Best of our wild blogs: 25 Nov 11

Coitus interruptus
from The annotated budak

Cyrene Reef (24 Nov 2011)
from teamseagrass and Nature rambles and Extraordinary Miracles and wild shores of singapore and encounters with nature

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Fish farmers unite to be heard

Group of 38 banking on numbers to bring down costs, raise industry issues to govt
Jessica Lim Straits Times 25 Nov 11;

CLOSE to 40 fish farmers have banded together to form the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore.

Such an association, said its president Timothy Ng - who owns a fish farm off Pulau Ubin - will help to represent the interests of fish farmers, especially the smaller ones.

'If we have the numbers, then it would be easier to have a dialogue with the Government to see how some problems can be looked at and resolved,' said the former deputy commissioner of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

Fish farmers, Mr Ng said, struggle with various issues like the lack of technical know-how when it comes to controlling fish mortality rate, bad water quality and finding cheap sources of feed and fish fry. He said the association is also looking to buy fish fry and feed in bulk to bring down costs, adding: 'Having an association also means that the Government just has to deal with a representative, as opposed to many individuals.'

The association might just have the muscle to do this: it has 38 members, all local fish farmers, up from just eight when it was formally registered in May. The group has met the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) once already, to discuss various issues.

Committee members - made up of eight founding members - meet at least once a month. Membership fees are $38 a year, but more funding may be needed if a big project comes up.

Recently, another group of fish farmers - who had formed the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative - came under probe by the Government following feedback on its governance issues.

There are 119 coastal fish farms in Singapore, which produce 7 per cent of the fish consumed locally. This is up from 4.5 per cent in 2009. The AVA wants to raise it to 15 per cent eventually.

Singapore imports 90 per cent of its food, so producing more fish at home will help protect it from disruptions in global food supply and escalating prices.

The AVA said it encourages the farming industry to work closely. 'The sharing of technology and good farming practices among the farms will also enhance their productivity,' said its spokesman.

In the meantime, members of the new association like Mr Simon Ho, 62, who owns a 30-netcage fish farm in Pasir Ris, hope it can help solve the problems he and other farmers face.

Mr Ho, who rears fish like tiger grouper, said it is not uncommon for at least half of the 4,000 fish fry he buys monthly to die within a week. 'Sometimes all of them die. When they get to Singapore, they just get sick,' he said, adding that the association plans to speak to the authorities about this.

The problem, he said, could be due to issues at the hatcheries overseas, or with waters in Singapore.

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Malaysia braces itself for severe flooding

Lester Kong Straits Times 25 Nov 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has put the country on flood alert, with the year-end monsoon rains expected to trigger severe flooding in the weeks ahead.

Already, three people have died in Kelantan, and 3,610 others - most of them in Kelantan and Terengganu, and some in Johor - have been evacuated to emergency shelters.

Pahang became the fourth state to be hit by rising flood waters, with 11 people forced to leave their homes yesterday, Bernama news agency reported.

Johor and Malacca have been hit by flash floods this week, and weather officials say that heavy rains are expected in Perak, Perlis, Kedah and Sabah.

Government agencies have already been gearing up for new floods during the current north-east monsoon season, which lasts until March.

Nearly 5,200 evacuation centres, which can accommodate up to 1.4 million people, have been set up, according to the Community Welfare Services Department. The authorities have also conducted drills for villagers living in flood-prone areas.

The Health Ministry says its staff in Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah, Pahang and Johor will not be allowed to take leave in the next two months.

'All agencies have been placed on alert conditions,' the National Security Council, which coordinates disaster relief measures, said in a statement.

Rescue boats, trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles, helicopters and equipment like water pumps and electricity generator sets have been serviced and put on standby in areas with high flood risk, it said.

The council, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, said 477 essential supplies centres have been set up and stocked with daily essential items. The council's new Twitter account, with the handle @PortalBanjir, was activated this week to provide constant updates on the weather and river water levels.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said it expects northern states to have 40 to 60 per cent more rainfall this and next month. Perak and Johor could see 20 to 40 per cent more precipitation, it added.

