- Marine Record
- Open Access
Ocean fifteen: new records of reef fish species in Hong Kong
© The Author(s) 2018
- Received: 17 July 2018
- Accepted: 12 October 2018
- Published: 6 November 2018
This study reports 15 new reef fish species records for Hong Kong.
Studies were conducted from Jun to Oct in 2016 and 2017 and from Apr to Jul 2018, including 1841 man-hours of underwater visual surveys in day time using SCUBA in 54 sites in Hong Kong.
The validity of these 15 records, whether these fish might have been artificially released or naturally occurring, is discussed and this study confirms the natural presence of these 15 species in Hong Kong.
Results from this study is fundamental to enhance understanding and documentation of Hong Kong’s reef fishes, also to serve as key information during the action and planning of the implementation of Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong.
- Hong Kong
- Reef fish
- New records
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China lies at the northern limits of the tropics between latitudes 22°08’N and 22°35’N and longitudes 113°49′E and 114°31′E. Located on the Pearl River Delta and within the South China Sea, Hong Kong has more than 200 offshore islands and approximately 1650 km2 of territorial waters (hk-fish.net 2018). Although Hong Kong’s territorial waters make up only about 0.03% of the China sea area, it is recently reported as home to almost 6000 marine species, accounting for about 26% of the total marine species records in China (Ng et al. 2017).
Hong Kong’s waters are also known to house a diversity of fish species comparable to the entire Caribbean Sea (Sadovy 2001). This is evidenced by approximately 1000 fish species that were documented by hk-fish.net (2018). Despite being a home to such an enormous array of marine life, efforts to document the diversity of species residing in these reefs through research and monitoring, however, are still relatively scarce, spontaneous and dispersed. A study by Sadovy and Cornish (2000) estimated that over 500 species of reef fish might eventually be found in Hong Kong’s waters but their research recorded 325 species at that time. More recent studies and publications reported additional reef fish species to Hong Kong, boosting the number to over 340 reef fish species (To et al. 2013; To and Shea 2016).
In response to the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the People’s Republic of China, which became one of the 196 signatories and Parties in 1992 (signed) and 1993 (ratified Party) (CBD 2018), announced its first national Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) in 1994, which was updated in 2010. This commitment was extended to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2011, and Hong Kong came to create the first city-level BSAP. The BSAP is a strategic instrument aimed at addressing threats to biodiversity, identifying priorities, setting strategies and outlining actions for supporting biodiversity conservation, and assisting Hong Kong in meeting Aichi Biodiversity Targets through implementable actions at the local level, thus contributing to efforts implementing the CBD (Environment Bureau 2016).
Understanding the diversity of the species we have in our environment is fundamental to the evaluation, protection and conservation of biodiversity. With existing data collection efforts and analyses being scarce and dispersed, it is difficult to monitor marine resources (Cotterill 1995; De Lacy et al. 2006) and devise management plans. The BSAP under the CBD therefore provides a unique opportunity for Hong Kong to bridge the gaps in the existing knowledge of local reef fishes through updating the reef fish species inventory for Hong Kong and collecting foundational information on reef fish species diversity according to geographical distribution. The species presented in this paper are findings arising from a continuing study, which aims to form the basis of an on-going documentation on Hong Kong reef fish diversity, and to provide such vital information to the formulation of action and plans arising from Hong Kong’s BSAP.
Between Jun and Oct in 2016 and 2017, and from Apr to Jul 2018, a total of 1841 man-hours of underwater visual surveys using SCUBA were conducted in at least 54 sites in Hong Kong, mainly in daytime. The seasonality of the surveys ensures maximum activity of reef fishes in sub-tropical Hong Kong (Cornish 1999). These surveys were conducted by a total of 128 divers who have varying degrees of fish identification experience. All surveys were led by at least one of the authors but most surveys involved both.
A total of 15 new reef fish species to Hong Kong were recorded in these surveys, and these comprise nine families, namely Blennidae (3 species), Apogonidae (2 species), Gobiidae (2 species), Holocentridae (2 species), Muraenidae (2 species), Acanthuridae (1 species), Gobiesocidae (1 species), Pomacentridae (1 species) and Serranidae (1 species). New species to Hong Kong were regarded as those which have neither been documented on hk-fish.net (2018) – a government maintained marine fish database of Hong Kong, or in earlier reef fish studies in Hong Kong (Ni and Kwok 1999; Sadovy and Cornish 2000; To et al. 2013; To and Shea 2016).
