Best of our wild blogs: 9 Jun 11

21 Jun (Tue): "The Sea Anemone Lecture" by Dr Daphne Fautin
from wild shores of singapore

Fantasies of Phyllodiscus: A surreal sea anemone
from wild shores of singapore

driftnet fishing @ terumbu semakau 05June2011
from sgbeachbum and anemone shrimp @ terumbu semakau 05June2011

Dairy Farm Park To The Summit On 28 May
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Luxury (new) site Sungei Buloh WR C8 mangrove
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Making a difference for the Malayan Sun Bear
from Bornean Sun Bear Conservation

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Resorts World Sentosa as dolphin sanctuary?

It should develop itself as the region's hub for dolphin research and rescue
Letter from Toh Tai Chong Today Online 9 Jun 11;

I REFER to the recent comments by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) and applaud the group for highlighting the issues of procuring and training dolphins for public exhibition.

The underlying concern, however: Can we ever justify capturing animals for public education? Is prohibiting all wildlife import the solution to conservation?

Following the death of the dolphins, concerns were raised by activists regarding the condition of the dolphins, such as issues of enclosure space, diet and disease control.

While Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has repeatedly assured the public that regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were adhered to, videos released by activists argued otherwise.

RWS should reveal detailed information about how the animals are being taken care of and demonstrate that it has upheld the required quality of care. It should also perform regular inspections at dolphin holding and training sites, with qualified veterinarians and marine biologists.

Research on dolphins is lacking, especially in this region. In Singapore, most of the dolphin research over the years was performed in captivity, using the facilities at Underwater World Singapore. There is potential for RWS to develop itself as a regional centre to address the long-standing need for a central establishment in South-east Asia committed to dolphin research.

This can be achieved by tapping its existing Marine Life Fund, as well as active collaboration with international institutes, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, to address population studies for instance and accelerate the development of successful breeding programmes to alleviate the reliance on captive dolphins for public display.

In Asia, dolphins face a variety of threats such as habitat destruction, overfishing and accidental death from being trapped in drifting gill-nets. However, there is a lack of wildlife rescue centres and many injured animals are left stranded.

With RWS' funding capacity and existing expertise, there is potential to develop a marine wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre for the injured animals.

The debate on wildlife trade for public display and education is not new. As with most conservation policies, there must be a balance between ensuring the safety and well-being of the animals and fulfilling the needs of the stakeholders. RWS could play a role beyond public education, as a key player in research and wildlife rescue.

Polemical views are often counter-productive in achieving conservation aims. There has to be mutual understanding on both sides to ensure concerns are addressed.

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A Central Park for Singapore as a solution to floods?

Ong Dai Lin Today Online 9 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - New York has Central Park. Now, the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) is eyeing a local version for Singapore's shopping belt as a long-term solution to the floods in the district.

This is one of the suggestions ORBA will be presenting today to national water agency PUB: A green space that not only serves as a venue for outdoor events but, more importantly, absorbs and stores excess storm water in an underground water tank.

ORBA has identified a possible location, its executive director Steven Goh told MediaCorp, without giving anything away ahead of its meeting with PUB and parties affected by Sunday's floods.

Mr Goh said a green space in the area could be designed into a park for community events, while an underground water storage tank could be built beneath it to provide water to the plants or be channelled to the Botanic Gardens.

ORBA hopes to convince the authorities that this would serve to add vibrancy to Orchard Road as well as combat floods during heavy storms.

Another suggestion ORBA will put forward is for PUB to conduct regular drills on its flood alert system. "This can test how effective the system is, rather than realising the system doesn't work when the flood occurs," said Mr Goh.

PUB had set up an SMS alert system that is triggered when sensors detect high water levels. But a software glitch meant that the flood alerts were not sent to some Orchard Road establishments. These suffered the most from Sunday's floods.

As for today's meeting with PUB, Mr Goh said: "Our top-of-mind agenda is to lessen the impact of possible re-occurrence of floods in the coming weeks, since the authorities have said that further storms can be expected. Secondly, we'd like to have the authorities' assurance that Orchard Road, as Singapore's pride and premium shopping street, doesn't flood again."

Railings installed along drains
Ong Dai Lin

In the wake of one of Singapore's worst floods, national water agency PUB has installed some 700m of railings at six locations, including Sixth Avenue, Clementi Rd, Marsiling Drive and Commonwealth Lane.

PUB said the railings improve safety by visually demarcating the drains from the footpath, especially in the event of floods when water levels may rise above that of the drains.

The agency said it has inspected drains at more than 70 locations so far, and found that some 30 of them may have safety issues.

Checks and installation work are in progress and PUB is also considering installing CCTV cameras and water-level sensors to monitor the drains. Seet Sok Hwee

ORBA to propose long-term solutions for floods
Evelyn Choo Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: The Orchard Road Business Association wants long-term solutions to the problem of flooding in the shopping belt and is meeting national water agency PUB on Thursday with a few concrete proposals.

One idea is to introduce regular flood-prevention drills.

The association also wants to know if an empty plot of land in the precinct can be used as a green space. This can also double up as a holding area for excess flood water.

Steven Goh, Executive Director of the Orchard Road Business Association, said: "Hopefully, we can convince the government to turn that into a green park, just like Bryant Park in New York.

"Besides serving as a park, perhaps we can build an underground holding tank to hold the excess storm water, at the same time we can use the water for recycling purposes."

Meanwhile, it is business as usual in Tanglin Mall. However, the management staff have been working around the clock, desperate to come up with an immediate recovery plan. The cost of damage incurred is not yet known, but one thing is for sure - the shopping mall will not be able to weather another flood anytime soon.


PUB installs railings across Singapore
Seet Sok Hwee Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: In the wake of one of Singapore's worst floods, national water agency PUB has installed some 700 metres of railings at six locations across the island.

They include Sixth Avenue, Clementi Road, Marsiling Drive and Commonwealth Lane.

The new railings visually demarcate the drains from the footpath.

PUB told Channel NewsAsia it has inspected drains at more than 70 locations so far, and found some 30 of them may have safety issues.

Checks and installation work is ongoing.

PUB catchment and waterways department executive engineer James Koh said they are considering installing CCTV cameras and water-level sensors to monitor the drains.

The agency added that the widening of Bukit Timah Canal will be fully completed by the end of next year.

PUB best sourcing department deputy director Lim See Gan said: "The canal capacity will increase by 70 to 100 per cent.

"That will certainly help to alleviate the flooding situation here.

"We have started work here beginning of this year.

"(For) the first stage of the work, we needed to carry out traffic diversion, to give us space to drive in the sheet pile that is necessary to hold the earth.

"Once the sheet pile on both sides of the canal are riven in, we then can carry out excavation work".


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Green Faith

A growing number of religious groups have renewed their efforts to take care of the environment, spurred by the escalating 'green' movement and the ancient teachings of their own faiths. Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha'is and Jains are among the religious groups that are cleaning up beaches and outfitting their places of worship with energy-saving measures, all in the name of religion.
Jennani Durai Straits Times 9 Jun 11;

IN THE past year, the nuns of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have hosted visitors from various Catholic parishes at their home in Holland Road.

On these 'Eco Evenings', the sisters take their guests on guided nature walks in their garden, teach them how to put enzymes to work as a natural detergent and talk about the work of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.

At the end of each session, participants discuss the problems facing the environment and are challenged to make changes to their lifestyles to protect it.

On World Environment Day on Sunday, the Catholic Archdiocese here urged all its parishes to take steps to reduce their collective carbon footprint.

Spurred by the worldwide green movement, Catholics are among several religious groups stepping up their commitment to environmental causes and also relooking what their own ancient teachings say about this.

Increasingly, religious groups have been among those leading the charge for change, cleaning up beaches, installing eco-friendly features in their places of worship and rallying their international counterparts into discussions on what they can do to impede the degradation of the environment.

They are also taking part in larger movements: They were, for example, among the more enthusiastic supporters of Earth Hour, a movement to turn off all lights for an hour on a Saturday in March.

