Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 12

Video clips of the Mangrove Pitta at Pasir Ris
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A Short Outing to MNT
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

VJC IP students learn about local marine life, threats & how to make a difference!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Read more!

New water alliance launched

Julia Ng Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: A new water alliance has been launched to lead research and specialist consultancy services in Southeast Asia.

In partnership with Dutch research institute Deltares, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched a new water alliance called NUSDeltares.

It aims to pursue high-impact water research and specialist consultancy services in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Singapore, Johannes WG Jansing, witnessed the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between NUS and Deltares.
The Agreement was signed by Professor Barry Halliwell, NUS deputy president (Research and Technology), and Mr Harry Baayen, managing director of Deltares.

NUSDeltares, which arose out of the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance initiative, builds upon the synergy of expertise from NUS and Deltares.

It will develop capabilities in areas such as urban water management; adaptation to climate change; operational management systems; as well as natural hazards, environmental risks and their mitigation.

The new water alliance will develop a network of collaborators across Southeast Asia and offer on-the-job-training or special short or degree courses and programmes.

National water agency (PUB) said the NUSDeltares will add to the vibrancy of the local water R&D eco-system, and strengthen Singapore's growing status as a global hydrohub.

Mr Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB and executive director of the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office, said: "We look forward to the contribution of its world-class experts in further developing Singapore's capabilities in urban water management and cutting-edge water technologies."

Prof Barry Halliwell said: "Sustainable water management is a topic of global importance. NUS already has strong capabilities in water research and management, and the establishment of NUSDeltares will further strengthen our foundation in this area.

"This new partnership deepens our long-standing collaboration with Deltares. We look forward to working closely with Deltares to provide sustainable urban water solutions for Southeast Asia and beyond."

Mr Harry Baayen said: "I am very pleased that our collaboration with NUS will continue via NUSDeltares. NUS is a leading university with international stature as well as a reliable partner for Deltares.

"Together, we provide the essential knowledge for Singapore and the surrounding region to develop innovative solutions for climate adaptation, urban water management, operational systems and natural hazards.

"The strength of this combination can make all the difference, both for public authorities and the business world."

- CNA/ck

Read more!

World Ocean Summit: World Bank to put together coalition to rescue world's oceans

Int'l body will also help muster US$1.5b in five years to protect marine areas
Lynn Kan Business Times 25 Feb 12;

THE World Bank will put together a new global coalition - and help muster US$1.5 billion in five years - to rescue the world's oceans from the threats of overfishing, climate change, and pollution they now face.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, said the Global Partnership for Oceans starts with US$300 million that will give 'technical assistance to key governance reforms that can create the necessary incentives for long-term investment, as well as to help operate marine protected areas'.

Another US$1.2 billion will be sought from stakeholders in the Partnership like governments, international civil society, the scientific community and private sector companies.

An international alliance like the Global Partnership for Oceans was needed, said Mr Zoellick, because the scale of ensuring the sustainability of oceans 'is such that singular efforts are simply not enough'.

'To make our oceans healthy and productive again, we need greater cooperative and integrated action around the globe, so that our efforts add up to more than the sum of their parts,' he said at the two-day World Oceans Summit at the Capella Singapore.

The world's oceans, which cover over 70 per cent of the world's surface, provide 15 per cent of the world's protein consumption. About 350 million jobs are also connected to the oceans through fishing, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism and research. 'When we devalue our natural capital, it is often the poor who feel the greatest harm. Oceans provide a wealth of goods and services that make a tremendous contribution to overcoming poverty, creating opportunity, and spurring economic growth,' explained Mr Zoellick.

The Global Partnership for Oceans will hold its first meeting in Washington, DC in April.

Already, it counts state-level and international organisations like Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, the UN Environment Programme, and the Prince of Wales Charities who have signed up to it.

Private sector actors like the Darden Restaurants and the National Fisheries Institute have also signalled their support.

Mr Zoellick yesterday tabled some ambitious targets for the coalition to achieve in the next 10 years.

One of them is to rebuild ocean fisheries, of which 85 per cent have been exploited or depleted, threatening the stocks of the world's top 10 fish species.

