Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jan 12

Eunuch Spiders
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Other Critters @ Bukit Brown
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Brahminy Kite passing on prey in midair
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Screw the divers: The sad tale of Thern Da Seafood Pte Ltd.
from Mad As A Marine Biologist

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No shark's fin products at FairPrice by end March

Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 6 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - Shark's fin products will no longer be sold at over 100 FairPrice outlets by the end of March this year. The retailer will cease selling shark's fin products at all its retail outlets, which include FairPrice supermarkets, FairPrice Finest, FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets, Cheers and FairPrice Xpress petrol stations, and FairPrice Online.

NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng told Today that it has been looking into the area of shark's fin products for the last few months, "in our commitment to be a socially responsible retailer."

"FairPrice has always focused our efforts on social sustainability by reaching out to the less privileged in the community, helping them to have access to daily needs but, at the same time, we recognise that there are other areas of sustainability such as environmental sustainability that need to be addressed," he said.

FairPrice will no longer be extending new commitments for shark's fin products but will honour current commitments to its suppliers. "In other words, this will be the last Chinese New Year in which customers can buy shark's fin products at all our stores," said Mr Seah.

This announcement comes after an incident in November last year when an employee of Thern Da Seafood, a supplier of shark's fin products to FairPrice, made disparaging remarks about divers who were against shark finning on his Facebook page. This sparked an online protest, with many raising their concerns on the wall of FairPrice's Facebook page.

FairPrice said on its Facebook page yesterday that all its suppliers are required to clear joint promotional materials and messages before implementation. In this incident, the supplier had not complied with the standing instructions.

Stating that it takes the matter very seriously, FairPrice will be withdrawing all products from Thern Da Seafood across all their stores, it said.

Cold Storage ceased the sale of shark's fin products in October last year. When contacted, a spokesperson for Sheng Siong, which operates 25 stores in Singapore, said that they do not have concrete plans to do so at the moment.

Outrage over posting on supplier's webpage
FairPrice to stop selling shark's fin products after...
Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 6 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE'S largest supermarket chain, FairPrice, yesterday announced that it will stop selling shark's fin products from April this year.

The move follows an outcry over a post on the Facebook page of one of its suppliers.

The comment 'Screw the divers' - an apparent reference to diving enthusiasts campaigning against the shark's fin trade - appeared on the Facebook page of Thern Da Seafood. It was announcing the launch of a new shark's fin product at FairPrice outlets.

The post drew much criticism and went viral on the social networking site and also microblog Twitter. Many who commented called for a boycott of both the supplier and FairPrice.

Comments also made their way onto FairPrice's Facebook page. Among them were calls for FairPrice to look again at its corporate social responsibility policy and to stop selling shark's fin.

In a statement yesterday, FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said it would stop selling shark's fin products by the end of the first quarter of this year.

This will be in effect across FairPrice's more than 230 retail outlets, which include FairPrice Finest stores, FairPrice Xpress petrol stations and also its online store.

Mr Seah said FairPrice had been looking into the sale of shark's fin products in the past few months as part of its commitment to being a socially responsible retailer. He also said it would be withdrawing all products from Thern Da Seafood.

'We do not condone such insensitive remarks. As a standing instruction, all our suppliers are required to clear their joint promotional materials and messages with us before implementation... the supplier had not complied with our standing instruction,' he said.

A spokesman for Thern Da Seafood said the company had been unaware of the post, which was put up in November last year, until Wednesday.

He said the post was not representative of the company's position, and was made by a staff member tasked with managing the Facebook page, which was deactivated on Wednesday night.

The spokesman said: 'We have immediately, upon notice of the matter, removed the comments and reprimanded the staff member. We have also dismissed and terminated the employment contract of the staff member concerned.'

In recent years, the consumption of shark's fin - considered a delicacy in traditional Chinese culture - has been a controversial issue.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, six species of sharks are considered critically endangered.

Conservationists have also pointed out that shark's fin, on its own, has no taste nor nutritional value.