The 10 religious groups in the Inter-Religious Organisation came forward in March to mount a joint exhibition on World Water Day, to showcase the significance of water in their faiths and explain why it is important to conserve it.

Their reason for intertwining God and the environment may differ.

The Catholics, for example, believe caring for the environment is intrinsically linked to caring for the poor, given that people in poverty are often the biggest victims of the impact of global climate change.

The Jains link care for the environment with their religion's teaching of non-violence, while those of the Baha'i faith believe that man, as the highest life form, has a duty to protect the environ-ment.

Why now?

DR MATHEW Mathews, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said faith groups have been influenced by trends in the broader society.

'Care for the earth, highlighted by environmental groups for some time now, resonates with the teachings and principles in many world religions. It thus makes sense for these groups to champion the environment.'

Others believe the trend may be a result of religious leaders responding to anxiety among their flocks over environmental disasters.

Mr Russi Ghadiali from the Parsi Zoroastrian Association said: 'Things are getting worse, and it's always the case that when things are not good, people turn to religion.'

If religious groups are acting to protect the environment, they are also doing so because they take the cue from their international counterparts.

Pope Benedict XVI, for example, called environmental degradation a 'pressing moral problem' in late 2009 and called on Catholics worldwide to take care of the environment.

The going is at times rocky

THE pill that combines religion and environmentalism is not always easy to swallow, say religious leaders.

Mr Ghadiali said: 'It's not easy to convince people to change their lifestyles. People generally won't think about changing until they face problems themselves.'

Some groups are getting their adherents warmed up to the idea of taking care of the environment by using holy days and festivals as occasions to raise environmental awareness and bring the 'green' message back to their scriptures.

For instance, the Jains marked this year's festival of Mahavir Jayanti, which celebrates the birth of the founder of Jainism Lord Mahavir, by cleaning up the East Coast Park beach.

Muslim leaders have made changes to their mosques, so their followers will do the same at home. During Ramadan last year, mosques here pledged to cut their utilities bill by 5 per cent this year, and to plant at least 20 plants in their respective compounds.

But some groups have found the pro-green message in outright contradiction to some of their religious practices.

Taoist leaders, for example, have been struggling with the burning of paper offerings; Taoists here believe the practice absolves them and their departed loved ones of their sins.

Younger leaders like Master Chung Kwang Tong of the Taoist Federation have urged devotees to cut back on it.

He said: 'We tell them it's the sincerity that counts, not 'the more the merrier'. Taoism stresses the balance between man and nature. We take from the environment, so we shouldn't pollute it. It's us who suffer in the end.'

The Buddhists have their differences over the practice of releasing animals into the wild for good karma, a rite typically carried out on Vesak Day.

Some temples have encouraged the practice of buying birds or terrapins from pet shops and setting them free, but the Buddhist Fellowship, a non-sectarian organisation has been working with the National Parks Board to publicise the harm this does to the ecosystem.

Mr Henry Baey, who heads the Buddhist Fellowship, said: 'We tell people it's not necessarily a kind act. The animals often do not survive, and those that do will upset the existing ecosystem and may harm the native wildlife.'

Dr Mathews believes such intra-religious conflicts can be resolved if religious leaders explain practices most central to the faith.

He said: 'Religious groups have substantial influence over their adherents. When religious leaders proclaim issues as being important considerations for their faithful, adherents are more likely to follow these.'

Dr Mathews sees the trend of mixing God and the environment positively, in that religions add heft to the green cause: 'When religious groups get into the foray, they're really a sizeable group and can do considerably more for the cause.'

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'Laughing' insects among new Philippine species

Mynardo Macaraig Yahoo News 8 Jun 11;

MANILA (AFP) – Laughing cicadas and small "cat sharks" are among scores of species believed new to science discovered by US and Filipino researchers in waters and islands of the Philippines, the team said Wednesday.

The finds showcased the vast biodiversity of the Southeast Asian archipelago that is now under severe threat, said the experts from the California Academy of Sciences and local institutions.

The team found a rich harvest of starfish, sea urchins, eels and barnacles, many of which had not been previously documented by scientists, said Richard Mooi, one of the California marine scientists.

"We found at least 75 new species, perhaps more. A lot more analysis is needed," he told a forum to announce the discoveries.

"Unquestionably, we found 20 new species of starfish and sea urchins alone," Mooi added.

Fellow academy scientist John McCosker said they discovered several small "cat sharks" with brown backs and having dark stripes and white bellies, colours which he had never seen on any other shark before.

Picked up by a trawler net 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) below the waves, the sharks are about 60 centimetres (two feet) long and feed on shrimp, said McCosker, head of the aquatic biology department.

Detailing other finds, California Academy dean Terry Gosliner said: "We found one new species of eel, possibly a new species of pipe fish, new species of barnacles, new species of nudibranch (shell-less) mollusks."

Among the other unusual discoveries, Filipino entomologist Ireneo Lit said his team believed they had found several new species, including a cicada that made a sound like high-pitched laughter.

"The local residents were afraid of them. They thought the laughter was from dwarves, laughing dwarves," he told AFP of the insect found on 2,158-metre Mount Banahaw, a volcano on the main island of Luzon.

Lit, director of a national history museum at the University of the Philippines, said he would contact a colleague in France's Paris Museum of Natural History to confirm if it was a new species.

The expedition had trawled the depths of the waters off Batangas province and Taal Lake south of Manila.

It also took samples of fauna from Banahaw and other mountains on Luzon, where the scientists found three possible new species of spiders, said American spider expert Charles Griswold.

It would take several months of laboratory work to confirm if the finds were all truly new species but the large number of experts involved could easily tell if they had really found something new, Mooi said.

Edgardo Gomez, a professor of the University of the Philippines' Marine Science Institute, said some of the marine finds would have been under threat of extinction.

"Philippine marine biodiversity is under siege," Gomez told the forum.

He cited damage caused both by pollution and overfishing and climate change.

Theresa Mundita Lim, head of the environment ministry's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, warned some species could become extinct before they are even documented.

"The research on biodiversity is not at pace with the threats. The threats are more numerous," she added.

More Than 300 New Species Discovered in the Philippines
ScienceDaily 24 Jun 11;

This spring, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences braved leeches, lionfish, whip-scorpions and a wide variety of other biting and stinging creatures to lead the most comprehensive scientific survey effort ever conducted in the Philippines, documenting both terrestrial and marine life forms from the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the sea. They were joined on this unprecedented, multi-disciplinary undertaking by more than two dozen colleagues from the Philippines, as well as by a team of Academy educators who worked to share the expedition's findings with local community and conservation groups.

Over the course of the expedition, which was funded by a generous gift from Margaret and Will Hearst, the scientists discovered more than 300 species that are likely new to science, including dozens of new insects and spiders, deep-sea armored corals, ornate sea pens, bizarre new sea urchins and sea stars, a shrimp-eating swell shark, and over 50 colorful new sea slugs. These discoveries will be confirmed and described over the coming months, as the scientists use both microscopes and DNA sequencing to analyze their specimens.

"The Philippines is one of the hottest of the hotspots for diverse and threatened life on Earth," says Dr. Terrence Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. "Despite this designation, however, the biodiversity here is still relatively unknown, and we found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country's reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor. The species lists and distribution maps that we created during this expedition will help to inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival."

Despite intensive efforts to document life on Earth, scientists estimate that more than 90 percent of the species on this planet have yet to be discovered. In the face of large-scale habitat loss and degradation, many of these species are disappearing before we even know they exist. As they join the ranks of the extinct, we are not only losing members of our family tree -- we are also losing potential medical treatments, agricultural pollinators, oxygen producers, soil servicers, and many other critical components of healthy, functioning ecosystems. In order to make smart decisions about how to conserve what is left of our planet's biodiversity, we must make a concerted effort to rapidly increase our knowledge about these life forms and their distribution. This was the motivation behind the Academy's 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, which aimed to dramatically improve our understanding of one of the most species-rich places on Earth.

