Best of our wild blogs: 27 Aug 14



Dunman High begins a fourth year of sharing about our shores
from wild shores of singapore

Vinous-breasted Starling at Pasir Ris Park
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Flowers and Trees the Best of Both Worlds
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum


Read more!

Journey towards a greener port

Melissa De Silva The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 AUg 14;

SINGAPORE - With 17 years in the maritime industry under his belt, Mr Eugene Khoo, 49, holds two port- folios at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).


The larger Project Director (Next Generation Port) portfolio includes overseeing Phase 1 of the Tuas terminal project, which should be ready in about 10 years.

He works with various ministries, government agencies and tertiary institutions to help bring together the operating, engineering and information technology systems into an integrated whole for the development of this port.

Part of this task involves coordinating schedules and ensuring budgets and plans are on track.

His other portfolio, that of Senior Assistant Director (Tuas Port Development), involves overseeing the project management of the Tuas terminal Phases 1 and 2 reclamation projects.

It requires working with appointed international consultants to carry out the engineering design works for wharf construction, reclamation and dredging, among other tasks.

"Together with our consultants, my job also involves managing appointed international contractors," says Mr Khoo, who joined PSA Corp immediately after he obtained his civil engineering degree from the National University of Singapore in 1989.

"Right now at Tuas, we are doing preparation work for reclamation. Because it will be a port, we must dredge out seabed material, to deepen channels for ships," he says.

Due to concerns about environmental sustainability and a commitment to being a green port, a containment bund is being built.

"This is so that when materials are thrown out during the later stages of dredging and reclamation next year, the materials disposed from dredging and contained within the bund and the water outside the bund will not be polluted," he says.

After leaving PSA Corp to pursue full-time MBA studies in 2000, he returned to work on the development of Pasir Panjang terminal Phases 3 and 4 as a private engineering consultant with Surbana International Consultants in 2005. He joined the MPA in 2010.

He says: "Even after so many years, I am still excited about working in this industry.

"In land-scarce Singapore, our future port lands will have to be reclaimed over deeper waters of more than 20m deep.

"Building a deep-water port will dredge out seabed material, which will be recycled into reclamation filling as a sustainable development initiative for a greener port in Singapore."

Brought to you by

MPA SINGAPORE


Sustainability a key driver in maritime industry
Melissa De Silva The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - The Singapore maritime industry's aim to achieve sustainability has led to a number of key green initiatives in recent years.

The Maritime Singapore Green Initiative launched by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in April 2011 was among them, aimed at reducing the environmental stresses of shipping-related activities.

Three programmes come under the umbrella of the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative: the Green Ship Programme, Green Port Programme and Green Technology Programme.

The Green Technology Programme is geared to boost the adoption of eco-friendly technologies among local maritime companies through co-funding, with $25 million being reserved for it.

A $100 million Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund has also been created by the MPA to support research and development of green maritime technology.

The MPA also works in partnership with the industry and other stakeholders to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and port activities by enacting measures to protect the marine environment.

Said an MPA spokesman: "A little-known fact is that Singapore's waters, despite being home to one of the busiest ports in the world, are also home to more than 250 species of hard corals, a quarter of the world's species.

"Two-thirds of the true mangrove plant species in Asia are also found in local waters. As a result, managing the environmental impact of shipping is a priority, even as the port is developed to meet economic targets."

Efforts include conducting studies to understand environmental impact, regulatory measures to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and incentives for environmentally responsible practices.

Another trajectory of promoting greener shipping is a joint industry project between MPA and DNV Technology Centre to assess the market for environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas as marine fuel as an alternative to marine fuel oil and marine gas oil.

Added the spokesman: "The mega terminal at Tuas, which will consolidate all existing container operations when it opens in about 10 years, is also being designed with sustainability in mind."

Some of the potential new technologies and processes for Tuas, including green port technologies, are already being tested under the Port Technology Research and Development Programme, launched by the MPA and PSA in April 2011.

One such unique idea was proposed by the winning team for the Next Generation Port Challenge in 2012, from the National University of Singapore, Shanghai Maritime University and Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries.

Named the Singa (Sustainable Integrated Next Generation Advanced) port, it involves an innovative double-storey container port concept that promises higher performance and productivity through sustainable means.

