge of industrial waste into the sea by heavy industries in southern China.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong island beaches, which are usually filled to capacity over the holiday weekend, were dominated by red flags warning people not to enter the water. The warning was widely heeded, although some swimmers seemed oblivious to the risk.

Although the algae which kills fish and affects humans is clearly toxic, the government has told Hong Kong residents that it is safe to eat the dead fish. Government experts maintain the algae affects the fishes' respiratory system but will not harm humans eating the carcasses. This view is challenged by those who believe that the poison enters into other parts of the body.

"I won't say it's under control but I would say the situation has stabilised," said Mr Sham, who now faces the problem of dealing with a mountain of compensation claims from fish farmers.

Nature has not been kind to Hong Kong since China resumed sovereignty over the territory last July. First, it was hit by unprecedented torrential rains, then there was the outbreak of bird flu, which led to the slaughter of all the territory's chickens. Now fish, the other staple item of the Cantonese diet, is under threat, too.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam