Best of our wild blogs: 15 Sep 12

Damselflies – Cleaning Behaviours
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

Nature Explorers’ Programme 2012!
from Raffles Museum News

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Malaysia: Land acquisition for Pengerang petrochemical projects

33 Parties Affected By Rapid Project In Pengerang Will Receive Compensation Soon
Bernama 14 Sep 12;

JOHOR BAHARU, Sept 14 (Bernama) - Some 33 out of 191 parties affected by land acquisition for the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project and Pengerang Deep Sea Petroleum Terminal project will receive their compensation payment vouchers soon.

Johor Land and Mines Office deputy director Azmi Rohani said vouchers for the first session of land acquisition are expected to be ready next week in line with the state government promise to settle payment within 14 days.

"We had issued 191 award and compensation notices (Form H) to the affected parties and 74 forms were returned indicating their willingness to accept compensation.

"Of the number, we issued 33 payment vouchers with 16 already taken and the balance will be settled next week," he told reporters at a special briefing on the progress of Pengerang oil and gas project here.

The briefing was attended by the director of Johor State Economic Planning Unit, Elias Hasran and chief executive officer of Johor Petroleum Development Corporation Berhad (JPDC), Mohd Yazid Jaafar.

The state government also completed hearing for first session land acquisition on September 3 which ended today involving 1,537.6 hectares of land.

Azmi said the value of compensation given was based on many factors including the location of land, its uses and infrastructure on the land.

Those dissatisfied with the compensation given may appoint an independent valuer and lawyer and given six weeks to file objection.

Meanwhile, Elias denied claims that residents were given notice to vacate their homes last month saying it was a misunderstanding and twisted by certain parties.

"We received complaints that residents redeived notices to move out. Actually the information was wrong because what happened was that Petronas was conducting a social study.

"According to the plan, the relocation of phase one will start in March 2013 involving three villages - Kampung Sungai Kapal, Kampung Teluk Empang and Kampung Langkah Baik."

Elias said they will be relocated to Taman Bayu Permai in Kampung Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman (387 acres) followed by Kampung Sebong, Kampung Batu Mas and Kampung Jawa in October.

The relocation programme complete with infrastructure and payment of compensation in a fair, transparent and reasonable manner are among the six main principles in the development of Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC).

"The state government plans to develop about 8093.8 hectares land in Pengerang for PIPC development with 2549 hectares developed by Petronas under Rapid project and 544.3 hectares developed jointly by Dialog Group, Royal Vopak and State Secretary Incorporated.

"PIPC project is implemented with the six main principles for the benefit of the people and to safeguard the environment," he added.

It also stresses on change in the mindset of society to build a brighter future and improve the quality of life, environment and boost the local and national economy.


1,545 Muslim Graves In Pengerang To Be Relocated Due To RAPID Project
The Star 11 Sep 12;

JOHOR BAHARU, Sept 11 (Bernama) -- About 1,545 Muslim graves will be relocated to make way for the development of Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) and Pengerang Independent Deepwater Petroleum Terminal projects.

The Johor Petroleum Development Corporation Berhad (JPDC) in a statement Tuesday said, both the projects are located within the proposed Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC).

"The affected residents through discussion with the State's religious agencies have agreed to the relocation of the graves. Majlis Agama Islam Negeri Johor and Johor Religious Affairs Department have earlier conducted three briefing sessions on the relocation of the Muslim graves affected by the projects," it said.

The briefings said JPDC, were held from 16 July until 18 July to five villages, namely, Kampung Teluk Empang, Kampung Sungai Kapal, Kampung Sebong, Kampung Jawa Laut and Kampung Jawa Darat.

The affected 1,545 graves, which are spread over seven Muslim cemetery plots is expected to be relocated within four months effective from early October, said the corporation.


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‘Flipper’ trainer who flipped sides asks Filipinos to shun dolphin shows

Erika Sauler Philippine Daily Inquirer 15 Sep 12;

To help stop the violent capture of dolphins, boycott their shows.

A visiting American animal welfare activist on Friday urged Filipinos to stop patronizing theme parks with “stupid dolphin tricks,” while a fellow Singaporean advocate called on the government to return a batch of these imported marine mammals now in the country to the Solomon Islands.

