The latest exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum: Corals: Our Underwater Living Treasures opened on 8 June. It is simultaneously a celebration in vivid technicolour of the extraordinary biodiversity contained in the depths of our closest seas and a dire warning of the threat it lives under.
In honour of World Oceans Day on 8 June Conservation International Hong Kong, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, and the Swire Institute of Marine Science of the University of Hong Kong have organized the exhibit and accompanying programme to educate and inspire the public about the extraordinary wealth of corals in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific region.
Professor Gray Williams, Director of SWIMS, says, “This exhibition is important because few Hong Kongers are aware of the richness and diversity of corals right in our own ‘backyard. Hong Kong has 84 hard coral species and 26 soft coral species, more than the entire Caribbean Sea.” The exhibition will include several samples of these species which visitors will be able to see and touch.
The Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia is also highlighted since it is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, home to over 500 species of reef-building corals and 3000 fish species. At this exhibition, visitors will learn about where their fresh fish were born and lived before arriving on the dinner plate in Hong Kong. Half of the live reef food fish eaten in Hong Kong, such as grouper, comes from the Coral Triangle.
However, coral communities worldwide face dire threat due from human activities. Ocean warming due to anthropogenic climate change, which causes coral bleaching and susceptibility to disease, further compounds their precarious status. Fortunately, there is hope for recovery, and the exhibit will help educate the public about what they can do to help. Efforts are underway in Hong Kong to protect coral communities by restricting anchorage and creating marine protected areas. Hong Kong has also banned trawl fishing, which is incredibly destructive to the ocean floor. The exhibit highlights additional solutions such as promoting sustainable fishing and reducing pollution from coastal development. Marine ecologists at the University of Hong Kong are also developing cutting-edge methods to cultivate and restore coral communities.
“The pace of coral loss in Hong Kong, Asia and beyond is truly alarming, like so many other environmental trends that directly harm humanity,” says Jude Wu, managing director of Conservation International Hong Kong. “But it is also a call to action. We hope this exhibit will inspire visitors as a call for hope, commitment and human ingenuity to turn the tide from destruction to restoration.”
Says Dr. Dominique Bouchard, head of Education and Public Programmes: “The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is dedicated to telling the story of trade and maritime history in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. The corals of Hong Kong are an integral part of Hong Kong’s natural and cultural wealth and heritage. We are so pleased to partner with Conservation International and SWIMS to put the critical spotlight needed to inspire solutions to preserve the corals of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.”
Exhibition and programme from June to September
“Corals: Our Underwater Living Treasures” will feature graphical and video content created by CI-Hong Kong and SWIMS, and display coral skeleton samples obtained by scientists from within Hong Kong’s marine zone and pieces in the Hong Kong Maritime Museum collection. The Hong Kong Maritime Museum will also conduct special events such as public lectures by coral experts and family workshops that will include hands-on activities for adults and children alike.
“Corals: Our Underwater Living Treasures” will run through to September 18.