Best of our wild blogs: 12 Sep 12

Shell briefing on planned dredging
from wild shores of singapore

In the News: IUCN World Conservation Congress News Round-up – Part Three from ARKive blog

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Affected area in oil spill "generally clean" but clean up continues: MPA

Channel NewsAsia 11 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The clean up of an oil spill following the collision of two vessels in Singapore waters is continuing.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said as of 5pm, waters in the affected area were generally clean.

There were only patches of sheen sighted near the Jurong Island T-bund and Tuas View Extension.

The rock bund and lagoon cleaning up operation at Sultan Shoal Island have already been completed.

Still, MPA said that the sea-based clean up operation will continue, as will its work with JTC Corporation and the National Environment Agency on the land-based clean up.

Vessel traffic in the Port of Singapore as well as port operations remain unaffected.

The collision happened on Sunday afternoon, between the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Sunny Horizon and the Korean-registered liquefied petroleum gas carrier DL Salvia.

The bunker tank on DL Salvia was breached and close to 60 metric tonnes of oil was spilled.

- CNA/ck

Oil Spill Following Collision Between "Sunny Horizon" and "DL Salvia" at Temasek Fairway - Update: 2
MPA News Release 11 Sep 12;

The cleaning up of the oil spill following the collision between Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier "Sunny Horizon" and Korean-registered Liquefied Petroleum Gas carrier "DL Salvia" continued today.

As at 1700hrs, Singapore's waters around the affected area are generally clean, with only patches of sheen sighted near the Jurong Island T-bund and Tuas View Extension. The sea-based clean up operation continues, with a deployment of 7 craft, a harbour buster and 2 containment booms.

MPA continues working with JTC Corporation and the National Environment Agency on the land-based clean up efforts. The rock bund and lagoon cleaning up operation at Sultan Shoal Island has been completed.

Vessel traffic in the Port of Singapore and port operations remain unaffected.

Members of the public can contact MPA's 24-hours Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2489 to report any sighting of oil slick in our waters or coastlines.

End of release.

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Online Petition Draws Attention To Indonesia’s Shark Fin Shame

Jakarta Globe 11 Sep 12;

Indonesia has enough to worry about without every visitor coming through Soekarno-Hatta International Airport seeing that its endangered wildlife is up for sale. There in Terminal 2, alongside places like Starbucks and Duty-Free, is the Crown Toko Hasil Laut, or Crown Marine Product Store, a controversial outlet that proudly boasts the sale of Indonesian-harvested shark fin.

Shark fin, coveted in the Asian market and touted as a powerful aphrodisiac, is responsible for the slaughter of more than 70 million sharks around the world every year. Some estimates reach as high as 100 million sharks a year — that’s 190 sharks a minute.

A quick search on YouTube reveals a number of gruesome videos revealing the manner in which most fins are harvested. Fishermen haul the sharks onto the deck of the boat, quickly slice off the dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins and immediately throw the carcasses back into the ocean, leaving the shark to drown or be eaten alive by other fish.

With one-third of all shark species nearly extinct, it’s hard to imagine how officials could allow a shop like Crown, which sells an array of shark fins, to exist in an airport that saw 51.1 million passengers, or the equivalent of the entire population of South Korea, pass through its doors in 2011.

“It’s a hypocritical statement by our government, which screams that they are involved in all forms of conservation and protection of the environment while they allow such a controversial product to [be sold] within our country’s primary international gateway,” says Muljadi Pinneng, an acclaimed underwater photographer and one of 788 concerned citizens to sign a petition to stop the sale of shark fin in Crown.

The petition, created by an activist named Glenton Jelbert, is gaining signatures and momentum by the day.

“I thought, firstly this is just crazy,” said Jelbert, who is based in Singapore, but was passing through Jakarta when he saw the store and decided to channel his frustrations into an online petition. “I have nothing against Crown. The shop is acting within the law and just trying to make money. It’s one of those situations where legal does not mean moral. I just don’t want them selling products from endangered species, and shark fin in particular, especially because of the way it’s harvested and because of the brand damage that it does to Indonesia with international eco-tourists coming through.”

But not everyone believes the path to shark conservation begins with asking places like Crown to take shark fin off the shelves.

Peter J. Mous, the fisheries adviser for the USAID-sponsored Indonesian Marine and Climate Support Project, believes villainizing places like Crown is “meaningless.”

“I think it is the responsibility of the government to act to ensure that shark populations stay at a healthy level,” said Mous, who explicitly stated that he is in no way affiliated with the fight against Crown.