Ric O’Barry, who once trained dolphins to be entertainers in the 1960s TV series “Flipper,” said Filipinos can help turn the tide against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan and their violent capture for shows that reap hefty profits for their organizers.

“If the Filipino people stop buying tickets to dolphin shows, it would be a peaceful, nonviolent way to solve the problem,” O’Barry said in a press conference in Manila.

“The solution lies with the consumers,” O’Barry said. “And if you are buying dolphin meat, you are adding to the demand side.”

From being a dolphin trainer for “Flipper,” O’Barry had a change of heart when one of his wards died in his arms. Since then, he has been helping environmental groups all over the world to end dolphin captivity.

This mission eventually led him to a part in the award-winning 2010 documentary “The Cove” which exposed the annual mass slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Together with Earth Island Institute-Philippines regional director Trixie Concepcion, O’Barry recently visited Dolphin Island at Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park where six of the three rescued animals had reportedly died.

“We were made to believe that Dolphin Island was a rehabilitation facility where dolphins would be cared for and released as soon as they were fit to go. It is unfortunate that some businessmen are using the animals for dolphin swimming and feeding attractions,” Concepcion said.

Also at the press conference, Louis Ng of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society in Singapore called on the government “to do the right thing” and return to Solomon Islands the 25 dolphins being trained here for later transfer to Sentosa, Singapore.

Ng said the Solomon Islands, which bans the export of dolphins, will certainly welcome the animals, rehabilitate them and release them back to the wild.

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Indonesia: More than 230 Hot Spots Observed in East Kalimantan

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 13 Sep 12;

Samarinda. The number of fire hot spots detected in East Kalimantan this month has increased to more than 230, with most found at Suharto Hill forest park, which is also known as Tahura.

“Based on our observation earlier this week, 236 hot spots have been detected and most of them are at Suharto Hill forest park and Kutai Kartanegara,” said Eddy Yudjar, an official at the East Kalimantan Forestry Agency’s municipal technical unit for forest fire and land control.

Eddy said the hot spots were observed using a satellite from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The municipal team will be deployed to an area if NOAA detects a high number of hot spots so the local authorities can swiftly contain the situation, Eddy said, adding that conditions in East Kalimantan were normal for now.

The fires captured by the satellite were set off by local residents for planting, he said.

To prevent forest fires, the agency has set up task forces in several areas that are prone to fires. The agency has also trained local residents to help contain forest fires.

“We have to admit that our team [members] are limited. That’s why we’re working with local residents. They will be the ones to go into the fields with assistants to see the conditions,” Eddy said.

The agency has put several personnel and fire fighters on a standby in Tahura due to the high probability of fire, especially during the dry season.

“Tahura is a high priority due to the high number of hot spots,” Eddy said. “We’ve dispatched a team and other supporting devices. Coordination with the regional administration has also been done.”

Sutrisno, head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) for Samarinda said East Kalimantan is expected to start its rainy season between late September and mid-October.

Masks Distributed as Haze Shrouds Central Kalimantan
Jakarta Globe 14 Sep 12;

East Kotawaringin, Central Kalimantan. Authorities in East Kotawaringin are distributing 6,000 free masks to residents as haze caused by ground brush and forest fires has thickened in the area in recent days, an official said on Thursday.

The haze could get thicker still in the coming days as more and more fire hot spots have been detected, while officials have said rains are not likely to come for another two months.

“The targets of this mask distribution are primarily road users, motorcyclists, car drivers, cyclists or pedestrians,” said Johan Wahyudi, the head of the district disaster mitigation unit.

He said it was hoped that the distribution of the masks would reduce the number of respiratory tract health complaints that have surged in the past two days.

The local chapter of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) worked with youth organizations to assist in the distribution of the masks, Johan said, setting up posts at several strategic locations across Sampit, the East Kotawaringin district capital.

He said that after the 6,000 masks were all distributed, authorities would wait to see whether the haze continued to worsen, at which point more masks would be distributed for free.

He added that his office still had a stock of some 7,000 masks.

“These masks will not be distributed all at once, but gradually, in line with the situation and conditions,” he said.

He also called on road users to use extra caution because the smog had resulted in substantially reduced visibility.

Ground brush and forest fires, most caused by outlawed but cheap land clearing by fire ahead of the new plantation season, is common across Indonesia toward the end of the dry season.

