Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jan 12

Checking up on the oil spill near Pulau Pawai
from wild shores of singapore

Preliminary result of Mandai mapping project
from Mangrove Action Squad

White-throated Rock Thrush
from Life's Indulgences

Asian Koel comfort call?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Carrefour to stop selling shark's fin too

Supermarket will pull product by year end
Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 7 Jan 12;

A DAY after Singapore's biggest supermarket chain announced that it will stop selling shark's fin, another supermarket has said it intends to do so by the end of the year.

A spokesman for Carrefour told The Straits Times yesterday it will no longer sell shark's fin after its current stock runs out.

He said the French supermarket chain, which has outlets at Suntec City and Plaza Singapura, is doing this on its own initiative, as a socially responsible retailer.

Three other supermarket chains - Sheng Siong,

Giant and Shop N Save - said they have no plans to stop selling shark's fin. However, all three added that they do not advertise or run any promotions on their shark's fin products.

FairPrice announced on Thursday it would become the second supermarket chain here, after Cold Storage, to stop selling shark's fin. This followed a public outcry over an insensitive Facebook post made by 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.

Outraged netizens began posting on FairPrice's

Facebook page on Wednesday, urging it to stop selling shark's fin. Within 24 hours, the chain announced that shark's fin will no longer be available at its more than 230 retail outlets from April.

Following FairPrice's announcement, similar comments made their way onto Sheng Siong's Facebook page.

Animal rights groups welcomed the latest announcement, which they say is a significant move by a major retailer.

They noted, however, that there are still many businesses that trade in shark's fin.

Ms Sarah Ong, a campaign manager at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, said it will continue to work with companies to stop the sale of sharks.

'We proactively approach hotels and restaurants that still serve shark's fin... usually the key discussion is to see how they can progressively remove shark's fin from their menus,' said Ms Ong.

Some major businesses which have said no to shark's fin, such as Fairmont Singapore and Cold Storage, have done so in partnership with WWF Singapore.

WWF Hong Kong was also instrumental in the Peninsula Hotel Group's decision to stop selling shark's fin from Jan 1.

Other groups like Project: Fin and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society have also campaigned against consumption of shark's fin.

WWF's Ms Ong said she spoke to FairPrice about nine months ago about pulling shark's fin off its shelves, but it said it was not ready.

'We were already talking about it, but it's interesting to see how the backlash from their consumers accelerated the decision,' she added.

A Cold Storage spokesman said yesterday its decision to stop selling shark's fin in October last year was primarily based on its own corporate values and responsibilities. He added that the practice had not affected its bottom line.

Cold Storage also made a commitment last year to sell only sustainable seafood and other products as part of its conservation efforts. Sustainable seafood is fished or farmed in ways that do not harm the ecosystem.

In 2010, WWF Singapore launched a pocket-size pamphlet called the Singapore Seafood Guide, which advised consumers what seafood came from sustainable sources and what did not.

According to the guide, some local favourites like tiger prawns, humphead wrasse and polkadot grouper caught in South-east Asia should be avoided as their populations are under threat. So far, WWF Singapore has distributed about 180,000 copies of the guide.

Conservationists said supermarkets should adopt the list and label their seafood accordingly, so shoppers know what they are buying.

Ms Jennifer Lee, founder of Project: Fin, said there is still a long way to go and her focus will still be on educating both consumers and businesses about shark's fin.

'Recently, I saw one organisation selling gift hampers with canned shark's fin and I wrote to them immediately,' she said.

Carrefour joins shark fin boycott in Singapore
(AFP) Google News 8 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE — French retail giant Carrefour will halt sales of shark fin products in its Singapore outlets after current stocks run out as a supermarket boycott of the delicacy gains steam, media reported Saturday.

A Carrefour spokesman told the Straits Times it will not replenish its stocks of the environmentally controversial products after they sell out.

The company is the world's second-largest retailer and operates two supermarkets in Singapore's city centre.

It told the paper the decision was made on its own initiative as a socially responsible retailer, but it could not be reached for comment on whether the ban would extend to its other outlets worldwide.

Shark fin remains a sought after delicacy in Singapore, where it is largely served at Chinese festive celebrations and wedding receptions.

According to the conservation group WWF, the city-state is the world's second largest shark fin trading centre after Hong Kong.

WWF-Hong Kong says the consumption of shark fins is a driving factor behind the threat to shark populations, with more than 180 species considered threatened in 2010 compared to only 15 in 1996.

The Carrefour report came a day after Singapore's largest supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice declared it was halting sales of shark fin products.

NTUC FairPrice -- a cooperative run by the city-state's national trades union -- said it would drop the products from April after an inflammatory comment by one of its suppliers attracted a flurry of complaints.

The supplier had said "Screw the divers!" in an online promotional message for a new product to be launched at FairPrice outlets during the upcoming Lunar New Year.

The comment, apparently directed at divers campaigning against the shark fin trade, went viral on Facebook and microblogging site Twitter.

Retailer Cold Storage was the first Singapore chain to stop selling shark fin, which it did in September last year as part of a collaboration with WWF, local media reported.

