Re ECF Project: 2009-09

Project Title: A study of the impacts of intensive diving tourism on the marine environment of Hong Kong

Applicant: Dr. CHUNG Shan Shan of Hong Kong Baptist University

Total Approved Grant: $491,999

Duration: 1/6/2010 to 31/12/2011

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

The objectives of the proposed program are:

  • to investigate the impact on the aquatic environment from diving tourism in Hong Kong;
  • to examine existing environmental precautionary procedures (including information provided to recreational divers) adopted by the diving industry and documentation of good practices if any;
  • to raise the awareness of the diving tourism industry and the recreational divers on their environmental responsibilities as it is believed that keeping them informed is more likely to foster cooperative behavior; and
  • to recommend management and education options that would help reduce environmental impacts from scuba diving and re-orient the development of diving tourism in Hong Kong.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:
This study concludes that there is a high likelihood that diving activities are responsible for scattered coral damages at intensively used dive sites in Hong Kong. Divers’ kicking and other forms of bodily contact appeared to be the main direct cause of damage for branching and plate-like form corals, whereas anchoring could be the main cause of damage for the massive form corals. Although the total number of damaged coral colonies was not high, some species, especially the branching Acropora digitifera and the plate-like Montipora peltiformis, suffered from much higher frequency of damage than their relative benthic coverage, raising the concern that this selective stress on particular species may affect the composition of coral communities if the issue is not managed in time. Based on the findings from this study, we recommend the following direct management strategies: implement diving moratorium during peak diving seasons on the most popular dive sites, establish "no entry" zone to environmentally sensitive areas, establish "dive training" recommended zones, raised the minimum requirements for buoyancy control skills for diving in Hong Kong waters, step up education and publicity on the legal responsibility and rights regarding marine and environmental conversation in Hong Kong among dive trip operators and divers.