Best of our wild blogs: 23 Oct 11

Semakau at high tide, with hot spring?
from wild shores of singapore

Long Net Stinkhorn (MacRitchie 091011)
from Trek through Paradise

111021 NTU
from Singapore Nature

Life History of the Common Mormon
from Butterflies of Singapore

Food of the Asian Koel
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Flash flood at Upp Serangoon Rd due to choke in illegal drainage

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 22 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: The national water agency PUB said Friday's flash flood along Upper Serangoon Road was due to a choke in a temporary drainage which was constructed without PUB's approval.

PUB said the choke occurred in a temporary diversion drainage located next to the slip road leading from Upper Serangoon Road to MacPherson Road.

It added the temporary drainage was constructed by a contractor carrying out road works for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) at the Woodsville flyover.

The contractor had demolished an existing 5 metre-stretch of box drain and diverted the flow to two pipes.

PUB said these pipes were under-sized and not properly connected.

Its officers also found debris and obstruction in the drain, severely restricting the flow of rainwater, which then caused the flood.

The problem has since been rectified under PUB's instructions and supervision.

The contractor will be prosecuted for obstructing and altering the drainage system without approval.

- CNA /ls

Contractor's actions led to flash floods: PUB
Straits Times 24 Oct 11;

FLASH floods last Friday in Upper Serangoon Road were caused by a choke arising from unauthorised changes to a drainage system, said national water agency PUB.

A temporary drainage was built by a contractor undertaking a Land Transport Authority roadwork project at the Woodsville flyover, said a PUB spokesman.

The contractor had demolished an existing 5m stretch of box drain and diverted the flow to two pipes measuring 30cm in diameter, she added, noting that they were undersized and not properly connected.

Investigators found debris and obstruction in the drain that severely restricted the flow of rainwater and caused the flash flood.

Floodwaters subsided only after an hour and 15 minutes.

The spokesman said the contractor has since made rectifications under PUB's instructions and supervision. The work was completed at 4am last Saturday.

'PUB takes a serious view of the contractor's actions and will prosecute the contractor for obstructions in the drain and altering the drainage system without approval,' she said.

Other areas hit by floods during the two-hour heavy rain included a section along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, the junction of Jalan Pemimpin and Bishan Street 21, and the slip road from Kranji Expressway to Woodlands Road. In Little India, areas affected included Norris Road, Owen Road and Roberts Lane.

The National Environment Agency website said showers with thunder in the afternoon are expected today and over the next two days.

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Malaysia: Hawksbill turtles landings up by 50% in Malacca

Allison Lai The Star 22 Oct 11;

MALACCA: The landing of Hawksbill turtles along the Malacca coastline has increased by 50% over the last three years.

“This is due to ongoing conservation and monitoring efforts,” said WWF peninsular Malaysia seas programme manager Gangaram Pursumal.

Efforts by WWF and the state Fisheries Department, which include protecting and preserving the natural habitat of the species, had helped encourage turtle landing and increased nesting sites.

Based on the department’s statistics, there were 402 Hawksbill turtle nesting sites along the Malacca coastline, an increase from 380 in 2009.

“In fact, we have recorded the highest nesting of 471 in 2008, which was a leap from 376 in 2007,” he told reporters after the launch of the Hawksbill Melaka Ecotourism project at Ismah Beach Resort at Padang Kemunting beach in Masjid Tanah here on Thursday night.

Gangaram said the ongoing efforts were focused on preserving turtle habitats, minimising the pilfering of turtle eggs and also reducing turtle deaths due to fishing activity.

“Constant monitoring and patrolling of beaches, especially during the nesting season, was carried out to prevent the theft of turtle eggs,” he said, adding some 100,000 eggs have been hatched in Malacca over the last two years.

WWF-Malaysia Acting Conservation Director Dr Sundari Ramakrishna said the Hawksbill Melaka Ecotourism project consists of a holistic educational activity designed for visiting families.

“Disturbance to turtles and their habitats will be minimised,” she said.

