Best of our wild blogs: 15-16 Jul 18


Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu
wild shores of singapore

Pre-dawn at Chek Jawa Wetlands (14072018)
Psychedelic Nature


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What will it take for Singapore to give up plastic?

Moving away from single-use plastic and making clean drinking water available everywhere are two ways we can tackle the scourge of plastic waste here, says one observer.
Vivian Claire Liew Channel NewsAsia 15 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Conscientious businesses and early adopters such as Plain Vanilla, KFC, Deliveroo, Millennium Hotels and IKEA in reducing single-use plastic waste, should be applauded for their courage and leadership, and responsible consumers should shift their business accordingly.

But the scale of our consumerism – leading to more plastic than fishes in our oceans in 2050, and microplastics from disintegrating plastic waste contaminating our water, food chain and us – demands a similarly robust response.

Addressing our plastics problem requires tackling it at its root – the use of plastics, in particular single-use plastic. If we do not want to be nourishing our families with plasticised food and water, or have more sea animals die because we “need” straws to drink, then minimising plastic usage seems logical.

Merely attempting to recycle, amidst this avalanche, is as effective as stopping sea level surges with a wine glass.

Complementing plastic use reduction is circular economy design – worth the investment in producing thoughtful, well-made products that stand the test of time, and potentially a sector of opportunity for Singapore going forward.

China’s decision to stop being the world’s rubbish dump, resulting in our plastic “recycling” simply getting burnt and taking up limited landfill space, should provide further impetus.

Plastic can be essential, in limited and specific situations, such as medical purposes and assisted living for the physically challenged. But the bulk of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic ever created do not stem from essentials.

Rampant and indiscriminate plastic usage does not only injure or kill sea creatures; microplastics taint breast milk with which we nourish babies, and even donor organs. Allowing this to continue could mean plastics rather than AI transforming humans in the future.

IRRESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES MAY BE RESPONSIBLE

The challenge may be more fundamental - do businesses have the right to force society to bear their negative externalities?

Would plastics companies guarantee that microplastics from their products are safe for human or animal consumption?

Privatising profits and socialising costs is a surefire way of escalating the tragedy of the commons.

Encouraging corporate irresponsibility, ensures that the rest of us – government, civil society and responsible businesses – have to invest time and other resources to help corporate babies clean up their own mess. Obviously, this is not sustainable.

There are innovative ways to collect and even liquefy plastic waste, but should society bear this cost?

Beyond plastics, Obike is just one of the more public and recent examples of the pain that corporate irresponsibility could cause.

KFC’s move in particular, seems to have prompted significant attention. Its scale and the siren call of fast food in general, means an estimated “reduction of 17.8 metric tons of single-use plastics in a year”.

McDonald's in contrast, has not extended its UK civil action to replace plastic straws with paper ones to Singapore. If businesses cannot regulate themselves, it may prompt regulatory action ala the EU.

For an advanced nation aware of climate change’s impact, why do we still allow caviar environmental standards to muddle through?

HOMEGROWN COMPANIES RISE TO THE CHALLENGE

Forward-thinking small enterprises such as homegrown Plain Vanilla Bakery are taking responsibility – and even more holistically. Without a huge public relations budget, it is serendipitous that their green policies came up in my newsfeed.

They chose not merely to forego plastic straws completely, but bottled water sales too.

Combined with a decent discount to encourage you to bring your own bag and reduce takeaway waste, they might be seen to have taken on some financial risk – though it is likely to be more than offset in the medium and long term by increased customer goodwill and business.

What heartens me at least as much is its food waste reduction programme, including importantly, redistribution of unsold food to those in need in Singapore.

MOVE THE NEEDLE, GIVE THE PUBLIC SKIN IN THE GAME

The current war on plastic may have stemmed from the injuries or deaths of sea creatures, but the way to move the needle is for the public to understand their skin in the game.

US journal Science notes that 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the earth’s water system per year, with toxic particles ingested by fish and up the food chain.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, is only the size of France because the rest have disintegrated. Microplastics taint our food and water; which good parent wants to feed their children with plastic-laced food?

The rising accrual of microplastics and toxins in our bodies should concern policymakers responsible for the well-being of citizens, particularly given Singapore’s imperatives of health, fertility and productivity.

