Best of our wild blogs: 6 Sep 12

from The annotated budak and Fishy myths

NASA images reveal rapid loss of Indonesia's glaciers
from news by Rhett Butler

Photos: Asia's disappearing species
from news by Rhett Butler

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Search for man who jumped off boat to Pulau Ubin

Lim Yan Liang Straits Times 6 Sep 12;

THE search is on for an elderly man who jumped off a boat for no apparent reason yesterday.

Said to be in his 70s or 80s, the unidentified Chinese man was on his way from Changi to Pulau Ubin at about 2pm when he leapt off the bumboat into the sea.

Passengers said they heard the man say "I want to jump", before he disappeared into the waters.

Boat operator Chua Wee Seng, 67, said he did not hear the man jump because of the loud engine noise from the boat, which was carrying 12 passengers.

"I was concentrating on steering the boat," he said.

Mr Chua said nothing like this has ever happened in his 20 years as a boat operator.

The ride takes about 15 minutes.

The other passengers shouted to alert him when the man fell overboard and, within minutes, Mr Chua said he turned the boat around and circled the area.

None of the passengers were wearing life jackets during the ride.

Unable to spot the man, Mr Chua said he then stopped the boat and one of the passengers called the police.

The police said they received a call at about 2.30pm.

Police Coast Guard vessels arrived on the scene shortly after and officers took statements from everyone on board.

The boat was allowed to proceed to Pulau Ubin about an hour later.

In a joint statement yesterday, the police and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said boats and divers had been mobilised to search for the missing man.

At about 8pm last night, three Police Coast Guard boats with their lights flashing were seen off Changi. A spotlight was directed at the water.

The man was said to have been wearing a white T-shirt, black trousers and blue sports shoes when he dived into the sea.

Man who fell off boat to Pulau Ubin is still missing
Straits Times 7 Sep 12;

THE elderly man who apparently stepped off a Pulau Ubin-bound bumboat and fell into the sea on Wednesday is still missing.

Yesterday, police released a video capture of the man taken from closed-circuit television records from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

Police are trying to contact his family. Anyone with information should call 1800-255-0000.

Witnesses said the Chinese man, said to be in his 70s, was travelling alone when he boarded the boat on its way to the offshore island at around 2.15pm.

About five minutes into the 15-minute journey, he stepped off the boat and fell into the water. The boat was stopped and the police were called. Coast Guard officers arrived at the scene about 10 minutes later.


Body of 'man who jumped off boat' found
Lim Yan Liang Straits Times 8 Sep 12;

THE body of the man who was seen jumping off a bumboat taking passengers to Pulau Ubin on Wednesday was found yesterday, said the police.

The body, found floating 2m from the shoreline near Changi Ferry Terminal, was brought to shore by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel.

The SCDF had received a call about it at around 9.30am yesterday.

The unidentified Chinese man is believed to be in his 70s, said the police.

The body was in a highly decomposed state and the police retrieved a wallet from it, according to Chinese newspapers Shin Min Daily News and Lianhe Wanbao.

On Wednesday, eyewitnesses on the bumboat told The Straits Times that the incident took place at around 2.20pm, less than five minutes after the boat left Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

Police are investigating the case as an unnatural death.

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Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee launches e-consultation

Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC) is launching an e-consultation on the Singapore government's REACH portal from Wednesday to October 5, 2012.

The aim is to seek views from the public on strengthening Singapore's animal welfare legislation.

The AWLRC was set up to review the current legislations on animal welfare, recommend to the government amendments to strengthen the legislations on animal welfare, and recommend approaches to enhance stakeholders' collaboration on animal welfare.

The AWLRC is chaired by Yeo Guat Kwang, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development.

The AWLRC comprises MPs Gan Thiam Poh and Alex Yam, as well as community grassroots leaders, and representatives from the animal welfare groups, pet industry, and the veterinary profession.

As part of the review, the AWLRC initiated a consultation process to take into consideration Singapore society's expectations for animal welfare, the diverse views of the various stakeholders, and strike a balance between animal welfare, safeguarding of public safety, and other competing interests.

The AWLRC has held six consultation sessions from May to July 2012 involving more than 170 participants from the industry, grassroots leaders, veterinarians, and animal welfare groups and activists to seek views from these stakeholder groups.

Members of the public can access the e-consultation via

- CNA/cc

Give your views on animal welfare law
Straits Times 6 Sep 12;

MEMBERS of the public can now have their say on whether animal welfare legislation should be strengthened.

The Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee has launched a month-long online consultation forum to obtain feedback on the issue.

The public can visit the Government's Reach portal - - to share their views on animal welfare legislation from now until Oct 5.

