Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jul 12

Two butterflies
from The annotated budak

Random Gallery - Yellow Grass Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

Sharing about our shores with Dunman High
from wild shores of singapore

七月华语导游Madarin guide walk@SBWR,July(XXXI)
from PurpleMangrove

My message to all litterbugs
from Trek through Paradise

Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo's rainforests
from news by Rhett Butler

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Land for Changi to double size

Plans for airport's expansion to ensure it remains competitive
Karamjit Kaur Straits Times 18 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE has earmarked 1,000ha of land for the expansion of Changi Airport - a move which will almost double the airport's size in the coming decades.

The planned expansion comes as rival airports in China, India and the Middle East formulate bold expansion plans to meet the growing demand for air travel.

Changi now occupies 1,350ha of land. The extra space for the future, about the size of Toa Payoh, is located where the biennial Singapore Airshow is held.

The plot is now separated from the existing airport by Changi Coast Road and already has a runway used for military purposes.

Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who helms a 10-member multi-agency committee studying Changi's future needs, revealed the plans in a wide-ranging interview on Monday.

Among other areas, the committee is looking at when new terminals will be required and how they will be connected to the existing airport.

To prepare for the final report to be out by the year end, the team recently visited several airports in the region, including those in Hong Kong, Incheon in South Korea and the Middle East.

Mrs Teo said the study trips gave a good sense of the developments being planned by other airports, and also reaffirmed the belief that growth in aviation - especially in this part of the world - will sustain itself over a fairly long while.

She said: 'As a result of this, we saw that many of these airports have very bold, ambitious plans.' Hong Kong for example, has set in motion plans for a third runway; Incheon, which has three, is thinking of two more.

A key priority for the Changi committee is to decide when the airport, which now uses two runways, will need a third, Mrs Teo said.

Fuelled mainly by low-cost carriers, the number of flights at Changi has grown significantly in the last few years, outpacing the percentage increase in passenger traffic.

Last year, the number of aircraft movements rose 14.5 per cent over that in 2010. This triggered flight delays, which sparked the argument for a third runway.

But even as Mrs Teo's panel considers when this can be developed, steps have been taken to use the two existing runways more efficiently.

These include reducing the distance between two aircraft and scheduling maintenance work in off- peak periods.

Experts have pointed to Heathrow - which also has two runways - to underscore Changi's relatively inefficient use of its runways: The London airport pulled off 476,197 take-offs and landings last year; Changi had 302,000.

The capacity of airport terminals to handle passengers is a less pressing issue, but the committee will still decide when and how many new terminals will be needed, said Mrs Teo.

'If you have capacity, you have the opportunity to capture future growth. If you don't, then there is really no opportunity to do so.'

If Changi does not build enough capacity in time, it will lose out to other airports, she said, identifying this as Changi's key challenge.

Singapore's airport can now handle more than 70 million passengers a year; by 2017, when Terminal 4 is ready, the figure will be 85 million. Terminal 4 will replace the Budget Terminal, to be demolished in September.

Beyond that, Mrs Teo said, the committee is eyeing the possibility not just of a Terminal 5, but even a Terminal 6, if needed.

But even as the committee looks to Changi's future, the airport also has to innovate.

She cited the example of Incheon airport, which is 70km from Seoul. A mini city catering to travellers has sprung up around it.

Mrs Teo said: 'So it is not just a matter of building pure capacity, but also of how the airport can enhance the value it brings to the local economy - creating jobs and building opportunities for industry and commerce to take off.'

She added that as Changi Airport readied itself for the lap ahead, one thing was clear: 'Changi is in a position of strength, and with the right moves, we have the opportunity to keep it flying high.'

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Desaru To Be New "Playground" For Oil, Gas Executives

Mohd Haikal Isa Bernama 17 Jul 12;

JOHOR BAHARU, July 17 (Bernama) -- The RM60 billion Petronas' initiated Refinery and Petrochemical Intergrated Complex (RAPID) project in Pengerang is set to turn Desaru's long pristine coastline as the new "playground" for deep-pocketed oil and gas executives.

