Hope for a tidal change in marine conservation

The recent expansion of the Swire Institute of Marine Science is part of a growing movement, involving a range of NGO partners, to understand and protect Hong Kong’s ocean ecosystems.
Watch the highlights of the re-opening of The Swire Institute of Marine Science.

Watch the highlights of the re-opening of The Swire Institute of Marine Science.
"A landmark development for marine ecology in Hong Kong" and "the beginning of a new era in marine research in our region". Those are the words of Tina Chan, Group Head of Philanthropy at Swire, when describing the expanded Swire Institute of Marine Science ("SWIMS") at Cape D'Aguilar Marine Reserve.

The Institute, which is part of the Faculty of Science at The University of Hong Kong ("HKU"), has been a leading centre for understanding coastal marine ecosystems since its inception in 1990. However, the newly extended SWIMS – unveiled in July in a ceremony attended by a diverse group of stakeholders including outgoing Swire Pacific Chairman Merlin Swire and Professor Xiang Zhang, HKU's President and Vice-Chancellor – takes both its research and knowledge transfer capabilities to a new level.

Echoing Tina's sentiments, Professor Gray A. Williams, Director of SWIMS, believes the centre's new facilities are truly state-of-the-art.

"New technology is revolutionising marine biology and the new centre puts us at the forefront of these developments," he says. "Our growing body of staff and research students, as well as visiting scientists from around the world, will benefit enormously from access to an on-site molecular laboratory, a biodiversity centre and indoor and outdoor seawater aquaria."

A key objective for the revamped institute will be establishing physical and electronic reference databases of Hong Kong's marine life – records that will be of use to scientists, government departments, environmental organisations, and NGOs.

Swire's investment in SWIMS over the last three decades is indicative of an abiding concern for and commitment to the oceans. As Tina puts it: "The Swire group's beginnings are rooted in the shipping business, so caring about the marine environment is something that is encrypted in our DNA – and marine conservation has long been one of the three pillars of the Swire Trust's philanthropic endeavours."

The Trust's initiatives in that space involve, in turn, three strands: public education, scientific research, and advocating for change at a policy level.

"Learning more about marine life through research is the first step towards protecting it better," says Tina. "Equally, by engaging the public in appreciating the richness of our marine biodiversity we're helping to instil a desire to protect it. And by presenting a body of knowledge to decision-makers in government, we can help to shape good outcomes for the future."

Besides its association with SWIMS, since 2016 the Swire Trust has supported the Bloom Association Hong Kong, helping it to discover over 60 previously undocumented reef fish species. It also recently renewed its commitment to supporting studies by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society of Hong Kong and Chinese Mainland waterbirds – studies which have so far involved the participation of more than 50 Mainland bird-watching societies and the recording of some 180 species.

Meanwhile, public engagement activities include partnering with National Geographic on the Oceans Tomorrow initiative, a series of multimedia projects showcasing Hong Kong's marine life in all its spectacular diversity, and also the Trust's support for the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. At the latter venue, a new Swire Marine Discovery Centre will provide a learning space to increase public awareness around marine conservation and biodiversity.

Another long-term partner, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is being funded by the Trust to develop "Sea for Future", a project to inform local communities of the importance of revitalising marine habitats, and to mobilise popular support for the long-term goal of having 30% of Hong Kong waters designated as marine protected areas.

Meanwhile, coinciding with its re-opening, SWIMS has launched an initiative to restore the baby fin whale skeleton that has graced the shore beside the institute for three decades, but which suffered damage during Super Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018.

Professor Williams explains: "The whale's original bones will be preserved in our biodiversity collection, while new bones that can withstand typhoon winds, salt spray and Hong Kong's summer sun will be printed on a 1:1 scale using 3D technology."

The public can donate funds to support the restoration, and outreach activities at SWIMS, via the "Restoring Hong Kong's Whale" page on the Faculty of Science section of the HKU website. The Swire Trust will match donations dollar for dollar up to HK$60,000, and donors are to be given the chance to vote on a name for the whale.
The Orchestra Academy Hong Kong selects candidates

The Orchestra Academy Hong Kong selects candidates

Adding colour to Sunnyside School

Adding colour to Sunnyside School

My Construction Hero

My Construction Hero

Swire Coca-Cola supports flood relief

Swire Coca-Cola supports flood relief

Finlays Community Trust

Finlays Community Trust

Empowering women through sport

Empowering women through sport

Hope for a tidal change in marine conservation

Hope for a tidal change in marine conservation

Back to top