Stacks of towering buildings. Chaotic street markets. Taxis, trains, and double-decker buses carrying an incredible number of rushing residents. They are the scenes which come in your thoughts when most think about Hong Kong. But these images may also be in the same way authentically Hong Kong: A sampan chugging its way across a harbour. The steady, low beat of a drum as dragon boaters slice their blades through the water together. Waves crashing on a white sand beach using one of the citys 263 islands.
Hong Kong Cantonese for Fragrant Harbour was but a little fishing settlement when British merchants arrived two centuries ago, and realised its potential as a port. The harbour, later named after Queen Victoria, had both east and west entrances, and was perfectly situated on major trading routes. Soon, the town was a thriving centre of commerce and its own population grew to at least one 1.4 million by the next World War.
As a seafaring population, we naturally worship Tin Hau, the goddess of the ocean and the empress of heaven. Her influence still holds strong in Hong Kong, where you can find over 100 temples focused on her, like the Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay and its own namesake MTR station. Each year, thousands attend raucous celebrations in honour of the Tin Hau Festival. And once and for all reason: the worlds oceans provide not only protein for billions, but additionally 1 / 2 of the oxygen we breathe.
Reliance on the ocean for the livelihoods means an enthusiastic knowing of its power, unpredictability, and inhabitants. Hong Kongs oceans are remarkably diverse, with an increase of coral species compared to the Caribbean and much more reef fish species than Hawaii. Finless porpoises and Chinese white dolphins, well-known for their rosy hue, call our waters home and so are popular to local fishermen, because they often follow fishing boats for sale in the hopes of snagging a snack for themselves. Yet their numbers are dwindling rapidly because of pollution, boat traffic, and never-ending construction: some believe you can find just a few dozen of the iconic pink dolphins left inside our waters.
Marine ecosystems tend to be more complex than we might ever understand. However, we can say for certain that healthy, balanced oceans are crucial to the survival of not merely ourselves, however the various creatures that be determined by them a lot of which we consume. Fishermen have always formed the backbone of Hong Kong society. In the end, we consume the next most seafood per capita out of anywhere in Asia a lot more than 3 x the global average.
Traditional oyster farmers, whose industry has existed for years and years, also know precisely how delicate the oceans health is: algal blooms in Deep Bay can destroy years worth of work in just a matter of days. The blooms, also referred to as red tides, occur naturally but additionally happen when water contaminated with agricultural fertilizer or sewage runs from rivers and coastlines in to the ocean, resulting in an overgrowth of algae. Warming waters because of climate change may also be more likely to worsen this phenomenon.
Its not only those who depend on the ocean because of their livelihoods who feel a deep link with the ocean. Hong Kongs coasts and islands have fostered a lively community of sportspeople who spend their free time on the water, from wakeboarders, to kitesurfers, and scuba divers. The annual Dragon Boat Festival features races around Hong Kong, with beating drums, delicious food, and healthy competition making for cheerful, lively events that the complete city looks forward to. And who is able to forget Hong Kongs pride and joy, Lee Lai-Shan, the windsurfer who was raised on the modest fishing island of Cheung Chau and finished up winning at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games the citys first ever Olympic medal.
But one doesnt need to be a fisherperson or at the very top athlete to feel the way the spirit of the ocean flows through the citys veins. It takes merely a brief ride on the iconic Star Ferry, watching the skylines lights glitter at first glance of the harbour, or perhaps a excursion to explore Peng Chau or Lamma Island, to understand the amount of the ocean has shaped the soul of Hong Kong. Our love for seafood, our status as a worldwide centre of commerce, our multicultural coexistence, our free spirit: each of them get back to the ocean.
But as vast since it is, we cant go on it for granted. There’s at the very least 150 million tonnes of plastic in the worlds oceans, and by 2050, the plastic may outweigh the fish. An astounding 90% of marine fish stocks are either fully or overexploited, with an incredible number of fishing boats attempting to provide you with the demand. These trends cannot continue, and they’ll only reverse if we act and change our behaviour every day: we should use less plastic, reuse or recycle the plastic we do use, eat much less seafood or select sustainable options, and protect our coastlines. In the same way the ocean has nurtured us, we should care for it and keep it healthy. Otherwise, we’d lose not really a precious ecosystem which allows us to survive, but part of our very selves.