The presence of a 'weak to moderate' La Nina weather phenomenon is expected to trigger more severe rainfall during the next few months, coinciding with the north-east monsoon season which lasts until March.

'Five to six heavy rainfall spells, each lasting maybe two to three days, are expected throughout the country during the season,' Dr Yap Kok Seng, director-general of the meteorological department, told The Straits Times.

Last year's floods displaced about 100,000 people, most of them in the northern states as well as some in Johor, and left four people dead.

Kelantan, which is governed by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia, said its disaster relief measures are already in place, as it is used to the annual flooding.

'We are accustomed to handling flood problems. We always get ready in October for floods, with operation rooms,' said Mr Husam Musa, an executive councillor in the Kelantan state government.

'We have very good coordination with the federal agencies. We have a compulsory duty list for everyone: schools, fire and rescue services, the police and army, and hospitals.'

But Kedah, which is also an opposition-held state, has complained of inadequate federal assistance in the last round of floods.

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Indonesia: Time to ‘evacuate low-lying areas’ in Jakarta

The Jakarta Post 24 Nov 11;

City planning experts have called on the Jakarta government to immediately evacuate low-lying areas in the city’s northern coastal region, saying that it could no longer sustain human settlement.

An expert on coastal area management from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, Muhammad Aris Marfai, said on Thursday that areas like Penjaringan, Muara Angke and Tanjung Priok would continually be inundated by the rising sea water and could no longer sustain human activities.

“Conditions in North Jakarta are deteriorating quickly. Ideally, these areas should not be inhabited anymore,” Aris said on the sideline of the World Delta Summit at the Jakarta International Convention Center.

He said the massive use of land for industrial and residential purposes had significantly reduced the size of water catchment areas in the region. “Coupled with climate change, which triggers the rise of the sea level, the high precipitation, this all worsens flooding in the area,” he said.

With so many settlements in the area, the cost of flooding could be very high.

“The economic cost of flooding as well as potentials for the loss of life are higher in densely populated areas,” he said.

Philip J. Ward, a researcher with the Amsterdam-based Institute for Environmental Studies of Vrei University said that Jakarta could learn from cities in the Netherlands that have relocated residents from low-lying areas.

“Basically, Jakarta is just like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Floods come to Amsterdam and Rotterdam but we rarely experience life loss because we don’t have people living in the flood-prone places,” he said.

Ward said that the city government could convert the abandoned land into farmland. “[Farms] are more adaptive to floods and have less impact,” he said.

Aris, however, warned that moving residents from low-lying areas was not an easy job.

“We have too complicated social networks in those areas. To move people from there is almost impossible,” he said.

He said that the only course of action the city government could take was to prepare the residents to deal with regular flooding.

He said that houses in flood-prone areas should have higher foundations. The areas should also have good drainage systems. “The government should educate people about early warning systems and disaster mitigation,” he said.

Philip said that in Rotterdam, residents who live in the low-lying areas had already prepared themselves for flooding. “They commonly have two-floor houses. They don’t put expensive and vulnerable furniture on the first floor and they set up an emergency kitchen on the second floor,” he said.

Jakarta is situated in a low and flat basin, with 40 percent of its area located below sea level. With a 4.38 mm increase in sea level each year, predictions say that areas in North Jakarta will be inundated in 2030.

Aris said that the prediction could materialize if the city administration failed to take action.

He said that the city administration so far has done a good job in preventive measures, including the project on the West Flood Canal as well as the widening and dredging of major rivers such as the Pesanggrahan and Sunter Rivers in North Jakarta.

“But we haven’t seen the result. Sometimes the problem concerns the city’s lack of consistency in implementing what they have planned,” he said.

Aris said that the public could measure the success of the city’s flood mitigation project early next year. “Next year, we expect to have five-year cycle flooding. I hope the city prepares itself better than it was five years ago,” he said. (lfr)

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Indonesia: Sumatran rhino in Lampung on brink of extinction

Antara 24 Nov 11;

Bandarlampung (ANTARA News) - The Sumatran rhinoceros in Lampung Province is on the brink of extinction duo to poaching activities and weak law enforcement, an environmentalist said.