In Singapore, imports of shark's fin have nearly doubled since 2003 to about 2,500 tonnes in 2010, up from 1,300 tonnes about eight years ago.

The growing calls for sharks not to be eaten have prompted many companies, like upmarket Hong Kong hotel chain the Peninsula Hotel Group, to stop selling shark's fin from Jan 1 this year.

Last September, local supermarket chain Cold Storage was the first to pull all shark's fin products from the shelves of all its 42 outlets.

It is unclear how much shark's fin is sold yearly by FairPrice, but one supplier said demand typically picks up during the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Mrs Doreen Goh, who runs Yeow Seng Shark's Fin, said yesterday that her company has supplied between 3,000kg and 4,000kg of frozen shark's fin and 2,000 cartons of canned shark's fin to FairPrice for sale during this Chinese New Year.

'We are one of FairPrice's biggest suppliers of shark's fin, and we have not heard anything from them,' said Mrs Goh, who was surprised to hear the news.

However, the news of FairPrice's withdrawal of shark's fin products was welcomed by netizens.

Within five hours of the announcement being made on the That's My FairPrice Facebook page, it drew close to 400 'likes' and more than 100 comments.

Ms Jennifer Lee, founder of Project: Fin, which aims to reduce the consumption of shark's fin through the education of both consumers and businesses, noted that FairPrice's move could have some impact on other businesses.

'This may get others that still sell shark's fin, such as restaurants, to rethink their policy,' she said.

Going forward, Ms Lee and others like biologist Xu Qiaoling hope that supermarkets will in future stock only seafood from sustainable sources - in other words, from areas where the ecosystem is not threatened by overfishing.

Said Ms Xu: 'FairPrice's recent move to stock locally farmed fish was a good start, but I hope they will not stop there.'

NTUC FairPrice withdraws all Thern Da products
The New Paper AsiaOne 7 Jan 12;

THIS will be the last Chinese New Year where you can buy shark’s fin products from FairPrice outlets.

Singapore’s largest supermarket chain announced yesterday that it will stop selling such products by the end of March.

In another surprise move, FairPrice is also withdrawing from its shelves all products from one seafood supplier – Thern Da Seafood – after one of its employees made insensitive comments about divers who were against shark finning.

A Mr Chris Lee had announced in a recent Facebook post that a product supplied by his company – containing shark’s fin – would be launched this month at FairPrice outlets during Chinese New Year.

Mr Lee, who is listed as Thern Da’s sales manager, said: “S***w the divers!”

He then went on to mock the divers for being unable to stop his company from supplying the product.

Mr Lee even directed an expletive at them, saying: “I’m not the one who slashed the sharks.”

His comments, which were made last November, angered netizens.

On Wednesday, they complained about the matter on FairPrice’s Facebook page. And yesterday, FairPrice acted.

The supermarket announced it was withdrawing all Thern Da products from its stores.

Its chief executive officer, Mr Seah Kian Peng, told The New Paper in an e-mail reply: “We know many customers are upset by the insensitive post.

“We do not condone such insensitive remarks.”

Mr Seah explained that as a standing instruction, all FairPrice’s suppliers are required to clear their joint promotional materials and messages with the retailer before implementation.

Thern Da had not done so in this instance.

Said Mr Seah: “We take this matter very seriously.”

He also announced that FairPrice will cease the sale of shark’s fin products by the end of March.

This will apply across all its retail formats, including its supermarkets, hypermarkets, Cheers outlets and its online platform.

The decision was made after a review over the last few months. Said Mr Seah: “We recognise that there are areas of sustainability, such as environmental sustainability, that need to be addressed. “As such, we have been continually assessing various policies in our commitment to be a socially responsible retailer.

“We will no longer be extending new commitments for shark’s fin products.” Netizens applauded FairPrice’s decision.

One said: “I’m so happy to see NTUC make such a courageous stand.

“Thanks for making sure future generations will have healthy fish stocks in the ocean.”

