Steve Palumbi visits HKU

Stanford marine scientist visits the University of Hong Kong

by TNP Editor 2015-10-7

In a lagoon around Ofu, an island in the South Pacific, marine biologist Steve Palumbi is snorkeling. Here, the sea temperature is much warmer, and Steve could stay in all day. While warm water is good for humans it is not so good for corals. With the heat, these corals shouldn’t have lived. Instead, they are thriving, and Steve wants to know why.

Through DNA analysis, Steve discovers that these corals survive by changing their gene expression. That, according to Steve, may offer hope for corals here and elsewhere to withstand the impact of climate change.

As Professor of Biology and Director of Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, Steve has been advancing marine sciences, protecting natural resources, and educating and raising awareness for conservation.

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An internship at SWIMS

My summer internship at SWIMS

Austin at SWIMS 2015by Austin Yeung 2015-08-13

Just had an exciting ‘two-week’ summer internship at The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) in Hong Kong.  Many thanks to Prof. Baker for allowing me to be in his lab – which is really ‘everywhere’ — from the work bench within SWIMS at Cape D’Aguilar, where I got to work with Phil to quantify photo effects on coral/algae symbiosis, to ‘sitting in’ on department seminars with the folks from the Baker Lab on the HKU main campus, to ‘exploring and snorkeling’ Lantau and Nine Pins Islands, where Nico led us in surveying and collecting coral specimens for “paleoecological studies.”

Exciting projects and truly fun and smart people!  I learned a lot.

pH, nitrate and phosphate levels in Hong Kong Waters

by Austin Yeung 2015-08-09

Recently, with the help of my father, I collected water samples from Kaneoke Bay, Hawaii and various parts of Hong Kong.  My goal is to compare the pH, nitrate and phosphate levels of these sea water samples, using aquarium-type test agents purchased from the aquarium store in Hong Kong.

The results are interesting.  The Shek O sample has highest pH whereas the Kaneohe Bay sample has medium pH and the Gold Coast sample has the lowest pH value. For phosphate, the Kaneohe Bay sample has the lowest reading, whereas the Gold Coast sample again has the highest.

Summer course at HIMB

by Austin Yeung 2015-07-24

I had a blast with my marine biology class at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), a world-renowned research institute at the University of Hawai’i (UH) at Manoa, this summer.

Located on Moku o Lo’e (Coconut Island) in Kane‘ohe Bay, HIMB is the only marine research facilities that are built on a coral reef and an island by itself.  It provides excellent research and learning opportunities located just 15 miles from the main UH campus and downtown Honolulu.

I took this marine science summer course in July, 2015 at HIMB on Coconut Island. It’s a one week course, with a class of 20 high school students. If interested in more, please view my video.

Wonderful experience!

‘Plastic bag ban’ in Hawaii

by Alan Yeung 2015-07-07

In Hawaii, residents are responding and adjusting to a state-wide ban on plastic bags that went into effect on July 1.  During this inaugural week, while the jury is still out on its impact, environmentalists are keeping up the pressure on retailers, criticizing and wondering why so many are still being given out at local grocery checkout stands.

Plastic bag in Kaneohe BayBeach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) voiced its concern that the ban was having little effects on reducing litter on beaches. It surveyed the trash left behind at Ala Moana Beach Park on Sunday, July 5, and found plastic bags littered everywhere.

The new law exempts plastic checkout bags from takeout food, drinks and bakery goods. The so-called re-usable bags already thrown away shows that most consumers are not keeping them for reuse. People are treating the thick plastic bags the same as the disposable plastic bags like before.

Why ban plastic bags?

Because they seem to find their way to the coastal waters and the oceans in garbage patches.  Besides their impact on sustainability, plastic bags adversely affect wild lives such as sea turtles and birds, making them susceptible to being caught and trapped, or they inject these plastic substances and became ill.

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Climate change “El Niño”

el nino


by Austin Yeung 2015-06-13

El Niño, ‘the Christ Child’, was first named by fishermen in Peru during Christmas when they noticed unusual warm currents affecting the Pacific coastline of South America. It is an anomaly – a prolonged warming of the central and east-central Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures (SST).

El Niños often happen in intervals between two to seven years, and last nine months to two years. When this El Niño warming happens for only a brief 7-9 months, it is classified as an El Niño “condition,” whereas when the El Niño period lasts longer, it is known as an “episode.”