Mous quoted official statistics from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries that estimate the total amount of shark — the entire fish, so not only the fins — caught in 2010 was about 46,000 tons, or about 1 percent of the total volume of marine capture fisheries.

“The community should hold the government responsible for putting regulations in place that achieve this, and the community should take responsibility for making others aware that sharks are being over-exploited,” Mous said. “I also think that a focused action against Crown for selling shark fin is meaningless — Crown is fully legal under the laws of the democratic nation of Indonesia, and they are merely catering for consumers who clearly do not share the concerns of those who are against shark finning.”

Meanwhile, Indonesia is one of the biggest suppliers to the shark fin market. Nearly one-third of the world’s shark species, 15 percent of which live in Indonesian waters, are on the brink of extinction.

Diver and environmentalist Riyanni Djangkaru, who is also the editor in chief of DiveMag Indonesia, knows all about brand damage and is leading the fight against finning here in Indonesia.

“When I see Crown I feel ashamed,” said Riyanni, who has appeared on a handful of local television programs and utilized her wildly popular Twitter account to spread the word about the devastating effects of finning. “It’s not only a black eye for Indonesia, it’s a sign of a lack of knowledge.”

Riyanni’s battle against shark finning here in Indonesia is gaining ground. So much so that at the 2012 Deep and Extreme Indonesia event in the Jakarta Convention Center, Riyanni was sent threatening texts and, on two separate occasions, bowls of shark fin soup in a blood-curdling murmur of dissent.

“When it happened I was a bit shocked, but also excited,” said Riyanni. “Receiving the bowls of sharks’ fin meant our message was hitting them where it hurt, and all the crazy stuff they did just pushes us forward.”

If just a fraction of the passengers who visited Soekarno-Hatta this year signed the petition, Arief Aziz, the communications director at Indonesia, believes airport officials would have no choice but to address the issue.

“That’s exactly what our platform is for,” said Arief. “ is for anyone, anywhere to lead their own campaigns on issues they care about ... this is a great example of how one person can tackle a big issue, one store at a time.”

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Rhinos listed among the most threatened species

TRAFFIC 11 Sep 12;

Jeju, Republic of Korea — Asia’s few remaining Javan and Sumatran Rhinos have been identified by conservationists as some of the most threatened animals in the world. A list of the 100 species at greatest risk of extinction has been released by the Zoological Society of London and IUCN to governments and environmental organizations gathering for the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Measures to conserve rhinos and other endangered species from threats such as poaching, illegal trade and habitat loss are expected to be agreed at the meeting.

“The world’s rhinos are under attack from poachers, traders and consumers who are after their horns. With so few Javan and Sumatran Rhinos remaining, these prehistoric creatures stand to be lost forever unless steps are taken to increase their numbers, stop poaching, and curb the illegal trade in rhino horns,” said Dr. A. Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian rhino and elephant expert.

There are fewer than 50 Javan Rhinos Rhinoceros sondaicus remaining, all in one Indonesian national park. Sumatran Rhinos Dicerorhinus sumatrensis live in a few scattered locations across Sumatra and Borneo, but number fewer than 200. The animals are not breeding fast enough to ensure their survival in the event of a disease outbreak, volcanic eruption or tsunami. Additionally, Sumatran Rhinos are under intense pressure from poaching and loss of their forest habitats to logging and agricultural conversion.

“The increase in demand for rhino horn in Asia in recent years, primarily from Viet Nam, has caused poaching to skyrocket to record levels as far away as South Africa,” said Dr. Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme. “Myths of new curative powers for rhino horn are fuelling an illegal market that threatens to compromise decades of successful conservation progress."

Viet Nam lost its last rhino to poaching in 2010, leading to the country’s annamiticus subspecies of Javan Rhino being declared extinct. Another subspecies, the Western Black Rhino Diceros bicornis longipes in Cameroon, has also gone extinct. Three of the five species of rhinoceros are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

However, effective conservation measures have brought back rhino species from the brink of extinction. Last year Nepal celebrated a year without any rhino poaching incidents, which was largely attributed to increased law enforcement measures implemented with the help of WWF.

“Highly-focused management can lead to increases in rhino populations as shown in the case of greater one-horned rhinos in Nepal and India. It is now urgent that conservation of Javan and Sumatran rhinos be addressed as a priority,” Dr. Williams said. “Given the gravity of the situation, extreme measures, such as translocations to safe sites and the establishment of new populations, must be explored.”

In honour of the International Year of the Rhino, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in June 2012 pledged to effectively address rhino conservation in the country and committed to better protection for the animals.