To find out more about Maritime Singapore and the careers it offers, visit: www.mpa.gov.sg www.maritime careers.com.sg


Read more!

Would MSO help with monkey issues?

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 27 Aug 14;

New body to coordinate public feedback.

Remember that saga over the fishball stick near Bukit Gombak MRT station?

That saga was not actually a unique incident.

Housewife Vicky Chong, 49, regularly jogs at the Bukit Batok Nature Park and when she spots litter, she picks it up.

Occasionally she reports cases on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website.

A few months ago, she noticed litter all over a bus stop in Upper Bukit Timah Road and the carpark at Bukit Batok Nature Park.

The culprits were monkeys who ransack the bins.

As it was a litter-related issue, Madam Chong sent an e-mail to the NEA and suggested replacing the bins with the monkey-proof ones that are used in the park.

Not so easily done, she found out.

The carpark is managed by NEA, the bus stop by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the park by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Madam Chong's feedback is not rare.

It is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of feedback the Government receives involves multiple agencies, is directed to the wrong agency, or involves a solution where the agency responsible is not immediately obvious.

That is why Madam Chong supports the new municipal services office, she said in a letter published in the Straits Times Forum page last Friday.

The idea of the Municipal Services Office (MSO) was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally.

COORDINATE AGENCIES

It aims to improve the Government's overall coordination and delivery of municipal services, said the Ministry of National Development (MND).

MSO will be housed within MND.

Ms Grace Fu, who will oversee MSO, said it will be set up on Oct 1.

Ms Fu is a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

The MSO will not replace the feedback management functions of government agencies and town councils and it will help them resolve municipal issues especially in cases where multiple agencies are involved.

For a start, the MSO will work with eight agencies: the People's Association, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, the Housing and Development Board, the LTA, the NEA, NParks, Public Utilities Board and the Singapore Police Force.

Ms Fu will be also studying the feedback mechanism loop to ensure its efficiency, reported the Straits Times online yesterday.

"Whatever we do right now we have to make sure it's most convenient for members of public and that it doesn't create another layer, it doesn't delay the process," Ms Fu told reporters before flagging off the One Community Walk at Yuhua Constituency yesterday.

Madam Chong hopes the feedback process will be streamlined.

She said: "I'm not frustrated now that I know that respective agencies will be looking into the matter. I'm just wondering when this issue will be solved."

Tin Pei Ling, MP for Marine Parade GRC

"It's usually issues with cleanliness. Depending on where a piece of litter falls, different agencies could be involved.

"If it falls near a drain, it could be the duty of the Public Utilities Board. If it falls near the a grass patch near the drain, it could be the National Environment Agency (NEA).

"Usually, I would just ask the town council for help and they would do it out of goodwill.

"It really annoys people when they see rubbish lying around for a few days, because they expect a clean and green place. A one-stop portal would be helpful as a lay person might not know which agency would be best."

Baey Yam Keng, MP for Tampines GRC

"There is a long strip of land the size of a few football fields between Tampines Street 45 and the Tampines Expressway.

"Last year, during the peak of the dengue period, residents complained that it was a potential mosquito breeding spot and messy with overgrowth.

"The area nearest to the HDB flats is managed by the town council, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) manages the area near the expressway.

"There are trees so NParks is involved as well, and as it is state land - the Singapore Land Authority.

"Currently, there may be some discrepancies and disagreements (between agencies). There is a merry-go-round, residents are confused and things are not solved, which is a pity."

Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC

"There was a case of monkey spotting which involved many agencies at one time because these animals don't just stay at one spot.

"If they are spotted at a HDB estate, the town council is involved. Elsewhere, in the forest, either Mindef or Agri-food and Veterinary Authority, depending on which part of the forest.

"I see a number of such cases involving multiple agencies. There is no wrong door policy, but it could also be a revolving door especially when they get caught in the web of regulations.

"Over the years, with experience, you will realise which is the right agency to approach. When more than one agency is involved, getting them on the same table helps to resolve the issue. At the management level, there is a commitment to resolve the issue."


Read more!