Member of Parliament Yeo Guat Kwang, who heads the committee, said last month the majority of 170 people consulted by the committee were in favour of tougher penalties.

Those whose opinions were sought included vets, pet-shop operators and members of animal welfare groups. But some of them advocated educating wrongdoers instead.

It was suggested that those who are ignorant of proper animal care could do community service with animal welfare groups.

Animal abusers can now be fined up to $10,000 and be jailed for a year. The calls for tougher penalties follow a rise in the number of cases of animal cruelty.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it received 1,027 reports of animal cruelty from the public last year - a 10 per cent increase from the previous year.

The Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which was formed this year and comes under the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, will present its recommendations on legislation to the Government by the end of the year.


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Conservation Group Sounds Alarm for Asian Species Yahoo News 6 Sep 12;

Some of Asia's most magnificent animals are at a crossroads and may not survive if steps aren't taken to save them, an environmental group announced today (Sept. 5) at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea.

The Wildlife Conservation Society released a list of animals in danger of extinction, including tigers, orangutans, Mekong giant catfish, Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles and Asian vultures.

The group said the problem could be solved by following the "Three R's Approach": recognition, responsibility and recovery.

A good example of a species saved from the brink is the American bison. In this case the iconic animal's imminent demise was recognized, responsibility for its survival was taken by conservationists and politicians, and it has recovered somewhat.

But if this approach isn't followed, Asian animals on the list could go the way of the American passenger pigeon, and die off, the WCS warned.

Each Asian species on the list faces daunting challenges from a variety of factors including habitat loss and illegal hunting and trade. Nevertheless, the group said it believed that Asian governments have the ability and financial means to prevent these species from going extinct.

The tiger may be going the way of the bison, since India has taken some steps to protect it and encourage its recovery. Orangutans face a bleaker future, with widespread conversion of its habitat into palm oil plantations reducing wild populations. Asian rhinos and giant river turtles face relentless poaching in the illegal wildlife trade, while Asian vultures have been nearly wiped out due to poisoning. Mekong giant catfish numbers have also plummeted due to overfishing.

The WCS warned that time is running out. Two large mammal species in Asia have recently gone extinct, including the kouprey, a type of wild cattle once found in Southeast Asia, and the baiji, a species of Chinese freshwater dolphin.

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Hong Kong Airline Bans Shark Fin as Cargo

Mark McDonald International Herald Tribune 5 Sep 12;

HONG KONG — Cathay Pacific, responding to pressure from an array of environmental groups in Asia, has announced that it will no longer carry shark fin on its cargo flights.

The Hong Kong-based carrier, one of the world’s largest cargo airlines, said in a statement that it would “stop shipping unsustainably sourced sharks and shark-related products.”

Dozens of marine-protection campaign organizations had sent a joint petition to Cathay Pacific seeking the cargo ban. They cited Hong Kong government figures that showed 10,500 tons of shark fin were imported into the territory last year, with Cathay alone handling as much as 650 tons. The airline has said that the real figure was much lower.

A Cathay spokeswoman, Elin Wong, told Rendezvous on Wednesday that the cargo ban “will not have a material impact on our business.”

“We did this,” she said, “because we now have compelling evidence that the majority of shark fishing is incompatible with our position on sustainable development.”

A statement from the airline cited “the vulnerable nature of sharks, their rapidly declining population, and the impacts of overfishing for their parts and products.”

“This is a milestone in our efforts to end the trade of products like shark fin in Hong Kong,” said Ran Elfassy, director of Shark Rescue, a marine conservation campaign in Hong Kong. “The city is the leading trade hub for these endangered animal products, and airlines are significant players in the supply chain.”

Another environmental campaigner in Hong Kong, Alex Hofford, said Wednesday that Cathay’s decision was “very heartening for everyone in the conservation community — and the greater population at large.”

Hong Kong is the Asian hub for the trade in shark fins, serving as the principal transit point for fish and seafood products headed to markets in mainland China. Shark fin soup, which is essentially tasteless, is still seen as a status symbol in China, Hong Kong and ethnic Chinese communities. It remains a staple at corporate events and wedding banquets, even for those of modest means.

“Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years has catapulted millions into the ranks of those who can now afford the dish,” my colleague Bettina Wassener reported in July.

Six weeks ago, China said it would ban shark fin soup at official banquets, although it could take up to three years for the ban to be fully implemented. The ban was reported by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

A handful of luxury hotels and hotel chains have taken shark fin soup off their menus, including the Shangri-La and Peninsula hotels here in Hong Kong. The Berjaya chain of luxury hotels and resorts also no longer serves the soup at its 18 hotels worldwide, including six properties in Malaysia and hotels in London, Manila and Singapore.

