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SDG14 Life Below Water



HKU invests in numerous research projects that contribute to ocean and marine life protection and conservation. Situated on the shores of Hong Kong’s only marine reserve, the Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) is an internationally acclaimed facility that focuses on research and education in ecology, biodiversity, conservation management, and anthropogenic impacts. It is also part of the Marine Global Earth Observatory, protecting marine life using  Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures technology to collect, identify and document organisms under the sea. In collaboration with international experts, the SWIMS team has also launched the Hong Kong Register of Marine Species which contributes to the largest global marine biodiversity database and serves as a platform to showcase the vast marine biodiversity of Hong Kong. In one of their studies, the team shed light on the scale of unreported and unregulated live reef food fish trade, warning of its impact on vulnerable species, food security and livelihood in Southeast Asia. The accompanying report urged authorities to take immediate action by updating laws, and improving reporting and monitoring in the industry.

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of courses and research.





students enrolled



 papers (in 2017)

In 2016, HKU hosted the International Conference on Deriving Environmental Quality Standards for the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems to bring together experts from the government, academia, and the private sector to tackle issues of marine pollution. The key focus was the Environmental Quality Benchmarks – a tool to assess and monitor environmental contaminants and stressors to effectively protect aquatic ecosystems – and its applications in water quality management, policy development, and environmental protection at the local level.


A 2016 report by Professor Yvonne Sadovy of SWIMS exposed the illegal trading in Mainland China of the humphead wrasse, an endangered and highly valued reef fish. In collaboration with wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, her study showed that illegal sale of the wrasse is found on the market from high-end restaurants to e-commerce sites. The wrasse’s “endangered” status is not only exasperated by unregulated trade, but also by the likelihood that they are caught and sold before reaching adulthood, limiting the population’s reproductive capacity. Failing to ensure legal and sustainable trade in this globally threatened species will ultimately result in higher prices and fewer fish available to consumers and fishermen who sell them in source countries. As a major global trading hub for this species, Hong Kong authorities are urged to strengthen regulations and step up monitoring and enforcement.

Juvenile and subadult Humphead wrasse on retail sale in Hong Kong. (Source of photo: Professor Yvonne Sadovy of School of Biological Sciences, HKU)



The prevalent use of disposable plastic poses an imminent threat to the health of the environment, especially the ocean and the species living in it. Eager to raise awareness and drive impact,  HKU launched the Ditch Disposable campaign with a goal to significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic on campus. Since its launch, HKU has prevented the use of an estimated 1.3 million disposable plastic water bottles. A series of events took place to mobilise students and staff to be part of the change, including “No Straw Week” to raise awareness and urge action at HKU and other local universities, and the “Ditch Disposable Market” where eco-friendly alternatives to single-use items were made available. With the success of these events, HKU solidified its commitment with the introduction of two important policies: first was the “Policy on disposable plastic bottles”, effective July 2017, prohibiting the sale and distribution of water in disposable plastic bottles of one litre or less on university premises; second will be the “Policy on disposable plastic straws”, effective September 2018, banning disposable plastic straws in centrally managed catering outlets.

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