With the massive effort to build RAPID set to begin soon, Desaru, a stone throw away from Pengerang, is to reap major benefits as it transforms itself as the region's hottest new tourism destination.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor Chapter Chairman Tengku Ahmad Faizal Mohamed said Desaru's hospitality industry would be positively impacted with the commencement of the RAPID project.

"Desaru hotels will definitely be positively impacted by the massive Petronas project. This major project, which aims to be larger than Kertih by the national oil company, will bring in corporate business visitors from the oil and gas companies to stay in the hotels surrounding the project.

"Those employed at RAPID, such as expatriates and their families, can treat Desaru and Desaru hotels as an ideal destination to unwind and relax," he told Bernama. Desaru is about 30-minute drive from Pengerang.

The massive project, which will start construction next year and completed by 2016, will transform the lobster town Pengerang in eastern Johor, into Asia's very own Port of Rotterdam.

Port of Rotterdam is the largest oil hub in the world.

Besides Petronas, a local company, Dialog Group Bhd, is also building a multi-billion ringgit independent oil terminal in Pengerang to complement the RAPID project.

Tengku Ahmad Faizal said several high-end hotels and resorts are set to open their doors in Desaru soon, giving the "forgotten tourist destination" the much-needed makeover.

Among high-end hotels to open in Desaru are Sheraton Desaru Resort, The Plantation Hotel, The Datai Desaru Resort and The Aman Country Club and Villas, he said.

The Sheraton Desaru will have 357 rooms, Aman Country Club and Villas 50 rooms and 50 luxury villas and The Plantation Hotel 400 rooms.

Besides the spanking new hotels, he said, visitors would be treated to a gamut of attractions currently being built such as turning a 17Km beachfront into a luxury integrated destination named "Desaru Coast".

"Desaru Coast comprises luxury resorts, hotels and golf residences, complemented with leisure and entertainment including designer golf courses, a retail mall and theme parks," Tengku Ahmad Faizal said.

Other new tourism attractions in Desaru two championship golf courses, a convention centre, Riverwalk, a landscaped retail mall and resort village that integrates the attractions and theme parks in Desaru Coast, namely marine park, water park and wildlife park.

It was reported recently that a unit of Khazanah Nasional's leisure and tourism arm, Themed Attractions and Resorts Sdn Bhd, will invest RM267 million to develop and operate two theme parks in the Desaru coast.

Called "Ocean Splash Water Park" and "Ocean Quest Marine Park", the theme parks are expected to open in mid-2014.


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Malaysia: Lifeline for turtles

Natalie Heng The Star 17 Jul 12;

Beach patrols by volunteers are helping to deter turtle egg poachers at Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu.

BETWEEN the months of April and September, water traffic gets a little chaotic in the channel between the islands of Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar in Terengganu for that is the time when tourists arrive and leave by the boatloads.

There is one spot in the channel, however, where you will find life-jacketed swimmers bobbing in the sea alongside the speed boats, with their heads down in the water. But there are no corals underneath, just patches of sea grass and large, moving dark masses.

Welcome to Turtle Bay. Green turtles are one of the highlights of the island, though Perhentian has much more to offer – pristine beach fronts, stunning sunsets and shoals of colourful fish.

As the islands, virtually unknown as a tourist destination before the 1990s, evolved to become one of Malaysia’s most popular beaches, turtles have become valuable assets. A 2005 gazettement of Perhentian as a turtle reserve recognises the need to protect the animal’s breeding grounds. Now, unauthorised egg collection by locals who have for generations consumed the eggs as traditional delicacies, is prohibited. These measures, though unpopular, are important, given the challenges posed by development along the beach front.

Bright lights and a lack of shade have dramatically reduced suitable nesting habitat, whilst heavy water traffic has led to an increase in mortality as turtles are hit by boat propellers.