Malaysia: Tiger Valley project to proceed as planned

simon khoo The Star 27 Aug 14;

TEMERLOH: After an initial delay, the RM45mil Tiger Valley project in Lanchang – to house rescued tigers – will proceed as planned.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said that under the first phase, the perimeter fencing was currently being erected around the 200-acre site.

However, it would take slightly longer for the project to be fully completed and opened to the public, he added.

“Initially, we faced some problems acquiring land but the state government has already sorted this out with the villagers and land owners last year.

“Now, we are waiting for the necessary allocation from the Treasury to be released under the 11th Malaysia Plan.

“Regular discussions will be held with the state government on how to develop the area into an eco-tourism hub by introducing additional activities to bring in more visitors,” he said after a working visit to the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah and the Biodiversity Institute near here.

Palanivel, who is also the Cameron Highlands MP, said that upon completion, the site would accommodate tigers of the panthera tigris jacksoni species, commonly known as Malayan tigers. These tigers, rescued from the wild after running into conflict with humans, would be placed in the new home and open for public viewing, he added.

“We are also looking into transferring some tigers from the rescue centre in Sungkai, similar to the relocation of rescued elephants to Kuala Gandah for rehabilitation,” he said.

He said he was told that 15 rescued tigers, including 10 females, were being looked after in Sungkai, adding that other animals such as seladang had also been rescued and placed under the care of Perhilitan.

Palanivel said he would discuss with the Prime Minister for additional allocation to carry out preservation and conservation efforts nationwide.

Malaysia, he added, had been blessed with natural resources, flora and fauna, including limestone caves and millions of acres of forested areas, and there must be efforts to maintain this for future generations and as tourist attractions.


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 26 Aug 14



Green Future Solutions is Hiring
from Green Future Solutions

Sun 31 Aug’14 Morning Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Identification resources for the new birders
from Singapore Bird Group

First Love MacRitchie Walk of the season, and more to come!
from Toddycats!

I Shall Wait For You
from Colourful Clouds

Bats roosting in my porch: 9. Mating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : White Banded Awl
from Butterflies of Singapore


Read more!

Pulau Ubin coast faces erosion risk

Melody Zaccheus The Sunday Times AsiaOne 26 Aug 14;

Pulau Ubin's northern coastline is fast being eroded by tides and currents.

If left unchecked, the island could lose parts of its coastal forest and mangroves.

To turn the tide, the Ministry of National Development plans to carry out a study to establish the extent of erosion, the types of vegetation affected and the impact it will have on hydrology.

Speaking at a reforestation initiative on the island yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the study will help it "properly design restoration measures and erosion control measures".

One solution could be to install breakwaters, he said.

The fast-eroding shoreline is one of several pressing needs facing the 10.2 sq km island, which is about the size of Changi Airport.

Another is to fix the dilapidated buildings on the island, some of which have fallen into disrepair due to neglect.

Capturing the stories of the island's remaining 38 elderly dwellers is another urgent matter, Mr Lee said.

That is why the ministry has been gathering ideas from different Ubin interest groups and stakeholders on how to preserve and enhance the island's rustic character and natural environment, while sensitively providing access to the public. This intention was first announced by Mr Lee in Parliament in March.

Since then, the Friends of Ubin Network has been set up - comprising nature groups, heritage groups, academics, anthropologists, sports enthusiasts and artists. It has met twice so far.

The group and other stakeholders have suggested ideas to address these issues, such as by carrying out a "cultural mapping" of the village there.

Suggested by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), it would involve documenting, extracting and understanding the historical, economic, social and religious layers that used to exist and those that are still practised on the island.

SHS president Chua Ai Lin said cultural mapping goes beyond a historical study of an area, looking also at patterns of everyday life, to see how the different facets come together.

"It's really about the conditions of the people and the social, cultural, economic systems, networks and ways of life, from a holistic viewpoint," she said.

"Putting such ground-up data together can mean more informed policymaking."

Some have also suggested building a field research centre for scientists and nature lovers to set up camp. This could serve as an outreach point for people interested in learning about Singapore's biodiversity and the island's history.

Others have called for greater access to nature and nature-based recreation.

Mr Lee said: "So for those who say leave Ubin alone, we need to certainly at least deal with these things to prevent the island from falling into disrepair."