Several American states have criminalized the sale, use or possession of shark fin, but those bans remain scattered. As Rendezvous reported this summer, DNA samples from soup served in restaurants in 14 American cities showed that some were even using fins from scalloped hammerhead sharks, an endangered species on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Some ethnic Chinese residents in Calgary, Alberta, have objected to their city’s recent ban on shark fin soup. The Calgary Herald, in a story on Tuesday about the issue, said the soup was still available at some restaurants in the city, “though often as an off-the-menu item for $50 to $200 a bowl.”

“Shark finning — the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and then discarding the body at sea — takes a tremendous toll on shark populations,” said the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.”

Others put the death toll higher: “We’re killing 100 million sharks a year for shark-fin soup,” said the marine conservationist and shark expert Richard Ellis. “It’s insane.”

A third of open-ocean sharks and rays are now threatened with extinction, primarily due to overfishing, according to the Shark Specialist Group at the I.U.C.N.

“Due to the vulnerable nature of sharks, their rapidly declining population, and the impact of overfishing for their parts and products, our carriage of these is inconsistent with our commitment to sustainable development,” Cathay Pacific said in a statement.

The company’s Web site says, “Cathay Pacific and Dragonair do not serve shark’s fin soup either inflight, at Cathay Pacific City, Dragonair House or at any corporate events or meals which are organised or subsidised by the company.” (The new cargo ban also extends to flights on Dragonair, a Cathay subsidiary.)

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WWF calls for moratoria on trade and consumption of humphead wrasse in the Coral Triangle

WWF 29 Aug 12;

Hong Kong, China – WWF today launched a report revealing legal and policy gaps in the trade of live reef fish in the Coral Triangle, highlighting the urgent need for a comprehensive management framework—starting with a moratoria on humphead wrasse—to help address threats to the region’s dwindling seafood supply.

The report, Legal and Policy Gaps in the Management of Live Reef Food Fish Trade in the Coral Triangle Region, examines the legal and policy framework for the live reef food fish trade (LRFFT) in Coral Triangle countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and East Timor.

“At the heart of this report is the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is one of the most challenging issues in the trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle,” says Dr Geoffrey Muldoon, WWF Coral Triangle Program Strategy Leader.

“A regional moratoria on the trade and consumption of humphead wrasse, for starters, can serve as a model for the kind of comprehensive legal and policy measures the trade needs in this region,” adds Dr Muldoon.

A highly lucrative trade

The Coral Triangle, a 6 million square kilometre ocean expanse in Asia Pacific, contains roughly 37% of the world’s known coral reef fish species.

The trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle was estimated to be worth over US$810 million in 2002. High value species include humphead wrasse, selling for as much as HK$99 to 150 per kilo in luxury restaurants in Hong Kong and more than US$350 per kilo in Beijing and Shanghai.

Aside from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore are the main importing and consumption markets of live reef food fish in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia have been key exporters for decades.

Why the trade needs to be regulated

The growing demand for live reef food fish, the destructive methods of obtaining and rearing reef fish, and the widening geographical scope of the trade all pose major sustainability concerns, raising the urgent need for more effective management.

Destructive fishing methods including cyanide fishing and fish bombing are still rampant in some parts of the region and are rapidly destroying critical coral reef ecosystems.

The capture of juvenile fish for aquaculture is likewise contributing to dwindling fish populations, threatening the food security and livelihood of millions.

“Up to 70% of reef fish in some places in the region are being taken from the ocean before they even have the opportunity to mature and reproduce, and this will have devastating effects on the delicate ocean food chain in the long term,” says Dr Muldoon.

Humphead wrasse is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). While still allowing its local capture and international trade, the listing is intended to ensure that the species is fished sustainably.

“By imposing a moratorium on this species in Indonesia, combined with the existing export moratorium in Malaysia and export limitation in the Philippines, we will have restricted three major trading hubs in the Coral Triangle. This will help curb consumption in Hong Kong and China,” adds Dr Muldoon.

A management framework

The report puts forward the need for Coral Triangle countries to start analyzing governing laws and regulations on the capture and trade of live reef food fish with respect to existing international frameworks.

“Such an analysis will enable these countries to recommend appropriate legal and policy changes, both at the domestic and regional level, to address issues related to the control and management of live reef food fish trade,” says Dr Muldoon.

Download the full report and see the key trends, gaps, and recommendations for wild capture, aquaculture, and the trade and consumption of live reed food fish at:

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Malaysia: Study on Kudat marine park

New Straits Times 5 Sep 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Marine scientists will carry out an expedition at the proposed Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat from today to study its marine biodiversity and ecology.

