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Interview :14 - 10:34 Play :14 - More
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Yvonne Sadovy, Christopher Joyce  







Fish trade discussion.  

Sound Effects 19:37 - 32:15 Play 19:37 - More
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Interview 32:18 - 1:07:06 Play 32:18 - More
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Samuel Lee, Christopher Joyce  







19Feb2004. Market place discussion. Includes conversations with merchants.  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
18 Feb 2004

  • Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
  • Lei Yue Mun Fish Market
  • 22.27535   114.18668
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
  • Sennheiser MKH 40
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS stereo

Subject 2 and 3 at Location 2.

Show: Radio Expeditions, Hong Kong
Log of DAT #: 4
Date: 2/18


0:10 CJ- So where's the next generation going to come from if you take the juveniles is where you left off.

M-This is the problem. When you take these very small fish, if they're not put into captivity they may well die, but actually a large number of these small sized fish, these small juv would very well survive to adulthood. So, it's not as if you are getting something for nothing by taking them out of the wild and putting them into floating cages. And I think that's where there is one of the misconceptions. CJ-And if they did survive to adulthood they may be able to reproduces so essentially what you are doing is... M-Yes, that's right...CJ-Taking them before they get a chance to reproduce. M-To reproduce, and you(?) nature balances if you take up way too many juv you won't have enough adults for the population to persist so. I remember trying to explain this to a collegue of mine in Indonesia and he was saying ¿what is the problem with taking the young fish¿ and I was trying to think of some way of explaining this and in the end I said well, what do you think would happen if you took away all the children from Jakarta, what do you think would happen? And he said, oh, okay, I understand. The point being that these are the potential adults of the future. So there's a very big gap in what we perceive or what we understand as marine culture, fish farming. Certainly with groupers, within this region, within SE Asia, does need to be addressed. So marine culture, I believe will be a part of the solution to take pressure off of the wild stock of some species. Second another, sorry, some species, there are several other species I think need to be introduced b/c this marine culture is going to take a number of years. One of them is as many cultures begin to realize how valuable live fish are for their local economies, probably they will start to control the number of fish that are sold or exported or taken, depending on the country. That might mean that consumers have to pay more, but it is a luxury fish, we're talking about a luxury market anyway. But if several of these species are taken at the rate they're currently taken at, then economically that would be a bad thing for the source countries.

2:35 M-One of the ideas that was suggested recently was we have this concept of at marine protected area as a way to protect fishers, well somebody suggested recently why don't we reverse that, why don't we allocate areas for example fisheries like this, like the live reef fishery, and only allow businesses to take live fish from particular areas, and then when those stocks are depleted you have fish to regenerate. C-Then you would need some sort of certification process? M-Yes, or close controls, or whatever, but the idea there is to look for creative approaches to whether they're reverse controls, whether they're protected areas, marine unprotected areas where fishermen go until they've depleted those areas and then they're not allowed to fish until the fish regenerate. There needs to be some novel and creative approaches dealing with this fishery, if it is to persist. I mean, I like to eat fish, lots of people like to eat fish, I like to eat Brucca (?), and I would like to cont to do so, but, from what we understand at the moment, if nothing is done, if we have the status quo, then these fish will decline and they will be harder and harder to find. I think also there are a few species within this trade, in a particular, in a Napolean or ?, which are probably threatened. They are an uncommon fish and the numbers in the field have been declining in many areas where they are fished alive. And probably it would be good if there were a campaign to encourage consumers not to select this particular kind of fish, not to eat the threatened fish. There's plenty of other choice. So I think there are possible solutions. I think they're going to take quite a lot of education and creative thinking as they try to reach them enable for the live fish trade to continue.

4:34 C-I wanted to ask about biological question about the...hermaphorditism. Some of these fish change sex, and I know this is something that fascinated you when you got into this, how does it work? M-How does it work? In some of the fish you see here, well, hermaphroditism is expressing two sex in one individual, and you can either do it at the same time, you can be male and female functionally, productively, or you do it in sequence, so you're male first, then female, then the other way around. Quite a lot of reef fish show hermaphroditism, which is female first, reproduces female, matures female, and then at some stage later they become a male, and it means not only that an ovary changes to a testes, depending on the species, the color might change, the behavior changes, it's really quite remarkable.