The rising popularity of Perhentian as a budget to mid-range tourist destination has allowed locals – many of whom earn a living as guides, chalet operators, or water taxi operators – to prosper.

But as business booms and chalets jostle for space on the beach, the island’s success throws up a big question: can it still support a healthy, breeding, turtle population?

Turtles nest at night, under cover of darkness. This is when the poachers come out. Despite efforts by the Fisheries Department through its Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre (Tumec) to hire local contractors who transfer all freshly laid turtle eggs at Perhentian to its guarded hatchery at Pantai Tiga Ruang, budget limitations have been restrictive.

For starters, there is only enough money to hire three people to scour the island’s six nesting beaches – Pantai Seribu, Tanjung Tukas, Tanjung Besar, Tanjung Tengah, Tanjung Menangis and Tanjung Buntung. And at RM4 a pop, a nest of around 100 eggs can fetch up to RM400 in markets on the mainland, where consumption of green turtle eggs is still legal.

Keeping an eye on poachers

Poaching is still a threat; Gareth Turner, 34, knows this. Accounts from those who have witnessed poaching at other beaches, as well as various personal encounters at Tanjung Tukas where he works, have convinced Turner that volunteer patrols organised by Bubbles Dive Resort, his employer, are making an important impact.

A conservation project facilitator for the resort located in a secluded corner of Pulau Perhentian Besar, Turner has not had a day off in three months, because in addition to inducting new volunteers and single-handedly running the Turtle and Reef Conservation Project during the day, he spends most nights patrolling, and pouncing on would-be poachers. These are often just local villagers out to make a quick buck.

“You may speak to people who detest poachers, but I’ve got no problems with them as people,” he says, pointing out that in times of financial opportunity, many people lose their moral compass. “And besides, the poachers often don’t have a deep enough understanding about how far-reaching the environmental consequences of what they do are.”

The poachers usually ride in from the west. As soon as they get round the rock line to Tanjung Tukas, they stop the engine and use a bright light to search for turtle tracks on the beach.

Turner likes to surprise them. He will turn off his red torchlight (red light is less intrusive for turtles) and hide behind some bushes. When the poachers come ashore, he will approach them. “I’ll just ask what they’re doing here. They usually ignore me. So I ask if I can take a picture, which they also usually ignore, and when I do, the only time using a camera flash is acceptable on the beach, they generally get straight back onto the boat and leave.”

Turner, a man of significant stature, is from Sheffield, Britain. He is happy to move into more “front-line” work, having spent many years doing animal management in veterinary clinics and safari parks.

Having him on the nesting beach is clearly working to deter poachers, as his absence one night demonstrated. Recently arrived volunteer Maelle Pelisson, 26, recounts her first night at Bubbles: “Normally, we will patrol the beach in two shifts, 8pm to 2am, and 2am to 8am. When I arrived, the resort hadn’t had any volunteers the week before, and on one of those nights, a nest had been poached because Gareth was too exhausted to do both shifts. He was really cut up about it and insisted that he do the second shift this time, because that is when the poachers had made their move. So I had to do the first one … all on my own.”

Patrolling the secluded beach was daunting for Pellison, who had signed up as a volunteer with Ecoteer. Fresh from France, she had never been to Malaysia before, let alone wander around a dark, lonely beach. But having received her induction during the day, she plucked up the courage and went for it. Equipped with her torchlight, she walked up and down the shore, with nothing but a sky full of stars for company, and it wasn’t long before she spotted some tracks.

“They led up the beach and into some trees. I was so scared because it was dark and eerie but I told myself ‘I must do this’.” Her bravery was rewarded for in the bushes was a gigantic green turtle, awkwardly using its flippers to dig into the sand. As per protocol set by Bubbles, the next step was for Pellison to alert resort guests and deliver a briefing on ethical turtle-watching.