They will also look at the socioeconomic benefits of the marine ecosystems for communities.

The expedition, which will be on until Sept 26, will involve scientists from Malaysia, the Netherlands and Australia.

The marine park covers 1.02 million hectares with more than 50 islands and islets located across Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area. The area is a source of livelihood to 80,000 people living along the coast.

It has a unique biodiversity that supports a series of complex habitats as well as being home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.

The proposed park produces the third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters in the state.

The expedition comes under the Coral Triangle Initiative-National Plan of Action to address the urgent threats facing the coastal and marine resources at the Indonesian-Philippines and the Far Southwestern Pacific regions.

It is being jointly led by Muhammad Ali Syed Hussein from Universiti Malaysia Sabah; Dr Bert Hoeksema from Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, the Netherlands, and Bobita Ahad from World Wildlife Fund Malaysia.

The expedition is jointly funded by the Malaysian-CTI (Mosti through the National Oceanography Directorate), United States Agency for International Development's Coral Triangle Support Partnership and WWF-Malaysia's supporters.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili is expected to launch the expedition in Kudat today.

Meanwhile, the preliminary results of the expedition will be announced at a press conference at UMS on Sept 27. Updates will be available at and other social media network.

Marine Scientists to Survey the Proposed Tun Mustapha Park
WWF Malaysia 5 Sep 12;

4 September 2012, Kota Kinabalu: From 6 to 26 September 2012, a team of marine scientists from Malaysia, the Netherlands and Australia will begin an expedition in the proposed Tun Mustapha Park, Kudat, Malaysia.

The Tun Mustapha Park Expedition (TMPE) will assess aspects of marine biodiversity and ecology, as well as the socioeconomic benefits of the marine ecosystems to local communities in the proposed park. The expedition is organised by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Sabah Parks and WWF-Malaysia. As signatory to the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), Malaysia developed a National Plan of Action for protecting the Coral Triangle region. This expedition is one of Malaysia’s activities under the CTI-National Plan of Action.

Jointly leading the expedition are Mr. Muhammad Ali Syed Hussein, Leader of the UMS team; Dr. Bert Hoeksema of Naturalis Biodiveristy Center, Leader of the Coral Reef Biodiversity Team; and Ms. Bobita Ahad of WWF-Malaysia, Leader of the Coral Reef Status Team. Other expedition participants include marine scientists from UMS, Universiti Malaya, University of Queensland, Naturalis and researchers from Sabah Parks.

The overall objectives of the expedition are to:
1) Assess the coral reef biodiversity including reef fish and associated reef fauna richness,
2) Assess the coral reef status and reef population health,
3) Verify coral reef categories for the zoning of Tun Mustapha Park,
4) Assess the biodiversity of mangrove ecosystem,
5) Conduct physico-chemical oceanographic studies,
6) Study the distribution, diversity and abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton,
7) Survey socio-economic aspects of the local communities, and
8) Raise awareness of Tun Mustapha Park and benefits of protecting and managing marine ecosystem.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) is an area of 1.02 million hectares with more than 50 islands and islets located across Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA). TMP has unique biodiversity that support a series of complex and linked habitats and is home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.

The proposed TMP produces Sabah’s third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters. It is a source of livelihood to 80,000 coastal inhabitants of diverse ethnic groups. This unique demography forms the rich cultural heritage of the Park. As a scenic and historical area in Sabah, TMP has great potential for sustainable ecotourism.

The TMPE will be launched by YB Datuk Dr Maximum Ongkili of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) in Kudat on 6 September, and the preliminary results of the expedition will be announced at a press conference at the UMS campus in Kota Kinabalu on 27 September 2012.

The TMPE is jointly funded by Malaysian-CTI (MOSTI through the National Oceanography Directorate), USAID’s Coral Triangle Support Partnership and WWF-Malaysia’s individual supporters.

Follow the expedition blog and other social media such as Twitter, Weblog, Flickr, and Facebook, where the expedition members will update their daily work and share new findings, as well as their stunning images and short videos. Visit:

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Indonesia: Protecting the Coast, but at What Cost?

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 5 Sep 12;

Ujang’s life has never been the same since Jakarta undertook a major reclamation project on its northern coast in early 2000s.

The 43-year-old man used to be a fisherman, earning a living by catching shrimp and bringing in a healthy supply of fish.

Now he works at another profession. These days you can find him whisking people around the Cilincing area as a motorcycle taxi driver.

“Like it or not, I had to switch profession,” said the father of two. “As a fisherman my life was better. But now it is impossible [to be a fisherman]. I have to survive.”