5;37 C-Without the benefit of plastic surgery. M-Without the benefit of plastic surgery (humor in voice), at least I'm not aware of plastic surgery that goes on under there. It's hermaphordidic species, species that change sexes in this way may be particularly vulnerable to fishing, if it is fishing that selects for sizes. So let's say you are a species that changes from female to male. On average most of the larger fish will be male, just because of the direction of sex change. Fisheries often select for, I think the largest fish or like the live fish trade, there's a certain fish slot because of the certain size reqs within the restaurants themselves because of plate size, or banquet size or something so there's a certain selectivity. So if you're selecting for a certain size, in a sex change in species that is also a selectivity for a certain sex and what we've seen in fisheries are these kinds of species is that possibly the rate of extraction is too high for the natural sex change process to keep up. So you can end up with a very strong bias towards either female or male.

6:45 C-So in other words you get a pop that is almost all female. M-All female and their hasn't been time enough to replace those lost males, and it's quite interesting for some of the Brupa ? species in SE Asia, one example is the Red grouper or the HK grouper, production is overfished that ppl who wanted to do mariculture on them couldn't find males b/c of this same problem, so what they had to do was catch the females, induce sex change either using a chemical injection or just by the conditions in which they kept them, to produce the males that would them spawn with the females that would produces the eggs and the young.

7:30 C-This is the problem I've heard the women have had in San Francisco. M-Just women? So anyway there is a problem with species that have this ability to..C-What's the biological or evolutionary advantage for a species to have this sex change ability. M-That's a very interesting question, but one that one can never really answer C-But is there some advantage conferred, as evol biologists like to say? M-Ya, what you can do, you can do some comparative species and probably some of the widely accepted explanation is called the size advantage hypothesis. It says that if you live within a certain social structure, a group structure, in which size is an important compenent of being able to reproduce so say for example you are a male and in order to get the females it's better to be big to get the territory, so it's better to be big when you are guys, when you're small you have very little advantage to reproduce, so for a male it's better to be big, for a female it doesn't really matter. If you have the substrate that allows plasticity in sexual development, which fish do, and we have no idea why that is, if you do have that fundamental plasticity, and there is an advantage to size, then those individuals that start in this particular case where being a big male is good, then those that start life as a female and then change sex at the appropriate time will have a larger reproductive success, what I mean by that is they will produce more young than those who don't change sex. So little bit by little bit over evolutionary time those ones that do change sex will produce more young and take over the world.

9:46 C-Although you don't have to have the sexual plasticity in order to have a species of animal where size matters. M-Absolutely, look at primates. You asked me what the advantage was of sex change and the advantage is in terms of some sort of reproductive advantage and if you don't have that substrate you can't actually do it, then you won't be able to do it, you won't be able to evolve that particular solution. So they've evolved some dif solution...It's a matter of evolving that particular advantage and then using that advantage. And those two combined will lead to sex change, for example.

10:38 C-Very confused fish. M-(laughs) Maybe we're confused and the fish aren't.

10:51-11:58 Ambi-Lots of water

12:18-16:15 Ambi. Putting something together (?), Mah Jong or checker game. Water in background. Occasional talking (chef and waiter in restaurant).

Feb 19th, Hong Kong, on the way to the WWF in the cab, Marine Aquarium Council. MS Pair, Sonosac pre amp. D8,

19:58-31:15 Hong Kong street ambi

20:16 FX-Bus engine

20:48 FX-Bus sounds, something rhythmic plinking, gets faster, then fades out.

24:57 FX-Metal, like aluminum scraping

26:15 FX-Screeching metal sound

28:24 FX ? like a gate opening, metal gate

30:13 FX-Cat meow

30:15 Engineer asks what is being unloaded

30:22 Chinese man-Mostly herbal medicine. This is okay I don't know the shop of herbal medicine, but some of them may be animal residue. I think the majority of those are herbal medicine, or plant based medicines

31:50 FX-Loud crash sounds

31:57 Chinese man(CM)-And they are workers and they don't know the contents. Perhaps we keep walking?

