SEA KAYAK HONG KONG

OCEAN LITERACY INTERNATIONAL

Ocean Litereacy International (Hong Kong)

Saving the Leatherback Turtles

leatherback turtles

Leatherback Turtles are prehistoric & like most turtle species, are on the endangered list.

Sea Kayak Hong Kong’s latest conservation project is to help save the breeding ground (hatchery) of the Leatherback Turtle in Phang Nga Province, Thailand through our Ocean Education NGO, Ocean Literacy International HK

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world.
They are the only species of sea turtle that lack scales and a hard shell.
They are named for their tough rubbery skin and have existed in their current form since the age of the dinosaurs. Leatherbacks are highly migratory, some swimming over 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds.

They are also accomplished divers with the deepest recorded dive reaching nearly 4,000 feet—deeper than most marine mammals.

It is the only living species in the genus Dermochelys and the family Dermochelyidae.
The decline in numbers of the Pacific Leatherback Turtle is staggering, and without intervention, this amazing reptile will become extinct in the near future.

 

 

Beach erosion, caused by sea level rise, is taking away the sand necessary for the Leatherback turtles of Khaolak Beach to continue laying eggs.

Urgent help is required to create a semi-permanent solution to reduce beach erosion. Obviously no long term solution exists in this area if sea levels continue to rise, but the numbers of Pacific Leatherback Turtles have declined at such an alarming rate, that the trend has to be reversed aby any means possible.

 

How can you help? Simple come to paradise and dig in!

We are working with the Khaolak Orchid Beach Resort to develop multiple and innovative ways to protect the eroded beach habitat in the short term, and more traditional means in the medium term.

We have holiday packages that focus on conservation or have holiday packages that focus on recreation, but all assist in helping us protect the Leatherback Turtle habitat.

Khaolak Orchid Beach Resort

In the above image, the leatherback eggs, once laid, are surrounded by a protective shield to ensure the maximum number of eggs survive. 

Our Ocean Literacy turtle conservation holiday packages here include a miriad of ocean and other water experiences.

We teach surfing (its a surf beach), we have amazing islands of the coast for diving, snorkeling, coral reef conservation and sea kayaking.

Behind us, we have mountains with rivers so you can try your hand at bamboo rafts, or for all you sea kayakers,  time to have a go at some whitewater rafting and kayaking. 

That will improve your sea kayaking skills.

But it’s the turtle habitat that has our attention and we will have a number of activities from plastic cleanups (the favourite food of the Leatherback is jellyfish!), to dune restoration and maybe sometime soon, helping to build offshore artificial reefs.

experience the complete water cycle

So, with COVID not abating in the short term, what can you do now? 

Give us hope. 
Plan ahead for 2022 / 23.

Contact us to make you part of the Leatherback Turtle’s future.
We can provide you with a heap of information about the turtle, the region, the sea kayaking and the conservation plan. 

Fill in the form below to get information about your future amazing adventure holiday helping saving turtles and subscribe to our monthly update on what’s happening at Ocean Literacy International 

Subscribe to get updates on adventure conservation sea kayak holidays.

Kayaks help Kayakers

from kayaks to bags

What did you do when COVID19 closed down your entire local industry?

I’m sure a lot of us don’t know the answer to that question.

How could we, because a lot of industries were insulated against the effects of closure by Government printing money, then passing it around like confetti, pretending it was an effective strategy for all, but when it obviously wasn’t. 

But one industry worldwide has been devastated.
That is the tourism / travel industry. 

Imagine then what you would do, being in a poor country where printing confetti was not an option and you were 100% reliant on International tourism for your life blood which instantly, and without warning, disappeared!

Well, that’s the position our kayaking friends in the Phillippines found themselves in at the start of global lockdowns 18 months ago. 

This is a story of compassion, creativity and even when all was really difficult, of conservation of our precious environment.

Watch the video, then go to then end of this post to browse the catalogue of these amazing products.

everything totally collapsed

When I first heard this story I was amazed.

Now that I know we can help support these noble kayak warriors, I am inspired. 

So please take your time to digest what has happened to this small kayaking company based in the Philippines, providing the sole livelihood for more than 20 people, since the whole country was locked down from international tourists. 

Watch the video to understand how the rafting community came together to upcycle their worn out kayaks, develop amazing new skills and create something new out of something old. 

It shows the stamina, ingenuity and tenacity of a kayaker to be able to make something out of nothing and care enough about the environment that they still do things for the greater good. Turning old worn out kayaks into new waterproof fashion bags - by hand!
The heart of the kayak warrior is strong in these people.

So in order to help these fine people through the upcoming months, we are buying their crafts (literally) and offering them to other kayakers too who may be willing to help and want to own a handmade bag made from the finest used kayak.