During their 42-day expedition to survey Luzon Island -- the largest island in the Philippine archipelago -- and its surrounding waters, the international team of scientists created species lists and distribution maps for a wide variety of species, including plants, insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, fish, corals, barnacles, sea urchins and many other marine invertebrates. Along the way, they encountered more than 300 species that appear to be new to science, including such notable finds as a cicada that makes a distinctive "laughing" call, a deep-sea swell shark that inflates its stomach with water to bulk up and scare off other predators, a starfish that exclusively eats sunken driftwood, three new lobster relatives that squeeze into crevices instead of carrying shells on their backs, a crab whose pincers are lined with needle-like teeth, and a worm-like pipefish that hides among colonies of soft coral.

Many of the new species avoided previous detection because of their diminutive size, such as goblin spiders, sea slugs, and barnacles that all measure just a few millimeters in length. Others simply exist in places that are rarely, if ever, visited by humans, such as a snake eel from the bottom of the ocean and a primitive plant called a spikemoss from the dangerously steep upper slopes of Mt. Isarog. All of the new species add weight to the idea that the Philippines is a critically important haven for biodiversity, and that its waters likely house more species than any other marine environment on Earth.

Unlike the traditional expedition model, in which results are often not published or shared until months or years after the field work has concluded, the participants in the Academy's 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition began the process of communicating about their results while they were still in the Philippines. With the help of a team of Academy educators, they conducted outreach sessions in each of the communities closest to the expedition's survey sites, sharing their preliminary findings with local teachers, politicians, and conservation workers. At the end of the expedition on June 8, they held a full-day symposium at the University of the Philippines to share these results more widely and discuss initial conservation recommendations.

Since then, the scientists have integrated their data and provided a formal recommendation to key partners such as Conservation International, the Philippines Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, the Philippines Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, and the Bureau of Fishers and Aquatic Resources outlining the most important locations for establishing or expanding marine protected areas, as well as suggested areas for reforestation to reduce sedimentation damage to the reefs. They also identified reduction of plastic waste as a conservation priority, since plastic litter was pervasive throughout the marine environment, even on the ocean floor at depths of over 6,000 feet. Additionally, the team's terrestrial surveys and species lists will help UNESCO and other conservation organizations make a compelling case for funding to enforce the existing protected areas on land, many of which are currently only "paper parks" with no means of preventing deforestation, hunting and other technically prohibited activities.

Over the next few months, the expedition scientists will be hard at work analyzing the specimens they collected during their field work -- and undoubtedly discovering more new species along the way. In the meantime, they will present their preliminary results to the San Francisco public for the first time on June 30, during the Academy's weekly NightLife event.

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Cambodian monks help protect rare turtles

(AFP) Google News 8 Jun 11;

KRATIE, Cambodia — Cambodian monks and environmentalists launched a new conservation project on Wednesday to help save one of the world's rarest and largest freshwater turtles from extinction.

A centre for the endangered Cantor's giant soft-shell turtle has been set up on the grounds of a temple near the central town of Kratie on the Mekong river, with support from wildlife group Conservation International.

"The turtle faces serious threats in its natural habitat," said Conservation International's Sun Yoeung, explaining that the centre would look after baby turtles.

"We hope they will have a better chance at survival when they are bigger and can protect themselves," he said.

The turtle, capable of growing up to 50 kg (110 pounds), was thought to be nearly extinct until it was rediscovered on an isolated stretch of the river in 2007.

At the opening ceremony for the centre, an orange-clad monk blessed a female Cantor's turtle weighing 18 kg (40 pounds) and released her into a large pond inside the temple complex, a popular tourist attraction in the area.

Staff at the facility hope to find her a mate soon to kick-start a breeding programme.

The centre is also home to nearly 100 baby turtles who were moved from their nests for their own protection.

"In one or two years we will release them back into the river," Sun Yoeung told AFP. "Now they are too small and they can be eaten by birds or fish."

The Cantor's turtle is also under threat from hunters and from the destruction of its habitat.

The animal spends 95 percent of its life hidden in sand or mud and is listed as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the same status given to tigers and pandas.

It was discovered in an area closed off to scientists until the late 1990s because of decades of civil conflict in the country.

It is not known exactly how many of the creatures are left but since 2007, CI has protected 51 nests on the Mekong river and watched more than 1,000 turtles hatch successfully.

Center opens to protect rare turtle in Cambodia
Yahoo News 8 Jun 11;

SAMBOUR, Cambodia – An extremely rare soft-shell turtle species has a new, protected home in Cambodia.

The critically endangered Cantor's giant soft-shell turtle is one of the rarest freshwater turtles in the world. Scientists last saw one in the Cambodian wild in 2003, and small numbers have been seen in neighboring Laos, while it appears to have disappeared from Vietnam and Thailand.

U.S.-based Conservation International said it opened the Mekong Turtle Conservation Center on Wednesday in Kratie province, 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Phnom Penh.

A 40-pound (18-kilogram) female turtle and six babies were released into the conservation pond at a Buddhist pagoda on the Mekong River at the center's launch. The ceremony was attended by six Buddhist monks — who blessed the female turtle by painting scared markings on her body — and more than 100 villagers.

"Our goal is to conserve Cantor's turtle populations in their natural habitat, the Mekong River, through the Mekong Turtle Conservation Center and the community-led nest protection scheme," Conservation International said in a statement.

Local fishermen currently collect both eggs and adult turtles for their own consumption and sale to restaurants, Conservation International said. Soft-shelled turtles are considered a delicacy in many Asian diets, and rarity only adds to their value on menus or as traditional medicines.

The species can grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) in length and weigh more than 110 pounds (50 kilograms).

Conservation International said planned dams and dredging schemes on the river pose another serious threat to the species.

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Australia: Snubfin dolphins face extinction

Angela Case Australian Geographic 8 Jun 11;

Without immediate protection, Australia's only endemic dolphin could disappear within three generations.

A NEW STUDY BY conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found Australia's only endemic dolphin, the snubfin, could disappear within three generations, or about 30 years.

Estimates suggest less than 1000 of these mammals exist in the wild, concentrated in the waters along Australia's north coast.

The snubfin is a new addition to the list of known dolphins, first identified as a separate species in 2005. Snubfins are distinguished from their close relatives, Irrawaddy dolphins, by their tri-coloured appearance, rounded forehead, and stubby dorsal fin.

They live in small, isolated groups along Australia's north coast, from the Kimberley in WA to the Gladstone region of Queensland. They may also occur in the waters around Papua New Guinea.

Because the mammals are shy, do not bow ride, and occur infrequently, not much is known about them.

Species under threat

Snubfins are estimated to have a lifespan of about 30 years, breeding from age nine and producing one calf every two or three years. According to Lydia Gibson, WWF's tropical marine species manager, this slow rate of reproduction, combined with the dolphins' scarcity, makes them susceptible to extinction.

"If you lose just one individual in a population per year due to human activity, it could lead to the extinction of that local population," she says.

WWF warns human activities could lead to the dolphins' extinction in the next 30 years.

One of the main threats to snubfins is bycatch, or accidental capture by fishing nets. WWF estimates bycatch has killed hundreds of dolphins. Gillnets in coastal net fisheries are particularly problematic, because they tend to be set in the inshore estuarine habitats snubfins prefer.

Many snubfins have been found with scars resulting from boating accidents, indicating that accidental run-ins with watercraft are probably responsible for some deaths.

The dolphins are also threatened by habitat destruction resulting from increased commercial development along the Australian coast.

Pleas for protection

Despite the myriad threats against them, snubfin dolphins currently receive virtually no legal protection. WWF is working to have the snubfin recognised as a threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Lydia says this recognition would help grant the species the protection it needs to survive.

"What this translates to in terms of conservation action is ensuring sanctuaries are set aside so the species can exist in areas free from coastal development, fishing gear entanglement, and boat strikes," she says.

WWF is circulating a petition urging Environment Minister Tony Burke to add the snubfin dolphin to the threatened species list. Click here for more information or to show your support.

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Female rhino born in Uganda, first in 30 years

Yahoo News 8 Jun 11;

KAMPALA (AFP) – A rhinoceros in Uganda's only rhino sanctuary has given birth to the first female calf born in the country in three decades, the director of the conservancy said Wednesday.

