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Plastic Beach – Sea Shepherd / HK Marine Dept / Government Flying Service Working Together

One of the best things to come out of this plastic crisis is the way that NGO’s and the Government have joined together to unite with a single goal, clean the seas and beaches to make the marine environment safe as fast as possible. As we travel along this path, trust is being built on all sides and real inter-department co-ordination is happening on a massive scale. NGO’s are working to co-ordinate thousands of volunteers from the public to beaches that need attention most, whilst working with Gov’t departments on removal of the rubbish. Sinopec are assisting where possible and have brought in some huge suction devices that were tested yesterday to remove pellets from within small rocky spaces with great results. The coordination is fantastic to see, everyone is putting all their cards on the table, no hidden agendas, just let’s get it done……now!

If you would have told me two weeks ago that Sea Shepherd would be cleared to operate joint search missions in a GFS (Government Flying Services) helicopter with the Hong Kong Marine Department, I would think you were mad! One of the primary roles that Sea Shepherd Hong Kong have played in this whole operation is the Search and Recovery operations. Either by helicopter or small boats we have been working to create an up to date picture of the entire south coasts of Hong Kong, identifying hot spots so that we can relay to other NGO’s and the FEHD/MD where to assign resources of manpower and equipment. Our effectiveness was highlighted last week when we found the 5th container on a private chartered flight paid for by the Shipping Company.

Yesterday I joined Marine Department to recon the west end of Hong Kong and photograph and video the coastlines so that we can further analysis. We were also keeping our eyes peeled for the 6th container, but no joy so far!

At the same time Dr Andy Cornish and his team from WWF HK went to Beaufort Island to work on cleaning up more of the debris from Container 5 in this isolated part of Hong Kong. Great report back from them that only one more day should be needed there and FEHD has confirmed that they will also have crews there to help complete. Ocean Park, DB Green and Ecovision Asia were working on the new joint NGO/Gov operation HK Plastic Pellet Patrol which assigns different NGO’s different areas of Hong Kong to be responsible for and to co-ordinate volunteer clean up crews and open up a communication and report network with beach guardians watching each beach and reporting back the status of each beach.

The one thing that has happened here is seeing who has stepped up and who has not, and there have been some surprises. The first to contact us to offer assistance was Sinopec, followed the next day by the Shipping Company. Then Ocean Park called and brought all of their resources to the table. They were then joined by the team from WWF HK and then Ecovision Asia who organise the International Coastal Cleanup every year. All these NGO’s have huge databases of volunteers and there support in this is so valuable to a positive outcome.

Sadly while all this positive action is going on, all we see in the media are those NGO’s who did not care a week ago when they were informed and asked for help. Now it has became a big story, they jump into the media spotlight spouting statements to the media about what they are doing, what should be done and how bad the Government and Sinopec are. Even more sad is that the bulk of the media are only interested in listening to them, as they are saying exactly what the media wants them to say, rather than the true story which doesn’t sell newspapers. Last night we all watched the news as Greenpeace HK made complete fools of themselves.

There are players and spectators, those that do something and those who stand on the sidelines criticizing everyone rather than joining in and working to fix the problem. Greenpeace are a moneymaking machine who so far have done absolutely nothing to contribute to fixing Hong Kong’s problems. They should be ashamed of themselves….


Sadm Shostak - August 8, 2012 - 2:50 am

Well done Hong Kong may your care for the Oceans be a lesson for others.We can see once responsibility is taken normality can be achieved and life can continue.Well done Govt. and Sea Shepherd.

Plastic Beach – Putting the Jigsaw Back Together

Well after the incredible turn out of passionate volunteers, arriving to help with the cleanup operations, behind the scenes we are working to piece together all the information we have gathered, so that we can better focus our efforts and also try and find the 6th Container. We all get excited with the discovery of a Blue Container door in the small rocky bay at the end of Tung O Wan. We had a theory that based on the intensity of the pellets in Tung O Wan, there must be a container nearby. We shared this with Dr Andy Cornish of WWF Hong Kong who was in Tung O Wan on the Saturday doing a fact finding visit before our big clean operation on Sunday. After sharing our theory with Dr Cornish, he had a quick search for the container and discovered the blue door in about 7 meters of water. Without cameras or diving equipment he relayed the news to us.

On Sunday we took the small boat out to Tung O Wan to focus primarily on the co-ordination of the clean up operation there. Our secondary role was to document the door and search for the container that we thought would be nearby. No container was found.

Last night, I decided to go back and look over all the data we have, both that which we have collected and that which the Marine Dept had shared with us. I had plotted the containers positions before, but never which of the containers we had seen at Rambler’s Channel Salvage Yard related to which position. To the Gov’t these containers would only have been listed by there container numbers, they would not be too worried about what the colours were for example.

There it was, plain and obvious, the door we found had come off of one of the containers we had seen at the shipyard.

From this exercise we can also clearly see how the bigger picture has unfurled and translated to what we have found around Hong Kong on the coastlines, and it’s intensity levels in certain areas.

michael kors outlet - August 7, 2012 - 6:46 am

Thank you for another fantastic post. Where else could anyone get that kind of data in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

gre - August 7, 2012 - 8:01 am

Hi Mr Stokes,
I thank you from the deepest of my heart for saving Hong Kong! All Hongkongers owe you!

I just wanna share my thought with you on this plastic disaster. I seriously don’t think that it is an accident. You don’t have to agree with me.