Part of the philosophy at Bubbles is to allow guests the chance to see turtles in a controlled manner, and it seems to be going well, because over 47% of turtle landings since 2006 (when the resort started taking records) have resulted in nestings – a ratio comparable to other nesting sites in the country and in Costa Rica. This implies that guests have not posed a stressful situation to nesting turtles, which might not return to the same spot if disturbed.

Even so, you do get the occasional wilfully disobedient guest. “We have a strict no touch, no flash photography policy, and conduct compulsory briefings for all our guests before taking them to see the turtles” explains Pellison.

“But there was this one group which had been watching a turtle for half an hour, during which everyone behaved, and no one used flash. I had to briefly go and check on another turtle, and the minute I turned my back, a flash went off! So now I tell everyone, if anyone uses the flash, no one is allowed to take any pictures at all.”

The briefing sessions followed by the turtle watching sessions are designed to educate and inspire people into doing their part for conservation. Often, it is actually tourists who flock to Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu to get a taste of turtle eggs, even buying them as souvenirs. This is why for Turner, education is key.

“At the briefings, we teach our guests just how vulnerable the turtle’s life cycle makes them,” he explains. “It can take between 26 and 40 years for turtles to reach sexual maturity, a journey only one in every 10,000 hatchlings will go through.”

These statistics are sobering, considering only 8,763 eggs were laid out of the 100 nestings along Tanjung Tukas in 2011, according to data from Bubbles.

According to Tumec, there was an annual average of 245 green turtle nests and 21,125 eggs counted in Perhentian for the years 2006 to 2011, giving new meaning to the phrase “every egg counts”.

Bubbles has at least made an impression on one boy. Turner recounts how one teenager volunteer told him that seeing a turtle struggle out of the water to shore to lay her eggs and then witnessing baby turtles emerge from the sand and rush to sea, has changed him.

“Now, when he sees a turtle in the water, peacefully grazing, he thinks of all the odds it has beaten. In fact, he became extremely protective of the turtles and said we shouldn’t be letting all these tourists come and watch the nestings because sometimes, people try and touch the turtles or take pictures with flash.” In return, Turner pointed out to the boy: “But how are you supposed to educate people if all the cool things happen behind closed doors? Just think about what a difference getting to see the turtles has made for you.”

Ethical turtle tourism
Natalie Heng The Star 17 Jul 12;

UP UNTIL 2005, divemaster Huang Pei See, 42, had never seen a turtle come ashore to nest. So when she woke up one morning to find tracks all over the sand in Tanjung Tukas, a secluded enclave at Pulau Perhentian Besar, the first thing she thought was: “Who drove a tractor across the beach?”

It eventually dawned on Huang, who had set up a dive shop there with her two business partners, that these were turtle tracks. However, she dismissed it as a one-off occurrence. It wasn’t. As the turtle nesting season (which runs from April to September) wore on, the ancient reptiles kept coming, and Huang began to stay up at night to watch them.

“It was a life-changing experience for me. I’ve been diving in Perhentian since the 1990s and seen them many times in the water but witnessing them struggling up to nest on land was just amazing.”

Unfortunately, she was not always alone. Egg poachers were not an uncommon sight on the beach and though she questioned their presence there, Huang felt it unwise to let the confrontations escalate, knowing how isolated her business was.

“It was frustrating. I knew we had something special here and I desperately wanted to protect the nesting beach, so I started writing to various government agencies and NGOs for help.” When she failed to get any meaningful response, Huang decided to collect data on her own, thinking that if she could show how many turtles were nesting there, people would take her more seriously. It eventually became clear that running a dive centre and staying up all night to patrol and collect data was highly impractical, so she drafted a volunteer project, and enlisted the help of a company called Way Out Experiences (WOX, which has since changed their name to Animal Projects and Environmental Education or APE) to get volunteers to patrol the beach against poachers.