Read more!

Singapore farmers can tap on S$63m fund to boost yields, productivity

Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Local farmers can look forward to more financial assistance to transform their farms and nurseries into high-tech, productive plots, after the Government pledged S$63 million to aid their efforts. Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for National Development and Defence, announced the new policy during a visit to Sky Greens farm.

The new Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) is meant to spur farmers to boost their yields and raise productivity, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a news release on Monday (Aug 25).

Of the S$63 million, S$53 million will be used for farm capability development to support productivity improvements in the farming sector. The remaining S$10 million is earmarked for farms to carry out research and development (R&D) in innovative production technologies, it stated.

This is in addition to the existing S$3.9 million Landscape Productivity Grant administered by the National Parks Board (NParks), which serves to co-fund landscape nurseries' investments in machinery and technology.

In conjunction with these aid initiatives, MND said farms and landscape nurseries will have to meet the following new conditions:

Use at least 90 per cent of the land for farm production or landscape nursery purposes, while the remaining 10 per cent may be used for ancillary purposes.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) farms must meet minimum production levels to qualify for new leases or lease extensions. Landscape nurseries must meet minimum productivity targets and be registered under NParks’ Landscape Company Register and Nursery Accreditation Scheme.

These conditions will be applicable to new farm sites to be tendered out by the AVA, lease extensions for existing farmland, and landscape nurseries managed by NParks, said MND.

LONGER TIME TO RECOUP INVESTMENTS

MND added that AVA and NParks will offer farmers greater peace of mind in terms of the tenure they have to recoup on investments in the areas mentioned.

"For the farms, AVA will tender new farm sites with a 10-year tenure, and offer existing sites a lease extension of 10 years if they are not required for any future development. These leases can be extended for another 10 years provided the farms meet the minimum production levels and other prevailing criteria, and if there are no redevelopment plans," MND explained.

As for landscape nurseries, there will be a new "3+3+3" tenancy model introduced by NParks. Essentially, the initial tenure for the property will be for three years, and can be renewable up to two further terms of three years each. "The new tenancy model will not require nursery operators to pay land premiums upfront. A monthly rental scheme will be applied instead," NParks stated.

It added that operators will not have to worry about infrastructure costs as NParks will provide connections to utilities such as potable water, electricity and telecommunications cables, sewage pipes and roadways.

"Over the past few months, I have been visiting some of our farms to better understand their operations and concerns. These understandably focus on the cost of technology, land tenures, shortage of manpower, and business continuity," said Dr Maliki.

"With the various funding schemes, AVA and NParks will work closely with the farms and nurseries respectively to help them build up their capabilities, and use more automation and technology to reduce manpower demand and optimise the use of our limited land."

- CNA/kk


Read more!

Malaysia: Breakthrough in clouded leopard project

The Star 26 Aug 14;

KINABATANGAN: A female Sunda clouded leopard has been fitted with a satellite collar — for the first time ever — by a conservationist studying the movement of the endangered species in the lower Kinabatangan area.

Rahsia, weighing 9.9kg, was caught in one of the traps set up along the Kinabatangan River in the vicinity of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) on Aug 15.

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) team member Andrew Hearn, who is a PhD student with Oxford University, said the leopard was the fourth one collared but was the first female to be tagged.

“After more than a year and a half of setting traps each day, the capture of this healthy female leopard is a breakthrough for our project,” Hearn said.

“We are hopeful that the data from her collar will provide essential insight into her movements that will enable the development of appropriate conservation actions for her species.”

The collaborative project is being carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department, WildCRU and DGFC. It is aimed at the research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah.

Project leader Dr Benoit Goossens, who is DGFC director, said the research played an important role in Sunda clouded leopard conservation and management.

“Regardless of the efforts focused on maintaining and increasing the amount of natural habitat, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle in the Kinabatangan area,” he said.

“So, understanding how the wildlife is using this ever-changing landscape will help us mitigate and hopefully reduce the level of threats posed by changes to their habitat.”

The project is funded by Sime Darby Foundation, with additional funding and support from Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo, The Clouded Leopard Project and Rufford Foundation.


Read more!