We have other major national priorities that demand mental bandwidth, design thinking and other resources, so I hesitate to recommend an all-out strategy to tackle plastic given our hierarchy of needs. Moreover, the largest part of oceanic plastic waste – fishing nets – does not stem from Singapore. But here are a select few recommendations for thought.

MAKE CLEAN DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE

The most important actions our Government can take to mitigate the health risks is a focus on water distillation instead of filtration, as distilled water is free of microplastics.

If micro-filtration to remove microplastics can be deployed at lower costs, that could be a less disruptive and more desirable way of achieving mass microplastic-free water.

Another significant move we should take is to enhance and accelerate plans to have water dispensers publicly available, with at least one in each building, including MRT stations, bus interchanges and malls.

While that is targeted at reducing the need for sugary drinks, the presence of water dispensers reduces the need for the purchase of bottled water, and makes it sensible to carry one’s own.

A Whole-of-Government approach might also see Singaporeans use an app that pinpoints the locations of water dispensers, giving the public assurance of access to drinking water everywhere – a bonus as temperatures soar and keeping hydrated becomes a health imperative.

To encourage Singaporeans to be environmentally conscious, the same app could highlight F&B outlets that have abolished single-use plastic completely.

A challenge is how to compensate current drinks sellers – be it in malls or in hawker centres. Rental rebates commensurate with bottled water sales, and helping them pivot to healthy drinks by enlisting the help of universities or social impact enthusiasts through hackathons for instance may be some ways.

More available fresh juices free of artificial sugar, are likely in Singapore’s health interests and also help raise the profit margins of entrepreneurs versus bottled water.

STOP USING PLASTIC UTENSILS

Protecting our culinary heritage in hawker centres, would seem to dovetail with serving food in actual plates and utensils, rather than plastic ones, which is not known to be heat-stable. Many of us have been concerned with cafes and restaurants serving food in plastic disposables even for dining in.

If this is because of staff costs involved in washing utensils, why not invest in a dishwasher with bulk purchase deals, so that we can have clean utensils that are cheaper in the longer run economically and environmentally?

TACKLE SCOURGE OF PLASTIC USE

There is much that can be done to tackle the scourge of plastic use in our part of the world.

Five Asian countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand - account for 60 per cent of plastic waste leaking into the ocean, according to Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment.

Singapore could leverage its ASEAN Chairmanship – in its Year of Climate Action – on evaluating and building the case for the minimising of plastics for our greater good, beyond plastic to climate action overall, and beyond the plastic sector to the entire corporate sector.

Vivian Claire Liew is founding CEO of social enterprise PhilanthropyWorks and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Source: CNA/nr(sl)


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The private sector must be new champions of sustainable development

Sustainability must be an integral part of corporate strategies and anchored in corporate cultures, says one observer.
Thomas Holenia Channel NewsAsia 16 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: In recent years, we have seen an increase in international and national initiatives to promote a shared focus, empower greater collaborative actions and drive stronger progress towards sustainability.

For example, the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals chart the road ahead on major global challenges and focus areas for the next years until 2030.

They represent a significant step forward in understanding the joint efforts that politics, business and society must make towards ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity.

In November 2015, major cities, regions, companies and investors from around the world signed the Paris Pledge for Action – a collective statement by non-state actors to ensure that the level of ambition set by the Paris Agreement on climate change is met or exceeded.

Meanwhile, Singapore is strengthening its stand by designating 2018 as the Year of Climate Action. So far, the movement has gathered more than 230,000 pledges from individuals, organisations and educational institutions to fight climate change for a sustainable Singapore.

BUSINESSES MUST STEP UP COMMITMENT

Noticeably, there is a greater call for businesses around the world to step up their commitment, increase their contributions and take the lead.

Together with their employees, suppliers and business partners, companies play an important role in advancing sustainability not only within the company and along the value chain from suppliers to customers, but also within relevant industries and in local communities.

Companies can no longer remain passive. The fact is that humankind already has a global environmental footprint that is greater than the planet’s resources can sustain. Continued growth in the world’s population and global economic activity will inevitably lead to rising consumption levels and resource depletion.

As sustainability becomes a matter of urgency, companies must do more. However, putting sustainability initiatives into action is not without challenges, when we consider the costs of investment and complexity of engaging multiple parties with different interests, for example.

Hence, companies must prioritise goals, balance interests and define their contributions across all areas of the businesses and towards social engagement.

