Speech at Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

III. Designation of new fish culture zones and setting up of deep sea cages

Main purposes of the proposed new measure

Members were concerned whether the Administration had a grasp of the number of fishermen associations/organizations which were interested in/would be renting the proposed deep sea cages. Members were given to understand that some local fish farmers lacked confidence in the prospect of the mariculture industry. Members suggested that the Administration should enhance publicity through various channels, such as school seminars, career expos and promotional activities for local fisheries produce, thereby deepening young people’s knowledge of the aquaculture industry and attracting more new blood to the trade.

The Administration responded that in 2021, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (“AFCD”) established a modernized mariculture demonstration farm (“Demonstration Farm”) equipped with a steel truss cage at the Tung Lung Chau FCZ and the trial results of mariculture at the farm offered a number of data depicting a favourable prospect for the development of deep sea mariculture; the Demonstration Farm also served as a technology transfer centre, providing practical training and lectures to conventional fish farmers and people intending to join the mariculture industry; together with the technical support service offered by the Administration and other relevant measures, it served to assist local fishermen (capture fishermen in particular) in transforming their business into a modernized and sustainable mode of operation, promoting on various fronts the development of the local mariculture industry. The Administration understood that the trade responded positively and proactively to the adoption of deep sea cages for mariculture.

Costs and benefits of the proposed new measure

Members noted with concern about the Administration’s plan to set up two units of steel truss cage and three units of high-density polyethylene deep sea cages with a floating platform to support their operations in the new FCZs, which was estimated to involve a total non-recurrent cost of around $74 million; and the recurrent cost on maintenance, service contracts, etc. would be around $5 million per year. Members considered that given the enormous amount of investment in the development of deep sea mariculture and in attracting fishermen association to rent the steel trusses or deep sea cages, the Administration should provide information such as estimated rate of return and payback period for reference; meanwhile, the trade should clearly understand the potential risks in the mode of operation concerned. Moreover, the Administration should also assess whether it was cost-effective for the Government to carry out the proposed new measure.

The Administration responded that in view of existing data, and on the basis of the cost of around $15 million per steel truss cage in the Demonstration Farm and one mariculture production cycle per year, the Administration preliminarily estimated a net income of up to $3 million to $4 million per year after deducting expenses on fish fry, feed, manpower, etc. and the estimated payback period would be around five years at the earliest. Actual effectiveness and return of deep sea mariculture would be directly affected by various factors such as respective operations and mode of operation. In the long run, the Administration wished to promote intensification of fishermen’s operation in the new FCZs. To address members’ enquiries/concerns about the potential cost-effectiveness of the proposed new measure on the parts of the Government and rentees (in particular the estimated rate of return, minimum payback period and mariculture production), the Administration advised that it would provide, in writing, (a) the financial arrangements relating to the implementation of the proposed new measure, and (b) other relevant figures, as supplementary information.

IV. The operation of and monitoring arrangements for 2023 Lunar New Year Fairs

Regarding the installation of simple and convenient rechargeable illumination by many stall owners in the 2023 LNYFs at their stalls on their own, members enquired whether the Administration had regulated the above situation for protection of the safety of people in the venues. The Administration replied that it was stipulated in the licence agreements signed between FEHD and successful bidders that licensees might use storage batteries to supply power to their stalls or might arrange for registered electrical contractors engaged by FEHD to provide additional illumination facilities and/or power supply at their own costs. The Administration stressed that the above arrangements had been made based on safety considerations. The Administration would review the contents of the licence agreement in due course to strengthen the relevant safety requirements.

Members were concerned about the views that the outsourced service contractors for the 2023 LNYFs had charged high fees for additional illumination and power supply according to the contracts. The Administration responded that the 15 LNYFs set up throughout the territory this year had a total of 922 wet goods stalls for selling New Year flowers. It was understandable that in bidding, service contractors set their service charges having regard to the limited number of stalls, the absence of fast food stalls and other commercial factors. The Administration would review the relevant arrangements for the provision of additional illumination and power supply with relevant departments such as the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department and the Fire Services Department in due course. It would also sum up the experience and explore desirable plans to improve the service of providing additional illumination and power supply for future LNYFs.