The project, she said, would see resorts and lodging operators along the Malacca coastline implement a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) and introduce proper guidelines to their guests during tourism activities.

Department director Rosmawati Ghazali said the effort could further enhance Malacca’s attraction as an ecotourism destination.

The state is home to the largest population of nesting Hawksbill turtles with an average of 400 nestings annually.

Major nesting beaches included Pulau Upeh, Terendak Camp, Padang Kemunting, Tanjung Bidara, Balik Batu, Pasir Gembur, Tanjung Dahan, Tanjung Serai and Meriam Patah.

Guidelines set to protect hawksbill turtles
The Star 7 Oct 11;

MALACCA: The state Fisheries Department is enhancing its guidelines on beach development including on reserves for turtle landing areas to protect the hawksbill turtles population here said Rural and Agricultural Development Committee chairman Datuk R.Perumal.

He added that more comprehensive guidelines were required to protect the turtle’s habitats.

Turtle landing areas such as beaches of Pulau Upeh, Padang Kemunting and Kuala Linggi said Perumal, should be reserved for the purpose.

“We are worried that rapid development on beach areas would lead to the destruction of turtle landing areas.”

The exco commented on this at a briefing on beach development guidelines and baby turtle adoption scheme at the Fisheries Department here recently. – BERNAMA

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U.S.: Goliath grouper's comeback creates conflict

Kate Spinner Sarasota Herald-Tribune 22 Oct 11;

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When anglers targeting sweet-eating snapper instead see the hulking shape of a 400-pound goliath grouper at the end of their line, expletives usually follow. Not in awe over the size of the fish - the Gulf of Mexico's largest grouper that can reach 8 feet in length and top out at 800 pounds - but in anger over the loss of their dinner.

The goliaths often eat hooked or speared game fish before anglers can get them in the boat. While reputably tasty, the giant groupers are protected and illegal to keep. "They eat any fish you put a hook in," said Captain Gary Gilliland, who works at Economy Tackle in Sarasota. "Most recreational guys that want to catch something different, they hate them."

As goliath have grown in size and number, so has the vitriol toward the giant fish, a product of their partial rebound since a 1990 ban on their harvest saved them from extinction.

The goliath's rebound, driven by continued state and federal restrictions, has created an unusual conflict between wildlife officials who see them as threatened and anglers who see them as a nuisance.

In Southwest Florida, more fishermen are having encounters with goliaths, in part because of the expansion of artificial reefs that concentrate fish and anglers in the same places.

As a result, fishermen - both commercial and recreational - are beginning to demand the right to harvest goliath. Conversely, conservationists want the federal government to give the goliaths further protection by putting them on the endangered species list.

To help solve the conflict, scientists Christopher Koenig and Felica Coleman of Florida State University are beginning a 3-year study to document the goliath's recovery and figure out whether it makes sense to allow anglers to catch and keep them.

Formerly known as jewfish, goliath are the largest groupers in the Western North Atlantic, thriving mainly in tropical regions. They can reach 800 pounds and live 50 years.

They prefer to eat box crabs and require little sustenance because of their lazy habits. When goliath see a hooked or speared fish, however, it looks like easy dinner, and they will defend their claim to it, giving fishermen the perception that goliath are ravenous beasts.

"They're like big puppy dogs, they really are. I could show you video where they come right up to you and you could put a hand on their face," Koenig said.


A partial recovery

Although large numbers of goliath grouper seem to have returned to the shallow, offshore waters between Tarpon Springs and Marco Island, including Sarasota's coast, they are rare elsewhere.

The International Union for Conservation, of which the United States is a member, considers goliath critically endangered, just one step away from extinction in the wild. A petition to put them on the U.S. endangered species list was filed last year by WildEarth Guardians.

A misconception exists that goliath have fully recovered because of their increasing interaction with fishermen, said Captain Tom McLauglin, who runs catch-and-release charters for goliath grouper out of Englewood.