The partnership also aims to turn around fisheries which have been running at a net economic loss of US$5 billion a year to a scenario where they create net benefits of between US$20 billion and US$30 billion.

'We need to turn this around, by allocating and enforcing the rights of fisheries and reforming subsidies,' Mr Zoellick said.

The coalition will also double the 2 per cent of the ocean's surface that are marine protected areas to about 5 per cent. In comparison, 12 per cent of the land's surface is protected.

'There is much more to do. Meeting these goals will take significant steps towards reversing the dangerous, centuries-old deterioration of ocean and coastal ecosystems,' added Mr Zoellick. 'This is a critical start.'

World Bank leads drive to save oceans
Global partnership to tackle problems such as marine degradation
Yasmine Yahya Straits Times 25 Feb 12;

WORLD Bank president Robert Zoellick sent out an SOS yesterday - to Save Our Seas.

To this end, he launched a new international initiative to save the world's oceans.

The Global Partnership for Oceans will bring together governments, international organisations, civil society groups and the private sector, he said.

They will pool knowledge and resources to confront problems such as over-fishing, marine degradation and habitat loss.

For a start, Mr Zoellick said, the partnership will commit at least US$300 million (S$380 million) to fund governance reforms that will create incentives for long-term investment in oceans, and to help operate marine protected areas.

The partnership hopes to raise another US$1.2 billion over the next five years to support other projects.

The World Bank itself is investing a separate US$1.6 billion in coastal zone management, fisheries and marine protected areas.

He was speaking on the final day of the World Ocean Summit organised by The Economist magazine. The three-day conference at the Capella Singapore Resort in Sentosa saw business and environmental leaders discussing issues related to oceans.

He outlined several main targets for the partnership in the next 10 years.

These include rebuilding the world's depleted fish stocks, protecting at least 5 per cent of the world's ocean surface, and increasing the supply of fish from sustainable aquaculture.

'About 85 per cent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted,' he noted.

'We need to do much better, not only to help secure a reliable source of food, but also to take the pressure off ocean fish stocks.'

A statement from the World Bank said that a number of developed and developing countries have pledged support for the partnership. Several organisations have done the same, including the National Geographic Society, the World Ocean Council, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Conservation International. Further discussions will be held to define the new initiative's specific agenda, the statement added.

The head of the UNDP's water and ocean governance programme, Mr Andrew Hudson, noted in a statement: 'Almost all the challenges facing ocean sustainability stem from governance and market failures.'

Conservation International chief executive Peter Seligmann said that as the world's population grows to nine billion people by 2050, demand for food and other resources will double.

'It is in the enlightened self-interest of all nations and all communities to wisely steward our oceans. Collaboration is essential,' he said.

One of the private-sector groups that have pledged commitment to the partnership is Darden Restaurants, which is well-known for its Red Lobster chain of restaurants in the United States.

Its vice-president of seafood purchasing, Mr Roger Bing, said: 'Like so many, we depend on the natural resources the oceans provide, and investing in their health helps ensure the long-term viability of those resources.'

Environmental sustainability has long been a central feature of the World Bank's global strategy. It is involved in a range of projects, from conserving forests to boosting global tiger populations.

World Bank issues SOS for oceans, backs alliance
David Fogarty Reuters Yahoo News 24 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The World Bank announced on Friday a global alliance to better manage and protect the world's oceans, which are under threat from over-fishing, pollution and climate change.

Oceans are the lifeblood of the planet and the global economy, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a conference on ocean conservation in Singapore. Yet the seas have become overexploited, coastlines badly degraded and reefs under threat from pollution and rising temperatures.

"We need a new SOS: Save Our Seas," Zoellick said in announcing the alliance.

The partnership would bring together countries, scientific centers, non-governmental groups, international organizations, foundations and the private sector, he said.

The World Bank could help guide the effort by bringing together existing global ocean conservation programs and support efforts to mobilize finance and develop market-mechanisms to place a value on the benefits that oceans provide.

Millions of people rely on oceans for jobs and food and that dependence will grow as the world's population heads for 9 billion people, underscoring the need to better manage the seas.