That was when she met Daniel Quilter, who worked for WOX. Quilter has experience as a research assistant at a marine park in Sabah. With his background in environmental science, he helped bring more structure to Huang’s initiative, and introduced standardised data collection methods.

Quilter ran the volunteer turtle conservation project known as HOPE (Help Our Penyu), before leaving to concentrate on his other company, Ecoteer, which connects people with volun-tourism opportunities around the world.

In the meantime, things were not going well at the dive centre. Business was suffering as the chalets on the beach were not actively managed. Huang then took over operations of the chalets.

Wary after what had happened with the leatherbacks in Rantau Abang, Huang was determined to make sure the resort ran things responsibly, which meant respecting that they shared a beach with a healthy population of nesting turtles. Today, Bubbles Dive Resort – unlike many other resorts whose selling point is a picturesque view of the ocean – is the only establishment in Perhentian which is deliberately constructed behind the tree line.

“It was built this way so the lights don’t interfere with nesting turtles at night,” explains Huang. They also run a Turtle and Reef Conservation Project with volunteers from Ecoteer, which helps provide the resort with people keen to combine their holiday with meaningful volunteer work. The volunteers conduct daily dinner-time briefing sessions, educating guests about turtles and the threats they face, during which they remind guests to switch off their mobile phones and avoid camera flashes on the beach at night.

A typical week for these “volun-tourists” might include a diving package and involvement in monitoring nesting turtles, hatchery maintenance, and coral-regrowing projects. Seven years since her first encounter with turtles at Tanjung Tukas, Huang thinks that Bubbles Dive Resort has come up with a model demonstrating that responsible tourism can coincide with the protection of one of the island’s most charismatic resources – turtles.

“I believe the largest part of conservation is spreading awareness, and that’s what we are doing here. Like the environmentalist Baba Dioum once said, ‘In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught’.” – Natalie Heng

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Indonesia: Study Shows There May Be More Sumatran Tigers Than Previously Thought

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 17 Jul 12;

Indonesia’s forests are home to at least 600 Sumatran tigers, a recently released survey has found, providing a more optimistic picture than a 1994 official report that put the head count for the rare species at between 400 and 500.

The latest survey was conducted from 2007 to 2009 on more than 250 square kilometers of forest covering 38 nature reserves.

“Sumatran tigers were detected in 27 to 29 nature reserves,” Hariyo T. Wibisono, chairman of the Harimau Kita (Our Tigers) conservation forum told BeritaSatu on Monday. “There are Sumatran tigers in those areas but the exact figure is still not known. [We] only know the distribution, in which [areas] they are high, low or stable.”

Hariyo attributed the higher figure not to an increase in population, but to a better extrapolation method. He said the method used in the 1994 survey was not as accurate as that used in the more recent study, adding that the earlier research surveyed only seven locations: five national parks and two conservation forests in Sumatra.

“The figure [400 to 500] was announced in 1994 and the counting was conducted in 1992. But after a population-viability analysis was conducted, it turned out the extrapolation method was inaccurate,” he explained.

To find out about the distribution pattern of the Sumatran tigers, several NGOs whose primary concern is to prevent the extinction of the species conducted the latest survey and publicized the result in a scientific journal last year.

A second survey covering 59 percent of the 38 nature reserves showed that Sumatran tigers inhabit 72 percent of the total tiger habitat area.

“Data compilation used to count the population came from camera traps set up by several NGOs,” Hariyo explained. “They showed there were at least 600 individual tigers. But this hasn’t covered all [areas].”

He said that counting tiger population with camera trapping was difficult due to insufficient resources given the breadth of land that needed to be supervised.

Hariyo said counting the tiger population was not as important as finding ways to protect the rare species.

“In protecting Sumatran tigers, information about their population estimates is not important,” Hariyo said. “What’s important is for the management to know whether they are increasing, declining or remaining stable, as seen from the indicators of their presence and distribution.”

He added that he was always careful about mentioning figures because of the methodology issues.