But another netizen said: “Well done, FairPrice, though removal of shark’s fin products before CNY will send an even stronger message in your commitment to sustainability.

“Such an announcement before CNY might result in an abnormal spike in demand, which will be detrimental to your cause.”

It was reported last October that Cold Storage was the first supermarket chain in Singapore to stop selling shark’s fin and other shark products.

Thern Da, a private company registered in 2008, could not be reached for comment.

Its Facebook account, as well as Mr Lee’s, appear to have been deleted.

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Thai Elephant Killed, Mutilated ‘for Restaurants’

Jakarta Globe 5 Jan 12;

Bangkok. Thai wildlife officials on Thursday said body parts from a dead wild elephant found without its tusks, tail and penis were likely destined for restaurants in tourist areas.

The creature, which was discovered in Kaeng Krachan National Park near the Burma border in central Thailand on Monday, is believed to have died at the hands of a local gang of poachers.

“They cut its tusks, trunk, sexual organ and tail. Those parts must be sold to the middleman and will be sent to restaurants in the main tourist spots like Phuket, Surat Thani and Hua Hin,” park head Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn told AFP.

“There is a team of elephant hunters in this area. They are stateless people who live along Thai-Myanmar [Burma] border,” he added.

The wildlife department has found four elephant carcasses killed by poachers in the past three years.

Chaiwat blamed ineffective laws for the increase in the crime and putting more than 250 wild elephants and the officers in danger.

Thailand is known as a global hub for the illegal ivory trade, with a dramatic rise in seizures of tusks in recent years as the decimation of the kingdom’s elephants has seen poachers turn to Africa for their plunder.

The country has an ivory sculpting tradition dating back to the late 19th century when an estimated 100,000 elephants roamed the kingdom.

Since then most have been lost to poachers and the clearing of their forest habitat, and now just a few thousand remain, many working in the tourism industry.

Benefiting from its location, Thailand exports much of the ivory to China — where it is traditionally used in medicinal powders — and Japan.

Agence France-Presse

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Malaysia: Strong winds, rough seas warning off coastal areas

The Star 5 Jan 12;

PETALING JAYA: A Category Three strong winds and rough seas warning has been issued for waters off several areas including the east coast until Tuesday.

The Meteorological Department said conditions were dangerous for all coastal and shipping activities including workers on oil platforms.

“Strong northeasterly winds over 60kph with waves more than 5.5m occurring over waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, east Johor, Samui, Tioman, Bunguran, Condore, Reef North and Layang-Layang are expected to continue until Tuesday.

“The coastal areas of the east coast are also vulnerable to sea rise,” it said.

The department also issued a Category Two strong winds and rough sea warning with waves of up to 4.5m for waters off Sarawak, FT Labuan, Sabah (Interior, West Coast and Kudat), Reef South and Palawan, making it dangerous for fishing and ferry services.

Strong winds and high waves warning in several states
The Star 6 Jan 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Intermittent to moderate rain expected in several areas in Pahang and Johor from Sunday is likely to prolong until Monday, the Meteorological Department said.

In a statement, it identified the areas in Pahang as Kuantan, Pekan, Rompin and Maran and those in Johor as Mersing and Kota Tinggi.

The department also issued a warning of north-easterly winds of 60kph and waves higher than 5.5 metres in the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, eastern Johor, Samui, Tioman, Bunguran, Condore, Reef North and Layang-Layang until Jan 10.

It also issued a warning of winds of between 50 and 60kph and waves higher than 4.5 metres up to Jan 10 in the waters off Sarawak, Reef South, Palawan, Sulu, Federal Territory of Labuan and several areas in Sabah such as Pedalaman, Pantai Barat, Kudat and Sandakan. The department said the wind and sea conditions would be dangerous for beach activities, shipping, fishing and ferry services. BERNAMA

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Australia: Urban estuaries 100-fold weaker as ‘Blue Carbon’ sinks

ECOS Magazine a href="">Science Alert 6 Jan 12;

Australian scientists have reconstructed the past six thousand years in estuary sedimentation records and found that changes in plant and algae abundance point to a possible undermining of these natural coastal carbon sinks.