Zoellick said the alliance was initially committed to mobilizing at least $300 million in finance.

"Working with governments, the scientific community, civil society organizations, and the private sector, we aim to leverage as much as $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans."


A key focus was understanding the full value of the oceans' wealth and ecosystem services. Oceans are the top source of oxygen, help regulate the climate, while mangroves, reefs and wetlands are critical to protecting increasingly populous coastal areas against hazards such as storms -- benefits that are largely taken for granted.

"Whatever the resource, it is impossible to evolve a plan to manage and grow the resource without knowing its value," he said.

Another aim was to rebuild at least half the world's fish stocks identified as depleted. About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted.

"We should increase the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 billion and $30 billion. We estimate that global fisheries currently run a net economic loss of about $5 billion per year," he said.

Participants at the conference spoke of the long-term dividends from ocean conservation and better management of its resources. But that needed economists, bankers and board rooms to place a value on the oceans' "natural capital".

"The key to the success of this partnership will be new market mechanisms that value natural capital and can attract private finance," Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

He pointed to the value in preserving carbon-rich mangrove forests and sea grassbeds and the possibility of earning carbon offsets for projects that conserve these areas.

"The oceans' stock is in trouble. We have diminished its asset value to a huge degree and poor asset management is poor economics," Stephen Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, told the conference.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

World Bank urges global action to save oceans
AFP Yahoo News 25 Feb 12;

The World Bank on Friday said the world's oceans were at risk and called for a coalition of governments, NGOs and other groups to protect them, aiming to raise $1.5 billion in five years.

"The world’s oceans are in danger," from over-fishing, marine degradation and loss of habitat, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said. "Send out the S-O-S: We need to Save Our Seas."

About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, including most of the stocks of the top 10 species, he told the World Oceans Summit in Singapore.

"The facts don't lie and the statistics are we are not doing enough, we are not accomplishing enough and the oceans continue to get sick and die," he said.

Zoellick said there were already "considerable resources devoted" to restoring the planet's oceans, but a huge, coordinated global effort was needed.

He proposed several targets for the Global Partnership for Oceans to achieve in the next 10 years, including rebuilding at least half of the world's fish stocks.

Marine protected areas should be more than doubled, he said, noting that less than two percent of the ocean's surface is protected compared to around 12 percent of land.

On the economic side alone the implications are enormous if little is done, he told the gathering.

In developing countries, one billion people depend on fish and seafood for their primary source of protein and over half a billion rely on fishing as a means of livelihood, Zoellick said.

For developing countries, including many island and coastal nations, fish represent the single most traded food product, and for many Pacific Island states fish make up 80 percent of total exports.

Zoellick described the initiative as a "new approach".

The coalition "will bring together countries, scientific centres, NGOs, international organisations, foundations and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals," he said.

As a starting point, the partnership is committing to raise at least $300 million in "catalytic finance", meaning funds that would be used for technical assistance for key governance reforms, he said.

Another $1.2 billion would be raised "to support healthy and sustainable oceans," he added.

"This would total $1.5 billion in new commitments over five years," he said, adding that the World Bank would convene the first meeting of the partnership in Washington in April.

Environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lauded the initiative.

"WWF welcomes the renewed interest in the Bank in marine conservation activities. I think this is an important step forward to help all of us advance the marine conservation agenda," said Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation for the WWF.

He told AFP the proposal would help to reform global fisheries to make them more sustainable, raise the visibility of marine protected areas and promote ocean conservation to governments and the public.

Addressing the conference on Thursday, Kiribati President Anote Tong called for a change in the way humanity treated oceans.

"We must cease to behave as if we live in a cowboy economy, with unlimited new territory to be conquered," he said.

People must "learn to treat our oceans something like a spaceship where every effort has to be made to recycle materials, reduce waste and pollution and manage resources sustainably," he added.

Read more!

World Ocean Summit: Using - not abusing - the precious Arctic

Exploit resources only after standards are set, summit told
Amanda Eber Business Times 25 Feb 12;

'THE Arctic is hot.'

That's how Gustaf Lind, Swedish Ambassador for the Arctic, opened his introductory speech during the 'The Arctic: Beacon of Hope?' session of The Economist World Oceans Summit on Thursday afternoon.