A SMALLER ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT

Beginning with their products and solutions, companies have the task to deliver greater performance and improve living standards, but with a smaller footprint. In this situation, achieving more with less is possible only through innovation in a holistic manner.

This requires not only developing individual “green” products, but also optimising their footprint across the source, produce, use and disposal phases.

As such, more and more companies are offering eco-friendly products and complementing their marketing efforts with consumer education on how to save energy and water during everyday use.

In this equation, suppliers are important sustainability partners throughout the entire value chain. The goal is to secure the right suppliers for the long term by applying the same stringent selection process worldwide, regardless of whether they are based in developed or emerging markets.

A comprehensive evaluation covers sustainability performance and risks, as well as performance relating to safety, health, environment, social standards and fair business practices.

A successful example is the global chemical industry’s Together for Sustainability initiative, where 20 leading companies have joined forces to set the sustainability benchmark for supplier evaluation and build a strong community of sustainable suppliers internationally.

EMPLOYEES AS AGENTS OF CHANGE

Notably, employees are the most important asset and success factor for any company. When it comes to implementing sustainability strategies, it is people who make the difference – through their dedication, skills, and knowledge. They contribute to sustainable development, both in their daily business lives and as members of society.

To increase employees’ engagement, a viable first step is sustainability training on the company’s sustainability strategy, targets and initiatives, history of sustainability, and global challenges.

The objective is to equip employees with deep knowledge and understanding, and enable them to contribute and engage various stakeholders through dialogue and collaboration.

Additionally, in an international environment, online and classroom training can be conducted using standardised training materials to ensure consistency.

With this approach, Henkel has trained more than 50,000 employees as Sustainability Ambassadors globally.

The next step is to motivate employees to make their contributions in their work and beyond. For example, employees can act as ambassadors at their sites through various initiatives, such as bring-your-own-cup, using centralised bins, and observing a daily earth hour during lunch time.

They can also visit schools to teach young children about sustainable behavior in their homes and in daily lives. Besides imparting knowledge, these school initiatives can encourage children to be an influencer among their family members and prepare them to be future sustainability leaders.

Additionally, companies can support employees in volunteer and community projects that make a positive social impact, by providing funds and granting paid days off from work.

In a comprehensive survey in 2014, our stakeholders’ responses highlighted the importance of integrating sustainability in all activities and ownership in addressing environmental impact.

It is thus clear to us that sustainability must be an integral part of corporate strategies and anchored in corporate cultures. This is fundamental to positioning companies and their employees at the forefront of driving sustainable development.

Thomas Holenia is president of Henkel Singapore and managing director of Henkel’s global supply chain in Singapore.

Source: CNA/sl


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Malaysia: Partnerships, engagement key to finding solutions in managing sharks and rays in Sabah

Borneo Post 13 Jul 18;

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) director Cynthia Ong (left) facilitating a panel discussion at the recently concluded Sabah Sharks and Rays Forum 2018.

KOTA KINABALU: The establishment of strategic partnerships, as well as honest and continuous engagement, are needed in approaching the complex issues surrounding the conservation of sharks and rays in Sabah.

Although their reasons and motivations differ, stakeholders at the recently concluded Sharks and Rays Forum 2018 agreed they want to see an abundance of sharks and rays in Sabah waters.

Different sectors of society – fishermen, tourism players, civil society, government and researchers – each have their own priorities for healthy shark and ray populations.

Subsequent progress must therefore address the concerns of all – in particular the views of those in Semporna, the most important district in Sabah for shark-related fisheries, tourism and protection.

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) director Cynthia Ong said based on presentations at the forum, the range of options include reviewing and reforming law and policy; tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; defining and reducing bycatch; establishing shark sanctuaries and Locally Managed Marine Areas; exploring alternative livelihoods for shark and ray fishers; and awareness raising.

“This will need to see collaboration on a wide scale, working with a range of stakeholders and the Department of Fisheries to enable more meaningful input into the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA 3).

“For example, some fishermen may not necessarily be keen on alternative livelihoods in the tourism sector, and there are some who say they are only responding to market demands. We also heard that understanding and defining bycatch is crucial for further shark conservation efforts as many sharks are caught as bycatch – a trend mirrored worldwide.