Last month, TRAFFIC released a comprehensive new report into the illegal rhino horn trade, which documented how poor compliance over rhino horn stockpile management, loopholes in sport hunting policy in South Africa, and surging demand for horn in Viet Nam, had created ideal conditions for the involvement of sophisticated criminal networks, leading to a dramatic escalation in poaching in southern Africa.

“As long as demand exists for rhino horn, and criminals consider the rewards outweigh the risk of being caught, gangs will go to any lengths to supply horn to the marketplace,” said Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Director of Advocacy.

Partners WWF and TRAFFIC have launched a global campaign against illegal trade of rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger parts. The campaign is seeking better law enforcement to disrupt wildlife trafficking, more effective deterrents, and reduction in demand for endangered species products.

TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of WWF and IUCN.

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At Least 200,000 Tons of Oil and Gas from Deepwater Horizon Spill Consumed by Gulf Bacteria

ScienceDaily 11 Sep 12;

Researchers from the University of Rochester and Texas A&M University have found that, over a period of five months following the disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, naturally-occurring bacteria that exist in the Gulf of Mexico consumed and removed at least 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas that spewed into the deep Gulf from the ruptured well head.

The researchers analyzed an extensive data set to determine not only how much oil and gas was eaten by bacteria, but also how the characteristics of this feast changed with time.

"A significant amount of the oil and gas that was released was retained within the ocean water more than one-half mile below the sea surface. It appears that the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria did a good job of removing the majority of the material that was retained in these layers," said co-author John Kessler of the University of Rochester.

The results published this week in Environmental Science and Technology include the first measurements of how the rate at which the bacteria ate the oil and gas changed as this disaster progressed, information that is fundamental to understanding both this spill and predicting the behavior of future spills.

Kessler noted: "Interestingly, the oil and gas consumption rate was correlated with the addition of dispersants at the wellhead. While there is still much to learn about the appropriateness of using dispersants in a natural ecosystem, our results suggest it made the released hydrocarbons more available to the native Gulf of Mexico microorganisms."

Their measurements show that the consumption of the oil and gas by bacteria in the deep Gulf had stopped by September 2010, five months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. "It is unclear if this indicates that this great feast was over by this time or if the microorganisms were simply taking a break before they start on dessert and coffee" said Kessler. "Our results suggest that some (about 40%) of the released hydrocarbons that once populated these layers still remained in the Gulf post September 2010, so food was available for the feast to continue at some later time. But the location of those substances and whether they were biochemically transformed is unknown."

Previous studies of the Deepwater Horizon spill had shown that the oil and gas were trapped in underwater layers, or "plumes," and that the bacteria had begun consuming the oil and gas. By using a more extensive data set, the researchers were able to measure just how many tons of hydrocarbons released from the spill had been removed in the deep Gulf waters. The team's research suggests that the majority of what once composed these large underwater plumes of oil and gas was eaten by the bacteria.

Professor John Kessler, recently appointed as Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Rochester, worked with graduate research assistant Mengran Du at Texas A&M University to analyze over 1300 profiles of oxygen dissolved in the Gulf of Mexico water spanning a period of four months and covering nearly 30,000 square miles.

The researchers calculated how many tons of oil and gas had been consumed and at what rate by first measuring how much oxygen had been removed from the ocean. Mengran Du explained that "when bacteria consume oil and gas, they use up oxygen and release carbon dioxide, just as humans do when we breathe. When bacteria die and decompose, that uses up still more oxygen. Both these processes remove oxygen from the water." Du added that it is this lower oxygen level that the researchers could measure and use as an indicator of how much oil and gas had been removed by microorganisms and at what rate.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation with additional contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Sloan Foundation, BP/the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and the Chinese Scholarship Council.

Journal Reference:

Mengran Du, John D. Kessler. Assessment of the Spatial and Temporal Variability of Bulk Hydrocarbon Respiration Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; : 120910170030009 DOI: 10.1021/es301363k

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Coral reefs in southern Taiwan becoming less diverse

Focus Taiwan CNA 11 Sep 12;

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) Coral reef communities in waters around Kenting, southern Taiwan, have slumped by over 63 percent in the past 26 years due to climate change and bleaching, Taiwan's top research institute said Tuesday.

The coral reefs in waters around Kenting's Wanlitung region decreased from 47.5 percent in 1985 to 17.7 percent in 2010, with biodiversity there becoming what Chen Chaolun, a research fellow at the Academia Sinica's Biodiversity Research Center, described as "monotonous."

Since 1996, the reefs around Kenting have been in decline as a result of typhoons, particularly Typhoon Morakot in 2008, as well as global sea-surface temperature-related worldwide coral bleaching that started coming to attention in 1998, Chen added.