Making a seemingly contradictory statement, he explained the cause to be both literal temperature increases due to climate change, as well as the metaphorical heat of the burgeoning business interests, environmental concerns, political interests and media attention currently focused on the Arctic.

Mr Lind added that the Arctic Council was 'gearing up for the challenges' looming in the future that would require 'close cooperation' between scientists and politicians as well as the importance of involving indigenous people in the decision-making process.

During the session, Anton Vasiliev, Ambassador at Large, Russian Representative to the Arctic Council, also announced Russia's launch of a new project for further Arctic exploration.

Similarly, Robert Blaauw, senior Arctic advisor of Shell International, stressed the importance of unconventional energy sources in the face of ballooning global energy demands.

According to him, energy demand is set to double present levels by 2050 and Shell sees the Arctic as a potential new source to meet this growing need.

Mr Blaauw attempted to address environmental concerns on Arctic drilling by stating that Shell's oil spill response plan had been approved by the US authorities.

'If we couldn't do it, we wouldn't,' he said.

However, this did little to assuage the worries of the environmentalists at the session. Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, questioned the true ability of potential extractors like Shell to respond to oil spills under unfamiliar Arctic conditions - raising the point that the US federal requirements Shell meets apply only to temperate waters and do not hold for the vastly different conditions in the Arctic.

Lisa Speer, director of the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed.

'A major oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico is like having a heart attack in a New York City hospital,' she said. An Arctic oil spill would, for example, vastly limit the ability of the US Coast Guard to respond.

A possible solution was put forth in the form of an argument for specific standards to be established for the Arctic before any activities are carried out. Ultimately, as Mr Vasiliev put it: 'The Arctic is our house, our future - we want to keep it clean.'

Read more!

Factbox: Why oceans are key to the global economy

Reuters Yahoo News 24 Feb 12;

(Reuters) - Oceans carry the bulk of the world's trade, are a major source of food and employment and help regulate the planet's climate but they are under threat from pollution, over-fishing and global warming.

Governments and businesses are increasingly aware of the value of oceans but are struggling to address the many threats that imperil seas around the globe. The World Bank is steering a new global alliance on the issue.

Following are some facts about the world's oceans, the threats they face and some emerging solutions.


Oceans are Earth's most valuable asset, the World Economic Forum (WEF) says and their "natural capital" is huge, contributing $70 trillion to global gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

The value of ecosystem services oceans provide is $38 trillion annually, the WEF says.

For example, 80 percent of our oxygen comes from oceans, while the seas act as huge stores of heat and carbon, essential for regulating the climate. Seafood, reefs and tourism are major sources of jobs and wealth, while mangroves, reefs and deltas help protect coastlines.

Oceans support 90 percent of global trade volume and 40 percent of global trade value, the WEF says. More than 3.2 billion people live within 100 km (60 miles) of the sea.

Fisheries are a major source of food, providing more than 1.5 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per-capita intake of animal protein, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

The value of fish caught in seas and inland waterways totaled $94 billion in 2008, the FAO says. The rapidly growing aquaculture sector, such as fish and shrimp farms, added a further $98.4 billion.

In 2008, an estimated 45 million people were directly engaged, full time or, more frequently, part time, in fisheries or in aquaculture. That's twice the population of Australia.

One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related and more than a third of U.S. gross national product originates in coastal areas.


About 95 percent of the vast underwater world of all oceans is unexplored, the World Economic Forum says. Yet all of it is under threat, it says.

The United Nations Environment Program's Global Environment Outlook says three-quarters of marine fisheries are exploited up to, or beyond, their maximum capacity.

The U.N.'s most recent "State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture" report says 85 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited or worse.

Oceans support nearly 50 percent of all species on Earth. Many species are endangered, and some coral reefs are dying or damaged because of a combination of pollution, rising water temperatures and increasing ocean acidity as the planet heats up and the sea soaks up extra carbon dioxide from power stations, industry and cars.

Pollution from the oil and gas sector is another threat.