Although the practice of land clearing by burning is illegal, the lack of enforcement has allowed it to continue unabated.

In neighboring provinces, such as East Kalimantan, officials reported on Wednesday an increase in fire hot spots to more than 230, with most found inside the Bukit Suharto community forest, ostensibly a protected area.

The fires, captured by satellite, were set off by local residents to clear land for planting, an official said.

To prevent forest fires, the local administration has set up task forces in several areas prone to blazes. The East Kalimantan Forestry Agency has also trained local residents to help contain forest fires.

Meanwhile, forest fires in Sumatra last week were blamed for the worst air pollution levels recorded this year in the neighboring city-state of Singapore.

Local media reported that the city-state’s Pollutant Standards Index ranged from 65-75 on the morning of Sept. 7 after a night of thick, choking haze over the island, before clearing up later in the day.

A PSI reading of 65-75 is still in the moderate range. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy.

Haze caused by the fires affects tourism and contributes to health problems across the region.


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'Red List' of Endangered Ecosystems Proposed

Becky Oskin Yahoo News 15 Sep 12;

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature moved closer to approving its new Red List of Ecosystems, which measures an ecosystem's risk of collapse, this week at the World Conservation Congress in South Korea.

The IUCN is known for its authoritative Red List of Threatened Species, which created globally accepted criteria for assessing extinction risk. The new conservation tool takes a similar approach to entire ecosystems, determining the danger to an individual ecosystem, comparable to measuring the danger of a species going extinct.

Scientists presented several test cases for the ecosystem list at the meeting, in preparation for the official launch of the Red List next year. A formal proposal to IUCN leadership to adopt the Red List criteria is planned for early 2013, said Jon Paul Rodriguez, leader of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management’s Ecosystems Red List Thematic Group. Funding is in place for identifying vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered ecosystems in the Americas, from Alaska to Patagonia, by 2014, Rodriguez told OurAmazingPlanet. Organizers hope to complete global coverage by 2025.

Ecosystem extinction?

The details of the criteria that will be used to assess which ecosystems are in danger are planned for publication in a scientific journal later this year.

According to the IUCN, the list will help guide conservation action, including land use planning and investment priorities, by evaluating the risks of ecosystem collapse.

"The risk assessment will help people identify where key threats are, and then identify what can we do about it," said Edmund Barrow, head of the IUCN's Ecosystem Management Program.

"We limit the assessment to the likelihood of an ecosystem disappearing," Rodriguez said. "We're letting others take it a step further into the priority-setting world."

An ecosystem is an area of land and/or water plus the species living there. For example, an ecosystem could be a lake or system of lakes, a mountain or mountain range, a river or river basin, a coral reef or group of reefs, an expanse of desert or a set of caves.

Not all of those who study ecosystems agree with the idea of the list. Ecosystems expert Daniel Botkin said "it doesn't make sense"to compare ecosystems to species."You can't really talk about the extinction of an ecosystem," said Botkin, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of a new book on climate change and extinctions, "The Moon and the Nautilus Shell." "Ecosystems are systems that are dynamic and changing. An ecosystem doesn't disappear when one species disappears and another moves in," Botkin told OurAmazingPlanet.

Ecosystems at risk

The assessment criteria are currently being tested through projects in the Sipapo Forest Reserve and Falcon State in Venezuela; China's Liaohe Delta; New South Wales, Australia; and in Senegal and New Zealand. In the United States, the IUCN commission is interested in assessing the Midwest's shortgrass prairie and the Mississippi catchment basin, Barrow said. They also plan to study Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador. [Images: North America's Tallgrass Prairies]

Completing the Red List of Ecosystems will require additional fundraising for future scientific studies. "It does seem like a great concept, but the cynical side of me is concerned that this is going to dilute other efforts that are already out there," said Dodd Galbreath, a policy analyst and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Practice at Lipscomb University in Nashville.

"In a world of increasingly limited resources for nonprofits and scientific organizations, there are already a lot of organizations doing this and you have to wonder why we need another one," Galbreath said.

The IUCN also plans to introduce another list – a Green List – to recognize efforts to prevent ecosystems from becoming more threatened. "There are some direct benefits of having the carrot and stick, though the Red [List] is not quite a stick," Barrow said.