"The rhino population in Waykambasis is now about 30, and in Bukit Barisan 80. Their reproduction capability is worrying due to the impact of climate change," chairman of the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, Widodo Ramono, said here on Thursday after attending a coordinating meeting on biological natural resource and ecosystem conservation.

The rhinoceros is an endangered animal and only human beings can help them survive, he said.

Ironically, however, human beings have caused the rhino population to drop by their practice of hunting the animal for its organs that are believed to have medicinal properties, he said.

He said a one-year jail term and a fine of Rp300,000 were too mild punishment for rhino poaching.

"The rhino population can be maintained only if the law on animal protection is revised. And this is what we are currently discussing," he said.

The Sumatran rhino population was now in a better condition than the Javan rhino population.

"Nationally, the rhino population is between 180 and 200 but in Lampung alone they number 120," he said.

The Sumatran Rhinoceros is a herbivorous browser that belongs to the order of the Perissodactyla and is one of the three species of Rhinos native to Asia.

Its habitat is dense tropical rain forest and it is to be found in a part of the world stretching from North-East India through Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and the Indonesian Islands of Borneo and Sumatra - hence its name.

It is the most endangered rhino species as its population has declined more than 50% in the last 15 years. There are currently 275 Sumatran Rhinos left in fragmented populations throughout South East Asia.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only Asian rhinoceros with two horns.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Indonesian government urged to pay serious attention to javan rhino
Antara 24 Nov 11;

Surabaya, E Java (ANTARA News) - The government should pay serious attention to the survival of the Javan Rhinoceros (rhinoceros sondaicus) whose population has not increased over the past few years, an environmentalist said.

"The number of Javan Rhinos in the Ujung Kulon national park was around 20-40 heads in 2010," Singky Soewadji said here recently.

He expressed pessimism that the endangered animal`s population could increase in the coming years.

"This is because the area of forested land in Indonesia has shrunk and is continuing to shrink," he said.

Many habitats of rare animals had been converted into plantation areas, he said, adding that quite often plantation managers ordered the killings of endangered animals living in the forests.

"Such a condition is disadvantageous for Indonesia because many of its rare animals will die," he said.

And for the reproduction of rhinos, the animals need particular habitats to mate.

"Both male and female rhinos need comfortable and peaceful habitats which are free from disturbances by human beings. Unfortunately, they cannot find such a habitat nowadays in this country," he said.

If the government did not pay serious attention to the Javan rhinos, the animal would face the same fate as the now extinct Bali tiger and Java tiger, he said.

The number of Sumatran tigers on Sumatra island is estimated at 400 heads now.

The Javan rhinoceros weighs 1500 - 2000 kg (3200 - 4400 lb) and has a length of 3 - 3.5 m (10 - 11`). It has one horn and prominent folds in the skin, similar to the Indian rhino. The horn grows onto a roughened area of the skull (rather than being "rooted" in the skull). The Javan rhino is hairless except for its ears and tail tip.

Apart from the one-horned Javan rhino, Indonesia has the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), which is a member of the family Rhinocerotidae and one of five extant rhinoceroses.

It is the smallest rhinoceros, although is still a large mammal, and has two horns. (*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Indonesia: Tiger population in Bengkulu now only 40

Antara 24 Nov 11;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The Sumatran tiger population in Bengkulu Province is now estimated at only 40, a provincial nature conservation official said.

"According to an estimation by an endangered animal protection organization, the population of the Sumatran tiger in Bengkulu is around 40," Head of the Bengkulu Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Amon Zamora said here on Thursday.

The big cats were to be found in North Bengkulu, Seluma, Kepahiang, Muko-Muko, Lebong, Kaur and other districts, he said.

In 2011, at least two Bengkulu residents were killed by tigers respectively in Seluma and Lebong Districts.

The latest incident was when Fitriani (6) was found dead with tiger bite wounds in her thigh at her village of Tebot Mono, Kepahiang District.