Ujang explained that since the Jakarta administration built a sea barrier to reclaim the northern coast, he and other fishermen are finding it hard to catch fish because of the environmental damage.

“It is a hard catch. The water is polluted, full of oil,” he said. “Back in the day, we could get tens of kilos [of fish]. In one day we could make between Rp 70,000 and Rp 100,000 [$7.30 and $10.50]. Now we struggle to earn Rp 20,000.

“I don’t go to sea anymore because it is worthless. In the past, being a fisherman was a way to make a living. Now it’s become a side job.

“We need to take a detour to reach the sea and catch some fish. That’s impossible for us because our boats are rowboats, not motorized ones. If a wave hits us, we will flip over, and our lives would be at stake.”

Grim future

But the fishermen’s plight in Jakarta could get even worse. Late last month, the Jakarta administration announced it will soon draft a master plan for giant sea walls.

Government officials said the capital was in dire need of the giant walls because of the alarming subsidence rate, which is estimated to be between 10 and 20 centimeters per year. The ground level in some parts of North Jakarta has fallen by 4.1 meters.

A 2009 study by Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) climatologist Armi Susandi said a quarter of Jakarta will be submerged by 2050 because of a continually rising sea level, which he said was a by-product of global warming.

The drafting of the master plan is expected to start in late November.

Purba Robert M. Sianipat, an official working with the national Coordinating Ministry for the Economy, said the master plan was expected to be completed by 2014, after which construction could begin. The project is estimated to take 10 years to complete, which means the giant sea walls are expected to guard Jakarta along its northern coast by 2025.

According to Lazarus Rio Jambormias, chairman of the Jakarta Fishermen Community Forum (FMKN), even with the current sea wall in place, hundreds of fishermen struggle to keep their kids in school.

“Around 65 percent of children in vocational and junior high schools could be out of school because their parents wouldn’t be able to earn a living,” he said. “Their access is cut off by the Jakarta northern coast reclamation project.”

Lazarus showed off a bundle of files containing information about the hundreds of children who might not be able to stay in school.

“They are permitted to attend classes and take tests, but their academic report book and certificates are being held by the schools,” he said. “For public schools, we can still reason with them, the hard part is [talking] with private schools.”

Lazarus said nearly 75 percent of fishermen today have been forced to abandon that lifestyle. To make ends meet, they took on other professions and sometimes forced their children to go to work as well.

“A lot of the children become buskers along with their mothers to earn a living because it is impossible to survive by fishing,” he said.

The reclamation projects have also left 62 families without homes.

“Eventually, each family was given Rp 1 million as compensation, but what can you do with that much money in Jakarta?” he asked. “Now they live along a railway track near a dump site in North Jakarta. What else can they do? They eventually become scavengers because they only have enough money to live in places like that.”


The People’s Coalition for Fishery Justice (Kiara) suspects that there is more to the giant sea wall than protecting Jakarta.

“There is something wrong with the way the Jakarta Bay is managed where there is instead a land grab occurring. And suddenly a giant sea wall is built to protect investors without caring what it would do to the environment and the people there,” said Selamet Daroyni, Kiara’s manager for education and public support.

Selamet said that the land grab began when the Jakarta government began to convert 831 hectares of protected forest in Angke Kapuk into housing areas, golf courses and condominiums.

“According to the 1985-2005 spatial master plan, [the area] is declared as protected forest as well as a [natural] flood barrier to protect the Soekarno-Hatta airport,” he said. “In 2008, the government cut down 19 hectares of mangrove forest to expand the Sedyatmo toll road.”

Selamet said the conversion benefitted only property developers.

With the mangrove forest gone, tidal waves began attacking the coastal areas. The government responded with a sea wall and reclamation projects.

“There has been research on Jakarta’s north coast that showed that reclamation will only make the ecosystem worse,” he said.

Selamet quoted a study conducted by ITB that showed reclamation will increase the coast’s subsidence rate.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Indonesia, he said, showed the project to be a bad investment with the losses incurred by citizens outweighing the benefits. “The losses incurred by Jakartans are three times more than the investment earmarked,” Selamet said.

The existing reclamation projects have burned through Rp 350 billion of taxpayers’ money, Kiara said.

Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo recently said that the new giant sea wall will cost $5 billion, funded by a grant from Dutch authorities.

“The main idea is to build a giant sea wall at a cost of $5 billion to prevent flooding from sinking land and rising sea levels,” he said.

Fauzi said the sea wall, which would create a huge dam, would serve multiple functions, including providing the capital’s residents with clean water.

But Kiara is trying to keep the project from going forward, saying that the wall project is illegal because no one consulted or got permission from the affected residents.