Held once every four years, the World Conservation Congress runs through Sept.15. Some 8,000 people from 170 countries have gathered on Jeju Island in South Korea, representing government agencies and nongovernmental organizations as well as scientists, business and community leaders. A list of the 100 most threatened species also came out of the meeting.

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Call to freeze fishing in Europe to replenish stocks

BBC News 14 Sep 12;

A think tank has made a controversial case for freezing fishing in Europe, saying most fish stocks would return to sustainable levels within five years.

The London-based New Economics Foundation (Nef) argues in its report that the suspension would generate billions of pounds in profits by 2023.

Private investment would compensate fishermen and maintain boats.

A senior UK fishing industry representative said stocks were already improving and the idea made no sense.

Unsustainable fishing remains a major issue for the EU, where 75% of stocks are still overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they were 15-20 years ago.

The European Parliament approved measures this week against third countries which allowed the practice.

However, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki recently reported progress in the fight to reduce overfishing.
No catch?

In its report, No Catch Investment, Nef said it had calculated the costs of restoring fish stocks and found they were far outweighed by the economic benefits in the short and long term.

It looked at 51 out of 150 commercial fish stocks, including hake, mackerel, whiting and Icelandic cod.

Most, it said, could be restored to sustainable levels within five years, with some varieties such as certain mackerel and herring needing less than a year.

However, some stocks of cod and halibut would take at least nine years to replenish, the Nef report found.

The think tank calculated that private investment of £9.16bn (11.4bn euros; $14.7bn) to manage the fishing freeze would generate profit of £4.43bn by 2023. "By 2052, the returns are £14 for every £1 invested," it said.

The investment would ensure "zero unemployment" among fishermen and would guard against depreciation of their vessels, the Nef argued.
'No sense'

In a recent report, Commissioner Damanaki found that overfishing in the North-East Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea had been reduced from 72% in 2010 to 47% in 2012.

The number of stocks being fished sustainably had risen from 13 to 19, she said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO), argued there was no need for the freeze proposed by the Nef.

"I don't think it makes sense at any level: biological, economic or political," he said.

"On the whole, we are already moving towards maximum sustainable yields so why would it make sense to spend these huge amounts of money?"

A freeze on fishing would result in a degeneration of infrastructure and a loss of markets, he said. When the herring industry in the North Sea was closed in the 1970s, he pointed out, "a whole generation lost the art of cooking and eating herring".

Aniol Esteban, who co-authored the Nef report, told the BBC News website that to say Europe was progressing towards sustainable fishing was akin to saying "that instead of driving a car over a cliff at 100mph we are driving it at 90mph".

"Overfishing is not being tackled for the majority of affected stocks, or at a fast enough pace," he added, stressing that the Nef idea would actually boost the fishing industry in the long term.

Asked by the BBC if imports of fish from outside Europe would not have to rise unsustainably as a result of the freeze, he said the alternative to increasing imports was to reduce fish consumption by a fifth until stocks were rebuilt.

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Plans for giant Antarctic marine sanctuary falter

Nick Perry Associated Press Yahoo News 14 Sep 12;

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Antarctica's Ross Sea is often described as the most isolated and pristine ocean on Earth, a place where seals and penguins still rule the waves and humans are about as far away as they could be. But even there it has proven difficult, and maybe impossible, for nations to agree on how strongly to protect the environment.

The United States and New Zealand have spent two years trying to agree on an Alaska-sized marine sanctuary where fishing would be banned and scientists could study climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a strong interest in the outcome, regularly prodding diplomats, and New Zealand recently sent a delegation to Washington to reach a tentative deal.

That compromise, over a region that accounts for less than 2 percent of New Zealand's fishing industry, flopped this month when senior New Zealand politicians rejected it behind closed doors.

The U.S. and New Zealand have now sent competing plans to the 25 countries that meet annually each October to decide the fate of Antarctica's waters. Their inability to agree greatly increases the chances that nothing will get done.

Evan Bloom, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, said the U.S. put a great deal of effort into its reserve proposal because it believes the Ross Sea is the best place on Earth for scientists to carry out studies away from the influence of mankind.

"If you can't do it in Antarctica, where can you do it?" said Bloom.

Both countries advocated for marine sanctuaries. The differences between the two plans seem small on a map, but they center on the areas of the sea where marine life is most abundant.