In tiger vs human being conflicts occurring in the districts of Lebong, Bengkulu Utara, Seluma and Muko-Muko respectively, four people were seriously injured.

"Over the past few years, the number of human-tiger conflict cases in Bengkulu has increased. In 2010, there were only eight cases, and in 2011, up to October, there were already 11 cases, and two villagers were killed," he said.

The increased conflicts were due to the depletion of tigers` habitats as villagers often encroached on the tigers` habitats, he said.

The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is a tiger subspecies that inhabits the Indonesian island of Sumatra and has been classified as critically endangered by IUCN in 2008.

The wild Sumatran tiger population is estimated at fewer than 400 individuals.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: NGOs present forest destruction evidence to government

Antara 24 Nov 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Environmental NGOs consisting of Greenpeace, Walhi, KKI Warsi and WBH here Wednesday (Nov. 23) presented evidence of continued forest destruction to the president, the forestry minister, the anti-mafia taskforce and the environmental affairs minister.

"We gathered a lot of evidence showing that companies like Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) are undermining President Yudhoyono`s commitment by continuing to destroy forests and peatlands," said Zulfahmi, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner, in a statement here on Thursday.

Indonesia`s forests and peatlands continue being destroyed in many areas not covered by the Government`s moratorium on deforestation, according to the evidence collected by the coalition of environmental groups.

Six months after the moratorium entered into force, activists taking part in the Tigers` Eyes Tour witnessed large scale ongoing destruction of forest and peatland in many areas of Sumatra.

Activists clad in tiger costumes and riding tiger-decorated motorbikes visited government offices in Jakarta and urged the government to extend the moratorium to protect all peatlands, review all existing permits, and demanded that industry adopt zero deforestation policies.

From the middle of September until the middle of October, activists from Greenpeace, WBH, Warsi and Walhi undertook the "Tigers` Eyes Tour" in Sumatra to document the continuing destruction of Indonesia`s forests.

The campaigners also asked for the support of all Indonesians to help save the tiger`s home by sending evidence of habitat destruction.

"On this journey we also found that APP is still causing social conflicts and destroying Orang Rimba homes. APP must set aside their greediness and stop taking away Orang Rimba livelihoods," said Diki Kurniawan, Manager Policy and Advocacy KKI Warsi.

Last month, several buyers suspended their contracts with APP, because they did not want to be involved in the destruction of Indonesian forests.

"President Yudhoyono has already made the commitment to protect Indonesia`s forests for the term of his presidency. This commitment has to be transformed into real action. He has to act himself to stop the arrogance of companies like APP," Deddy Ratih, a Walhi forest campaigner, said.

The Sumatran tiger`s forest habitat is being destroyed, with only around 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. The Indonesian government estimates that more than one million hectares of forest are being cleared every year.

At the current rate of forest destruction, this magnificent animal that has inspired Indonesia`s rich culture, is likely to follow its predecessors, the Javanese and Bali tiger, into extinction.

"Protecting Indonesia`s remaining forests from companies like Asia Pulp & Paper is more important than ever before. Companies must stop their destructive practices and shift to more responsible operations, while the government must review all existing concessions and protect peatlands," Zulfahmi said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Nigeria, Indonesia top deforestation list, China lowest

David Fogarty Reuters 24 Nov 11;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Nigeria, Indonesia and North Korea have the world's highest rates of deforestation while China and the United States, the top two greenhouse gas polluters, have the lowest, a global ranking released on Thursday shows.

Growing demand for food and biofuels, rising populations, poverty and corruption are driving deforestation in many developing countries, said risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, which compiled an index for 180 countries.

The company used the latest data from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization to calculate changes in the extent of overall forest cover, and in primary and planted forests between 2005-2010. Those at the top are ranked extreme risk.

Australia is ranked tenth and listed as high risk, while India, Vietnam and Spain are at the bottom, with low risk. Brazil is ranked number 8.

Extreme risk countries are losing plant and animal species that help provide benefits such as clean air from forests, watersheds for rivers and mangroves that protect coastlines, services that help underpin economies.