Coral reefs, rainforests of the oceans, are susceptible to coral bleaching as a result of high water temperatures.  Bleaching occurs when coral tissues expel algae, known as zooxanthellae, that reside in the coral, and die.  The entire coral reef then turns white as if it were bleached.  That’s why coral scientists pay attention to such ocean warming events as El Niño.

Currently, NOAA just declared that the most recent El Niño commenced in March 2015. The latest forecast showed a 90% chance of the El Niño continuing in the fall and an 85% chance into winter of 2015/16. Many anticipated a stronger El Niño since the 1998 El Niño occurrence. With an increase of 4°C in SST, the 1998 happening of the El Niño undersizes the current El Niño, which saw a greater than 1.9°C SST. Although this is not a weak El Niño appearance, it is not a strong one either.

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Coral gardening

by TNP Editor  2015-06-04

Coral gardening is defined as the cultivation of coral for commercial purposes or for coral reef restoration.  Until recently, coral gardening or aquaculture has been driven by the live and ornamental coral trade and the supply to aquariums and zoos for public exhibits.  Lately, coral aquaculture, or coral farming, has seen a renewed interest by researchers and resource managers as part of an integrated solution to coral reef restoration.

Increasingly, coral is “cultivated” by locals, who live close to the reef, for income; by scientists for research; and by hobbyists as well as vacationers for conservation and eco-tourism. These efforts are happening in Fiji, Dominican Republic, Maldives and many other locations in the tropics.

Here is a good example of coral gardening and reef restoration efforts – at Fiji, courtesy of BBC South Pacific.



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Tuna farming 金枪鱼养殖

tuna farmsby Alan Yeung  2015-05-27

Today, I came across a book I read last summer, written by Paul Greenberg, called Four Fish.  It talks about the dwindling supplies of ocean fish in the wild, and the current state of aquaculture. Out of curiosity, I decided to take another look at the current tuna farming activities.

It appears researchers at Kinki University in Japan have made some recent progress in a closed-loop cycle, where juveniles of bluefin tuna are spawn in captivity and can be successfully raised to maturity. But this is a project in its infancy. To date, Kinki does not need to take fish from the sea.

Yonathan Zohar and his team of scientists at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology are making their first attempt in North America.

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Indonesia blows up illegal fishing 印尼炸沉非法捕捞渔船

Indonesian blows up illegal fishing boats  印尼再显威风 炸沉外国非法捕捞渔船

2432CAD400000578-0-image-a-52_1419173994730by Alan Yeung  2015-05-21

According to media reports, Indonesian Navy blew up 41 illegal fishing vessels at six locations after obtaining a court order. These fishing boats, detained by Indonesian government due to illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, are from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Philippines.

媒体报道 印尼当局将41艘被法庭裁定涉及非法捕捞行为的渔船, 在全国六处地点分批炸沉。这些渔船分别来自中国、越南、马来西亚、泰国和菲律宾。

Besides teaching the illegal fishermen a lesson, Jakarta wishes to improve the welfare of Indonesia’s fishing industry and uphold her sovereignty. 雅加达不但希望通过炸沉渔船来给其他外国渔船“好好的上一课”,而且希望能间接改善印尼渔民福利,并维护印尼主权。

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Live fish trade in The Coral Triangle 珊瑚三角区活鱼贸易

Coral Triangle

by TNP Editor  2015-05-17

According to WWF, “The Coral Triangle is known as the nursery of the seas. Home to 75% of all coral species on the planet and more than 3000 species of fish, the Coral Triangle is a rich, yet fragile ecosystem that supports 120 million people in six countries.” How should we sustainably develop and conserve these resources? These are the challenges we face today.

「珊瑚三角区」是海洋的养鱼场。它拥有全球75%的珊瑚和3000鱼类的品种,珊瑚三角区的生态系统是非常丰富和脆弱的,亦是当地1.2亿居民赖以维生的资源。如何以可持续的发展方式来开发和保存这些海洋资源? 这都是大家面对的挑战。

The Coral Triangle is under threat. One of the major threats is coming from the live reef fish trade, where the use of cyanide to catch reef fish is prevalent.


Watch: Coral Triangle – the live fish trade by WWF 世界自然基金会短片 (2008)

Cyanide fishing targets and stuns the larger market-size reef fish. These fish are sedated by small quantities of cyanide poison. They are then moved to holding pens where they recover and await shipment. And they head to Mainland China and Hong Kong, and some to Malaysia and Singapore.


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