The calf was born on Saturday weighing some 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which aims to reintroduce rhinoceros in Uganda, where they were wiped out in the early 1980s.

"This is the first female born on Ugandan soil for almost 30 years after they were completely decimated back in 1983," said Angie Genade, executive director of the Ziwa Sanctuary, about 180 kilometers north of Kampala.

It brings Uganda's total rhino population to just 13.

"Having a female rhino is of major significance because the more females there are the more rhinos we can breed," Genade said.

She said the baby will be named once a sponsor is found for it.

Uganda's rhinos were hunted to extinction in the early 1980s by poachers and army deserters.

In the past decade white rhinos have been reintroduced to Uganda from countries including neighbouring Kenya and America.

One of the three male calves at Ziwa was baptised Obama after the US President as his father is Kenyan and his mother American.

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IUCN Red List provides lifeline for Africa’s freshwater species

IUCN 9 Jun 11;

Africa is being given a unique opportunity to conserve its tremendous diversity of freshwater species – a critical resource for many of Africa’s poorest people. African countries can now decide to use their water resources sustainably, and avoid paying millions of dollars, as is the case in Europe, to rectify poorly planned wetland development.

Decision makers across Africa are now able to benefit from an online interactive map, released by IUCN, for each of the 7,079 river and lake sub-catchments across mainland Africa that reveals information on the distribution, conservation and ecological needs of 4,989 freshwater species, of which 21% are already threatened. This tool and the accompanying IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ report ‘The Diversity of Life in African Freshwaters: Underwater, Under Threat’ provide vital information to help plan development in ways that minimize or avoid impacts to freshwater species.

“The importance of Africa’s freshwater species goes largely unrecognized. A quarter of the world’s inland fisheries are located on the African continent, and in some countries freshwater animals account for 75% of the protein intake of people,” says William Darwall, Manager of the project and of the IUCN Species Programme Freshwater Biodiversity Unit. “Freshwater species often succumb to collateral damage as development proceeds but in many cases this can be avoided through careful planning based on solid information.”

Several environmental management projects are already using information from this study to monitor the impacts of a hydro-electric dam on the Gambia River; promote a trans-boundary wetland conservation area in the Rusizi Delta; monitor water quality in the Okavango Delta; and integrate freshwater species in management of the Moulouya River catchment in Morocco.

“This is a real milestone in the history of African freshwater biodiversity – nothing as good, or like it, is out there at this point in time,” says Paul Skelton, Managing Director, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. “The information on freshwater fishes has already proved its worth in a number of conservation planning projects in South Africa, including work on the legal protection of threatened species and the establishment of a national framework of freshwater protected areas.”

According to the report the number of threatened freshwater species in Africa will increase dramatically if development of water resources is not planned sustainably. Major threats include loss or degradation of habitat to agriculture, and impacts of new infrastructure such as dams for irrigation and hydropower.

“Provision of species information at the sub-catchment scale for all of Africa represents a major step forward and will greatly assist water resource management throughout Africa,” says Ali Kaka, IUCN Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

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Indonesia: 'Real heroes' save forest, help economy

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post 9 Jun 11;

The 11 winners of the prestigious Kalpataru environmental award have managed and preserved 50,000 hectares of land, planted millions of trees and improved the local economy.

The government said since the start of the Kalpataru awards in 1980, the government has given the award to 275 people. The awardees have helped preserve a total of 475,000 hectares of forest.

This year, awardees were mainly those who contributed to forest preservation, coinciding with this year’s World Environmental Day theme, “Forest: Nature at your service”.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the Kalpataru winners were the “real environmental heroes”.

Sugiarto, a resident of Cowek village in Pasuruan, East Java, planted 474,390 trees in an upstream area of the Welang River covering 475 hectares. The area is the source of 23 springs and 14 small rivers that supply water to 7,251 residents in the village. The rivers irrigate 246 hectares of paddy fields. The restored area is also used for aquaculture and feeds 312 cattle.

Marmis Asid, a farmer from Jorong Harapan village in West Pasaman, West Sumatra, has been creating a community forest in a watershed area covering 1,500 hectares for 11 years. He has revived a sort of local wisdom called rimbo ban to protect the 300-hectare area. He also initiated the cultivation of 1,000 palmyra trees to help the economy of the local people while preserving the forest.

Lulut Sri Yuliani from Kedung Baruk subdistrict in Surabaya planted 900 trees in the Wonorejo mangrove forest. She developed a business using mangrove-based crafts to encourage women to protect the mangrove area. She produces mangrove-based products like liquid soap, tempe, crackers and batik. She has also designed 44 batik patterns inspired by mangroves.

Soleman Ngongo, a field officer from Tema Tana village in West Sumba has devoted 40 years of his life to guarding 540 sluice gates. He also planted 2 million trees together with local farmers that improved the production of 2,347 hectares of paddy fields.

Surjadi from Bebalang village in Bali promoted an eco-friendly agricultural system. He developed a pilot project on 10 hectares in the area. He also works to protect the Langkahan Forest and another 300 hectares of community forest. To supply water for agricultural needs, he and other villagers built a 10-kilometer tunnel connecting Ulian village to Langgahan village in order to irrigate 25 hectares.

Sudarli, a resident of Purwodadi village in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, planted trees in the arid and rocky land of Gunung Kidul for 19 years. With his efforts, he rehabilitated 241 hectares and five springs by planting 6.8 million trees.

A group of fishermen called Karya Segara Serangan, headed by I Wayan Patut from Serangan village in Bali, rehabilitated 6.5 hectares of coral reef. The program was linked to the improvement of the local economy, including selling decorative fish and sea horses.

The Nurul Hakim Islamic boarding school in Kediri village, West Lombok, headed by Shafwan Hakim, promoted 611 boarding schools as eco-friendly. They build 50 nurseries and distributed 5 million seeds. The group also planted 605,942 seeds in a 300-hectare area. About 2,000 boarding school students were involved in a Friday program to clean up the area.

The Pelopor Sehati Foundation, chaired by Masriadi from Padang Mutung village in Kampar, Riau, strengthened the capacity of the indigenous people of Kenegerian Rumbio to protect 570 hectares of forest. They also planted 36,000 trees, 100,000 rattan groves and 80,000 meranti trees on 150 hectares of land.

Aang Hamid Suganda, the regent of Kuningan in West Java, has made Kuningan a “conservation regency”. He launched a number of programs to green his regency and declared 175,312 hectares of land a botanical garden. He also developed a green open space of 25,720 hectares and rehabilitated 801,187 hectares of small lakes.

Krido Suprayitno, a district head from Berbah in Yogyakarta, set up 43 community groups to plant 112,550 trees on degraded land. He restored a former mining area of 339 hectares and set up a community forest. He also restored river basins in Kuningan, Opak and Mrue.

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Malaysia: Protect forests and water sources

The Star 8 Jun 11;

PROVIDING an adequate drinking water supply is one of the most critical problems today. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the main reasons for this problem is the lack of integration at the watershed scale between the organisations responsible for the management of water and forest resources.

Malaysia is home to the one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world. About 20,456,000ha or 62.3% of Malaysia is forested, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Extensive and unplanned logging activity has been a long existing problem in Malaysia. According to WWF, in 1985, Borneo had 73.7% forest cover and this was reduced to 50.4% by the year 2005. And it is predicted this will be reduced to only 30% by the year 2020.

As the president of the Malaysian Water Forum, I would like to reiterate the importance of having an integrated water resource management plan to preserve access to clean and safe drinking water for the current and future generations.

We have been waiting a long time for a National Water Resource Policy and a National Water Policy.

It was reported in April last year that Malaysia will have its National Water Resources Policy following the completion of the National Water Resource Study scheduled to be completed in this year.

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), which covers the holistic management of both water resources and land usage, must be practised to ensure the continuity of safe and clean drinking water.

Studies show that well-managed natural forests provide benefits to populations in terms of high quality drinking water with less sediment and pollutants than water from other catchments.

