Andy Cornish's Blog

Dr Andy Cornish was raised in Hong Kong, and gained a strong interest in wildlife through spending time in Pokfulam Country Park. He studied Zoology at Nottingham University in England, travelled extensively through Central America where he learnt to scuba dive, and later did his PhD on reef fishes at the University of Hong Kong. Since then, he worked for a year doing coral reef management for the government of American Samoa, and taught in the Dept. of Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Hong Kong. He worked at WWF from 2005 to late 2012 as Conservation Director, and was responsible for four programmes: Climate, Footprint, Local Biodiversity and Regional Wetlands (including management of the Mai Po Nature Reserve). He remains involved in environmental issues on an independent basis.
Story Continues - in the SCMP
May 16, 2013

This opinion piece was published yesterday in the SCMP. It has sparked quite a few comments
 
The first 10 months of the new administration has seen the Environment Bureau lay out more ambitious plans to tackle a swathe of environmental issues than we've seen in the previous five years, and an unprecedented level of collaboration with other bureaus on issues including air pollution and marine litter.
 
We have a long way to go before the new initiatives bite, as the shocking air pollution demonstrates, but Hong Kong has the expertise and resources to become Asia's greenest city within a decade. Nothing less should be our goal.
 
However, society can only be expected to respond en...

Urgent Measures Needed, Starting With a Moratorium on Reclamation
May 12, 2013

It’s been a bad few weeks for the Chinese white dolphins, and the future is looking dire for the population inhabiting the Pearl River Estuary and our western waters unless the Government finally steps up and takes the measures it should have years ago. Two weeks ago a dolphin watching group was horrified to see a mother and other dolphins trying to support a dead calf near the Sha Chau – Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park and shared the video, and last Sunday Dr Samuel Hung revealed that the latest information from the government monitoring programme that he undertakes is that numbers occurring in local waters have dropped significantly again again. The exact data will be shared next month but numbers had already dropped from 158 in 2003 to 78 in 2011.
 
Disturbance and permanent loss of habitat from reclamation, disturbance from high speed ferries (which make more than 100,000 trips through their habitat...

Sea Hares!
May 4, 2013

They may have a face only a mother could love but I was delighted to find dozens of Ragged sea hares just off the beach at South Bay earlier in the week while testing some new camera gear. Even better they were laying eggs on algae in just a few metres of water.

I have only ever seen sea hares in Hong Kong in the colder months and rarely dive in the winter these days, so havn’t seen any for years. I do know that there is a scientific paper on the species occurring in Hong Kong, and that several new species were described from specimens collected locally, but can’t put my hand to it. Fortunately this species (Bursatella leachii) is quite easy to identify from its numerous long, branching fleshy papillae and spots, which locally at least are blue. It occurs in all tropical seas of the world but there are believed to be around 8 sub-species, all a little different.

I’ve often wondered what happens to sea hares during the summer months as this...

Depts Finally Join Forces
May 1, 2013

How many government departments does it take to solve environmental woes? A whopping seven in the perennial problem of marine litter – and impressively seven is what we’ve got! Despite all its teething problems, one of the major signals that this government is determined to do things better than before is the unprecedented level of collaboration between bureaus and departments to tackle issues of overlapping interest.
 
Marine litter – in my opinion – may only scrape the top 10 of Hong Kong’s major environmental issues but it is in your face every time you do make it to the South China Sea lapping at our doorstep. Even the knowledge that the massive HATS project is greatly reducing the amount of sewage entering HK waters won't keep that smile on your face when you swim into a plastic bag. Fortunately government is finally stepping up to stem the garbage tide and yesterday shared the thinking of a new inter-departmental working...

An unusual find in Sai Kung
April 15, 2013

In the late 1990’s when I was working on the field-guide Reef Fishes of Hong Kong, I spent a lot of time searching through wet markets and fisher’s catches looking for unusual fishes to include in the book. I havn’t had much time to indulge in this particular passion in the last decade but I still keep an eye out when I’m near the sea and over the weekend found myself in Sai Kung town so decided to have a good scan through the skiffs selling their wares to visitors around the piers.
 
Some of the boats are simply operating as little rent-free retail outlets and sell imported wild-caught and farmed fish, shrimps, lobsters and the like but some are genuine fishers selling the day’s catch from local waters. It’s not always easy to tell which is which, but those that include small, miscellaneous species including rabbitfish and rockfish are almost certainly local. The diversity of species wasn’t bad and a few boxfish and even a...

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