Chromis fumea (Tanaka, 1917) family: Pomacentridae
Pherallodus indicus (Weber, 1913) family: Gobiesocidae
Petroscirtes springeri Smith-Vaniz, 1976 family: Blennidae
Myripristis botche Cuvier, 1829 family: Holocentridae
Valenciennea wardii (Playfair, 1867) family: Gobiidae
Myripristis hexagona (Lacepède, 1802) family: Holocentridae
Pseudanthias squamipinnis (Peters, 1855) family: Serranidae
Xiphasia setifer Swainson, 1839 family: Blennidae
Cheilodipterus species family: Apogonidae
Aspidontus taeniatus Quoy & Gaimard, 1834 family: Blennidae
Tomiyamichthys oni (Tomiyama, 1936) family: Gobiidae
Gymnothorax albimarginatus (Temminck & Schlegel, 1846) family: Muraenidae
Rhabdamia gracilis (Bleeker, 1856) family: Apogonidae
Echidna polyzona (Richardson, 1845) family: Muraenidae
Naso unicornis (Forsskål, 1775) family: Acanthuridae
Applying the principle adapted in To and Shea (2016) to more reliably differentiate between naturally occurring and artificially introduced reef fish species in Hong Kong, all these 15 species reviewed are unlikely to be artificially introduced, due to the relative remoteness of the locations where these species were recorded. Generally, a potential reason for release would be that the fish outgrows the tank size in an aquarium; however almost all of the newly recorded species are relatively small in size. Notably, the individual of Gymnothorax albimarginatus was relatively large in size and was observed at Sharp Island, which is a site located close to residential areas and observed to be a popular area for ‘mercy release’ for a range of marine organisms, including fish. However, moray eel species are very unlikely to be used in mercy releases, and such release from aquarists is of low possibility, as this species is not observed to be popular in the aquarium trade (Chan and Sadovy 2000) and is not even observed to be available in the seafood market on a regular basis (Situ and Sadovy 2004).
Therefore these 15 species are unlikely to have been a result of release. In addition, all these 15 species have their native ranges covering sea areas of mainland China and Taiwan, with a few occurring in the South China Sea region (Liu 2008; Wu 2012; Shao 2018). Their occurrence in Hong Kong therefore does not link to the species’ native range extension and should be regarded as natural. As discussed by To and Shea (2016), the occurrence of new reef fish species records in Hong Kong might be explained by the pelagic status of eggs or fish at early stages of development for many reef fishes (Sadovy and Cornish 2000). Based on these limited observations for the species in this study, it is impossible to determine if these species can eventually establish to become a self-sustaining population in Hong Kong.
Notably, at least for a number of these newly recorded reef fish species, they may have already been in Hong Kong well before their formal documentation in this study, but were overlooked in the past for various reasons. For instance, the clingfish Pherallodus indicus is relatively small in size and often hides among sea urchins, which may have rendered it very easily overlooked by surveyors. The blenny Aspidontus taeniatus mimics the wrasse Labroides dimidiatus, and they share similar appearances. Although Labroides dimidiatus is not regarded as one of the most common reef fish species in Hong Kong (To and Shea 2017), it is relatively more well-known to divers due to its iconic cleaning behavior. For this reason, divers or surveyors in the past may have overlooked the presence of Aspidontus taeniatus or even wrongly assigned sightings of this species to Labroides dimidiatus. The same is also true for Chromis fumea, which shares close resemblance to the very commonly seen Chromis notata in Hong Kong (To and Shea 2017). The cryptic nature of some of the species, and close resemblance to some of the locally common fishes, might have rendered these species more difficult to be spotted, identified and recorded in past studies. It is therefore possible that some of these species have already been occurring in Hong Kong sporadically or might even have started to establish themselves towards more self-sustaining local populations.
This study confirms the occurrence of 15 new reef fish species to Hong Kong. The present findings hope to provide fundamental information on the local fish species for BSAP in Hong Kong, and to facilitate the accurate documentation of local species by updating the species list and distribution for reef fishes in Hong Kong waters.
The authors would like to thank Professor K.T. Shao (Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica) and his team (particularly Chen Ching-Yi and Dr. Chen Hong-Ming), Dr. Andy Cornish (WWF) and Robert Myers (Seaclicks/Coral Graphics) for advice on species identification in this study. The authors would like to express deep gratitude to Kathleen Ho and Fion Cheung as dive buddies in this study and for their helpful comments during the preparation of this manuscript. Thank you to the Swire Group Charitable Trust for kindly funding the expense of this publication and of dive surveys. The first author would furthermore like to thank ADM Capital Foundation for their unwavering support always. Immense gratitude is owed to all survey volunteers for their dedication to the project goal. Special thanks to Marco Chan, Andy Cornish, Andrew S.C. Fung, Eric Keung, Brian Lam, Calton Law, Teresa Ma, Gomen See, Ryan Tsang, and Caron Wong, who took the original photographs of new reef fish species reported in this study. Authors would also like to thank Diving Adventure, Scuba Monster and Ah Ming for providing logistic and technical support to conducting the dive surveys.
The Swire Group Charitable Trust provided financial support for the surveys in which the findings were made and for the expense of this publication. ADM Capital Foundation supported the survey project in kind by the provision of office space and office equipment.
Availability of data and materials
The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article is included within the article.
