Fishermen’s representatives complained to the Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene on Friday that sea burials, which the government has been trying to promote in recent years, lack strict regulation and the fishers demand that the burials be held on the high seas.
Lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing, helped the fishermen in their appeal, saying some fishermen in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island have criticized the current sea burial system, which lacks strict regulation and supervision, especially when some individuals scatter cremated human ashes or even pet ashes arbitrarily, and it affects the livelihoods of fishermen.
Wong added, some fishermen even salvage suspected columbariums, which makes them feel uneasy. Besides, some residents fear that scattering cremated human ashes in Hong Kong waters could affect seafood and the environment. They also worry that residents eating marine products, could be consuming bone ashes, which may be harmful to humans.
Based on the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, members of the public, subject to the approval of the department, may scatter cremated human ashes in three designated areas of Hong Kong waters, including east of Tap Mun, east of Tung Lung Chau and south of west Lamma Channel.
The number applying for sea burials increased from 160 cases in 2007 to 600 cases in 2011, based on the statistics from the department. The department has enhanced its free ferry services for scattering cremated human ashes at sea by employing a bigger vessel.
There is no law to regulate pet ashes for the sea burials now, said Wong, and it may make Hong Kong residents feel worried.
Wong suggested the government change the sea burial areas from three designated areas of Hong Kong waters to the high seas in order to avoid fish and other sea creatures that may eat human ashes. Besides, he demanded the government supervise more strictly the current practice about individuals scattering cremated human ashes.
Kenneth Leung, assistant professor at the division of ecology and biodiversity at the University of Hong Kong, told China Daily that the cremated human ashes usually contain heavy metals, but it has lower risk of damaging human health if people eat the fishes that have consumed ashes.
However, Leung admitted with the amount of ashes accumulated in concentration, which may harm the fish as time goes by, and there’s been no research on how much human ash thrown into the sea would produce harmful effects to the fish living there.
“The high seas is a choice for its carrying capacity is much bigger,” added Leung.
The representative from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department responded that it will provide a related review report according to the appeals from the fishermen. The report is expected to be finished in the new legislative session.