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Five kinds of seafood to avoid

Straits Times 7 Jan 12;

THE Singapore Seafood Guide, published by the World Wide Fund for Nature, recommends that consumers avoid 18 kinds of fish and seafood, as their populations are under threat. Here are five of them:

Bluefin tuna wild-caught from global oceans (right)

The populations of bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic and Southern Oceans are overfished. They are considered critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Bluefin tuna fisheries also generate a high amount of bycatch - species caught by accident - including endangered wildlife such as dolphins, marine turtles and sharks.

Humphead wrasse wild-caught in South-east Asia

This species grows slowly and matures late, making it at risk of being overfished. It is considered endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Polkadot grouper wild-caught in South-east Asia

Considered a rare species in the wild, the polkadot grouper is listed as vulnerable on the Red List and likely to face extinction if no action is taken to protect it.

Tiger prawns farmed in Indonesia and Thailand (right)

Poorly managed prawn farms are causing problems such as pollution and the spread of diseases in the marine environment.

All sharks

Many shark species are overfished, and more than 180 are listed as threatened on the Red List.

Every year, 73 million sharks are killed, primarily for their fins.

As the top predator in the marine food chain, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the whole ecosystem.

Source: World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore

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Heritage debate a good sign

Goh Yi Han Straits Times 7 Jan 12;

FOR many Singaporeans, the recent debate over what should be done to preserve the Bukit Brown area might have been their introduction to the notion that cemeteries have some kind of heritage value beyond the quirky or offbeat (read: ghost stories and spirits offering 4-D lottery numbers).

But not for me. In secondary school, I joined some schoolmates in designing a tourism package as part of a project for a geography contest. Determined to show an alternative side of Singapore, we settled on promoting tours of cemeteries.

Beyond generic concerns about 'respecting our forebears', you'd be surprised at how much one can learn about this country's culture and history from the final resting places of its people.

A traditional Chinese tombstone usually states the dead person's province of origin. Round pillars on a Muslim grave mean a woman is buried there, and flat ones indicate a man. The Armenian and Jewish quarters of some older cemeteries are a testament to the communities within our society that have come and gone in years past.

We thought we had a sure winner, but we came in second. The reason? The judges felt our idea was not feasible as visitors would not care, or they would be too superstitious to sign up. So you can understand why recent events made me want to turn to anyone and say 'I told you so'.

Vindication aside, I am glad to see how many people are helping to prove those judges wrong. Clearly, more Singaporeans are starting to think about how best to preserve collective memories, whatever the aesthetic merits. They want to have a say, rather than leave the heritage board to decide what is worth keeping and what isn't.

Many of those speaking up seem older - for instance, the Methodist Girls' School alumni working to save the Old School buildings at Mount Sophia. Besides the fact that they were the ones who attended MGS before it moved in 1992, perhaps it is also because they grew up in a landscape that changed rapidly post-independence, erasing many memories of their growing-up years.

In fact, I do wonder if today's young people feel the same way. What significance do we attach to the school where we spent nights cramming for exams? Are we thinking about what we want to have around 50 years later that we can reminisce about with our grandchildren? By the time we decide to do anything, it might be too late.

So whatever the outcome of the debate, at least we are having one. Better sooner than later. If not, the day may come when we have nothing but malls and curiously named condominiums to hang on to - and nobody to blame for it but ourselves.

The writer, 23, is a second-year law student at Columbia University.

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HK environmentalists outraged at landfill proposal

(AFP) Google News 5 Jan 12;

HONG KONG — Environmentalists lashed out Thursday at a proposal by the Hong Kong government to create 25 man-made islands off the city's coast, claiming effects on marine ecology would be "irreversible".

In a desperate attempt to ease land shortage, officials proposed the creation of a 1500-hectare man-made giant island and 24 other smaller islands on Wednesday.

If constructed, the mega artificial island would have an area larger than the island reclaimed for Hong Kong's international airport and would require claiming land from sea up to 14.5 metres deep, the government said.

But environmentalists are concerned that the proposed sites will affect the Southern Chinese city's natural shorelines.

"The impacts brought by reclamation projects are irreversible and particularly damaging, and it should be avoided in and around areas of high ecological and fisheries importance," Samantha Lee, senior conservation marine officer of World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong told AFP Thursday.

In particular, the landfill will affect areas of "extremely high ecological importance", she said, including the habitats for the Hong Kong endemic Bogadek's burrowing lizard and 30 species of soft corals, gorgonians and black corals.

"WWF urges that the government think thoroughly about such far-reaching plans," Lee added.

Government officials would not confirm that sites chosen for reclamation were only intended for housing and said they could become sites for facilities such as oil depots or factories, which would free up land in the urban area for other developments.

Last year, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang pledged to tackle the city's soaring property prices and vowed to further boost the city's land supply in response to rising public anger over soaring property prices.

Demand from wealthy Chinese investors has driven apartment prices beyond the reach of many low and middle-income earners in the Asian financial hub of around seven million people.

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