Dara, a critically endangered Sumatran tiger rescued from a hunter’s trap in Bengkulu in February, was transferred to the Taman Safari Indonesia park in Bogor earlier this month. The female tiger, estimated at 4 to 5 years of age, was found by officials in a logging concession in Mukomuko district. Her front legs were seriously injured from the metal cables in which she was ensnared. The trap was believed to have been set up by poachers.

Sumatran Tiger Kills Plantation Worker in Indonesia
Jakarta Globe 17 Jul 12;

A Sumatran tiger attacked and killed a palm oil plantation worker in Indonesia, a conservation official said Tuesday, underlining the growing problem of human-animal conflicts.

Animals including tigers and elephants are coming into closer contact with people in Indonesia as forests are destroyed for timber or to make way for crops such as palm oil.

The 18-year-old female worker was killed Friday in the village of Indragiri Hulu, Riau, said provincial conservation agency chief Bambang Dahono Aji.

“Some of her co-workers were there when the tiger attacked the worker and tore her apart,” he said.

He added that about two weeks ago a Sumatran tiger was killed in the vicinity after getting snared in a trap villagers set to catch wild boars.

Estimates of the number of Sumatran tigers remaining in the world range from 300 to 400. Several die each year as a result of traps, poaching or other human actions.

Agence France-Presse

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Indonesia's 'unique' whale sharks get pet tags

AFP Yahoo News 17 Jul 12;

The "unique habit" of whale sharks that converge to feed from fishing nets in Indonesia has allowed them to be tagged with low-cost technology usually used on pets, conservationists said Tuesday.

Experts in June injected tiny pill-sized radio transmitters beneath the skin of 30 whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay in the eastern province of Papua, conservation group WWF said.

And it was only made possible because the giant animals, which measure up to 45 feet (13.7 metres) but are harmless to humans, were gathered to feed on fish caught in fishermen's nets, WWF Indonesia project leader Beny Ahadian Noor told AFP.

A YouTube video by Conservation International (CI) showing a whale shark sucking fish from a hole in a net in clear blue waters has now attracted more than one million views (

"Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags have been used on pets such as dogs, but this is the first time on whale sharks," Noor said.

Researchers would usually use a more sophisticated satellite method, at $4,000 a tag. But Noor said each radio-frequency tag used in Cenderawasih Bay cost only $4.

"It's good enough for a start since we have little information about the behaviour of whale sharks here," he said.

Marine biologist Mark Erdmann, who joined the expedition, said it was "fairly impractical to swim after the giants with a receiver wand under water".

"What makes this tagging possible in Cenderawasih Bay is the unique habit this population has of aggregating at... fishing platforms to feast upon the small silverside baitfish that the fishers are catching," he said.

Whale sharks, the world's largest fish, are classified as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN.)

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South Korea dumps whaling plan: report

AFP Yahoo News 17 Jul 12;

South Korea has decided to scrap its fiercely criticised plan to resume "scientific" whaling, apparently because of international pressure, a report said Tuesday.

"Discussions between government ministries have been concluded in a way that effectively scraps the plan to allow whaling in coastal waters," an unnamed senior government official told Yonhap news agency.

"Even if it is for scientific research, we have to take into consideration that this has emerged as a sensitive issue at home and abroad."

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declined to confirm the report.

Kang Joon-Suk, a senior ministry official, said last week that South Korea may scrap its plan if experts come up with non-lethal means to study the mammals.

South Korea unveiled its plan to resume whaling at an International Whaling Commission meeting this month in Panama, sparking an international outcry.

It said it would use a loophole in a global moratorium that permits killing of whales for "scientific" research.

Greenpeace described scientific whaling as "thinly disguised commercial whaling". France, the United States, Australia and New Zealand also spoke out strongly against Seoul's plan.

South Korea cited what it called a significant increase in whale stocks in its waters and consequent damage to fisheries.