Indonesia: Raja Ampat forms public supervision group to conserve coral reefs

Senin Jakarta Globe 25 Aug 14;

Waisai, West Papua (ANTARA News) - The Raja Ampat district administration has set up a public supervision group to protect and conserve its coral reefs.

"Local fishermen, who used to conduct destructive fishing practices, have been persuaded to help protect the coral reefs by joining the public supervision group. They also help to patrol the surrounding waters," Syafri Tuhurea of the Raja Ampat maritime and fishery office stated here on Monday.

The local fishermen have stopped practicing destructive fishing methods, but those from other regions sometime illegally fish in the waters of Raja Ampat by using bombs, he remarked.

"They are driven away if they are spotted by the local fishermen. But, they usually sneak out when the local fishermen and officers are not around," Syafri pointed out.

The public supervision group is expected to promote a sustainable coral reef preservation program involving the local community, he affirmed.

Tuherea also added that public awareness regarding coral reef conservation in Raja Ampat District, West Papua Province, has improved.

"In the past, there were many traditional fishermen who conducted destructive fishing practices by using bombs. Now, their number has decreased significantly," Syafri stated.

The Raja Ampat district administration has carried out public awareness campaigns for the conservation of coral reefs over the past five years, he noted.

The public were informed that since the diversity of the marine ecosystem was not solely to be cherished by the current generation, but the future generations as well, therefore, it should be protected and preserved.

In line with the Tomolol Declaration issued in 2003, every stakeholder in Raja Ampat has agreed to sustainably conserve and manage marine resources.

Raja Ampats marine conservation area totals almost 1.2 million hectares. The best preserved coral reefs are found in Dampier Strait located between Waigeo and Batanta isles.

In the southern part of Raja Ampat, Misool isle has endemic coral reefs, which are unique to this area.
(T.D018/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)


Read more!

Indonesia: Aceh custom council launches Sharia-based management forest book

Senin Jakarta Globe 25 Aug 14;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - Aceh Custom Council (MAA) is launching a forest management handbook based on sharia and customary law compiled by Acehs traditional and public figures to support sustainable forest management in Sumatra.

"The book describes how Islamic and custom laws established the environment, including sustainable forest management," the chairman of MAA, H Badruzzaman, said here on Monday.

The book is published by the MAA in cooperation with Strengthening Integrity and Accountability Program (SIAP) II.

SIAP II, which is run by a consortium, consisting of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, Transparency International Indonesia, and Indonesia Working Group on Forest Finance, is a part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program.

Badruzzaman said Sharia law, both Al-Quran and Al-Hadith, has established many factors related to the balance of life, including the relationship of Allahs creatures.

According to him, relationship also covers the surrounding environment, what is allowed and what is not allowed, as well as the threats that could occur due to human violation.

"Aceh has experiences in the history of custom forest management, and it is to be collected and brought back to life through the spirit of Aceh today," Badruzzaman said.

Meanwhile, the CEO of WWF Indonesia Dr. Efransjah noted that the role of civil society in promoting sustainable forest management is a necessity, so the MAAs involvement in this effort is important.

"Moreover, the pressure on the remaining forests in Sumatra is getting greater. If this condition is neglected, within 20 years, Acehs forest biodiversity could become extinct," he claimed.

Acehs forest is the last hope for remaining natural forests in Sumatra. With an area of 3.3 hectares, Acehs forests should be managed with sustainable forest management that is acceptable to all the people in Aceh.

Acting Director of USAID Indonesia Derrick Brown stated that the book was the result of consultation with community leaders. The book is expected to be a guide for ending corruption in the forestry sector.

"Deforestation in Aceh also has implications for other countries, including the United States. Therefore, the American government through USAID has been helping to preserve the forests in Aceh," he added.
(T.KR-LWA/Uu.INE//KR-BSR/F001)


Read more!

Indonesia: Mangroves planted to protect Semarang’s new Ahmad Yani airport from coastal erosion

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post 25 Aug 14;

Dozens of schoolchildren and hundreds of university students and soldiers helped to protect Ahmad Yani International Airport in Semarang, Central Java, from coastal erosion by planting 10,000 mangroves on Maron Beach on Saturday.