"Deforestation can also hamper efforts for a country to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as forests play key role in mitigating global climate change through carbon sequestration," Maplecroft analyst Arianna Granziera told Reuters in an email.

Forests soak up and lock away large amounts of CO2, helping act as a brake on climate change. Yet deforestation is disrupting this cycle and is responsible for at least 10 percent of mankind's annual greenhouse gas pollution.

The index comes days before the start of major U.N.-led climate talks in South Africa in which delegates are expected to discuss ways to try to curb emissions from deforestation.

Indonesia is losing about 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of forest a year. That's about 13 times the size of Singapore, with palm oil expansion accounting for about 16 percent of deforestation, Maplecroft said.

The government in May began a two-year moratorium on issuing new licences to clear primary forests and peatlands and will conduct regular satellite surveillance to monitor the ban.

Brazil's deforestation fell to 2.2 million ha annually between 2005-2010 but green groups worry changes to national forest protection laws awaiting Senate approval could ease restrictions on the amount of rainforest farmers can clear.

Green group WWF said on Wednesday approval of the revised laws could open up vast amounts of forest to agriculture and cattle ranching.

Nigeria, ranked first in the index, lost just over two million ha of forest annually between 2005-2010 driven by agricultural expansion, logging and infrastructure development.

While China was the best performer because of aggressive protection laws and replanting schemes, it was driving deforestation in other countries, Granziera said.

"China's demand for wood is fuelling increasing imports, much of which comes from the USA and Canada, but illegal imports from Brazil, Cambodia and other developing countries have been reportedly increasing," she said.

The Risk to Our Forests? ‘Extreme’
Ulma Haryanto Jakarta Globe 24 Nov 11;

Despite government efforts, Indonesia still has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, a new study showed on Thursday.

In the ranking of 180 countries released by British risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft, Indonesia was near the top along with Nigeria and North Korea.

“One of the principle risks to the world’s forests is the production of palm oil, which is increasing at 9 percent annually throughout the tropical belt, due to expanding biofuel markets in the European Union and global food demand,” Maplecroft said in a statement on its Web site.

Indonesia, ranked second in the Deforestation Index, is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. Maplecroft estimated that palm oil production accounted for almost 16 percent of total deforestation in the country.

The government in May began a two-year moratorium on issuing new licenses to clear primary forests and peatlands and will conduct regular satellite surveillance to monitor the ban.

But Maplecroft said the Indonesian ban on deforestation was simply forcing palm oil producers to seek land elsewhere, notably in the West African countries of Liberia, Gabon and Ghana, which will likely increase their risk.

Nigeria, ranked first in the index, lost just over two million hectares of forest annually between 2005 and 2010, driven by agricultural expansion, logging and infrastructure development.

Hadi Daryanto, secretary general of the Indonesian Forestry Ministry, said the numbers were “misleading.”

“Their calculation is based on average number,” he said. “They don’t see how much we have reduced deforestation.”

Maplecroft said it based its findings on the latest data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to calculate changes in the extent of overall forest cover, and in primary and planted forests between 2005 and 2010.

Hadi said Indonesia had been losing 3.5 million hectares of forest per year until 2003, but this number had been reduced to 1.1 million hectares in 2009. “By 2010, the amount was down to 700,000 hectares,” he said.

Maplecroft said the countries listed highest were classified as being at extreme risk. That means they are losing plant and animal species, clean air from forests and watersheds for rivers and mangroves that protect coastlines. All of these are services that help underpin economies.

Environmental activists have blamed rampant deforestation for contributing to the threatened extinction of the Sumatran tiger.

“If the forests are not protected, what’s left of the Sumatran tiger is the stories, just like the Java and Bali tigers,” said Rusmadiya Maharuddin, from Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

There are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

Indigenous people are also losing their homes because of deforestation.

On the other end of the scale, Maplecroft, citing heavy investments in protection and ref o restation, ranked the world’s biggest polluters, China and the United States, in the bottom five countries in the Deforestation Index.

