Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jul 12

Life History of the Dark Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

Heart urchins at Sentosa shore
from wonderful creation

How's Labrador shore doing?
from wild shores of singapore

Sac(ré) bleu
from The annotated budak

Apples keep the rain away...
from Psychedelic Nature

Soft and silty Changi Beach
from Peiyan.Photography

As It Happened: Launching the “Private Lives: An Expose of Singapore’s Rainforests” book and the Digital Nature Archive (DNA) of Singapore from Raffles Museum News

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Malaysia: Johor State park requests for special body to monitor illegal oil spill activities

Desiree Tresa Gasper The Star 7 Jul 12;

JOHOR BARU: A special body should be set up to overlook the hundreds of vessels that pass by Tanjung Piai headed to the port in Singapore to ensure that they do not involve themselves in illegal oil transfer or sludge dumping activities.

Johor National Park director Suhairi Hashim said the current enforcement was not sufficient as more than 300 vessels pass by the area on a daily basis.

“We have brought up this matter many times with the relevant agencies during meetings and most of the time, the reply we get is that they do not have enough manpower to ensure that the hundreds of vessels were not conducting illegal activities,” he said.

Suhairi said the problem of oil or sludge washing up and destroying the Tanjung Piai National Park was a long-standing issue and the pollution, if not controlled, will continue to destroy the beautiful mangrove forest.

“We need to put in place a proper team to manage this problem.

“We also need environmentalists or those related to the industry to come up with ideas on how we can clear oil spills and ensure that the mangrove trees survive,” he said.

Suhairi added that previously, even after cleaning up the sludge and oil which washed up into the mangrove forests, many of the trees still died.

“We are in desperate need of help and we call out to anyone with ideas to contact us immediately,” he said, adding that the latest spill, which occurred on June 26, had affected 600m of the 562ha forest.

Meanwhile, fishermen at Kampung Nelayan Pengkalan Tanjung Piai also said they were fed up of always having to deal with the problem of oil and sludge washing up from the sea.

“We know that vessels passing by are conducting illegal oil dumping or oil transferring activities and this is causing major pollution in the area,” said fisherman Jemadin Atan, 50.

He added that fishermen would always help clean up the oil but they were fed up of the same problem recurring in the area.

“There is not point in just cleaning. Something needs to be done to beef up enforcement and solve the problem at the root,” he said, adding that whenever an oil spill occurs, fishermen would suffer as their nets and other fishing equipment would be damaged due to the oil and sludge.

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Plastic in Birds' Stomachs Reveals Ocean's Garbage Problem Yahoo News 7 Jul 12;

Plastic found in the stomachs of dead seabirds suggests the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of North America is more polluted than was realized.

The birds, called northern fulmars, feed exclusively at sea. Plastic remains in their stomachs for long periods. Researchers have for several decades examined stomach contents of fulmars, and in new study they tallied the plastic products in dead fulmars that had washed up on the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, Canada.

The research revealed a "substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past four decades," the researchers said in a statement.

"Like the canary in the coal mine, northern fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans," said Stephanie Avery-Gomm, the study's lead author and a graduate student in University of British Columbia's Department of Zoology. "Their stomach content provides a 'snapshot' sample of plastic pollution from a large area of the northern Pacific Ocean."

Plastic products deteriorate slowly and several studies in recent years have shown vast amounts plastic and other trash in the Pacific Ocean. The garbage can be harmful to the entire ecosystem, scientists say.

The new study found that more than 90 percent of 67 fulmars had ingested plastics such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers. An average of 36.8 pieces of plastic were found per bird. On average, the fraction of a gram in each bird would equate to a human packing 10 quarters in his stomach, the scientists figure. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, globally, up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic. [Video of plastic-entangled sea lions]

"Despite the close proximity of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch,' an area of concentrated plastic pollution in the middle of the North Pacific gyre, plastic pollution has not been considered an issue of concern off our coast," Avery-Gomm said in a statement. "But we've found similar amounts and incident rates of plastic in beached northern fulmars here as those in the North Sea. This indicates it is an issue which warrants further study."

The findings, announced this week, are detailed online in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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Call for UN debate rejected as whaling talks end

Richard Black BBC News 6 Jul 12;

A bid to take whale conservation to the UN General Assembly failed at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) after criticism from hunting nations.