More attention and political will is needed to ensure that the rural populations living in watersheds are not disadvantaged in the process of protection or management for water quality.

All water catchments area in the country must be “gazetted” and free from any development to ensure the quality of the water.

A list comprising the location of the water catchments area must be made available to the public in order to increase public awareness and also awareness among developers and local governments.

Programmes to instill the ownership of the catchments must be enhanced. Under the forestry regulations, all such catchments must be treated as protected areas.

With increased pollution, indiscriminate land use and growing population, the water service industry is finding it increasingly challenging to supply clean and safe water at cheap rates.

Aging distribution infrastructure, increasing cost of chemicals used for treatment and poor governance has resulted in the water sector owing the Federal government approximately RM8bil in 2003 prior to the water sector re-structuring.

Consumers have a right to safe water but also need to be reminded that they, too, have social and environmental responsibilities. They also have the responsibility to act against indiscriminate treatment of the environment and act according to principles of sustainable development.

Therefore in conjunction with World Environment Day (June 5), I would like to urge all consumers to support efforts towards, and demand better treatment for, natural water resources, especially forests and wetlands, and preservation and rehabilitation of forests.

President, Forum Air Malaysia.

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Greenpeace accuses Barbie of destroying Indonesia rainforests

* Mattel, Disney package toys using paper firm APP
* APP says it meets legal requirements in Indonesia
Michael Taylor Reuters 8 Jun 11;

JAKARTA, June 8 (Reuters) - Greenpeace said on Wednesday it had evidence that Barbie doll packaging comes from Indonesian rainforests, accusing toy manufacturers such as Mattel and Walt Disney Co of contributing to the country's rapid deforestation.

On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists dressed as Ken dolls rappelled down the side of Mattel headquarters near Los Angeles to unfurl a banner saying Barbie packaging contributes to rainforest destruction.

The massive pink-and-blue sign on the Mattel building outside Los Angeles, featured a frowning Ken declaring: "Barbie, it's over. I don't date girls that are into deforestation."

"Barbie is trashing rainforests and pushing critically-endangered wildlife, like tigers, towards extinction," said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's campaign to save the forests in Indonesia, in Jakarta.

"Mattel, which makes Barbie, must stop wrapping the world's most famous toy in rainforest destruction," he added.

Greenpeace said its investigators used forensic testing that showed Barbie's packaging comes from Indonesian rainforests.

Activists also used 'in country' investigation, mapping data and traced company certificates to show that Mattel, along with other toy companies including Disney, are using packaging produced by Indonesian paper firm Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which Greenpeace accuses of destroying rainforests.

Mattel , the world's biggest toy company by revenue, said in a written statement released to Reuters in Los Angeles that it had been in communication with Greenpeace on a variety of paper sourcing issues.

It was not immediately clear what percentage of Mattel's paper packaging comes from APP.

Responding to Greenpeace, APP said its products meet the legal requirements for all countries, including Indonesia.

"It is our responsibility to adhere strictly with these laws, not to satisfy the unreasonable and groundless demands of a foreign-based NGO," the statement added.

"We believe it's irresponsible to play on the emotions of children and their parents to rehash old, discredited allegations in order to attack the industry of a developing nation."

APP added that it has set the goal of 100 percent sustainable plantation pulp wood by 2015.


Greenpeace said the activities in Los Angeles and Jakarta mark the start of a worldwide campaign to stop toy companies driving deforestation in Indonesia.

Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against climate change and is under intense international pressure to curb its rapid deforestation rate and destruction of carbon-rich peat lands.

Indonesia revealed a long list of exemptions to a two-year moratorium on logging in May, a concession to the hard-lobbying plantation industry in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

"Greenpeace is ... calling on the government of Indonesia to institute stronger measures to protect our last remaining natural forests and peat lands," said Zulfahmi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forests Campaigner. "This should be followed by a review of existing concessions."

Last year, French retail giant Carrefour said it would stop buying certain products from APP citing concerns over environmental sustainability.

APP released an audit it said showed allegations it destroyed rainforest were baseless and invalid.

APP is owned by the palm oil giant Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology, or SMART , which last year released an independent audit after Greenpeace alleged the company bulldozed high conservation value forests and damaged carbon-rich peat lands. [ID:nJAK325319] (Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Greenpeace says Barbie doll is forest vandal
(AFP) Google News 8 Jun 11;

JAKARTA — Greenpeace on Wednesday accused Mattel, the US maker of Barbie dolls, of contributing to the wanton destruction of carbon-rich Indonesian forests and habitats of endangered species like Sumatran tigers.

The environmental group said packaging used in Barbie and Ken boxes contained timber products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which it described as a "notorious" destroyer of Indonesia's dwindling natural forests.

"Barbie destroys natural forests and pushes rare species such as tigers to the brink of extinction," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said.

"Mattel, which makes Barbie, must stop wrapping the world?s most famous toy in rainforest destruction."

He said APP was a "notorious rainforest destroyer which has been exposed many times for wrecking Indonesia's rainforests to make throw-away packaging".

"APP is bad news for Indonesia's forests. It treats Indonesia as nothing more than a vast disposable asset, grabbing rainforests that are vital to forest communities," Maitar said.

"Mattel and other toy companies like Disney have a responsibility to support clean, low carbon development. They should drop APP right now and instead support responsible Indonesian producers."

APP, a subsidiary of paper and palm oil giant Sinar Mas, said it was "shocked" by the allegations and denied that its activities posed any threat to endangered species or forests.

"I was quite shocked that they attacked us. We are proud to use recycled paper and we are trying to promote the use of recycled paper," APP managing director for sustainability Aida Greenbury said.

Indonesia is considered the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly through deforestation for the timber industry and to make way for coal mines and oil palm plantations.

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Ilegal Timber Trade Concern of All Nations: Indonesian President

Camelia Pasandaran Jakarta Globe 8 Jun 11;

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on other countries to help preserve Indonesia’s forests by not becoming markets for illegally logged Indonesian timber.

“In short, there are a lot of fences out there,” the president, referring to dealers in stolen goods, said on Tuesday at a ceremony to hand out environmental awards.

“Whenever we sell timber, we take the heat for deforestation. Certainly there are violations everywhere, which is what we’re cracking down on, but the truth is that there are also fences outside the country.”

He stressed that in order to protect the country’s forests, it behooved other countries to cooperate in preventing illegal logging.

“If you want to do good, let’s work together to sort out the timber industry,” Yudhoyono said.

“Other countries should stop fencing illegally felled timber. That’s the kind of deal that we need to work on. That’s why it’s only fair if the world contributes [financially] to helping forest countries that want to preserve their resources.”

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, speaking at the event, said the number of cases of illegal logging had increased in recent months. However, he declined to say which countries were suspected of receiving and selling illegal timber from Indonesia.

Industry watchers like Greenpeace have long speculated those countries are Malaysia, Singapore and China.

Zulkifli said Indonesia had recently signed an agreement with the European Union that was designed to identify and eventually exclude illegally logged timber products from EU markets in order to promote good forest governance in the exporting country.

Discussions on the agreement began in 2007 but only concluded in April this year.

“The rampant spread of illegal logging has prompted the government to campaign for legal certification for the timber trade,” Zulkifli said.

“For instance, the merbau tree is only found in Indonesia, so if there’s unlicensed merbau timber being traded, then it’s illegal. The trade must be stopped and the perpetrators prosecuted and jailed. That requires international cooperation. If it’s just us fighting to the death, then that’s not fair.”

The merbau tree, however, is not exclusive to Indonesia. It can be found in Southeast Asia, East Africa and Australia.

Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said more needed to be done to stem illegal logging, given the difference between the rates of forest destruction and recovery.

“Forests in Indonesia are being destroyed at a rate of 700,000 hectares a year, while the rate of recovery and reforestation is only 500,000 hectares a year,” he said.

“This means we’re continuing to experience a net increase in forest destruction, which in turn leads to floods and mudslides that not only cause economic losses but loss of life.”

The calls for a crackdown on illegal logging came just weeks after Yudhoyono issued a much-criticized decree on a two-year moratorium.

