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Guardians of the earth must be vigilant and outspoken lobbyists
Wong Yat-hei
update on Friday, July 29, 2011
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After the government proposed a third runway at the Chek Lap Kok airport, Samantha Lee, Worldwide Fund (WWF) Hong Kong's senior marine conservation officer, looked into the possible effects of the project on the surrounding areas.

"My job as an environmental watchdog is to evaluate the environmental impact that an infrastructure may bring ... and to inform the public and the government of the findings," Lee says.

Many assume that conservation officers spend most of their time diving, snorkeling or hiking while doing research, but in reality they don't do much of that.

"We go diving sometimes but that is not our main job. Conservation officers love and appreciate nature but that is not the most important requirement for the job. We are at the frontline of protecting nature. We need to be outspoken, to lobby lawmakers and government officials to get them to support environmental policies," she says, adding the job entails working closely with various people. 

Lee loves her work because she can make solid contributions to protecting the environment.

"I consider bringing the trawl fishing ban in Hong Kong waters [by end-2012] one of my greatest achievements," she says.

"After countless meetings with lawmakers, the government and fishermen, the ban was finally introduced. Through the process, I had to take into account the benefits to all parties and not only [to conserve] the ocean. The livelihood of fishermen is just as important, so we have organised job training for them ... My job is to find a feasible solution for everyone involved. I am proud that I am able to bring changes," she elaborates.

The media often ask conservation officers to comment on environmental issues. "It is a challenging job. When the government proposes new policies, I have to provide a swift and insightful response. Knowing how to work under pressure and to multitask is a must. [I] should be able to think independently and be convincing."

Conservation officers should be knowledgeable about ecology or the relationship between organisms and their environment. They usually have an academic background in biology or environmental science-related fields. Fresh graduates are usually employed as conservation officers. Outstanding performers are promoted to managerial position. The manager has to lead the team in promoting the value of the organisation and set development plans. 

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