32:11 Ambi-Hong Kong street sounds

32:29 C-All those bags there is ginseng? CM-Yes, chopped up ginseng, mostly cultivated from China, but get the roots from North America. C-North American ginseng has a special appeal it's more expensive and is supposed to be better. CM-More expensive ? one. The Chinese cannot keep growing good ones, or keep growing genuine roots for cultivation, but they cultivate a lot every year, but it is one of the biggest medicines in Chinese medicine pieces and as you can see there are a large grade, and usually the lowest grade ginseng will be chopped into slices so you cannot tell and also sell money, you know the head or the roots can still be sliced so there's a lot of things we can see in this area. People are doing some grading. C-They're doing what? They're grading the ginseng. CM-Also the good and not so good and dif grading of ginseng root.

34: CM-We can see some seahorse here, it costs about 50 HK dollar per tail, which is about 37 on 5 gram is that tail price and it's an unbleached one so it's better. CJ-Unbleached? CM-Ya. CJ-What does that mean? CM-Sometimes think customer wants bleached one, clean, just one, but I think ppl may prefer the raw form b/c it's less chem. Residue. CJ-And what do ppl use the seahorse for usually? CM-For mostly impotence also some...CJ-Impotence? CM-Impotence and also some asthma. CJ-Do they eat it or put it in a soup, or...CM-Usually we boil with a lot of herbal medicine. It's a combination and it's a formula so it boils with the water and they drain the water, not the residue. CJ-And how many times do you use one seahorse? CM-Usually two pair of seahorse. CJ-Two each time, then you throw them away? CM-Yes.

35:39 CJ-Have you tried? CM-No. CJ-You don't have a problem with impotence? CM-Not yet, but I will very my, I will need it sometime. Perhaps I show you a picture, one of my friends went up to Beijing and took a photo of a street sign footstool, they sell bbq seahorse. CJ-BBQ seahorse? What does it taste like? CM-He said it taste like dried fish. CJ-That makes sense. And where do you think these seahorses come from. CM-A majority from a wide range of country, from SE Asia, from South Am, to Africa, but the importer of seahorse in HK come from Thailand and the Phillipines. CJ-Thailand and the Phillipines. CM-Thailand, Indonesia, and the Phillipines. And I think they are the majority, they are the major supplier for the HK seahorse for the trade.

36:59-38:24 Ambi. Unloading herbs, seahorses, etc, in front of little shop with little black and white cats sitting on bark at their feet, on Ko Sang Gi Street.

39:03 CJ-Explain to me what these are here. CM-These are pie fish. CJ-Pie fish? CM-Pie fish, a really close family with seahorse and they are much cheaper than seahorse when ppl, when practitioner prescribes seahorse it may be expensive for someone else so they prescribe pie fish and of course it is much cheaper compared to seahorse. CJ-Can you say for me who you are and what you do? CM-My name is Samuel, I work for Traffic East Asia (?) as a program officer. CJ-Could you say your full name? CM-Samuel Lee, I am working for TEC, and we are part of the WWF and ICM family and we are working on mostly military and law enforcement and we are not actually doing law enforcement, but we are building up capacity in terms of intercepting wildlife and also we are getting more projects and initiatives to engage traders in traditional medicines trade to support conservation so we have a diversified work and... CJ-Okay.