The decree, issued more than five months after the moratorium was supposed to go into effect, has been widely lambasted by anti-logging activists as not doing enough to prevent the exploitation of forests for commercial purposes.

Illegal wood buyers abroad must be arrested: President
Antara 7 Jun 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said efforts must be made to arrest illegal wood buyers abroad to complement the illegal logging eradication campaign at home.

"The two endeavors (illegal logging eradication and efforts to arrest illegal wood buyers abroad) will determine the success of the drive to combat illegal logging in Indonesia," the president said in his address at the commemoration of World Environment Day at the State Palace here on Tuesday.

"Actually there are many illegal wood buyers abroad. If we want to overcome the (deforestation) problem at home we must prevent illegal wood buyers abroad from purchasing illegal or non-kosher wood and wood that cannot be sold abroad," the president said.

Indonesia has been quite serious in preserving its environment and eradicating illegal logging activity, Yudhohono said.

The head of state also urged all parties to maintain Indonesia`s position which the international world believes to be a strong commitment to conserve the environment, primary forests in particular.

"Let us continue to maintain this commitment so that Indonesia can become a `global champion` in environmental preservation which will certainly be good for us all," he said.

On the occasion, the president reminded all parties that the efforts to solve the impact of climate change required cooperation among many parties in global forums.

One of the efforts is how to preserve the forests in a bid to support the life on the earth as the theme on the 2011 world environment day commemoration.

According to Yudhoyono, the developing countries in principle committed and have a special budget to maintain their tropical forests.

The ability of developing countries, however, certainly limited because they should set aside some portion of the budget to improve the welfare of their society, he cited.

It will be fair if the world also contribute to efforts of the countries that really wish to protect and preserve their forests, President Yudhoyono added. (B003/B/HAJM/17:58/f001)


Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei: Big payoffs with green economy

New Straits Times 8 Jun 11;

KOTA KINABALU: A "green economy" may reap huge economic benefits for Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Entitled "Forests in a Green Economy", the report was recently released in collaboration with this year's World Environment Day, with the theme "Forests: Nature at Your Service".

The economies of the three Asean countries would gain hugely as they cover a vast 22 million hectares of a biologically-diverse equatorial rainforest called the "Heart of Borneo".

World Wildlife Fund's Heart of Borneo Initiative team leader Adam Tomasek said: "The UNEP report represents a welcome sign for investing in forests as a means to protect ecosystem services, tackle climate change and expand economic growth.

"The green economy approach is supported by heads of state and senior government officials in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia," he said, citing the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council for Malaysia, convened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, as an example on delivering science and innovation for a green economy.

A recent study has shown that 10 million jobs are expected to be created in tandem with the increase in small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up the bulk of forest industries. Currently, these enterprises provide more than 50 per cent of forest sector employment in many countries.

The Heart of Borneo was established with the signing of the Heart of Borneo Declaration in 2007 between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The area covers 22 million hectares of transboundary forest where animals roam freely.

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Breakthroughs, Launches, and Warnings on World Oceans Day

Environment News Service 8 Jun 11;

NEW YORK, New York, June 8, 2011 (ENS) - The spectrum of actions marking the UN's annual World Oceans Day ranges from the celebratory to the cautionary as ocean health is assaulted by challenges that include climate change, oil spills, pollution and overfishing.

New York's iconic Empire State Building will be lit this evening in purple, blue and white, from bottom to top, representing the different layers of the ocean in honor of the United Nations World Oceans Day.

At Capital Hill Ocean Week in Washington, DC Tuesday, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco said, "Healthy oceans are everyone's business," because the U.S. economy and the ocean economy are inseparable - millions of Americans depend on the health of the oceans for their livelihood.

"That inseparable connection between the health of the ocean, the health of the American economy, the health of the job market and the well-being of people emerged as an indelible message from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy," she said.

"An unprecedented environmental disaster, the Deepwater Horizon spill oiled over 1,000 miles of shoreline, 3/5 of them in Louisiana. Although the vast majority of the oil in the Gulf is now gone, oil remains close to shore in many of these Louisiana coastal areas, and the effects on Gulf ecosystems and communities will be felt for years. Communities and economies throughout the Gulf were devastated by the spill."

"While a cooperative Natural Resource Damage Assessment process is well underway, it will be some time yet before we have a clear picture of the full impact of the spill," Lubchenco acknowledged in her remarks.

Representatives from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative and the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting made two major announcements at a joint press conference late yesterday as part of Capitol Hill Ocean Week.

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative called on national, state and local officials to support effective implementation of the first U.S. National Ocean Policy to better protect local economies, national industries and encourage innovation.

William Ruckelshaus and Norman Mineta, co-chairs of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Leadership Council, presented a report, "America's Ocean Future," with recommendations to help protect ocean health, coastal communities and the jobs that depend on them.

"Our oceans, coasts and Great Lake are an engine of the United States economy," said Mineta. "While some may consider ocean health trivial in a time when our economy is struggling to recover and our government is in crisis, the fact is we need to invest in healthy oceans so that they can continue to support the many jobs that rely on them."

According to the National Ocean Economics Program, in 2007 the ocean economy generated over 2.3 million jobs and more than $138 billion of the GDP of the United States. The data show that 156 million people live in coastal counties, where they hold 69 million jobs that contribute $7.9 trillion to the U.S. economy.

The report recommends: robust federal coordination, in particular enhanced collaboration with and support for states and regions; better collection and delivery of science and data to support decision making; and immediate investments that would increase government efficiency and effectiveness, including through establishment of an ocean investment fund.

In 2012, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative will publicly assess progress toward implementing the National Ocean Policy.

The Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting revealed the 2011 winner of the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment.

James Astill of "The Economist" will receive the $75,000 prize for "The World's Lungs: Forests, and How to Save Them," an eight part special report on the state of global forests and the rising threats they face from human exploitation and climate change.

New Consensus on High Seas Protection

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is celebrating. Last week at the United Nations, countries took the first, essential steps towards closing the huge gaps in international law that leave the high seas beyond national jurisdictions poorly protected.

Countries agreed to establish a UN-based "process" that could lead to a new multilateral agreement under the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

"This truly was an unexpected and exciting breakthrough," says Kristina Gjerde, IUCN's high seas policy advisor. "We were hoping to get this sort of commitment at the Rio+20 conference next year, not at this meeting. But governments were fired up, and willing to compromise on some key issues."

Working within "the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction," established by the UN General Assembly in 2004, countries adopted the recommendations during a four-day meeting that wrapped on Saturday.

If they are adopted by the UN General Assembly later this year, the recommendations could lead to a legal framework for designating marine protected areas on the high seas. Standards could be developed for assessing the impacts of activities that may harm marine life beyond national jurisdictions.

Though much complex work lies ahead, said Gjerde, "A key element of last Friday's decision is that it recognizes, for the first time, the need to share the benefits of marine genetic resources fairly and with particular concern for the needs of developing countries, which often lack the capacity to explore and exploit these resources."

Marine genetic resources can provide the ingredients for life-saving drugs and new types of industrial materials, for example. Failure to treat these resources equitably in the past has stalled attempts to get international agreement for high seas conservation and reform.

The process would address area-based management tools such as marine protected areas, as well as environmental impact assessments, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology among nations.

The high seas are the largest area of unprotected wilderness, covering nearly 50 percent of the planet and 64 percent of the ocean. Since 2003, IUCN has fostered international action to safeguard this "blue heart of the planet," said Gjerde, just as it supports efforts at the national level to conserve coastal and marine biodiversity within national waters.

UNESCO's Inspiration: Youth: the Next Wave for Change

To mark the day, UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission "join hundreds of aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations, and thousands of individuals around the world celebrating the day by participating in fun, inspirational, and educational events," the agency said.

This year, celebrations around the world draw attention to the importance of getting young people in our communities inspired to protect the ocean, kicking off a two-year theme, Youth: the Next Wave for Change.

"The importance of oceans is not matched by our knowledge," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in her message for World Oceans Day. "The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has promoted marine science and research for 50 years, but the fact remains that oceans are still relatively unexplored."