The perfect Xmas gift.

There are 3 bag styles as shown in the 2 PDFs above and below. 
Because each bag is handcrafted, they are all unique.

Each bag has a serial number, but once sold is gone, so if you have a particular one in mind, please order quickly to avoid disappointment. 

If you have anything specific in mind, the folks down there will make it for you. It will take about 2 weeks + postage. 

Order your specific bag now (include serial numbers) or go to our shop to buy any bag that is still available.

The bags in this catalogue are a guide only, as the individual bag may have already been sold. If you wish a specific bag, complete the email form with at least 2  or 3 choices, naming your preference.  We will get back to you in 24 hours if we have it available. If you wish one made similar, we can contact the guys in the Philippines with your request.

The price is $500 each for the shoulder bag & $450 for the bike mini bag.

or go to our kayak shop

Cleanup the Jin Island sea arch by sea kayak

Jin Island Sea Arch

Cleanup the Jin Island sea arch by sea kayak

What to expect

A beautiful part of Hong Kong. 18 klms return, so this is a journey for people wishing to add to their endurance capabilities.
We depart Sai Kung and follow the western shore of Kau Sai Chau to keep out of the wind and make our journey easier. We will either have lunch at waterfall beach or in the Jing Island arch, depending on how much progress we have made.
Once in the arch, we will attempt to recover as much rubbish as possible from the rocks and shore.
Our return journey will be a different route along the western side of Sharp island, passed the tombolo and back to Sai Kung

As always, normal club rules apply.
Sea Kayak Rental – if needed, $300.

What to bring.
Bring a pair of gloves, clothes to kayak in – wet shoes or trainers are a requirement.
Bring a light windproof shell to wear in the afternoon as it is getting cool.
A water bottle and a picnic lunch.
A winning attitude, a smile and a sense of adventure.

Location.
Beautiful Shelter Bay, UNESCO Global Geopark.
Sai Kung.

Sea Turtles

sea turtle and swimmer

Sea Turtle Biology

There are seven species of sea turtles worldwide. They are: (left to right) leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, green, hawksbill, loggerhead, and olive ridley sea turtles.

All sea turtles found are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Human threats, including oil spills, have significantly reduced many sea turtle populations in recent centuries.

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sea turtle species

Sea turtle populations takes a long time to recover because they grow slowly and do not reproduce every year.

Sea Turtle Life History

Sea turtles rely on a variety of habitats that can be damaged by man’s activities.

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sea turtle life history

Nesting Females, Eggs, and Hatchlings
With the exception of basking green turtles in Hawaii, the only time turtles crawl ashore is for the females to lay their eggs. Females lay their clutches of eggs every 2-4 years on beaches, then return to the ocean. The embryos develop buried in the sand for around 45-60 days. Hatchlings emerge from their nests, quickly crawl to the surf, and begin a marathon swim to find refuge within offshore areas.

Juveniles, Surface-Pelagic Life Stage
Most post-hatchling turtles live at the surface of the open ocean. Turtles at this stage have limited diving ability, and spend more than 80% of their time at or near the surface.

Large Juveniles and Adults
Large juvenile and adult sea turtles spend most of their time in shallower water, along the continental shelf or nearshore environments. At this age they have developed into active swimmers, diving frequently to depths greater than 65 feet.

Sea turtles have extremely accurate navigational systems that allow them to migrate between widely separated feeding and breeding grounds.

Sea horses slaughtered in Hong Kong

Used as a natural Viagra in Chinese medicine, seahorse numbers are declining.

By Sarah Lazarus,

CNN Updated 0037 GMT (0837 HKT) June 7, 2019

Hong Kong (CNN)
In a row of shops in Sheung Wan, on the western side of Hong Kong Island, the seahorses are stored in plastic boxes and glass jars, their elongated, S-shaped bodies stacked like spoons.

In Hong Kong, this district is the center of the trade in traditional Chinese medicine — an ancient system that uses dried plants and animal parts to treat ailments.
Its narrow streets are crammed with delivery trucks and men pushing trolleys loaded with crates of dried fungi, herbs, berries — and seahorses.
In Chinese medicine, seahorses are believed to have Viagra-like powers.

Hong Kong is the world’s largest trading hub for the dried animal.

Sarah Foster, program manager of Project Seahorse at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said that analysis of global trade datashows that Hong Kong was responsible for around two thirds of all seahorse imports from 2004 to 2017.

The World Wildlife Fund has reported that their popularity as a medicine is also driving sales in China, Taiwan and Indonesia. While nobody knows how many seahorse are left in the world, experts say they are under threat.

With their miniature equine snouts and beady eyes, seahorses look very different than most other fish. And unusually, it’s the males that get pregnant.