Additional reporting from Ismira Lutfia

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New Zealand: Scientists explore dispersant impact

SunLive 25 Nov 11;

University of Waikato Professor Chris Battershill says the true environmental impact of the dispersants used during the Rena oil spill should be known by Christmas.

The Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in October and leaked about 350 tonnes of crude oil into the ocean.

Dispersants were used to help break up the oil before it washed ashore, but the action was criticised by some scientists.

“This is the first big oil spill in New Zealand’s history,” says Chris, “and we’ve quickly realised what isn’t known in this country about oil dispersants and toxicology.”

Dispersants are chemicals put on an oil spill and work a bit like dishwashing detergent on grease by breaking down the slick into millions of tiny oil droplets.

“Unfortunately, we know little about the toxicology of the dispersants on New Zealand species.

“Right now we need to learn more about the coastline and the food chain implications.”

During the spill, more than 20,000 birds are thought to have been injured or killed and studies are still being conducted into the impact on underwater ecology.

“The relevance of dispersant toxicology on New Zealand species is a huge gap in our knowledge.

“We are using similar dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico disaster and are in the dark as to the short-term lethal effects versus the long-term effects on the food chain and ecology.

“It’s the unknowns that are the big problem now for New Zealand,” says Chris.

Research conducted by the university’s Coastal Marine Group in the wake of the Rena disaster is aiming to determine how future marine disasters should be managed.

“The spill globally isn’t much, but because of the pristine coastline we have here, and the iwi and community’s cultural connection to the coast, the impact is significant.

“By Christmas we will know what the degree of impact is and the scenario for cleaning it up.”

Coastal Marine Group doctoral students are researching aspects of Tauranga harbour and summer research scholarship students have realigned their work to examine the impacts of the Rena spill.

Chris says the university will soon have a clearer picture of how long the marine environment will take to recover, following results of chemistry studies of samples. These were taken during initial response surveys two days after the Rena ran aground and the weeks that followed.

The information has added to data gathered by local councils over the last 20 years and builds a good picture of marine habitats prior to any oil being spilled.

“Having this accurate data to hand is a rare circumstance globally.

“In most other cases of oil pollution it has been difficult to quantify the extent of impact and even harder to determine when the ecology will get back to normal, as elsewhere there is little or no ‘before impact’ information making it difficult to know what ‘normal’ is.”

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Chevron suspends Brazil offshore drilling

(AFP) Google News 24 Nov 11;

BRASILIA — US oil giant Chevron Corporation said on Thursday that it had suspended its current and future drilling operations off Rio de Janeiro state, following a crude oil slick in the area.

The company said in a statement that while its Brazilian subsidiary had not received formal notice from the national oil agency of an order to stop offshore drilling it had decided to do so.

"The suspension is indefinite," it said, noting that the area affected included the company's permitted wells in the Frade field, part of what is known as Brazil's potentially massive 'sub-salt' oil reserves.

On November 8, a helicopter from Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras spotted a slick and the leakage was traced to a well operated by Chevron 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) deep near the Frade field, 370 kilometers (230 miles) off the Rio de Janeiro coast.

The national oil agency said on Wednesday that Chevron Brazil's activities would be suspended until "the cause and those responsible for the spill have been identified and safety conditions have been restored in the area."

Brazilian authorities say the spill is now under control and that the oil slick has been reduced to two square kilometers.

George Buck, president of Chevron Brasil Upstream Frade, the subsidiary, apologized Wednesday to deputies and the country for the oil slick.

"I would like to reiterate that we have deep respect for Brazil, for the Brazilian people, for the environment, for the laws and institutions of this country," he said.

"We are going to thoroughly investigate the accident and present the results to the Brazilian people ... so that this does not happen again, either here or in any other part of the world," he added.

Chevron faces a slew of fines from federal and Rio state authorities that together could exceed $145 million.

Buck on Monday said 2,400 barrels of oil had seeped into the ocean between November 8 and 15 but the national oil agency and a non-governmental organization respectively reported 3,000 and nearly 30,000 barrels.

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