Medicine producer PT Phapros donated the mangroves being planted. “We launched the ‘Go Green’ program by planting mangroves on Maron Beach, Semarang, in 2011. We have so far planted 380,000 mangroves in the area,” Phapros’ president director Iswanto said.

He said the program had been conducted in cooperation with Diponegoro University’s student community KeSEMaT who shared the company’s concern about mangrove preservation.

The planting, according to Iswanto, was also an attempt to educate younger generations to love nature and to develop their support for mangrove conservation.

“We have also conducted research by taking samples of mangrove products to see if they can be further developed for added value,” said Iswanto adding that the alkaloid content in the plant’s fruit and seeds might be able to be developed into a medicinal product.

Studies have revealed that Semarang’s northern coastal area has been experiencing erosion by up to 50 meters annually.

If nothing is done it is feared the erosion will cause problems at Ahmad Yani’s runway, which is located only about a kilometer from the beach.

The research also revealed that some 70 percent of the mangroves along Semarang’s coastline have been damaged due to the ignorance of local people who have cleared mangroves for the wood and converted the areas into fish ponds.

According to satellite data, mangrove forests in Indonesia cover an area of around 3.1 million hectares, the second-biggest in the world after Brazil. This accounts for 22.6 percent of the world’s total mangrove forests.

Separately, commander of the Military Regional Command (Kodam) IV/Diponegoro, Maj. Gen. Sunindyo who joined the planting on Saturday, said that he had commanded all the TNI (Indonesian Military) personnel assigned to coastal regions to plant and preserve mangroves.

“The TNI has fields in coastal regions such as in Cilacap, Pekalongan, Semarang, Kendal and Rembang,” he said.

He hoped that the private sector would participate in and care about the preservation of the environment by planting mangroves.

The cooperation between the private sector, local administrations, the TNI and police, he said, could be conducted like in a war zone, i.e. by establishing sectors.

It was reported earlier that the government planned to build a “floating” passenger terminal on a platform in the sea as part of the expansion project of the airport.

The airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I said that the expansion would allow the airport to accommodate up to 6 to 7 million passengers annually, up from 3.2 million as of the end of 2013.


Read more!

Sydney harbour’s plastic pollution at ‘alarming’ levels, scientists find

Microplastics less than 5mm long pose threat to marine life, and come from clothing and toiletries
Oliver Milman theguardian.com 25 Aug 14;

Researchers have found “alarming” level of plastic pollution in Sydney harbour, with fibres from clothing and toiletries causing a widespread impact upon the marine ecosystem.

The first information from the ongoing Sydney Harbour Research Program shows that small pieces of plastic measuring under 5mm have been found in each of the 27 surveyed sites along the length of the harbour.

Scientists from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science took sediment samples from the bed of the harbour and used a high salinity concentration to separate out the plastic.

The researchers found that the samples had 60 to 100 plastic particles per 100ml of wet harbour sediment. This is far higher than overseas sites – a study of a busy harbour in Sweden, for example, found 24 plastic particles per 100ml of sediment.

Thin plastic fibres, as opposed to shards of plastic bottles, were the most commonly found particles. These fibres come from clothing, such as fleeces that lose material as they are washed, and facial scrubs.

“The focus has previously been on larger pieces of plastic which injure turtles and birds, but it’s possible that microplastics are doing the most damage,” professor Emma Johnston, director of the research, told Guardian Australia.

“These plastics are small enough to be ingested by 96% of the world’s animals, invertebrates, which are then transferred to fish and larger animals.”

The plastic fibres not only potentially block the gut within fish but also release toxins absorbed by the plastic after it is released into the environment.

Johnston, who started on the research project 18 months ago, is seeking funding for a further four-year analysis of the microplastics problem.

“This is cutting-edge research, so much so that we aren’t sure of the full impact of these plastics,” she said. “The lines of evidence all point to it being a major concern, but we don’t have the numbers to do a full risk assessment. We need to do a lot of targeted research quite quickly.”

Last year, research conducted by the University of Western Australia and the CSIRO found that the waters around Australia are riddled with more than 4,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometre.

It’s estimated that Australia produces 1.2m tonnes of plastic each year.


Read more!