"It's rebounded in really small areas. They tend to congregate most heavily in areas we fish a lot," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin also fishes commercially, spending 300 days a year on the water. Artificial reefs draw large numbers of fish, including goliath grouper, away from smaller, natural reefs. On top of that, artificial reef locations are widely publicized.

While most fishermen are respectful, some do not follow fishing laws and there is virtually no law enforcement on the water, McLaughlin said.

He often finds goliath pierced with stainless steel J-hooks, which are illegal and deadly. He also finds them regularly wounded by spears, proof that fishermen sometimes target them illegally.

On one occasion, in Boca Grand Pass, McLaughlin found three dead goliath tied to an anchored rope. They had been speared.

"There are a lot of instances of people killing them or injuring them because they think they're catching their fish," McLaughlin said. "The ironic thing about it is they are killing a fish that is 20, 30, 50 years old in favor of a fish that is 5 years old."

Other fishermen argue that allowing a restricted harvest of goliath grouper would help to alleviate fishermen's frustration and return balance to the reefs.

"It's long overdue, 10 years overdue," Gilliland said, adding that sometimes 30 goliath will congregate at a wreck or reef. "There's not any reason that I can see to not let people take them."


A goliath scapegoat

When regulators start talking about overfishing of game fish such as smaller groupers and red snappers, and instituting smaller bag limits, some fishermen blame goliath.

The refrain that goliath are eating all the fish is common, but it is based on faulty logic, scientists say.

"They remove themselves from the equation," Koenig said. "They don't see themselves as having an impact on all these species they are fishing for."

Koenig's research - an analysis of stomach contents from more than 100 goliaths - shows that more than 60 percent of the goliath diet consists of crabs, not healthy snappers or other groupers. Research using stable isotopes also shows that goliath eat low on the food chain, more like pinfish than sharks.

Further, reefs inhabited by goliath host more abundant and diverse fish populations than reefs where they do not. One reason, Koenig speculated, is that goliath tend to expose more structure by digging out ledges buried by sand.


Opening up goliath fishery

There is tremendous pressure from fishermen to once again allow the harvest of goliath groupers, but state and federal regulators say science has not shown that the species can handle it.

Data on the fish is weak. Scientists do not know how many there are now, nor how many existed historically.

With the help of anglers, Koenig and Coleman's 3-year project will attempt to correct that by establishing the age, location and abundance of goliath. Fish are not killed during the research.

Koenig says he doubts goliath will ever recover enough to fully open the fish to commercial and recreational harvest. Without tight restrictions, he said, fishermen could bring the goliath population back down to 1990 levels in two months. "They're too easy to catch," Koenig said.

The fish do not fear people and they spawn all at once in large groups, making them susceptible to swift overfishing.

In addition, goliath rely on healthy mangrove forests more than most other groupers. They spend the first four to five years of their lives living among the mangrove swamps.

Past drainage projects, commercial agriculture and development have ruined or polluted most of Florida's mangroves. The few that remain are concentrated in Southwest Florida. Koenig ties a direct link between those healthy mangroves and the goliath's isolated population rebound.

McLaughlin worries that fishing regulators will allow goliath to be fished too heavily in too few areas. That many fishermen also view them as expendable, sparks his concern.

"There are a lot more now than it used to be, but who's to say that's how many there should be," he said.

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UN close to ban on West's toxic waste exports

Deal is struck to stop poor nations becoming global dump
Sarah Morrison and Paul Carsten The Independent 23 Oct 11;

One of the most persistent and insidious pollution problems visited by the West on the developing world has taken a huge step towards a permanent solution this weekend.

A UN environmental conference in Cartagena, Colombia, attended by more than 170 countries, has agreed to accelerate a global ban on the export of hazardous waste, including old electronics and discarded computers and mobile phones, from developed to developing countries.

Environmental campaigners, who have been battling to broker a deal on the dumping of toxic waste for more than 20 years, said they were "ecstatic" about this "major breakthrough".

Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace's EU chemicals policy director, told The Independent on Sunday: "This is a great breakthrough for the environment and human health. Finally, the way forward into forcing developed countries to assume responsibility for their own hazardous waste and stop shipping it to developing countries has been agreed.

"All forms of hazardous waste including that sent for recycling, to obsolete electronic waste, will be banned from leaving wealthy countries destined for developing countries."

The ban will be introduced when 17 more countries ratify an amendment to the 1989 Basel Convention, a treaty aimed at making nations manage their waste at home. It is expected that this could be achieved in two to five years. More than 50 countries have already ratified it.

The ban was adopted as an amendment to the Convention in 1995, but a disagreement, about how it would be translated in law, left it inactive for years.

Now, after a deal was brokered by Indonesia and Switzerland at the conference, a legal obstacle has been lifted by the 178 parties in attendance.

Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), said he was "ecstatic" with the decision: "I've been working on this since 1989 and it really does look like the shackles are lifted and we'll see this thing happen in my lifetime."

Mr Puckett added that there are no reliable estimates on how many tons of toxic waste are exported as nations do not accurately record or report what they ship abroad.

He said a private US company will, for example, list waste as "exports" when sending them to a developing nation so they can avoid paying taxes and other fees. The UN has estimated that, worldwide, up to 50 million tons of electrical and electronic goods which had come to the end of their lives were being thrown away every year – of which only 10 per cent is recycled – and often end up in landfills in developing countries.

Up to 1.2 million second-hand televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners were estimated to have entered the Philippines between 2001 and 2005, and, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine Board of Investment, 60-70 per cent of it came from Japan.

An investigation by CBS News at a landfill in Manila found an increasing prevalence of tuberculosis among workers and their children, which a doctor treating them attributed to chronic exposure to burning copper from the electrical goods. One community youth leader had brought more than 200 people suffering from TB to a health centre.

The chemical, which coats much of the e-waste burned by the women and children at the dump, polyvinyl chloride plastic, is even more dangerous due to its emission of carcinogenic gases, according to scientists.

A 2008 Greenpeace report found containers of e-waste from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands being opened at Tema harbour, the biggest port in Ghana. The team documented children, most between the age of 11 and 18, but some as young as five, taking the electronic scraps apart with their bare hands, releasing toxic fumes.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal allows members to ban imports and requires exporters to gain consent before sending toxic materials abroad. But critics say insufficient funds, widespread corruption and the absence of the US as a participant have undermined the convention, leaving millions of poor people exposed to heavy metals, PCBs and other toxins.

The issue took centre stage in 2006 when hundreds of tons of waste were dumped around the Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan, reportedly killing at least 10 people and making tens of thousands ill. The waste came from a tanker chartered by the Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, which had contracted a local company to dispose of it.

China has received global attention over electronic waste export issues since 2002, when environmental groups exposed "egregious" electronics recycling and disposal practices in the city of Guiyu, a place reported by scientists to have the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the world. Scientists found pregnancies in the city to be six times more likely to end in miscarriage, with seven out of 10 children reported to have too much lead in their blood – a metal which can have irreversible effects on a child's nervous system.

The US, the world's top exporter of electronic waste, is among nations that have yet to ratify the original convention. "Unless the US joins the treaty they are just going to be a renegade," Mr Puckett said, adding that the US has no rules for exporting electronic waste, which it sends mostly to China but also to Africa and Latin America.

Mr Puckett said shipping companies had opposed their inclusion in the ban, wanting to keep sending old ships to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to scrap them. "Earlier this week another six people died on the beaches of Bangladesh," he said.

The global ban has been strongly backed by African countries, China, Colombia and the EU, which already prohibits toxic exports. Opponents have been led by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and recently joined by India, said Mr Puckett.

While it is illegal in Britain to export hazardous waste to other countries, the Environment Agency, who has its own crime team looking into the matter, said there are 11 ongoing investigations into illegal shipments abroad. One case is due to be tried tomorrow at Basildon

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