“The solution [to the tidal waves and increasing subsidence rate] should be to rehabilitate the ecosystem there, because the pressure faced by the coastal ecosystem is pretty high,” Selamet said.

“Increased activity there will only cause sea water intrusion and flooding.”

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Nearly half of Indonesia`s environment already damaged: Minister

Antara 6 Sep 12;

Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) - Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said on Wednesday that around 40 percent to 50 percent of Indonesia`s environment has been damaged on a national scale.

The damage done to Indonesia`s environment can be pegged at 40 percent to 50 percent, the environment minister said while addressing a group of scouts.

Kambuaya was speaking at an event organized jointly by the office of the Ministry of Environment and the National Scout Movement to promote a campaign aimed at spreading awareness about preserving the environment.

The minister noted that the damage has been largely wrought by the activities of human beings. "It is caused by the actions of human beings, and therefore, the scout movement can help popularize ways in which we can safeguard the environment going forward."

Kambuaya, who is also a rector at the Cenderawasih University of Papua, said his office will extend full cooperation to the scout movement, and provide them with information about how the public can work towards preserving the environment, so that the younger generation is able to enjoy the fruits of their efforts during the next 20 to 30 years.

Meanwhile, Zulkarnaen, the director of the Environmental Forum of Walhi in South Sulawesi pointed out that the environmental damage in the province during the last few years can be pegged at 80 percent.

The forum also stated on record that at least 24 districts or municipalities in the province and around 20 other districts such as Maros, Pangkep and East Luwu have undergone the worst environmental damage.(*)

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Indonesian Government Means It This Time: Deforestation moratorium

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 5 Sep 12;

The government is set to conduct a field survey this month to update its map for a deforestation moratorium, after various stakeholders submitted conflicting claims on the actual situation.

The map has been revised twice before. For the third revision, a dedicated government task force to monitor the implementation of the moratorium staged a two-day seminar to garner input from stakeholders including the National Land Agency (BPN), the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.

“The likelihood that the map will change is there, because the BPN has not provided much input,” said Geospatial Information Agency deputy Priyadi Kardono, a member of the task force.

“We are still collecting data. Not all the data from the Forestry Ministry has been collected, for instance.”

He added the task force had received a report from the Sustainable Ecosystem Foundation (YEL) about a forest area in Batang Toru, Tapanuli district, North Sumatra, which was supposed to be protected under the moratorium map but which was in reality classified as a production forest.

A production forest is one where logging is permitted.

Priyadi said another report came from the South Sumatra Forestry Agency, which reported four companies engaged in deforestation on sites included in the existing moratorium map.

“There will a field survey of five provinces — North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra, East Kalimantan and South Sulawesi — from September 19 to 30,” he said.

The third revision, Priyadi said, would be issued in November.

Nirarta Samadhi, chairman of the moratorium monitoring team and a deputy at the Presidential Working Unit for Development, Supervision and Oversight (UKP4), said that the data for the third revision would be more complete than that used in the previous versions.

“The old forest map was done using old methods. Now that we have high resolution imaging, it must be analyzed to create a new map,” he said.

Last month, Norway’s environment minister, Baard Vegar Solhjell, urged Indonesia to avoid backtracking on its own policies to protect tropical forests, saying up to $1 billion in aid promised by Oslo in exchange for Indonesia implementing the two-year moratorium hinged on proof of slower rates of forest clearance.

Norway, rich in oil and gas, has promised cash to 40 nations to stem deforestation, as part of efforts to slow the pace of climate change.

He said Indonesia had made a “big step forward” by imposing the moratorium on forest clearance in 2011, despite widespread criticism that illegal logging was still continuing.

“[Indonesia] needs to move from this initial phase into a phase of actual reductions” of deforestation, Solhjell said.

“The big money will be connected to actual results.”

An earlier review of the moratorium map by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that it left almost 50 percent of Indonesia’s 100 million hectares of natural forest and peatland unprotected.

“The current moratorium is weak and does very little to protect the Indonesia’s forests,” said Deddy Ratih, an activist with Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

The moratorium to protect primary and peat forests came into effect last year as the centerpiece of a deal with Norway.

That deal was part of a larger commitment made by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from levels that year by 26 percent by 2020, or by 41 percent with international support.

Audit Agency To Review Indonesia's Mining Permits
Markus Junianto Sihaloho Jakarta Globe 5 Sep 12;

The Supreme Audit Agency is reviewing more than 10,000 mining concessions as Indonesia enters the second half of a two-year moratorium on deforestation.