“Other efforts that could be looked at would be to trial shark and ray bycatch reduction techniques on trawlers, and to assess the viability of establishing a locally managed marine area with sharks and rays as the main drawcard that is self-funded through tourism in Semporna,” Ong said.

She said the recommendations, agreements and recognition that sharks and rays are important for healthy tourism and sustainable fisheries have inspired leadership, scientists and local conservationists to strive together for a healthy ocean that include sharks.

One major outcome of the conference was that research groups are keen to work with government and the fisheries industry to gather additional scientific knowledge of local shark and ray populations and to support increased marine protection in Malaysian waters. The fisheries sector meanwhile, said it was willing to be engaged on how it could improve, but without losing its economic and trade values.

Other areas of future work that emerged from the forum included improved monitoring of shark and ray catch at markets to species level – to gather baseline data at species level, as well as determining whether protected areas such as the Tun Sakaran Marine Park – have seen an increase in shark and ray abundance
Relevant parties would also need to continue promoting awareness on the importance of sharks and rays, as well as the negative impact to the environment when consumers opt for shark fin soup as sharks are apex predators and are essential for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

Sabah Sharks Protection Association (SSPA) chairman Aderick Chong stressed on the need to list species of sharks that are known to be abundant and to limit harvesting to these, and to protect the rest.

Chong also underscored a call he made during the forum to end the consumption of shark fin soup in Sabah, the way the state placed a ban on the consumption of turtle eggs.

“There were many different viewpoints, but the forum showed that all parties are positive about moving together towards a common goal of seeing more sharks and rays in our waters.

“We must continue to explore the suggestions that were raised and we must do this with an open heart and mind. It is about finding solutions that work,” he said.

The Sabah Sharks and Rays Forum 2018 gathered Malaysian, regional and international experts to explore synergies between fisheries, conservation and tourism. It provided an update on advances in shark and ray focused legislation, research and awareness raising in Sabah.

Jointly organised by LEAP, WWF-Malaysia and SSPA, the forum saw a high-level panel discussion on the second day involving government, fisheries, conservation and tourism representatives.


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Malaysia, Johor: Police seize RM1 million worth of wildlife parts

Bernama New Straits Times 15 Jul 18;

JOHOR BARU: Police, together with the Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department crippled a syndicate involved in smuggling of wildlife parts in two raids last Thursday.

Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Seri Zulkifli Abdullah said the success led to the seizure of RM1 million worth of wildlife parts, which included skull, tooth and horn.

He said the first raid was conducted at a house in Taman Johor Jaya, here, where four local men were arrested and the second was at a house in Ulu Tiram which led to the arrest of a local man.

All the suspects, aged between 29 and 72, have been released on police bail, he said, adding that they were believed to be members of a wildlife smuggling syndicate which had been operating since 2010.

He said the syndicate was believed to have used Johor as a transit to smuggle in the wildlife parts from Indonesia for export to China.

Police are investigating the case under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which provides a fine of between RM100,000 and RM500,000 and imprisonment for not more than five years, if found guilty. - Bernama

Cops seize wildlife parts in Johor
zazali musa The Star 16 Jul 18;

JOHOR BARU: Police have crippled a syndicate believed to be involved in smuggling wildlife animal parts to Johor from Indonesia.

Officers seized wildlife parts worth RM1mil destined for China.

Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order Department director Comm Datuk Seri Zulkifli Abdullah said the syndicate had been operating in the state since 2010.

He said five local men aged between 29 and 72 were detained during Ops Rimau last Thursday, which was carried out with the Johor Wildlife Department.

Comm Zulkifli said a suspect was caught at a house in an orchard in Ulu Tiram and 23.5kg of wildlife parts were seized.

“The wildlife parts have a street value of RM1mil and they are believed to be bound for the China market,” he told a press conference at the Seri Alam district police headquarters here yesterday.

Also present were Johor police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd and Johor Wildlife Department director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim.

Comm Zulkifli said among the seized wildlife parts included tiger, bear, porcupine, Javanese wild bull, mountain goat bones, internal organs, skulls, tusks, testicles and genitalia.

“We believe the seized items are to be sold in the Chinese market as the animal parts are known to be used for medicinal purposes or as sex stimulants and ornamental items there,” he added.


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Malaysia: Marine police foil attempt to smuggle 2,850 turtle eggs

Poliana Ronnie Sidom New Straits Times 15 Jul 18;

SANDAKAN: Marine police foiled an attempt to smuggle 2,850 turtle eggs in waters off Kampung Forest here this morning.