Masses of garbage are littered across the ocean floor or trapped in huge gyres, or rotating ocean currents, in the Pacific and elsewhere.

Large areas of protective mangroves have been also lost.


There are many and include:

Curbing the growth of carbon dioxide emissions and limiting the pace of ocean acidification. Protecting natural barriers such as coral reefs or mangroves can be a cost-effective way to reduce damage from storms.

Putting a value on the carbon stored in mangroves and sea grass beds can also lead to better protection. Boosting the network of marine protected areas, including no-take reserves, is another.

At a major U.N. meeting in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed to a target of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020. Such levels of protection apply to less than 2 percent now, the World Bank says.

The United Nations says many of the benefits from nature are still taken for granted, often because there is no value assigned to them. Rethinking how businesses value nature and incorporate those values into balance sheets will refocus decision-making in board rooms towards less destructive practices, the world body says.

Sources: WEF, UNEP, NOAA, FAO, Reuters

(Writing by David Fogarty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Read more!

New Zealand: WWF calls for total ban on set nets in rare dolphins’ range

WWF 24 Feb 12;

Wellington, New Zealand - WWF-New Zealand today reiterated calls on the Government to ban set net fishing throughout Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins’ habitat, to prevent more dolphins dying needlessly in nets. The call came as two Hector's dolphins were reported killed by the illegal use of set nets within a sanctuary for the endangered species.

WWF-New Zealand’s Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird said these latest deaths were a further blow for a species already threatened with extinction: “We can’t keep on losing dolphins like this. This latest incident follows the death of a critically endangered Maui’s dolphin in a set net, and neither species can sustain this kind of death toll. We are saddened at the news of these two dolphins found dead, it is a grim reminder that dolphins are still dying needlessly in fishing nets.”

Fishing with nets is the main reason the numbers of Hector’s dolphins have declined so rapidly; the nets entangle the dolphins and cause them to drown. Since the 1970s, their population has plummeted from around 30,000 to just over 7,000 today.

“The Government is launching an inquiry into the illegal use of set nets inside the Banks Peninsula sanctuary, but the fact of the matter is the dolphins remain unprotected in large parts of their range. The Government is clearly struggling to enforce piece-meal regulations – if it is serious about protecting this species, it needs to send a clear signal to fishers by banning nets in our coastal waters.”

She said the government’s own research shows the dolphins have the best chance of recovery if all human threats to the dolphins’ survival are removed: “Current protection falls short of what’s needed for the dolphins to recover their numbers, so they are no longer threatened with extinction. This is a wake-up call for the Government – do they want the species to recover or are they willing to preside over their decline?”

“For a species that has lost nearly three-quarters of its population in just three decades, we need to be pulling out all the stops to help them recover. And that means making sure no more dolphins die needlessly in nets,” she said.

WWF is campaigning for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to be protected adequately from human threats throughout their natural range to allow their numbers to recover to their pre-1970s abundance.

She said “Globally set nets are recognised as a very wasteful method of fishing, they catch and kill everything in their path. We are encouraging fishers to change to more sustainable methods that don’t catch dolphins,” said Ms Bird.

WWF advocates for the Government to develop and implement an effective action plan for the recovery of the species that also identifies, manages and mitigates all other threats to Hector's and Maui's to ensure their recovery, such as boat strike, pollution, coastal development sand- mining and exploration for oil and gas.

Read more!

Demand for ivory soars despite ban

Sharp jump in poaching of rhinos and elephants
Nirmal Ghosh Straits Times 25 Feb 12;

BANGKOK: Last week's massacre of almost 300 wild elephants by poachers in a national park in the African nation of Cameroon underscores the tragic reality that the ivory trade is booming, more than two decades after it was banned.

The killings stunned the government, whose wildlife guards are no match for well-armed poachers who are often veterans of civil wars.

There has been a sharp jump in the poaching of elephants and rhinos for ivory and horns. Ivory is prized for carvings in China and for personal seals, or 'hanko', in Japan. Rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine, though there is no evidence it has medical properties.

Last year, the authorities seized 23 tonnes of elephant tusks, from around 2,500 dead elephants - more than in any other year since 1989, when the ivory trade was banned.

