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The whale was a victim of faulty thinking on Hong Kong's behalf

As Hong Kong buries the Bryde's whale, which was unceremoniously cut down by the propellors of Kaitos and speed boats laden with looky-loos and captained by inexperienced, money-grubbing fishermen, we have to ask ourselves, are we, as Hong Kong, thinking before acting?

My immediate conclusion is no, obviously not! Let us just start with the Covid lockdown. It essentially killed small to medium businesses and caused a mass exodus which has led to a massive skills shortage and even more damage to the socio-economic landscape of Hong Kong.

That’s bad, but it was made worse because it didn’t work. Of the estimated 7,492,095 Hong Kong residents, 2,916,103 were recorded to have contracted Covid-19, 38.92% of the population, excluding those who never reported their illness, like me, who had it 3 times and never once informed authorities.

After Covid, a hastily cobbled-together concert of the band MIRROR was touted as proving that Hong Kong was back to normal, but this bread and circuses farce instead left a young man potentially maimed for life as the contractors responsible for the lighting, eager for a paycheck after three years of having their livelihoods destroyed by lockdowns, lied about their capabilities, leading a giant TV screen to fall on the performer in front of thousands of teenagers during the live show.

The authorities quickly investigated and prosecuted the contractors, but too little too late. As of July 2023, dancer Mo Li Kai-yin, 28, has “regained some control over his bowel muscles.” What an unnecessary tragedy that could have been avoided with logical thinking, oversight, due diligence, and patience.

Before Hong Kong: Experts say whales feed by opening their mouths wide to take in large amounts of water. (Ho Koon Nature Education Cum Astronomical Centre FB)

This brings me back to the whale. First sighted in Sai Kung waters on the 13th of July 2023, the Bryde's whale, a little far from where it perhaps should have been, was seen frolicking in the bays and waterways that dissect some 70 islands that make up Sai Kung.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature did a Facebook post asking people to stay away, but how many of the tourists that took tours to see the whale do you think saw that?

No one, particularly not the authorities, thought to issue an official notice on the guidelines related to marine wildlife. And while pleas to the public were made to stay away from the whale, it was only done so after the 25th of July when the whale was already mortally injured.

After Hong Kong: The murdered whale is lifted out of the water to be autopsied. (May Tse)

A columnist for HKFP decided that we don’t need more laws over one rare whale event and that it was unlikely that whale watchers would hurt the whale since they liked it so much.

An article from DimSum Daily seems to suggest the opposite, “Since a whale was spotted in Sai Kung on 13th July, many boat owners have seen this as a lucrative opportunity to cash in on the hype surrounding the rare sighting. In fact, some mainland tourists have even falsified their identities to make the trip to see the whale.

However, on 25th July, conservation groups reported that the whale’s back had been injured due to a propeller, likely caused by citizens approaching too closely. They urged the public not to go out to sea to chase after the whale. Nevertheless, on 26th July, another netizen shared photos of the whale close-up on a mainland social media platform, sparking public attention once again.”

But considering the fact that Hong Kong is literally an island in subtropical waters, I really think that we DO need more laws regarding marine life. We need fewer laws about e-scooters, songs, and flags and more laws to protect things that matter.

And just to rebut said columnist, whales aren't that rare in Hong Kong, and according to my research, baleen whales have a feeding ground in South China, and the only known pod of small Bryde's seems to be in Hong Kong waters - “To date, the only putative population of Bryde's whales in the region was reported near Hong Kong (Jefferson & Hung, 2007)” - along with a Bryde's whale having been tagged in Shenzhen, “... we deployed a suction cup tag on a small-and-coastal-form Bryde’s whale to study its ethological activities in Dapeng Bay.” (Dong et al., 2022).

Once again, something that should have been a joyful occurrence with a happy ending, leading to ‘Good stories to tell’ for Hong Kong, became another tragic farce, as seems to be the norm for Hong Kong of late.

I sincerely hope that this incident is a wake-up call for the powers that be to start thinking critically and make the right decisions as opposed to the “brain farts” they seem to have been acting upon over the last three years.

The Whale is Dead, Long Live the Whale!

(Callan Williamson)


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