"Knowledge of oceans has long been driven by the need to access and exploit their resources. This must change," she said. "The challenge today is to use marine science to understand and protect oceans, in order to better manage their ecosystems and biodiversity for present and future generations."

In his message to the world today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "World Oceans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of oceans to humankind's sustainable development. It is also a time to recognize the many severe challenges related to oceans. "

"The ecosystem functions that oceans provide, and their importance to the global economy, deserve particular attention as we look ahead to next year's Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development," said Ban.

UNEP's Sustainable Oceans Case Studies

The UN Environment Programme marked the day by launching a report calling for new partnerships to ensure sustainable development for marine and coastal environments.

"Taking Steps toward Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: An Introductory Guide" states that closer partnerships between different marine users - such as fishing communities, the tourism industry and conservationists - can also help coastal communities become better prepared for natural disasters and the impacts of global warming, such ocean acidification and changes in sea levels.

The report shows how sharing knowledge and best practices across different sectors can make marine management more effective, and offers guidance using over 20 case studies and success stories, ranging from polar ecosystems in Antarctica to atolls in the Indian Ocean.

"The future role of marine and coastal ecosystems in human well-being depends increasingly on developing the capacity of countries to manage human uses and impacts in order to ensure that ecosystem health and self-repairing capacity is not undermined," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"Central to a transformational response to decades of overfishing, pollution and unplanned urban development," Steiner said, "will be moving from sectoral marine and coastal management to a joined approach that marries seemingly competing interests."

Europe's Plan to Ease Stress on Fish Populations

At the GLOBE World Oceans Day Forum in London, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki warned fellow lawmakers and distinguished delegates, "In the EU too many stocks are overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they used to be in the nineties, and still dipping year after year. Europe has to rely on imports for two-thirds of its fish."

"Our fleet is obese and our efforts to slim it down have not given us results," she said. If we don't act, Damanaki warned, "We will lose one fish stock after the other, with a possible chain reaction for the ecosystem that is hard to predict."

First, the commitment to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015, which nations undertook in Johannesburg in 2002, has to become a legal obligation, she said.

Next, Damanaki said she wants to put an end to discarding of fish caught in excess of a boat's quota. "It is unethical, unacceptable and certainly not justifiable to consumers anymore; therefore all catches have to be landed," she said.

To help reduce discards, Damanaki is proposing transferable user quotas. "Member States will allow vessel owners to trade these rights between them, so if a skipper, on his way to port, sees that he has more cod than his quota permits, he can ask who is willing to sell him part of their quota so that he can land all his catches."

At the EU level, Damanaki proposed regionalization of practical decisions such as closing an area to fishing, prescribing the use of specific nets, or limiting days at sea, rather than leaving every single decision to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

"It is a form of management based on results rather than methods, and it goes to the advantage of Member States because they have to deal with far less micro-management from Brussels," she said, "and most importantly, because they can devise new measures together with the industry."

Vancouver At Risk of Oil Spills

On the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver, British Columbia, environmentalists are worried about oil spills.

To mark World Oceans Day, the Wilderness Committee is warning against the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill in Vancouver's harbor.

"Most people are totally unaware of it, but every week two tankers carrying three times more crude oil than what was spilled by the Exxon Valdez pass through the narrows of Burrard Inlet, right past Stanley Park," said Ben West, Wilderness Committee Campaigner and a member of Tanker Free BC. "It's a disaster waiting to happen, and the scariest thing is that there are plans to increase six-fold the amount of crude exported through Vancouver."

Kinder Morgan, the U.S.-based multinational corporation, has submitted an application to the National Energy Board of Canada to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline which brings crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

Kinder Morgan's plans include shipping up to six times more unrefined, crude oil from Vancouver.

"Vancouver is rapidly becoming the key point of export for tar sands crude oil on the west coast of North America," said West. "We are opposed to this both because of what this means for the fight against climate change and because of the threat it poses to our Pacific coast."

West will speak Thursday at an event featuring U.S. author and activist Antonia Juhasz. She will introduce her latest book, "Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill," which reports on last year's BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its disastrous aftermath.

"BP and the other oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico assured governments and the public that their drilling techniques were 'safe', and now today we are hearing from the oil industry that these oil tankers in Burrard Inlet are safe," said West. "So it's important for us here to be vigilant, and to consider the disaster in the Gulf when thinking about the massive increase in oil exports going through Vancouver's harbor."

Mapping the Ocean Floor

Starting today, armchair explorers will be able to view parts of the deep ocean floors in far greater detail than ever before, due to a new synthesis of seafloor topography released through Google Earth.

Developed by oceanographers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory from scientific data collected on research cruises, the new feature tightens resolution in covered areas from the former one-kilometer grids to just 100 meters.

The ocean floors contain volcanic ridges, peaks, wide plains and deep valleys, but most areas remain mapped in less detail than the surfaces of the Moon and Mars.

The new, sharper focus is currently available for about five percent of the oceans, showing the huge Hudson Canyon off New York City, the Wini Seamount near Hawaii, and the sharp-edged 10,000-foot-high Mendocino Ridge off the U.S. Pacific Coast.

Viewers can use the "ground level view" feature of Google Earth to take them to the seafloor for a closer look at the terrain. To find which areas offer greater detail, users can download a plug-in, the Columbia Ocean Terrain Synthesis, showing the tracks of research cruises that have produced the higher resolution.

Google's new 2011 Seafloor Tour takes viewers to the Pacific Ocean's Lamont Seamounts, named for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The more accurate data is helping scientists understand the risks posed by some features, including earthquake zones. Viewers can visit Mendocino Ridge, where the Juan de Fuca plate slides toward western North America, and where an earthquake could potentially send a massive tsunami up onto land.

A second virtual tour, Deep Sea Ridge 2000, fueled by the new synthesis and produced by Lamont-Doherty scientist Vicki Ferrini and colleagues, takes visitors to see seafloor hydrothermal vents spewing lava and hot liquids, and to learn about the creatures that thrive there.

"In spite of the importance of the oceans for life on Earth, the landscape beneath the sea is hidden in darkness and poorly mapped," said William Ryan, an oceanographer at Lamont-Doherty who helped created the system used to generate the imagery. "While we can map the surface of planets from spacecraft in a single mission, to obtain comparable detail of the hidden seascape requires visiting every spot with a ship."

Oceana Announces Ocean Heroes Award Winners

Today, Oceana announces that Peter Wallerstein and Sophi Bromenshenkel are the winners of its 3rd annual Ocean Heroes Award. The adult and junior heroes will be officially announced on June 8th in conjunction with World Oceans Day and the start of Oceana's "Be an Ocean Hero" campaign.

Peter Wallerstein, program director at Marine Animal Rescue in El Segundo, California was voted the adult hero for his commitment to rescuing injured marine mammals. For well over 20 years, Wallerstein has been a first responder and the hands-on caretaker of ailing marine animals all over the world.

Eight-year-old Sophi Bromenshenkel of Richfield, Minnesota was voted the junior hero after raising over $3,500 for shark conservation.

"This year's Ocean Heroes are truly impressive, largely because of their tangible achievements towards ocean conservation. Peter has 3,000 marine mammal rescues under his belt and Sophi, even though she is only eight years old, has raised thousands of dollars for shark conservation," said Oceana Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpless. "Individual commitments like these all add up and make a real difference for the world's oceans."

Oceana's 2011 Ocean Heroes contest was launched in March with a national call for nominations. A panel of experts at Oceana sorted through 500 nominations, narrowing the field to six adult finalists and six junior finalists. After inviting the public to vote online, over 12,000 people went to to pick their favorite heroes.

Oceana encourages everyone to take the pledge to "Be an Ocean Hero" at Choose between three pledges - recycle, participate in a beach clean-up, or eat sustainable seafood - and Oceana will share some tips on how to make it happen.

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China, Yangtze River: More extreme weather

China Daily 8 Jun 11;

The severe floods in some parts of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River that were suffering from the severest drought in more than a hundred years points to the reality that extreme weather conditions are becoming more prevalent.