The U.S. does not have fishing interests in the Ross Sea, though fish caught there often end up in high-end American restaurants, marketed as Chilean sea bass.

The species is actually an ugly creature called the Antarctic toothfish. Fishermen from New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and other nations have been catching them in the Ross Sea since the 1990s. They use lines that can stretch more than a mile to catch about 100,000 of them a year.

The U.S. aimed to reach an agreement with a nation that fishes the Ross Sea in hopes it would lead to a broader deal to protect marine habitats there.

New Zealand wanted to minimize disruption to its fisheries, but also wanted to burnish its conservation credentials. The country not only prides itself as an environmental leader, but it also makes money by marketing its clean, green image to trading partners and tourists. And it has criticized other nations' environmental records at sea, particularly nations that allow whaling.

Clinton urged diplomats to craft a deal. When she visited the Cook Islands last month, she described the Ross Sea as "one of the last great marine wilderness areas on the planet" and said the U.S. was working with other countries, "in particular New Zealand," to establish protected areas. Murray McCully, New Zealand's foreign affairs minister, echoed her comments.

Late last month, senior New Zealand diplomat Gerard van Bohemen led a team to Washington that spent four days grinding out the details of a compromise. After he brought the proposal back to New Zealand's ruling National Party, its senior Cabinet of lawmakers met in a closed session and rejected it.

Exactly why, they're not saying. Van Bohemen and Cabinet minister Steven Joyce declined to give interviews.

McCully also declined to discuss what happened, although he said in an email that New Zealand will keep working closely with the Americans.

The Ross Sea fishery is small on a global scale, worth about $60 million per year. The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council says New Zealand's Ross Sea catch accounts for just $16 million of a national industry worth over $1 billion.

But council spokesman Don Carson said New Zealand relies on dozens of species being fished in dozens of places. "None of them are huge, but they are very diverse, and we are keen not to lose any of them," he said.

Carson said the Ross Sea is being fished conservatively and sustainably, so further restrictions are unnecessary.

"We fish in a very limited area for a very limited season," he said. "We don't want to be buffeted by the winds of popular sentiment when that sentiment is based on a misapprehension of what's going on."

Antarctic fishing is regulated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the 25-nation group scheduled to meet next month. Its executive secretary, Andrew Wright, said fishing in the Ross Sea is carefully regulated with quota limits set each year, and that available science points to the fishery being sustainable.

Peter Young, a New Zealander who recently directed an environmental advocacy documentary on the sea titled "The Last Ocean," said an international agreement that protects Antarctic land from exploitation should be extended to its seas.

"Almost every other ocean on earth has been impacted and affected by humanity," he said. "We're down to the last few places, and we've got to protect it and have something to hand on to future generations."

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Antarctic ozone hole smaller than in 2011

Reuters Yahoo News 14 Sep 12;

GENEVA (Reuters) - The hole in the ozone layer, the earth's protective shield against ultraviolet rays, is expected to be smaller this year over the Antarctic than last, showing how a ban on harmful substances has stopped its depletion, the United Nations said on Friday.

But the hole is probably larger than in 2010 and a complete recovery is still a long way off.

The signing of the Montreal Protocol 25 years ago to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer has helped prevent millions of cases of skin cancer and eye cataracts as well as harmful effects on the environment, the U.N. weather agency said.

"The temperature conditions and the extent of polar stratospheric clouds so far this year indicate that the degree of ozone loss will be smaller than in 2011 but probably somewhat larger than in 2010," the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a statement.

The Antarctic ozone hole, which currently measures 19 million square kilometers, most likely would be smaller this year than in the record year of 2006, it said. The annual occurrence typically reaches its maximum surface area during late September and maximum depth in early October.

But the banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once used in refrigerators and spray cans, have a long lifetime in the atmosphere and it will take several decades before their concentrations are back to pre-1980 levels, the WMO said.

The Montreal protocol has been a "great success", U.N. weather agency expert Geir Braathen told a news briefing.

"This has prevented a major environmental disaster and globally ozone depletion has leveled off. We haven't really seen any kind of unequivocal ozone recovery yet," he said.

"Ozone depletion has stopped, leveled off," Braathen said.

In the Arctic stratosphere, there was record ozone loss in spring of 2011, but it has returned to more normal conditions this year, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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