From 1999 to 2005, during which there were no major disturbances, coral cover managed to return to 1987 levels.

Coral species from the genera Acropora and Montipora have almost disappeared from the reefs, whereas corals belonging to the genera Favia and Heliopora have maintained their presences at steady levels, which has resulted in fewer habitats for other species in the coral ecosystem, Chen said.

The disappearance of hard corals indicates that the health of the area's coral reefs is in jeopardy and that diverse reefs are declining, he went on.

"When a city changes, the citizens there change as well. With overfishing, now what snorkelers see is only a vast area of coral reef covered by green algae," Chen described of the underwater scene after macro algae, which competes with coral for space, increased from 11.3 percent in 2003 to 28.5 percent in 2010.

The researchers also found that hard coral in the region, which usually grows in shallow waters and is more vulnerable to pollution, has not regenerated, while the Heliopora and Favia corals return to a certain coverage rate several years after climatic disturbance.

Nearly 300 types of coral grow in the waters around Taiwan, which are home to nearly 1,500 fish species. However, natural disasters that are increasingly harder to control, plus human damage, are severely affecting the local coral reef ecosystem, Chen warned.

He urged the government to make Kenting National Park an ecological preserve in which fishing is prohibited, since many human activities do irreversible damage to coral communities.

Coral reef communities are also economically beneficial, with the annual net income provided by coral reefs globally estimated at up to NT$1 trillion (US$29.8 billion), according to Chen.

The government should tell local fishermen that a fishing ban "does not mean to stop you from living your lives as before. It aims to help you live better lives," he said.

Currently, Taiwan has only two "no-fishing" zones -- the Penghu Islands and the Pratas Islands, but the ban has not been implemented comprehensively and fishing continues in Penghu, Chen added.

"If things continue like that, we can only say goodbye to Taiwan's coral."

(By Chen Chih-chung, Zoe Wei and Kendra Lin)

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Twenty more "Niles" needed to feed growing population: leaders

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 11 Sep 12;

The world needs to find the equivalent of the flow of 20 Nile rivers by 2025 to grow enough food to feed a rising population and help avoid conflicts over water scarcity, a group of former leaders said on Monday.

Factors such as climate change would strain freshwater supplies and nations including China and India were likely to face shortages within two decades, they said, calling on the U.N. Security Council to get more involved.

"The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating," former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said of a study issued by a group of 40 former leaders he co-chairs including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.

"It will lead to some conflicts," Chretien told reporters on a telephone conference call, highlighting tensions such as in the Middle East over the Jordan River.

The study, by the InterAction Council of former leaders, said the U.N. Security Council should make water the top concern. Until now, the Security Council has treated water as a factor in other crises, such as Sudan or the impact of global warming.

It said that about 3,800 cubic km (910 cubic miles) of fresh water was taken from rivers and lakes every year.

"With about 1 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025, global agriculture alone will require another 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic miles) of water per year," it said. The world population now is just over 7 billion.

The increase was "equal to the annual flow of 20 Niles or 100 Colorado Rivers", according to the report, also backed by the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNWEH) and Canada's Gordon Foundation.


It said the greatest growth in demand for water would be in China, the United States and India due to population growth, increasing irrigation and economic growth.

"By 2030, demand for water in India and China, the most populous nations on Earth, will exceed their current supplies," the report said.

Global warming, blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, would aggravate the problems.

"We say in the U.N. system that climate change is all about water," said Zafar Adeel, director of UNWEH. Severe weather events - such as droughts, floods, mudslides or downpours - were becoming more frequent.

UN-Water, which coordinates water-related efforts by the United Nations, will organize a meeting of foreign ministers this month and separate talks among experts on September 25 to look at ways to address concerns over water.

The report said there were examples of water-related conflicts, for instance between Israelis and Palestinians over aquifers, between Egypt and other nations sharing the Nile, or between Iran and Afghanistan over the Hirmand River.

But it said the world had many chances to conserve water and to shift towards what it called a "blue economy". Fixing leaky pipes could help - in developing nations, about 40 percent of domestic water is lost before it reaches households.

Nations such as Israel have limited water use, for instance by shifting to less water-intensive crops or recycling. Olives or dates need less water, for instance, than oranges.

The report said that annual spending on improving water supplies and sanitation in developing nations should be raised by about $11 billion a year. Every dollar spent would yield an economic return of $3 to $4, it estimated.

One billion people have no fresh water and 2 billion lack basic sanitation. About 4,500 children die of water-related diseases every day - the equivalent of 10 jumbo jets falling out of the sky with no survivors, Chretien wrote.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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