The findings, published in Global Change Biology, show an increase in microalgae relative to seagrass in the past 60 years. This shift could diminish the ability of estuaries to mitigate climate change.

‘We have effectively gone back in time and monitored carbon capture and storage by coastal ecosystems, finding a 100-fold weakening in the ability of coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon since the time of European settlement,’ said University of Technology Sydney’s Dr Peter Macreadie.

‘This has severely hampered the ability of nature to reset the planet's thermostat’.

The scientists collected soil cores from sites in and around Botany Bay. A chronology for the cores was determined using radiocarbon dating. Changes in plant and algae composition over time were then determined according to the change in isotopic ratio of the organic matter in the sediment.

The team's analysis suggests the relative reduction in seagrass and increase in microalgae coincided with a time of rapid industrial expansion and increased nitrogen deposition.

These findings are critical because plants such as seagrass have a relatively large carbon sink capacity, which plays a critical role in mitigating climate change.

‘Unfortunately, this outcome is common to urbanised estuaries throughout the world, therefore the study adds further support for the inclusion of Blue Carbon habitats (seagrasses, saltmarshes, and mangroves) in greenhouse gas abatement schemes,’ said Dr Macreadie.

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U.S. Forecaster Warns La Nina May Linger To Spring

Rene Pastor PlanetArk 6 Jan 12;

The U.S. government forecaster warned on Thursday that La Nina, the weather phenomenon widely blamed for withering drought in the southern United States and South America, may persist longer than expected, into the Northern Hemisphere spring.

In a monthly update, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said the latest sea temperature data suggests La Nina "will be of weak-to-moderate strength this winter, and will continue thereafter as a weak event until it likely dissipates sometime between March and May". A month ago it said La Nina should dissipate "with the onset of the northern spring".

The prolonged phenomenon, although weaker than it was a year ago, threatens to roil commodity markets from corn to coffee as dry conditions in Argentina and Brazil whither crops while the southern United States -- a prime growing area for cotton and some wheat -- suffers through a once-a-century drought.

La Nina, which can last for several years, is the opposite number of the more infamous El Nino anomaly and is caused by an abnormal cooling of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

El Nino leads to warming of those waters. Both wreak havoc in weather patterns from South and North America to India and possibly even Africa.

"During December 2011 - February 2012, there is an increased chance of above-average temperatures across the south-central and southeastern U.S. below-average temperatures over the western and north-central U.S.," said the report from the CPC, part of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Also, above-average precipitation is favored across the northern tier of states, excluding New England, and drier-than-average conditions are more likely across the southern tier of the U.S."

The effects of the current phenomenon are already being felt keenly in Latin America, where estimates for the 2011/12 corn crop from Argentina, the world's No. 2 supplier, have been slashed by as much as a fifth, while Brazil's soybean crop is also withering due to a prolonged dry spell.

Without persistent rains within the next two months, Argentina's soybean crop could also be at risk.

In the United States, an extended dry period could cause problems for farmers from the Carolinas to Kansas planning for sowing cotton in the spring, analysts said, particularly in top growing state Texas.

Although recent storms have helped restore moisture in Kansas, the severe Southern drought in Oklahoma and Texas has already drained the soil there, Sterling Smith, senior analyst at Country Hedging Inc said.

"It could worsen the possibility of a dry spell in Texas," said Smith.

In leading palm grower/exporter Malaysia, severe monsoon rains from La Nina could disrupt harvesting and boost palm oil prices.

Rains in the December to March period are also posing a threat to the coffee crop in Colombia, the world's top source of high quality beans.

La Nina lasting until the Northern Hemisphere spring would also bring it to the cusp of the start of the annual Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

In the last two years when La Nina was present, more storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean, but most veered away from the U.S. mainland, with the exception of Hurricane Irene and the severe damage it caused in states from New Jersey to Vermont.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

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