But perhaps more importantly to conservation efforts, these are hard animals to study. Spread across vast oceans, some seahorses are less than an inch long and some can change color to camouflage themselves — making them challenging to spot.

Sheung Wan is the epicenter of the trade in Chinese medicine and dried seafood in Hong Kong.
Foster said that about 37 million seahorses are caught in the wild every year. And despite regulations designed to protect them, smuggling is rampant.

According to Project Seahorse, research carried out around the world shows that populations of at least 11 species have dropped by between 30% and 50% over the past 15 years.

Why are seahorses used in Chinese medicine?
Seahorses were first mentioned in Chinese medical literature in 700AD but their use probably goes back much further, said Lixing Lao, director of the School of Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

“According to Chinese medicine theory, seahorse is nourishing … and gives the body more energy,” he said. Mixed with herbs and boiled as a tea, dried seahorses are most commonly used to treat asthma and male sexual dysfunction, including impotence and premature ejaculation, he said.

Lao said there isn’t there any scientific evidence that seahorses could relieve asthma or boost sexual performance, adding that there had not been any clinical trials carried out on humans in this area. 

As a former British colony, Hong Kong sees a mix of both Western medicine and Chinese medicine — there were 7,425 registered Chinese medicine practitioners in the territory in 2017, according to the Department of Health.

Seahorses retail in Sheung Wan for up to 40 Hong Kong dollars ($5) each.

A herbal medicine shop in Sheung Wan. According to the owner, the cat is not for sale.

A shop assistant in Sheung Wan, who declined to give his name, said that from what he has seen, seahorses are mostly bought by men over the age of 50.

Smuggled in suitcases
In theory, seahorses are protected animals.

In 2002, all species were listed under Appendix II of CITES, an international treaty designed to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. With this listing, seahorses can be exported only if they have been sourced sustainably and legally, and there is paperwork to prove it.

Some countries, including Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, went further and imposed blanket bans on seahorse exports.

But these efforts have not saved seahorses, said Foster. Instead, the bans have created a black market.

Earlier this year, Foster participated in a research project in Hong Kong. Investigators questioned 220 traders about the origin of their seahorse stocks during 2016 and 2017 and found that an estimated 95% were imported from countries with export bans. The traders revealed that Thailand is the number one supplier of Hong Kong’s Chinese medicine shops — despite that country officially suspending exports in January 2016.

Small and non-perishable, dried seahorses are easily smuggled across borders, sometimes in mixed consignments with other dried seafood. Several of the traders in Foster’s project admitted to carrying them in to Hong Kong in suitcases. With the trade now operating in the shadows, “it’s a lot harder for us to monitor, track and manage it,” said Foster.

Seahorses for sale in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district.

The Chinese medicine shops in Sheung Wan are not breaking the law in selling seahorses. A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said that CITES measures for seahorses are designed to control import and export, but Hong Kong law does not ban trade within the territory.

The AFCD has been trying to stop the illegal imports. In 2018, Hong Kong authorities seized 45 shipments of incoming dried seahorses weighing a total of 470 kilograms — approximately 175,000 seahorses. The heaviest penalty handed to a smuggler was a four-month prison sentence, said the spokesperson.

Caught in the net
The traditional Chinese medicine market might be fueling demand for seahorses, but if the trade was stopped it would not save them, said Foster. That’s because the underlying problem isn’t Chinese medicine — “it’s the fishing industry,” she said.

By dragging a large net between them, these Thai pair trawlers catch more fish than two boats operating independently.
Foster explained that as relatively rare animals, seahorses are not usually targeted by fishing boats. However, when indiscriminate fishing gear is used, they get scooped up in the nets along with everything else.

Trawl nets — large nets that are dragged along the seabed, catching everything in their path — are the worst offenders. According to Project Seahorse, trawlers drag an area of seabed twice the size of the continental United States, every year.

Trawl fishing is widespread in Africa, Latin America, east Asia and southeast Asia, said Foster, and southeast Asia is a hotspot for seahorses. 

As a valuable item, seahorses are usually retrieved from fishing nets and sold.
Even if the trade disappeared, seahorses would still be caught in the nets, said Foster — which would almost certainly kill them. “Either way, they would be dying,” she added. Foster said the only way to save seahorses is to better manage fisheries — reducing the size of fishing fleets, closing large areas of ocean to trawlers and making greater efforts to keep trawlers out of existing exclusion zones.

CNN contacted Thailand’s Department of Fisheries for their view on seahorse exports and fisheries regulation but had not received a reply at the time of publication.
Foster would also like to see trade bans properly enforced with more rigorous checking of dried seafood shipments.

“Without greater political will, it won’t be possible to stamp out the problem,” she said, adding that she fears that seahorses will be wiped out in some parts of the world.