1. Why was the vessel on the sea during typhoon signal no. 10?
2. The government has always wanted to kill Hong Kong fishing industry. However, Hong Kong fishermen don’t want to. So, we all know that these plastic pellets are not toxic and will just affect fish and bird…This sounds fishy. As long as the pellet is not toxic in nature (like releasing toxic vapour), many HKer will turn a blind eye on this. And I suspect that bird may be a killing target too. You know, Mai Po is next to Shenzhen and many real developers want to build “luxury buildings” in there. Bird can be an annoyance to (selfish) human and affects housing price. Reduce the no. of bird is also a positive effect for real estate developers.

Thanks for reading my comment. Again, I really appreciate your effort!

RoZ Keep - August 9, 2012 - 2:33 am

wondering what the details are emerging from the shipping company? Was he in HK waters at the time? What was he doing out in a storm?Who is the captain? Has he been arrested? Is HK going to prosecute company if it was in HK waters. I can`t find any info about this. If you have some where is it? I am just curious to know why Carrie Lam was so vague in her press conference.

Plastic Beach – The Plastic Revolution Begins

I have just returned back from Tung O in East Lamma, and I cannot get a song out of my head……..

“You say you want a revolution,
Well, you know,
We all want to change the world,
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know……”
John Lennon – REVOLUTION

Tracey, Kevin (the third and more low key member of our team) and I cannot believe the incredible turn out today of passionate, driven volunteers all over Hong Kong. The response has been overwhelming and gives me a lot of hope for the future.

In Tung O more than 1,000 people managed to get to one of Hong Kong’s most remote beaches, only accessible by hiking overland or arriving by boat. A special thanks to Ocean Park’s (OPCF) for getting the word out to their massive network and also to Lamma Corner for helping to co-ordinate the mass of incoming visitors. Also as ever the Government workforce of silent eco-warriors were amongst us all, working tirelessly and silently, moving mountains of nurdles! (FEHD and Marine Dept.)

Another great addition to the clean up crew was SINOPEC, who had more than 50 people from all ranks of staff. Several very senior members of Sinopec came down from Beijing, rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into clearing the plastic nightmare that came to our shores after Typhoon Vincent.

I am starting to see some magic happening, and only hope that the media start to report some of the good things that are going on rather than pointing fingers and driving the negative. Here we have something very unique, something I would only expect from Hong Kong.

We have the Government, NGO’s and the Public all rolling up their sleeves and working together to fix a problem.

This would never happen anywhere else, and it is something that Hong Kong should be very proud of!

We do also believe that we have confirmed the location of the 6th Container. We have sent details to the Marine Dept/Sinopec/Shipping Agent to confirm our findings.

We’ll share with you all as soon as our evidence is confirmed…….

Beatrice - August 5, 2012 - 1:19 pm

I think it should be OPCF (Ocean Park Conservation Foudation Hong Kong) rather than OCPF.

Edward Tang - August 5, 2012 - 1:59 pm

Thank you so much for your great effort on this Gary! Your reports brought about the concern from Hong Kong people and started working on it. Hope the Gov will do what they must do, and let us work together and save our environment!

Colasse Laurent - August 7, 2012 - 10:21 am

I wish you great courage to clean up your beaches.
I would be with you to clean, to help …
Laurent, Normandy – France

Plastic Beach Goes Media Mad!

Today started with media madness as the local print media covered the story of the pellets in full. Full Page in the Apple Daily, and large articles Oriental Daily, Sing Tao, Ming Pao, HK Economic Times etc. Then it went up a gear as we “Hit the Beach!”

We had over 220 volunteers come to DB and clean the beaches. Some of these guys came as far afield as Fanling to help with this crisis. BIG RESPECT to all who gave up their time for the environment and Hong Kong’s future today. Many more beaches to go, but a fantastic start. While everyone was cleaning, Tracey and I were ambushed by the TV crews. Now TV, Cable TV, Hong Kong Broadcast, Reuters, ATV and Pearl TV, plus countless interviews with reporters for magazines etc…..phew! Talked out!

Tomorrow I will be visiting Lamma East and doing a reconnaissance mission around Lamma to identify and record other areas of pollution. Tracey may be with me or having a well earnt day off with her family!

Marco Wong - August 4, 2012 - 11:01 am

Hi, I saw the news and I wanted to come and join to clean up beaches in Hong Kong. Are there any special requirements for being a volunteer?

Jerry - August 4, 2012 - 3:15 pm

I live in lamma and i will probably go to lamma east (tung o, to be exact) tomorrow to see if I can help to clean a bit.

Plastic Beach – Aug 3rd, 2012

The wheels of the Government are starting to move. We found a team from the Marine Dept cleaning the beach at the North Plaza of Discovery Bay. When we spoke with the officers they told us that they have been given an extensive schedule of beaches to clean, working in conjunction with the FEHD. We heard from FEHD and they will be tackling “Nurdle Ground Zero” on the East coast of Lamma on Monday. They are mobilising whatever they can to prevent the problem escalating. We need to also help as members of the public, we cannot afford to leave it all to the Government to do, hit the beaches and clean, clean, clean…….

There is one picture below, showing the different colours that Nurdles are found in. They are all clear to start with but change colour as they absorb toxins. The darker they become the more toxic! The plastic in the spill so far is still safe, but the longer we leave them the more toxic they will become.

Helen L H Wong - August 3, 2012 - 6:46 am

Thank you for the post and the photos!!!

Crystal - August 3, 2012 - 4:51 pm

My friends and me are planning to help cleaning up the beach on this coming monday (6/8), we would like to go to beach near discovery bay. Could you please kindly tell us which beach near discovery bay need our help? Thank you :)

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