Arif Sendjaya, BPK’s chief auditor for region IV which includes Sumatra, Java, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara, said that the review is scheduled for next month and should be completed next year.

“We will conduct preliminary examinations, including on the procedure of how the concession is given, whether these permits were issued according to regulations and procedures or not,” he said.

The BPK, he said, will also monitor the concessionaires’ compliance with other rules and regulations.

“So [concessions] must not only follow the rules set by the Energy Ministry but also, for example, comply with the rules set by the Environment Ministry. All these must be conformed,” Arif said.

Environment Minister Balthazar Kambuaya said his office will not endorse an extension of mining concessions without renewing its Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal).

“If they want to renew [permits] the Amdal must be cleared and reviewed,” he said. “Amdal must be renewed, to preserve the environment. Companies must comply to existing rules.”

Last year, the government audited more than 8,000 existing mining permits to make sure they are in line with mining and environmental laws.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year signed a two-year moratorium on permits for logging and another decrees allowing underground mining in protected forests if conditions such as an environmental assessment have been met. The rules were softer than expected by environmentalists and it was not clear if the audit of permits would lead to any cancelations. Indonesia had already stopped issuing new mining permits ahead of mining regulations stemming from a 2008 law.

The moratorium was part of a UN-based project, financed largely by Norway, to reduce carbon emissions.

But higher commodity prices are attracting increased investment interests in mining metals, such as nickel, in Indonesia, despite red tape, poor infrastructure and corruption.

But the severe bottleneck in mining license issuance threatens further development of Indonesia’s resources, executives have said.

Global miners with projects in Indonesia include Newmont Mining, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and BHP Billiton. Indonesia is the world’s top exporter of thermal coal and tin.

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East Kalimantan Police Sound Alarm Over Illegal Timber Flow to Malaysia

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 5 Sep 12;

Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Police in East Kalimantan are working with their counterparts in Malaysia to crack down on the transborder smuggling of illegal timber, following a series of seizures of valuable logs destined for Sabah state.

Sr. Comr. Antonius Wisnu Sutirta, a spokesman for the provincial police, said on Tuesday that police had foiled six attempts in August alone to smuggle illegally logged timber into Malaysia, arresting 11 people in the process.

“We’re now working with the Malaysian police because the wood logged here is meant for sale there, and the traders are based there,” he said.

He added that the smugglers were known to float the logs downstream toward the Malaysian border, before loading them onto boats and taking them across the border under cover of darkness.

“This is what we’ve been able to glean from the suspects,” Antonius said.

“Their main logging areas are along the border region in Malinau, Nunukan and Bulungan districts.”

The seizures last month netted 1,002 logs from the rare and valuable Borneo ironwood tree, known locally as ulin .

The wood, described as one of the densest and most durable types of timber in the world, typically sells for around $2,000 per cubic meter abroad, but is banned for export by the Indonesian government.

By comparison, ramin, another tropical hardwood and the most valuable commercial tree species allowed for export by Indonesia, sells for around $1,000.

Ulin is virtually depleted in Sabah, while logging in Indonesia is restricted to trees with a diameter less than 60 centimeters.

A recently concluded three-month survey by the military in Nunukan found fewer than 100 mature ulin trees remaining in the entire district. The slow-growing trees take more than a century to grow to a diameter of 30 centimeters.

Antonius acknowledged that illegally logged ulin timber was also being sold inside the country. He said police were working with domestic institutions such as the provincial forestry and transportation agencies to crack down on the trade.

“We really need people to come forward and report to us if they have any information about illegal logging,” he said.

Lt. Ego Harmawan, who led the survey of the ulin forests, said that although there were no more industrial-scale illegal logging practices of the kind common in the 1990s, the logging was still continuing.

“Most of the time it’s taking place on a small scale and being done by local residents for whom these trees represent the only source of income,” he said

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Fishing Technique Flattens the Seafloor

Wynne Parry Yahoo News 5 Sep 12;

Fishing fleets are altering the seafloor much like farmer's ploughs have altered the landscape, indicates a study of the effects of so-called bottom trawling on the continental slope off the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Bottom trawlers drag nets and gear to capture fish, shrimp and other marine life along the seafloor, and previous research has called out this technique for stirring up sediment and destroying habitat.

This new study by a Spanish team looked down into deeper waters than typically studied, at the upper portion of the continental slope, which drops out toward the deep ocean and offers insight into how the deep-sea landscape changes.

Bottom trawlers fish down to 2,625 feet (800 meters) in the northern Catalan margin, a region that contains La Fonera Canyon the focus of the new study.

Here, researchers measured sediment flow and found sediment was being stirred up on weekdays but not on weekends, a schedule that corresponds to fishermen's work week. They also combined maps of the seafloor terrain with satellite records of the routes of large bottom trawlers in the area.

