HK Fish Marketing Org Group Photo

Fri, 09/11/2020 - 01:53
Date picture taken
3 Mar 1944


The Fish Marketing Organization is still in existence ( The back of this photo was marked Showa 18, March 3 (昭和十八年三月三日), so based on that date, I believe it was taken in 1944. I am a little confused however, as the organization's webiste states it began in 1945 as part of the post-war effort.

My maternal grandfather Tsang Chiu Yan 曾眧仁 (the first man standing in a suit and tie from the left), worked for this organization until he retired. He received an MBE for his work there in the late 70's. 

I have many old photos from my grandfather's time working there, including banquets and tours my grandfather gave for some foreign (I assume British) dignitaries. I believe one photo is of my grandfather with Sir David Trench but I'm not entirely certain.

Here's the description from the FMO website:

The Fish Marketing Organization (FMO) was first established under the Defence Regulations in 1945 to assist in the post-war rehabilitation of the fishing fleet and to provide facilities for the orderly and efficient marketing of marine fish, whereby the industry could be developed and the socio-economic status of the fishing community be improved. 

I thought it was surprising that they'd start a new organisation so soon after the war, as there were lots of other problems to work on. I turned to Philip Snow's The fall of Hong Kong, and on p.302 where he looks at the results of the Japanese occupation he writes:

In the last days of August 1945 a report was drawn up by a certain S. Y. Lin, a one-time Superintendent of Fisheries Research, for the benefit of his pre-war chief, Dr Herklots, who was on the point of launching his new Fisheries Organisation. Lin gave a surprisingly positive account of the 'considerable success' achieved by the fish-handling system introduced under Japanese rule, and advised that the wholesale fish market to be founded by Herklots should be 'similar in the main to that which the Japanese had adopted, with some modification'. For example the district syndicates of the Japanese period could be 'changed easily into a Fishermen's Cooperative Society'. [199]

So it looks as though the British were moving ahead with a plans for the fishermen almost immediately after the Japanese surrender. But it also looks as though they got off to a running start by building on the organisation that the Japanese had set up, and I guess that is the organisation we see in your grandfather's photo above.

In a 1965 piece for a Food and Agriculture Organization review of progress in modernization developing world fisheries (Mechanization of small fishing craft, FAO, 1965), W.D. Orchard of the Co-operative Development of Fisheries Department, noted:

"During the period of the Japanese military occupation (December, 1941, to August, 1945), the Japanese authorities created a marketing scheme under which all fish caught were required to be landed in specified areas and to be disposed of at Government markets. This resulted in a breaking of the financial hold -which the Laans (欄 - it actually means something like a wholesale market, but is a Cantonese colloquial contraction) previously had over the fishermen.
Following the reoccupation of Hong Kong by the British in 1945, it was decided that the Government should continue to operate the fish marketing scheme created by the Japanese military authorities and thereby prevent the industry from slipping back into the hands of the Laans but, at the same time, to plan in such a manner that the local fishermen could be collectively organized through co-operative societies for the day that they would be able to assume responsibility for the ownership and management of the marketing organization, or simply Fish Marketing Organization (F.M.O.) as it is more commonly known, was created."

Without explicitly saying it, G.A.C. Herklots, in a talk he gave on RTHK (then ZBW) in 1946 (reported in the SCMP on 6.10.1946) gave the entire credit for suggesting the transition to S.Y. Lin. Elsewhere (in an anonymously authored piece, "A new way of life for the fisherfolk of Hong Kong" (Mass Education Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 2 (MARCH, 1951), pp. 22-26) that was probably by Herklots), it is made clear that when the Japanese invasion was imminent, S.Y. Lin was singled out to carry on work that had been put under way just before the war:

"Before the war there was no Fisheries or Agricultural Department in Hong Kong, but a small Fisheries Research Unit, financed by the Hong Kong Government, was attached to the University. This research unit had carried out a survey of the fishing fleet; in the months immediately preceding the war its services were diverted to the purchase, salting and storage of a large quantity of fish to serve as a siege reserve. The Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941, and Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day. The honorary Director of the Fisheries Research Unit (GACH, SD) was interned in a prison camp, but prior to that, without the knowledge of the Japanese, he met the members of his unit early in January, 1942. He advised them all, with the exception of Mr. S. Y. Lin, B.Sc., now on the staff of F.A.O. in Washington, to depart for free China until the liberation. It was Mr. Lin who did an invaluable piece of work in the preparation of shark liver oil, which, through the International Red Cross, he smuggled into the Stanley Internment Camp and which helped materially to combat the acute deficiency of Vitamin A starvation,

During the period of 44 months internment, time was available to think out an effective plan for the fishing industry. Clearly the aim was to make the fishermen more prosperous by freeing them from the stranglehold of the laans; this involved developing a Fish Marketing Organisation which could sell the fish on behalf of the fishermen and pay them the value in cash, help them to save money and, where necessary, make advances and educate them and improve their conditions generally.

Post-War Within a week of the reoccupation of the Colony by the British a detailed marketing scheme was accepted by the military administration. In seven weeks a staff of 147 was recruited and trained. The most important of these was Mr. Lin, who had before and during the war won the confidence of the fisherfolk and had an intimate knowledge of their ways, which was of the utmost value. Second, the success of the wholesale market was due to the ability of Mr. K. T. Wong, who became the manager. Mr. Lin visited the main fishing villages and explained what the new scheme was and enlisted their co-operation. Later the growth and development of the District Syndicates, formed to collect and transport the fish to the central market, which started immediately after the war, was entrusted to Mr. Wu Wai Kai, a man of the highest integrity, who had served the Allied cause well during the war behind the lines in free China. Once the Chinese fisherfolk realised that the whole scheme was designed for their own benefit they co-operated wholeheartedly, but the old laans naturally did all they could to oppose it."

It is a fascinating story and continues thus through to the (scandalous) tale of the last fisheries research vessel and the closing down of fisheries research in HK in the early 1980s.