If it went ahead, it would be the fourth country to kill whales, excluding allowances for indigenous groups. Norway and Iceland openly defy the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, saying they believe stocks are healthy.

Japan already uses the loophole for scientific research, with the meat then going to the dinner plate.

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50 Tons of Litter Pulled from Pacific

Stephanie Pappas Yahoo News 18 Jul 12;

Scientists loaded their ship to the max this month off the coast of Hawaii, but their bounty wasn't fish or coral or any other scientific specimen. It was garbage.

The crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Oscar Elton Sette pulled 50 metric tons of marine debris out of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the northwestern Hawaiian Islands last month, part of an ongoing mission since 1996 to clean up the shallow coral reef environment.

"What surprises us is that after many years of marine debris removal in Papahanaumokuakea and more than 700 metric tons of debris later, we are still collecting a significant amount of derelict fishing gear from the shallow coral reefs and shorelines," Kyle Koyanagi, the chief scientist for the mission, said in a NOAA statement. "The ship was at maximum capacity and we did not have any space for more debris."

NOAA has been sending out garbage-removing ships every year since 1996. On the mission that ended Saturday (July 14), 17 scientists cleaned up the coastal waters and shorelines of the Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, Pearl Atoll, Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island and Laysan Island, all in the northern section of the Hawaiian Islands.

About half of the marine junk was broken fishing gear and plastic from Midway Atoll. Though the researchers looked, they found no evidence of debris from 2011's tsunami in Japan. Some debris from that disaster has shown up on the west coast of North America, including an enormous floating dock covered with marine organisms. [Images: Japanese Tsunami Dock]

Marine debris such as discarded nets can trap sea turtles, seals and other marine animals.

"[M]arine debris is an everyday problem, especially right here in the Pacific," Carey Morishige, the Pacific Islands regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris Program said in a statement.

The massive amount of garbage pulled from the ocean will now be put to use as fuel for electricity generation. Hawaii's Nets-to Energy program removes metal from broken-down nets and cuts them up for combustion. The steam from the fires runs a turbine to create energy.

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El Nino indicators ease, still expected late 2012

Maggie Lu Yueyang and Colin Packham PlanetArk 18 Jul 12;

Climate indicators for an El Niño event in the western Pacific have eased slightly in the past fortnight, but meteorologists still expect the weather pattern which can bring drought to the Asia-Pacific and damage crops to form late in 2012.

El Nino indicators such as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), sea surface temperatures and trade winds have eased over the past two weeks, but are still close to El Niño thresholds, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

"This is a bit of a short-term blip, which is not unexpected," said Andrew Watkins, manager climate models for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

"We have to wait to see how long it takes for this weather event to pass, but we would expect things to continue around the weather threshold."

El Nino weather phenomenon could form as early as the third quarter of 2012, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on July 6.

Japan's weather bureau, in its monthly assessment, said its model was forecasting a high chance of an El Nino developing between June and August.

The pattern typically brings below average rainfall for the Asia Pacific region, threatening the yields of agricultural crops, while America is often hit by wetter than average weather.

Global food production may suffer massive disruptions from the warming caused by El Nino.

Three years ago, it slowed development of India's vital monsoon rains, sparking a rally in sugar prices to 30-year highs as the No. 2 producer in the world suffered a poor cane crop.

Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil producer, may have lower output in 2013 if an El Nino forms and results in poor rainfall. China, a key buyer of overseas corn in recent years, may be forced to step up imports.

Australian wheat production could also be hit if the country experiences lower-than-average rainfall.

The formation of an El Nino over the western Pacific means La Nina conditions over the eastern Pacific, bringing unwanted rains and damaging crops in agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina. Brazil is the world's biggest producer of sugar, coffee and soybeans. Argentina is a major soybean exporter

The normally dry areas of Chile, the world's No. 1 copper producer, could see floods due to a La Nina.

(Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang and Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)

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