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Protecting the Humphead Wrasse with Facial Recognition Technology

The humphead wrasse is an incredibly large coral reef fish that is primarily found in the tropical Indo-Pacific region. The species feeds on hard shelled prey and can be identified by its large lips, black diagonal lines behind the eyes, and prominent bulge on the forehead of large individuals.

Unsustainable trade and consumption within the live reef food fish trade is the primary threat to the species, and it is among the most sought-after and expensive reef fishes in the world.

In 2004, the species was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) due to threats posed to the species from international trade. The CITES listing means that major exporters of the species, including Malaysia, the Philippines, and especially Indonesia, must ensure that any subsequent exports are sustainable.

The major global importer of the species is Hong Kong, where the humphead wrasse is traded within the city or reexported to mainland China and Macau. Despite regulation and enforcement of CITES-listed species by Hong Kong, illegal trade of the species has been occurring for many years and is still ongoing, as evidenced by the sale of humphead wrasse exceeding the legal import numbers in local seafood outlets (e.g., hotels, restaurants, and other retailers). 

Since imported humphead wrasse are not marked individually, identifying the legality of each individual fish is a seemingly impossible task. However, thanks to its complex and unique facial markings, each fish within the species can be, as with human fingerprinting, individually recognised.

To take advantage of this identification potential, Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, from the University of Hong Kong, along with her PhD student, Mr Loby Hau, initiated a project which involves the development of a cutting-edge computer program. The program, developed by an HKU graduate, is capable of identifying individual humphead wrasse using facial recognition technology, and is accessed via a phone app, which was also developed by HKU graduates. This technology is now being tested alongside the local CITES enforcement process to combat the illegal trade of humphead wrasse in Hong Kong.

Prototype mobile and desktop interfaces were developed for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the general public. The mobile app allows users to take or retrieve photos of the humphead wrasse, while the desktop version allows images to be imported and analysed by the AFCD. These images are added to a facial recognition database, of which new humphead wrasse are recorded and compared via artificial intelligence. This information then allows users to view the top matching records of similar-looking fish that have been identified by the program, including when and where the matching records were added, with the ability to closely compare images for manual confirmation as well.

Importantly, if a user reports any suspicious sales activity after using the mobile app, the image can easily be reported to the AFCD via an online form, which includes the name of the particular shop and other necessary contact information. The model accuracy and speed will continue to be optimized, and a complete application for the AFCD and general public will be released next month.

Ocean Park Conservation Day 2021 to raise awareness of six locally endangered species

Continuing its annual initiative to raise awareness about endangered species, the Ocean Park Conversation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) will be holding its 26th Conservation Day on 29–30 May 2021. Under the theme of “Cherish the Hidden Treasures”, the Foundation will provide key information to the public about six locally endangered species.

Featuring on this list of endangered species will include Acropora coral, Beal’s eyed turtle, Chinse horseshoe crab, golden birdwing butterfly, green turtle, and the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise. All of these amazing marine species continue to suffer from human-based threats in Hong Kong, so our joint effort is essential when it comes to protecting local biodiversity.

This year’s Conservation Day will take advantage of Ocean Park’s Applause Pavilion, where it will transform into a stunning natural history museum that will display Hong Kong’s largest and finest collection of skeletons and specimens from these six species. Alongside a whole host of conservation-based activities, visitors will also have an opportunity to see the Beal’s eyed turtle up close to learn more about this fascinating animal.
Understanding the importance of education, local scientists will be at hand to share their knowledge and expertise on biodiversity and conservation. What’s more, various in-park missions and tasks will be available for visitors to complete, and those who are successful will be rewarded with an amazing eco-friendly tote bag made of recycled plastic bottles.

To find out more about Ocean Park Conservation Day 2021, please use the following link:

Over 2,000 Conservation Heroes Participated in OPCFHK’s RUN FOR SURVIVAL 2021

Hongkongers Joined Forces to Protect Our Ocean for a Better Future 

The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCFHK) has once again set the pace for this year’s Run for Survival charity event. Taking place at Ocean Park under the theme of ‘Protect Our Ocean for a Better Future’, an impressive turnout of 2,000 runners and volunteers gathered together to show their support.

The charity run successfully raised over HK$1.2 million for OPCFHK, which will be used to support its ongoing wildlife conservation efforts in Asia. Since 2005, the Foundation has allocated HK$98.6 million to fund 536 research projects, which includes the conservation and protection of various animal species.
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Among the many negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, single-use plastic waste saw a dramatic increase in Hong Kong, which led to more serious marine pollution. Ms Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK, explained that this year’s theme for the charity run hoped to remind Hongkongers of the fragility of marine ecosystems, and the importance of cutting back on single-use plastics through on-going efforts from the public.
Showing their support for conservation awareness, the event’s sportswear was sponsored by Decathlon, who provided participants with comfortable and breathable running tops made from environmentally friendly materials that featured a sustainable design.  The Foundation is grateful to the sponsors for their continued support, they are Regina Miracle International (Holdings) Limited, PricewaterhouseCoopers Foundation, Young Living Hong Kong Limited, Thinking Group Holding Limited, Chinese Estates Holding Ltd., Henderson Land Group, Kerry Warehouse (Hong Kong) Limited, Mayer Brown, Ronald Lu & Partners (Hong Kong) Limited, Sino Group and Wylam’s Services Ltd.


We need your help to sustain our efforts to conserve wildlife. Join us as our member of the Friends of the Foundation  (download application form) to help us fund more conservation projects and save more species. Together we make a difference!
© 2021 Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong, All rights reserved.

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong
Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Hong Kong

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