The jump reflected 'both rising demand in Asia and the increasing sophistication of the criminal gangs behind the trafficking', the international wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic said in December.

The size of the latest massacre in Cameroon 'has no comparison to those of the preceding years', Ms Celine Sissler Bienvenu of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told a local newspaper, The Voice.

Money from ivory sales to Europe and Asia funded arms purchases for use in regional conflicts, particularly the ongoing unrest in Sudan and in the Central African Republic, she said.

Asian elephants have also come under renewed pressure. This month, a sniffer dog called Tracy tracked down 32kg of ivory hidden in a forest by a poacher. The ivory was taken from an elephant killed in eastern India's Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary.

And this month, in the Malaysian state of Kedah, wildlife and parks enforcers raided two houses, seizing eight tiger skins and nine elephant tusks.

There has been a similar surge in poaching of rhinos. From 2000 to 2007, only about a dozen rhinos were poached each year in South Africa, where nearly 90 per cent of all African rhinos live. But in 2010 the number shot up to 333. Last year, it reached 440.

The craze for rhino horn has left even old mounted rhino heads in museums unsafe. In July last year, poachers broke into Ipswich Museum in Britain and cut off the horn of a mounted Indian rhino.

The Chinese market is the common factor for both ivory and rhino horn. Demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has also soared recently, apparently on rumours that it is a cure for cancer.

In South Africa, the authorities have begun restricting Vietnamese 'hunters' from signing up for legal, controlled rhino hunts where they can take away the horn of the dead animal, provided it is not used for medical purposes.

Vietnamese traders have been arrested trying to smuggle out rhino horns, and in 2008, a Vietnamese diplomat was recalled from South Africa after being filmed buying rhino horn.

US authorities on Wednesday night arrested seven people, including a Chinese national, on charges of trafficking in rhino horn.

There are proposals now for allowing stockpiles of rhino horn - some of which is in private hands - into the market to drive down prices and relieve the pressure on wild populations.

But that approach hasn't worked with ivory, analysts say.

After years of bitter debate, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in 2008 allowed China and Japan to buy 108 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The argument was that releasing the stocks into the market would save more wild elephants from being killed.

But studies by the British-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in 2010 and last year revealed that up to 90 per cent of ivory on sale in China was still coming from illegal sources, and prices of legal ivory had increased to US$7,000 (S$8,760) per kg.

The reality, say analysts, is that putting a product into the market stimulates demand for it.

'In effect,' said Ms Mary Rice, an executive director of EIA, 'instead of stemming the poaching by satisfying the demand, the sale of the stockpiles has simply fuelled the demand for illegal ivory.'

Read more!

Amazon removes whale meat products from Japanese site

Public outcry forces online retailer to ditch products including whale bacon, whale jerky and canned whale meat
Justin McCurry 24 Feb 12;

Environmental groups are claiming a major victory after the online retailer Amazon removed whale meat products from its site in Japan.

Amazon was accused of hypocrisy by the UK-based environmental investigation agency (EIA) after investigators found 147 whale products for sale on the site, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Seattle-based company.

The products contravened the firm's policy of refusing to advertise unlicensed or illegal wildlife products, including endangered species.

Some of the items came from whale species listed as endangered, according to's Unpalatable Profits, a report by the EIA and the Humane Society International.

Others were traced to Japan's annual "research" hunts in the Antarctic, during which it slaughters more than 900 minke whales and a small number of fin whales.

Links to the products, which included whale bacon, whale jerky and canned whale meat, were active on Tuesday night, but had been removed by the following day after Amazon's chief executive, Jeff Bezos, received tens of thousands of messages of protest via email, Twitter and other social media.

"We welcome Amazon's action to remove whale products from its Japanese website but urge Amazon to confirm it will enact a company-wide ban on the sale of all products derived from whales, dolphins or porpoises," said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner for the agency.

The EIA said its investigators bought the products late last year, adding that some contained excessive levels of mercury, while labels on up to a third of the items did not list the species.

Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International UK, said: "In just 24 hours, more than 35,000 supporters have appealed to Amazon for a total ban on the sale of whale, dolphin and porpoise products. The public wants these animals protected rather than killed and sold for profit."

