The government has urged Hongkongers not to pursue another whale that apparently entered Hong Kong’s southern waters this week.

whale hong kong
A photo widely distributed online – which HKFP cannot verify – appears to show a whale in Hong Kong waters on Monday. Photo: Internet.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said the creature was spotted, but then disappeared, following a sighting by the Government Flying Service on Monday evening.

It comes after a whale was spotted in Sai Kung in July, attracting tourist hire boats. It later died, with evidence of propeller-related injuries.

In a Monday press release, an AFCD spokesperson said: “Members of the public should not go on boat trips to watch or pursue whales sighted in Hong Kong waters. In case whales are spotted at sea, they should keep a distance of no less than 100 metres, slow down their vessels and leave as soon as possible. Otherwise, government officers may take enforcement action.”

The AFCD added that it was consulting local and overseas experts to identify the whale’s species and condition, as well as what protection measures to take.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department logo. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Marine experts appeared divided on what type of whale it might be. Local media outlets quoted a virtual autopsy lab based at the City University of Hong Kong suggesting it was a dwarf sperm whale. The chairman of Eco-Education and Resources Centre Ken Ching, however, said it was likely a pilot whale or a false killer whale.

‘Keep a safe distance’

The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) said in a press release that their team – along with a government team – had searched the area on Monday: “The cetacean was spotted above water briefly at around 6pm in Sham Shui Kok with the assistance of the Government Flying Service’s helicopter but vanished after a few minutes. The search team will continue their effort to locate the cetacean.”

It also urged the public not to approach the cetacean: “Those who spot it should keep a safe distance from it and call 1823 to report the sighting to AFCD.”

Cetaceans are protected by the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance. Whale watching behaviour may be considered a disturbance of protect animals, attracting a fine of up to HK$100,000 and a year behind bars.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.