SKHS and AWLT are both involved in the field survey for reef fish in this study, and jointly identify species included in this study. Both prepared the draft of the manuscript and processed photos. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Consent for publication
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
- Allen GR, Erdmann MV. Reef fishes of the east indies volumes I-III. Perth: Tropical Reef Research; 2012.Google Scholar
- Allen G, Steene R, Humann P, Deloach N. Reef fish identification tropical Pacific. 2nd ed. Florida: New World Publications; 2015.Google Scholar
- CBD. 2018 CBD List of Parties. https://www.cbd.int/information/parties.shtml. Accessed date 30 Jun 2018.
- Chan TC, Sadovy Y. Profile of the marine aquarium fish trade in Hong Kong. Aquarium Sci Conserv. 2000;2(4):197–213.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Cornish AS. Fish assemblage associated with shall, fringing coral communities in sub-tropical Hong Kong: species composition, spatial and temporal patterns. PhD Thesis. Hong Kong: The University of Hong Kong; 1999.Google Scholar
- Cotterill FPD. Systematics, biological knowledge and environmental conservation. Biodivers Conserv. 1995;4(2):183–205.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- De Lacy T, Chapman J, Whitmore M, Worboys GL. Obtaining, managing and communicating information. In: Lockwood M, Worboys G, Kothari A, editors. Managing protected areas: a global guide. Trowbridge: Cornwell Press; 2006. p. 262–91.Google Scholar
- Environment Bureau. Hong Kong biodiversity strategy and action plan 2016–2021. Hong Kong; 2016. https://www.afcd.gov.hk/tc_chi/conservation/Con_hkbsap/files/HKBSAP_ENG_2.pdf. Accessed 24 Sept 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018a Chromis fumea. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Chromis-fumea.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018b Pherallodus indicus. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Pherallodus-indicus.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018c Petroscirtes springeri. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Petroscirtes-springeri.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018d Myripristis botche. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Myripristis-botche.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018e Valenciennea wardii. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Valenciennea-wardii.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018f Myripristis hexagona. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Myripristis-hexagona.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018g Pseudanthias squamipinnis. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Pseudanthias-squamipinnis.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018h Xiphasis setifer. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Xiphasia-setifer.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018i Cheilodipterus macrodon. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Cheilodipterus-macrodon.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018j. Cheilodipterus intermedius. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Cheilodipterus-intermedius.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018k. Aspidontus taeniatus. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Aspidontus-taeniatus.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018l. Tomiyamichthys oni. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Tomiyamichthys-oni.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018m. Gymnothorax albimarginatus. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Gymnothorax-albimarginatus.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018n Rhabdamia gracilis. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Rhabdamia-gracilis.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018o Echidna polyzona. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Echidna-polyzona.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- Fishbase. 2018p Naso unicornis. https://www.fishbase.de/summary/Naso-unicornis.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
- hk-fish.net. 2018 Hong Kong marine fish database. http://www.hk-fish.net/english/marine_fauna_database/database_intro.html. Accessed 6 May 2018.
- Kuwamura T. Reexamination on the aggressive mimicry of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus by the blenny Aspidontus taeniatus (Pisces; Perciformes). J Ethol. 1983;1:22–33.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Liu J. Subpylum vertebrata Cuvier, 1812. In: Liu R, editor. Checklist of marine biota of China seas. Beijing: China Science Publishing & Media Ltd; 2008. p. 886–1066.Google Scholar
- Ng TPT, Cheng MCF, Ho KKY, Lui GCS, Leung KMY, Williams GA. Hong Kong’s rich marine biodiversity: the unseen wealth of South China’s megalopolis. Biodivers Conserv. 2017;26(1):23–36.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Ni I, Kwok K. Marine fish fauna in Hong Kong water. Zool Stud. 1999;38:130–52.Google Scholar
- Sadovy Y, Cornish AS. Reef fishes of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
- Sadovy Y. Reef fish diversity in Hong Kong. Procupine. 2001 https://www.biosch.hku.hk/ecology/porcupine/por22/22-cover-ys.htm Accessed 24 Sept 2018.
- Shao KT. 2018 Taiwan fish database. http://fishdb.sinica.edu.tw. Accessed 7 May 2018.
- Situ YY, Sadovy YJ. A preliminary study on local species diversity and seasonal composition in a Hong Kong wet market. Asian Fish Sci. 2004;17:235–48.Google Scholar
- To AWL, Shea SKH. New records of four reef fish species for Hong Kong. Mar Biodivers Rec. 2016;9:82.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- To A, Ching K, Shea S. Hong Kong reef fish photo guide. Hong Kong: Eco-Education and Resources Centre; 2013.Google Scholar
- To AWL, Shea SKH. Field guide to common reef fishes of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department; 2017.Google Scholar
- Wu H. Vertebrata. In: Huang Z, Lin M, editors. The living species and their illustrations in China’s seas (part I) the living species in China’s seas. Beijing: China Ocean Press; 2012. p. 919–1160.Google Scholar