Last week, Green Token organised an activity jointly with The Nature Conservancy Hong Kong in Pak Nai on nature conservation.
As the local’s favourite seafood, the importance and environmental value of oysters have often been overlooked by many. In fact, they fuse together forming rock-like reefs functioning as a valuable habitat for many marine animals including crabs, shrimps, and mussels. Due to coastal reclamation and over-harvesting, oyster reefs are becoming more endangered as we speak. In reality, it is one of the most threatened marine habitats globally with an estimation of 85% loss worldwide.
Importance of Oyster Reefs
A Nursery for Other Species
As mentioned earlier, oyster reefs provide crevices for fish and crabs to hide from predators. Apart from oyster reefs, the mudflats of Pak Nai are also home to a large variety of marine species including seagrass, mangroves, and horseshoe crab. The horseshoe crab is an ancient crab that has been around for at least 445 million years. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crustaceans. You can find both Chinese horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus) and mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) here. Not only are they a key source of food for seabirds and fish, but they also play a significant role in the biomedical industry due to their blue colour blood.
Since oysters feed on filtering algae from the water so they are naturally occurring purifiers that help remove excess nutrients in the water. This way, young marine species will be able to grow healthily and safely.
Oyster reefs can shield underwater vegetation and waterfront communities from waves, floods, and tides. Hence, they are critical in safeguarding other ocean habitats. They may also have an effect on wave energy reduction, erosion prevention, and wetlands fortification.
What did we do?
Since Pak Nai used to be an oyster farm abandoned by the local villagers so there are many oyster poles scattered around the mudflats. This attracts oysters to attach to it and reproduce increasing its population. Although it is amazing that there are more oyster reefs growing in Pak Nai, dispersed reefs also imply fewer mudflats for horseshoe crabs.
This raises a vital question for the people of TNC – how can they maintain oyster reef growth while providing enough mudflats for horseshoe crabs? In the end, they decided to reconfigure the oyster farm by compiling all oysters and poles together forming an island.
Green Token is devoted to building a planet suitable for everyone to live on. Therefore, our community members and team spent an entire morning shuffling poles and oysters off the mud. At the same time, Tom, our TNC guide, also gave us a short tour of the different species living in Pak Nai including the horseshoe crabs, mangroves as well as other animals commonly found in muddy shore habitats.
Ocean Waste and Marine Pollution
At the same time, as we were getting our hands dirty and digging up poles, we also found an alarming amount of marine waste. It was heartbreaking to see fishing nets and plastic bottles scattered throughout the area.
This also brings about another critical issue that has been around for decades – marine pollution. According to Plastic Oceans, 10 million tons of plastic waste are dumped improperly into the oceans annually. Not only do they pose huge threats to wildlife, but they can also bring about catastrophic effects on humans too. When plastics break down they release harmful chemicals into the ocean’s ecosystem which then get absorbed by fish and other aquatic creatures. It is likely that all the mussels we are eating contain microplastics and it is said that we humans consume over 40 pounds of plastics in our lifetime.
Therefore, it is important for us to:
- dispose garbage properly on land and never throw anything overboard while out at sea.
- avoid using plastics
- participate in beach cleanups
Let’s work together towards making sure these areas are kept safe from pollution so future generations can enjoy them too.
Finally, it was great fun working together with everyone from TNC who shared their knowledge on environmental protection during this meaningful experience! We hope more people will come forward in taking action toward preserving this valuable marine habitat before it is too late. If you are interested in joining meaningful events like this one and meeting others who are passionate about protecting our planet, make sure to join our social media!