Plastic pollution: outriggers and rowers round Lantau Island to help educate next generation on marine conservation

Seagoers push themselves against unusually strong currents but use their day out to promote conservation among younger generation

By Mark Agnew

Nearly 100 paddlers took to the water in outriggers and coastal rowing boats to make their way 72 kilometres around Lantau. They were taking part in the annual Dolphin Quest, but unusually strong currents stalled the seagoers.

“The sea was far choppier than last year,” said Sabine Fischer, paddling with Lantau Boat Club (LBC) in one of the outriggers. “The currents were so strong that the boats were barely moving for a while. They did 10km, but it was so slow the Garmin didn’t even register it.”

Strong currents and waves are par for the course for water sports, but this year, the eighth annual Dolphin Quest, there was a deadline.

LBC had partnered with students from all Discovery Bay schools to promote environmental conservation. The pupils waited for the outriggers and rowers on Fan Lau Beach.

The children had arrived by Junk and on their way they were treated to a display from the famous pink dolphins. They were given a talk by Gary Stokes, from Sea Shepherd, about the growing issue of plastic pollution and the effect on marine wildlife like Dolphins.

Fischer said it was important to educate the younger generation of plastic pollution because it is a growing issue in Hong Kong.

Two teachers from DBIS, Tim Tait and Jonny Haines, paddle boarded around Lantau in February and used their challenge as a platform to talk about pollution.

Dolphin Quest leveraged Tait and Haines’ work to develop more interest among school kids.

“Tim and Jonny created a lot of awareness in schools,” Fischer said. “So many kids wanted to come on the Junks to follow Dolphin Quest to the beach, they had to do something creative to apply and get on.”

Stokes said some of the pupils spoke to kindergartners about plastic bags, others made posters, some organised beach clean ups and a few sent letters to restaurants asking them to use bio-degradable packaging.

“The idea is to get even more educational next year,” Fischer said. “This was a trial. We did it small with just DBIS, but we want to expand and bring more local schools along to Dolphin Quest next year.”

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