A patrol unit taking part in Op Pensura intercepted a pump boat, which appeared to be coming from the direction of the Philippines, at 3.30am.

The vessel tried to flee but got stuck in an area of shallow water.

Sabah marine police region 4 commander Assistant Commissioner Mohd Yazib Abd Aziz said the skipper jumped into the sea and disappeared.

“We found five gunny sacks of turtle eggs worth RM5,130 believed to be smuggled from a neighbouring country.

“The enforcement officers seized a wooden boat and a 13-horse power engine,” he said, adding that the seized items had been taken to the marine police base here for further investigation under the Conservation Wildlife Enactment 1997.


Marine police seize RM5k worth of turtle eggs being smuggled into Sandakan, Sabah
muguntan vanar The Star 15 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Marine police seized 2,850 turtle eggs being smuggled into Sandakan on Sabah’s east coast from the neighbouring islands of the southern Philippines.

However, the suspected smuggler managed to dive into the sea and flee under cover of darkness while marine police personnel gave chase in waters off Kg Forest near Sandakan at about 3.30am Sunday (July 15).

Marine Police Region 4 commander Asst Comm Mohd Yazib Abd Aziz said the eggs from endangered turtles were found inside five gunny bags inside the 15 horsepower pump boat abandoned by the smuggler.

Each turtle egg can be sold for RM1.80 in the illegal market, he said, adding that the total value of the eggs was about RM5,130.

ACP Yazib said they also seized the wooden boat worth about RM1,000 and the 15hp boat engine worth RM850.

The case has been referred to the State Wildlife Department for further action under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1997.

“We believe the turtle eggs were being smuggled in from the neighbouring country to be sold locally,” ACP Yazib said.


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Malaysia: Protected proboscis monkey found dead in wildlife sanctuary

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 16 Jul 18;

KINABATANGAN: The carcass of a proboscis monkey was discovered in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary here, four days ago.

A Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) research team, which found the remains of the adolescent male near their research centre, performed a post-mortem on it recently.

“According to DGFC’s personnel, the proboscis monkey has an open abscess on its right hip and right lung, which (may have) caused his death,” Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said in a statement today.

“(However), a full report on the post-mortem has not been submitted to the department and the cause of its death is not yet determined,” he added.

The department plans to investigate the case, as it involves the death of a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.


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Malaysia: Semenggoh Wildlife Centre welcomes Sigat

New Straits Times 16 Jul 18;

KUCHING: The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (SWC) has new bundle of joy – a Borneon orangutan baby named “Sigat”.

The new addition to the orangutan family at the centre is the male infant born to Sadamiah, a 16-year-old orangutan, who has now two offsprings.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd (SFC) said after days of noshow, Sadamiah finally appeared wuth her newborn clinging tightly lurking between the lush canopy of the forest at the centre on Mar 27.

“It was a sight to behold indeed since the last birth at the centre was recorded two years ago.

“Since its establishment in 1975, SWC has successfully released 11 orangutans thereat and with the new addition, a total of 24 offsprings is now recorded to date,” said the corporation in a statement.

The birth of Sigat also came to the attention of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg, who came to the centre recently and blessed the orangutan baby with his name.


Semenggoh Wildlife Centre’s new bundle of joy, a Borneon male orangutan baby named Sigat, clinging to her mother, Sadamiah. Pic by NSTP/ courtesy of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd
“The word “sigat”, which is from the Iban language, means handsome, smart, beautiful, diligent while never fails to impress.

“The word is also largely used by other ethics in Sarawak in such context.

“On the perspective of conservation, the term “sigat” could not be more appropriate to signify the beauty and majesty of orangutan and reflects the success of SWC as a centre for orangutan rehabilitation for endangered Borneon orangutan,” the statement said.

The corporation also invited the public to part of the orangutan rehabilitation efforts by joining adoption programme offered by SWC.

“It enables ‘adoption’ of specific orangutan for a year by contributing annual amount of RM200 for individual and RM10,000 for corporate bodies or companies.

“Proceeds from the programme will be used to fund conservation activities and the rehabilitation of wildlife in the state,” it said.

Those interested to join the programme can visit SWC or contact the centre at 082-618325 or SFC’s Corporate Office at 082-610088.