The EIA report said: "The most popular product at the time of research was coastally caught Baird's beaked whale jerky, sold by Hakudai company. The second most popular item, also a Hakudai product, was Icelandic fin whale bacon."

The agency also released a 50-second video drawing attention to the sale of whale products widely available online.

Read more!

Philippines: Reclamation projects feared to endanger ecosystems

Kristine Alave Philippine Daily Inquirer 24 Feb 12;

About 38,000 hectares of coastal land in the country would be swallowed up by new real estate and commercial projects that seek to copy reclamation projects in Singapore and Hong Kong, a document from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said.

A December 2011 letter from the agency to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said there are 102 reclamation projects covering 38,000 ha in the country under the Aquino administration’s private-public partnership program. Of that number, 38 are located in the coast of Manila Bay. These projects encompass 26,234 ha.

There are seven projects in Cebu with 6,000 ha, while another seven constituting 238 ha are slated in the Davao Gulf. The PRA said 50 projects are scattered in other provinces such as Albay, Iloilo and Leyte, covering 5,000 ha.

The plan to use the coastal areas for commercial projects was approved by the Cabinet economic cluster last year, the PRA said. According to the document, the economic managers recognized the “huge potential investments” that the projects could generate.

It cited the successes of Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, which developed their harbors and coasts into commercial areas.

Various environmental groups have hit the government’s plan to create new land from sea for real estate and commercial purposes saying it destroys ecosystems and displaces fishermen. It also heightens threats like storm surges.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and Pamalakaya, a progressive group for fishermen, have challenged plans to cover parts of the Manila Bay with soil.

In a statement yesterday, Pamalakaya urged the DENR, which has directed the concerns of PRA to its regional offices, to stop the reclamation project for the sake of the endangered bird species and the livelihood of fishermen along the coast.

“Public interest compels the DENR to refrain from issuing clearances to these reclamation activities the PRA want to undertake on a nationwide scale,” Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap said.

Some 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos in the early 1990s to give way to reclamation projects, Pamalakaya said.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines previously expressed fears that the large-scale reclamation projects in Manila would destroy mangroves and wetlands that are home to endangered bird species like the Chinese egret and Philippine ducks.

Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines called for the protection of the Davao Gulf in Mindanao.

Raising an alarm over the unregulated and intrusive man-made and industrial activities in the gulf, WWF said Davao Gulf has one of the highest marine mammal diversity in the country and is part of the Coral Triangle.

The organization stressed that the gulf is a breeding and nursery ground for small and large pelagic species. It is also frequented by whale sharks, dugong and leatherback turtles.

Read more!

2011 Was Ninth Warmest Year in Decades, NASA Finds Yahoo News 25 Feb 12;

Continuing a trend of warming over the past few years, NASA scientists say 2011 was the ninth warmest year in terms of average global temperatures since 1980.

In fact, nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

The report was released today (Feb. 24) by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis. Average temperatures around the globe in 2011 were 0.92 degrees Fahrenheit (0.51 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline in the mid-20th century.

"We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting," said GISS Director James Hansen. "So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record."

Essentially, low solar activity means less heat energy is reaching Earth, and if all other things were equal, that would mean cooler temperatures. However, a recent NASA report released this month revealed this prolonged lull in the sun's activity did not prevent the Earth from absorbing more solar energy than it let escape back into space. These results confirm greenhouse gases produced by human activities are the most important driver of global climate change, according to the researchers led by Hansen.

These greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. Over time, as the gas concentrations have increased and, in turn, more energy gets trapped, the globe has seen higher temperatures.

This long-term GISS temperature record allows scientists to get a handle on global warming. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists don't expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades. And that's what they are finding: The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record, 2010, is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 degrees C).

In addition, the record shows the first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared with the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century to make the list of top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.

The results come from weather data collected at more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea-surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements.

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years, because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Niño will increase temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

"It's always dangerous to make predictions about El Niño, but it's safe to say we'll see one in the next three years," Hansen said. "It won't take a very strong El Niño to push temperatures above 2010."

Read more!