The motion said many species are not covered by IWC rules, and criticised Japan's scientific whaling programmes.

The delegates' final act was to decide to hold meetings every two years.

Meanwhile, the Danish and Greenland governments will "reflect" on whaling options for Greenland's Inuit after the IWC denied a bid to raise quotas.

The options include setting quotas unilaterally without the IWC's explicit approval, or even withdrawing from the body. Either would be intensely controversial.

Nothing caused more controversy here, though, than South Korea's announcement that it was preparing to allow some of its fishermen to hunt whales under regulations permitting a catch for scientific research.

Japan has had such programmes in place since 1986, including an annual hunt in the Southern Ocean, which has been declared a whale sanctuary.

That was one focus of the resolution, tabled by Monaco, that called on the UN General Assembly to debate whale conversation.

Another was that whaling nations want the IWC's remit restricted to species that have been hunted, while others want it to work for the conservation of all cetaceans.

The resolution invited governments to "consider these issues in collaboration with the UN General Assembly, with a view to contributing to the conservation efforts of the IWC".

There was general acceptance that such a resolution should only go forward by consensus, and it was soon clear that consensus was absent.

Norway's Einar Tallaksen said issues regarding cetaceans "are not a matter for the UN General Assembly, but for the competent fisheries organisations, including the IWC".

As far as this meeting is concerned, the proposal is abandoned, though Monaco will work for it within the UN and is launching a "task force" of supportive nations.

"Clearly the whaling countries want to contain any discussion of their whaling inside the IWC," commented Patrick Ramage, director of the global whale programme with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

"They don't want their diplomats at the United Nations to have to defend the indefensible."
Unilateral moves?

On the final day of the IWC's annual meeting, held this time in Panama City, delegations were also mulling the implications of Denmark's decision to leave without a whale-hunting quota for the Greenland Inuit.

They came to Panama asking for increased quotas for humpback and fin whales, in addition to maintaining existing levels for minkes and bowheads.

The bid became more controversial after environment groups reported finding whalemeat on sale in many supermarkets and restaurants, and, with the EU against the expansion, the bid failed.

"We are going to go home and reflect, because this is a situation that needs to be handled with care," said Danish delegation head Ole Samsing.

Experienced observers noted that in previous years, Denmark has been willing to compromise its requests in order to get something agreed.

The EU would have supported a continuation of the existing quotas, but the Danes opted instead to leave with nothing.

"There can be no doubt that Denmark knew when it put the proposal to a vote that it would fail," said Sue Fisher, on behalf of the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute.

"It could have walked out of here days ago with a perfectly adequate quota to meet the subsistence needs of indigenous communities in Greenland for the next six years, but it was prepared to lose everything for a handful of extra whales that, our recent surveys show, could well end up on the menu in tourist restaurants".

Japan's deputy commissioner, Akima Umezawa, said the vote against Greenland had been the most disappointing aspect of a discouraging meeting.

"Many pointed out the commercialism and the increased quota," he said.

"But commercialism is accepted by the definition of [aboriginal] subsistence whaling, and the increased quota was accepted and endorsed by the IWC scientific committee."

The issue is made more complex by the evolving relationship between Greenland, a hunting-based society of just over 50,000 people, and its former colonial ruler.

Several years ago, Greenland formally asked the Danish government to put its whaling outside the IWC's aegis, but it is understood that it would now prefer to remain within the organisation.

It is inconceivable that hunting will stop, so the question is how Greenland intends to go forward.

Its own interpretation of rules on aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) is that countries are entitled to set their own quotas, provided they are consistent with IWC scientific advice. Other countries disagree.

The US is also opening the door to unilateral action, with draft legislation introduced into Congress that would allow the government to set quotas if the IWC denied them.

Overall, many observers said this had been the most functional IWC meeting for years, with votes taken in an orderly fashion and a relative absence of grandstanding.

Six years ago, the pro- and anti-whaling camps were roughly equal in number.

Now, the anti-whalers clearly have the upper hand, and it was noticeable that many of the Caribbean delegations were down to a single person.

The decision to hold meetings every two years from now on is part of an ongoing process - largely driven by the UK and Australia - aimed at making the commission more functional and efficient.

Delegates concluded by selecting their first ever female chair, St Lucia's Jeannine Compton-Antoine.

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