41:08- More ambi at the shop

41;32 SL-This is turtle plasteron? Which is also used in traditional medicine. CJ-The turtle, the back of the turtle? SL-The bottom. CJ-Oh, the stomache, the piece that goes over their stomache. SL-Yes the shell also has medicinal value, the asian pop of turle getting more threatened these days b/c of the trade so. CJ-What is it used for? SL-Used for a variety of treatments. CJ-Illnesses? SL-Ilnesses, yes, and also like tree bark I can recognize that, some kind of mushroom that sees skin, skin from snake, some fruit, some, ya. CJ-And these things here looks like some kind of root. SL-Ya, some kind of root, called Biengsum, but we also boil with a lot of soup as well, and as you can see there's a wide range of ginseng cultivated possibly in South Korea, b/c of the way they treat it. You see over there androvium? There's also an appendix to list species on sightings which you need permit and the trade is regulated and you can see a wide range of ginseng both from China and also from S. Korea. CJ-And again great big 5 gallon buckets, plastic buckets full of seahorses. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of seahorses in them. SL-Yes, they are graded according to their size. We have 40 dollar per tail, 50, 70 dollar, and they are sell according to their size and also by weight.

44:09 Ambi. Some song playing in background in Chinese.

44:28 (Ambi underneath, with song) SL-If you walk further to the Western side you may see more shops selling ??? Also other things like sea cucumber, also a concern now b/c of the trade problem.

44:53-49:19 Ambi, music fades down, ppl talking, shop sounds.

49:36-51:29 More shop ambi.

50:11 CJ-What is it that we're looking at? SL-This is gecko, which is good for treating asthma and other illness as well, but mostly for asthma.

53:53 Talking, low voices in Chinese, pulling up chairs to a table in a shop. They explain what they are doing for NPR. There's an interpreter.

55:46 SL-He managed to many other parts of the world some trade may concentrate in one particular area, in HK there is no designated area but ppl gather together gradually over time and then this trade just stay in this district for their business. CJ-I'm curious to know is HK the entry point for much of the traditional medicinal materials. Does it come in from Beijing or Shanghai or HK?

56:29 Chinese speaker. SL-Came from mainland China. CJ-Do the materials come from mainland China mostly? SL-Mostly came from the mainland China. CJ-What we see here are medicines that will be used by ppl in HK? SL-No, they are mostly for export elsewhere other than HK. CJ-And your family has been in this business for a long time? SL-They have been in the business for some 40-50 years already. CJ-It's a good business? SL-He says it is not a particularly good business, but it's a family business so he inherited from the family and has an obligation to carry on the business. CJ-I inherited my business from my father too. He was a journalist too. We often end up doing what our fathers do.

58:30 SL-All the brothers in the family are doing the same business but...interpreting...all the brothers are engaged in the family business. He stayed in HK, his elder bro stayed in Canada and his younger bro stayed in New York. CJ-How do you learn? What are the skills that you need for this business? SL-He mostly learned from what his father do, and then learn by doing mostly, and other skills from the college...interpreting...He also studied in the university in China to learn more Chinese med in a more structured way, on top of learning the business skills from his father. CJ-How many years did you study to learn in China? SL-The course is two years program. CJ-Can he tell me a little about the merchant program, in terms of what they do. Does he work with materials traffic, like with you, or does, so how do they work together to conserve the resource?

1:02:03 SL-It all starts from the regulating trade in endangered species from the local gov. The local gov calls agricultural fishery and conservation dept. they approach different trader and trade associations to tell them about the regulating reqs on certain items. They approach them and the more they talk the more they realize the issue and that's the beginning of the conversation btwn the industry and the gov and the conservation community. CJ-And as a result of the association working with traffic and the gov, has their business changed? Is it harder or easier to do business? SL-He say the business getting more difficult after the regulations in place and the implemented more b/c of the permitting reqs. Ppl have to apply for the different shipment of things, each type of food commodity so the life becomes more difficult after knowing of the issue and getting in touch with the gov ppl.

1:04:38 CJ-Is he ever concerned about using up the resource about species or seahorses or geckos, or ginseng or whatever, being used up? SL-He is concerned about the issue b/c he when more and more species are extinct it influence their business so they would like to see them continue and also to giving too much pressure on their survival so he recognize their species and also initiate some breeding program will be good for everyone and also for the industry. CJ-Is that feeling shared by many of the merchants in this business or is he the exception?

1:07:12 SL-All the ppl in the industry also share the same feeling and they also feel that...CUTS OFF HERE.

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