They found that ship navigation tracks coincided with a smooth and homogenous seafloor, while untrawled areas had a complex surface. The smoothing out of the ocean bottom, the researchers note, eliminates variation in habitats, potentially reducing species diversity.

"Trawled continental-slope environments are the underwater equivalent of a gullied hill slope on land, part of which has been transformed into crop fields that are ploughed regularly," the team writes in Thursday's (Sept. 6) issue of the journal Nature.

This alteration has the potential to reduce seafloor habitat affecting the species that live there, write the researchers led by Pere Puig of the Marine Sciences Institute in Spain. Since deep-sea trawling is practiced around the world it is possible that this fishing practice is altering the seafloor along continental slopes at a large scale, they write.

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The sixth extinction menaces the very foundations of culture

Human culture is profoundly rooted in nature, yet human activity endangers the survival of entire species of plants and animals
Jonathan Jones 5 Sep 12;

In a cave in south-west France an extinct animal materialises out of the dark. Drawn in vigorous black lines by an artist in the ice age, a woolly mammoth shakes hairs that hide its face and vaunts slender tusks that reach almost to the ground.

Those tusks were not dangerous enough to save it. As human hunters advanced on its icy haunts, mammoths faced extinction between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago. The end of the ice age did for these shaggy cold-lovers, but humans helped: entire huts built from mammoth tusks and bones have been found.

We didn't mean to help make the mammoth extinct. The wonderful portrait of a mammoth in Pech Merle cave reveals that early homo sapiens was fascinated by these marvellous creatures. This masterpiece of cave art is as acute as any modern work of naturalist observation. The hunters who painted in caves showed the same passion for the natural world as their descendants do. Their culture must have been bereft when the mammoth vanished – even as they helped it on its way.

In the 21st century the same paradox endures. Human activity endangers entire species, yet human culture is profoundly rooted in nature. The loss of a species is also a loss of the images, stories, symbols and wonders that we live by – to call it a cultural loss may sound too cerebral: what we lose when we lose animals is the very meaning of life. Those first artists in ancient caves portrayed animals far more than they portrayed people. It was in the wild herds around them that the power of the cosmos and the mystery of existence seemed to be located.

No species in modern times embodies that fascination more fully than the tiger, one of today's most endangered predators. Since the Romantic age tigers have been endowed in art and literature with the marvellous essence of life itself, a primeval power like the enigmatic strangeness the stone age artist saw in a mammoth. "What immortal hand or eye,/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" wonders William Blake in his 1794 poem The Tyger. That same childlike awe – Blake's poem appears in his child's eye Songs of Innocence and Experience – is shared by Henri Rousseau's 1891 painting Surprised! of an archetypal tiger in a fantastic jungle.

These artistic hymns to the tiger are just the noblest expressions of an imagery that pervades modern culture from tigers who come to tea to tigers with neat feet. It just seems unimaginable that a creature so familiar in our shared dreams should vanish from the natural world. Human culture would lose immeasurably from such a disappearance. And what about sharks? More ancient than dinosaurs, under threat for the first time in their mind-bogglingly long history, these creatures feed modern culture some of its darkest folklore. Shark films and scare stories are the modern equivalent of stone age hunters telling tales about bears and wolves around the fire. We fear them, but our culture needs them.

Cute creatures as well as scary ones inspire the stories and myths that humans cannot live without. Amphibians, most threatened animal group of all, are among the most universal stars of culture. While Blake was marvelling at tigers, the Grimms recorded the folk tale of the frog-prince. Long before that Plato said the ancient Greeks were like frogs around a pond. Aristophanes wrote a comedy called The Frogs. American frogs were depicted by the Aztecs as well as providing Amazonian peoples with arrow poison. The very naming of poison dart frogs reveals how deeply they are associated with cultures that are themselves on the brink of extinction.

In Britain too, the amphibious denizens of threatened waterlands have always inspired imaginations. Could our culture survive without Toad of Toad Hall?

Not so long ago British beaches were seasonally covered with "mermaid's purses", the eggs of sharks and rays. The name reveals how deeply nature feeds folk culture, in Britain as in the Amazon. Is it possible still to find masses of mermaid's purses on the Welsh rocks where I used to wonder what they were? I have to look for them with my daughter soon, before it is too late. The range of animals and plants threatened by the sixth extinction – as covered by the Guardian over this fortnight – is such that it menaces the foundations of culture as well as the diversity of nature. We are part of nature and it has always fed our imaginations. We face the bare walls of an empty museum, a gallery of the dead.

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