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Indonesia: Plastic garbage and destructive fishing big threat to Indonesian sea

Antara 15 Jul 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Marine and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has expressed concern with the "big threat" to ecosystem in the Indonesian sea pointing to plastic garbage and destructive fishing.

Indonesia is one of the biggest contributors to polluting the sea with garbage in the world, the Minister said addressing the launch of a campaign "Healthy Indonesian Sea Movement," here on Sunday.

Polluting the sea with garbage and rampant destructive fishing are among the biggest problems faced by Indonesia in the marine sector, she said.

She said fishermen in a number of areas still use potassium cyanide in fishing.

She said a gram of potassium cyanide could destroy ecosystem in a range of six square meters.

She said sea makes up 71 percent of the country`s territory, "therefore, it is very regrettable if we fail to protect the sea natural wealth."

She said Indonesia should be called a maritime country, instead of an agricultural country.

The minister also defended her policy of destroying foreign ships illegally operating in Indonesian waters.

She said 363 ships caught poaching in Indonesian waters have been exploded in the sea as a deterrent to illegal fishing.

There are much fewer cases of illegal fishing after the policy adopted by the Indonesian government since Susi was named marine and fishery minister.

Earlier, the Indonesian Association of Maritime Scholars (Iskindo) supported the policy adopted by the minister calling on the government to remain tough on illegal fishing.

"Iskindo asked the government to be consistent in its policy against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing as well as destructive fishing," Iskindo chairman Moh Abdi Suhufan said.

He said currently there are massive degradation of the ecosystem in the sea in several areas of the country damaging the fishery sustainability.

He said results of studies indicated that around 90 percent of global fishing grounds have been over .

Therefore, consistency in the policy against IUU fishing needed to preserve the ecosystem in the country`s sea territory.

(T.M040/AS)
(T.SYS/B/H-ASG/A/E002)
Editor: Heru Purwanto


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Outrage as Iceland fishermen kill rare whale

Jeremie Richard AFP Yahoo News 14 Jul 18;

Reykjavik (AFP) - Is it a blue whale or not? The slaughter in Iceland of what is claimed was a member of the endangered species has triggered outrage and left experts puzzled about its true identity.

"There has not been a blue whale harpooned by anyone for the last 50 years until this one," Sea Shepherd, an international non-profit marine conservation movement, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group, which published photos of the mammal being butchered for export at an Icelandic whaling station on the night of July 7, said the fishermen "posed for photos next to and even on top of the whale in a sign they knew very well this was a rare blue whale".

But Icelandic experts are not completely certain whether it is indeed the world's largest leviathan, which the International Whaling Commission has been protecting since 1966.

They're also not sure if it could be the endangered fin whale, the second largest animal on the planet, which can only be legally hunted in Iceland despite an international moratorium on whaling.

Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur hf, the whaling station which slaughtered the animal, said they did so believing it was a fin whale.

Most of the fin whales killed are exported as meat to Japan.

"We see blue whales all the time and identify them by their blowholes...but we leave them alone," he told AFP.

- DNA tests -

For Gisli Vikingsson, a scientist at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute in Reyjkavik, the butchered whale's characteristics are similar to both the blue and fin whale.

"There is a large dorsal side with a small dorsal fin like a fin whale...this explains perhaps why it was hunted as such," he told AFP, adding its "size and markings on the side are like those of a blue whale."

He added the whale could even be a hybrid species resulting from cross-breeding between the fin and blue whale, which is a rare phenomenon.

Since 1987, five such animals have been observed in Icelandic waters and they are known to be infertile.

All killed whales in Iceland undergo DNA tests after the hunting season and the results are released during the fall.

However, due to the controversy surrounding this particular case, a test will be done earlier than planned and the results are expected at the end of July.

But Sea Shepherd said the fishing crew which butchered the animal mixed its parts with previously caught fin whales, making "it difficult or impossible to locate during potential inspections by the authorities".

"This shows how inaccurate and imperfect this hunting is and there is no need to continue it," Sigursteinn Masson, Iceland representative for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told AFP.

Should the killed whale be confirmed as a hybrid, then things could become even more complicated as there are no laws to protect them.

"Hybrids are much more rarer than the blue whales," Masson said.


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Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jul 18



Chek Jawa is magnificent again!
wild shores of singapore

Interpretative Signage in Butterfly Gardens
Butterflies of Singapore


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