The total area of arable land affected by the drought in the drought-hit five provinces dropped from 3.79 million to 2.3 million hectares in three days from Monday to Wednesday this week.

Grievances against either the dams in the upper reaches of the Yangtze or the unfairness of the heavens won't help the victims of the drought and deluge. What is urgently needed is the means for people to rebuild their lives.

No less important is whether governments at all levels have given enough thought to preparations against potential disasters that might be brought about by extreme weather conditions.

The water conservancy capacity for small and middle-sized water conservancy projects in Central China's Hubei province has dropped by 40 percent in the past several decades, according to statistics from the province's water control bureau. Their capacity to drain flood-waters and irrigate farmland has shrunk by half and more than half of the facilities in all the province's water pumping stations are badly in need of repair or maintenance. And 40 percent of the arable land can hardly resist any drought or flood.

In an extreme case, an irrigation canal built with an investment of more than 1 million yuan ($154,281) was torn apart by local residents in Xishui county of Hubei simply because it was so badly deigned and constructed that it failed to provide the water rural villagers need.

Hubei province is not prepared for the increasingly frequent natural disasters and clearly the situation is no better in other provinces seriously affected by the drought this year.

The water level in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze has frequently fallen to new historical lows in the past decade, reaching a record low this year. Fighting against drought and floods, sometimes both in swift succession, will turn out to be a permanent job in the near future, if it is not at present.

If anything, the need to be prepared and increase vigilance should be the lesson governments at all levels learn from the drought and floods this year.

Investment in water conservancy and irrigation projects will effectively reduce the amount of money local governments will have to pay for disaster relief in the future.

China Daily

Heavy rain forecast for China's drought-hit regions
Reuters 8 Jun 11;

(Reuters) - Heavy rains are forecast for central and southern China over the next 10 days, bringing more relief to some of the drought-hit regions, a government department said.

Citing a weather report by the Central Meteorological Observatory, it added that from June 9 to 12, 20-60 millimetres of rain may fall in the central and lower regions of the Yangtze River basin, with heavy storms predicted around June 14.

The rain may further increase water levels of the Poyang and Dongting Rivers, which run through Hunan, Jiangxi and Guizhou provinces.

This follows downpours over the weekend that alleviated some parched areas.

But the flood and drought management department warned that the drought was far from over, with the water level of the Yangtze River still below normal.

Parts of China along the Yangtze River basin and nearby have endured their worst drought in 50 years or more, with rainfall 40 to 60 percent less than normal over recent months.

The drought has damaged crops and exacerbated a power shortage by cutting power generation from dams, adding a slight bump to near three-year high consumer inflation.

It has affected millions of hectares of farmland, mainly in the five provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze.

Rice acreage in these five provinces accounts for nearly half of China's total rice area, official data show. But early-season rice accounted for only 16 percent of China's total rice output of 196 million tonnes last year.

(Reporting by Carrie Ho; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Rain Gives West European Grain Crops Some Respite

Sybille de La Hamaide PlanetArk 8 Jun 11;

Long-awaited showers finally hit French grain fields over the weekend and more rain is expected this week in most key European producers, but it will likely not be enough to reverse drought damage to winter crops.

"For the moment it is not a revolution," Strategie Grains head analyst Andree Defois said about the French crop. "The fact that there is rain is seen as the end of a yield drain but we are far from conditions that will allow to make up for it all.

"What has been damaged will remain so," she added, explaining that even in ideal weather conditions the remaining grain would not be able to compensate for the lost output.

France, the European Union's top grain producer, which experienced its driest March-May spring period in 50 years and the hottest since 1900, saw rainfall over the last few days and more is forecast until the end of the week.

In key producing regions in northern France, last weekend's rains were the first significant precipitation in four months.

Defois said despite the rainfall Strategie Grains would likely keep its estimate for the French wheat crop unchanged at just above 32 million tonnes.

"The coming rainfall will just consolidate the situation we had reached, preventing it from worsening," she said.

Rain had started earlier in Germany, the EU's second-largest producer, which helped parched wheat recover from drought stress, trading house Toepfer said last week.

The better outlook pressured European wheat futures which lost around 7 percent in the past week.

The U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction forecast normal to far above normal precipitation in most of Europe in the next week.

As opposed to wheat and barley, spring crops in the early stages of growth, such as maize (corn), would continue to benefit from the rainfall, raising hopes of a catch-up.

French agronomist INRA said on Friday showers should allow forage output to recover following a yield drop of about 50 percent in the first two forage harvests of this year.

Strategie Grains said it had cut its area estimate for France's maize crop but would likely not change its yields much.


Additional rains would also benefit Britain's wheat crop, analysts said.

"Any rain is still welcome for the UK crops but we definitely need to see more," said Jack Watts, senior analyst with the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

"It may not revive the crop to yields as much as say the five-year average or the original expectation for the crop but certainly it will have helped relieve some of the concern."

Watts said concerns still centered on the key growing regions of East Anglia and South East England with crops further north and in the west of the country doing "reasonably well."

East Anglia and South East England both had their driest springs for 101 years, according to Britain's Met Office.

In contrast, Scotland had above average rainfall.

Farmers in Spain say unusually heavy rain in recent days which prompted storm alerts in much of the country could damage crops ready for harvesting like barley and durum wheat, but would help ripening soft wheat.

"Rain tends to damage durum above all...and when the heat comes you get diseases you can no longer cure," said Antonio Caton, a crop technician with co-operatives association Cooperativas Agrarias.

"(Soft) wheat isn't ripe yet so rain has been very good for in the most import wheat-growing region, which is Castilla-Leon."

Spain's Secretary of State for Rural Affairs Josep Puxeu predicted Spain's total grain harvest would exceed 20-22 million tonnes, up from 19.7 million last year.

(Editing by Gus Trompiz and Keiron Henderson)

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Island States Hint At Climate Talks Compromise

Gerard Wynn PlanetArk 8 Jun 11;

Small island states, at risk from rising seas due to climate change, hinted on Tuesday at a compromise in order to kick-start U.N. talks on reaching a binding deal to curb global warming.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents 43 countries, said it could consider pledges on emissions cuts made voluntarily by rich nations if they were made into legally-binding targets.

The group has consistently demanded that industrialized countries toughen pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions they made at a climate conference last year in Cancun, Mexico.

The group could consider the emissions pledges under a legally-binding deal, as a first step to keep climate action on track before a review in 2015, also agreed in Mexico, said Leon Charles, AOSIS chief negotiator.

AOSIS has led calls among developing nations for ambitious targets, demanding that world temperatures rise by no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Many experts say that target is already out of reach.

Analysts say the pledges made so far would lead to a roughly 4 degrees C rise in average global temperatures.

"If we're going to get started urgently we need to provide the confidence which you can only get from a legal agreement, so let's take what we did in Cancun and make it binding," Charles told Reuters on the sidelines of June 6-17 U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

About 90 developed and developing countries agreed in Mexico last year to take voluntary climate action through 2020.

AOSIS wanted rich countries to make their pledged emissions cuts binding under a new round of the Kyoto Protocol, whose targets end in 2012, and for developing nations to take on binding actions to slow growth in greenhouse gases.


It is unlikely that the United States, Japan and other industrialized countries could sign up to a new Kyoto round, however.

Negotiations have run out of time to launch a binding successor to Kyoto before present emissions targets end in 2012, the U.N.'s climate chief Christiana Figueres said on Monday.

Kyoto binds almost 40 industrialized countries to emissions cuts from 2008-2012. Poor and emerging economies want to extend the pact, while industrialized nations prefer to replace it, leading to a long-running stand-off.

Charles said that in the longer term, after several years, everything would be on the table.

"What we want then is a legally-binding instrument which encompasses everybody with different levels of responsibility," he said.

"The Kyoto Protocol is still the best platform because there are rules, processes and procedures. These took a long time to develop, 7-10 years."

The U.S. Senate is only likely to ratify an agreement which explicitly tied developing countries, and in particular China, to stand behind their pledge under international law, which looks unsure at present.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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