Clam digging in Shui Hau

Who says one can only enjoy the view of the “Mirror of the Sky” in Bolivia? Locally, you may also find this stunning view in Shui Hau of Lantau.

In Hong Kong, summer is the peak season for clam digging, during which so many people flock to Shui Hau, the clam diggers’ heaven, enjoying clam digging every year. People may enjoy the fun of family outings, spending a day on the beach digging up clams which may be passed to a nearby restaurant for cooking. One of the most sought after species, Meretrix meretrix, is considered a local delicacy among foodies.

Clam digging activity has grown increasingly popular in recent years. However, this leisure activity, if left uncontrolled, could be detrimental to the clam populations and the intertidal ecology in Shui Hau. It may upset the substratum by changing both the composition and density of the benthic community, while reducing the availability of food sources for other animals, such as water birds, living on or around the coastal areas. Furthermore, clam digging may lead to over-exploitation. Since the bigger clams, mature enough to spawn, are easier to be found, they are susceptible to over-exploitation, leaving only those younger clams with limited reproductive abilities. Besides, over-exploitation may also lead to the harvesting of the small clams which have yet to reach maturity, leaving no clams to grow. It was found that the number of certain clam species, such as Meretrix meretrixs, has dropped drastically. Clam digging, if left uncontrolled, may eventually result in an overall decline in both the clam abundance and diversity in the area.

To tackle the above problem, it is imperative to increase the public’s awareness on conservation. With the support of the Government’s Environment and Conservation Fund, the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong has recently designed clam gauges for the public’s reference under the Sustainable Shui Hau Project. With this reference tool for clam digging, clam diggers are advised to refrain from collecting the clams of body lengths no longer than the clam gauge (i.e. 5cm), providing the clams a chance to reproduce and grow. Besides, local stores at Shui Hau have also been engaged to provide such clam gauges when renting out clam digging equipment.

While clam digging is a recreational activity full of fun, over-exploitation will jeopardise the pristine beauty and ecology of the coastal habitat in Shui Hau. Are you really willing to pursue this interest at the cost of damaging the “Mirror of the Sky” in Shui Hau?