According to a professor based in Hong Kong, the city has an often-overlooked, but serious problem with the illegal trading of live reef fish.

Yvonne Sadovy, a professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences spoke to Indonesia Tatler about the fish trade and how to stop its problems from growing any further.

According to Sadovy, the grouper is the most at-risk species in the live fish trade, specifically the camouflage grouper, the leopard coral grouper and the square-tailed coral grouper. Their large size and the fact that they are believed to have good flesh makes them a valuable commodity. They are also not produced via farming so they are only fished from the sea.

In addition, Napoleon fish is also a point of focus. Given that, like the grouper, it typically has a long lifetime, they take a long time to develop before they can reproduce. The professor stressed that the fish are often taken even before they are able to reproduce.

Sadovy pointed out that at least 50% of the fish entering Hong Kong are subsequently sold on to China, where higher valued species are popular.

Illegalities creep in when the fish are brought in to Hong Kong. When they are brought by ship, cargo vessels pick up live fish in Indonesia from the wild when they are only supposed to pick up farmed fish. The catching of wild uncultured fish is illegal in Indonesia. Another issue connected to fish brought by ship is that they are not reported to the Customs and Excise department or other relevant authorities.

As for fish brought by air, live groupers are put with Napoleon fish in a mixed species shipment, which sometimes bypasses checks.

Hong Kong has long been in denial about its importance in the wildlife trade, says Sadovy