Best of our wild blogs: 30 Sep 12

My First Visit to the Labrador Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Butterfly of the Month - September 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

Plant-bird relationship: 2. Moraceae (figs, etc.)
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Garden City Fund gets donation boost for coral reef survey

Channel NewsAsia 29 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board's Garden City Fund (GCF) will get a boost from a corporate donation for an upcoming survey of coral reefs.

The Air Liquide Group will donate more than S$50,000 to the fund.

Chairman of GCF, Professor Leo Tan, said: "It is with such partnerships that we can continue our efforts to conserve and sustain our biodiversity for present and future generations to enjoy."

Professor Tan added that Air Liquide is supporting an important national project that will contribute towards the management of Singapore's coastal and marine environment.

For the coral reef survey to be carried out, the GCF is seeking additional funds of S$220,000.

The coral reef survey, scheduled to start next year, is part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, a national initiative to take stock of Singapore's marine ecosystem, species diversity and distribution.

- CNA/al

Air Liquide Group contributes to conservation of Singapore's natural assets
NParks Press Release 29 Sep 12;

The donation of more than $50,000 will go towards planting of 101 native trees at Punggol Waterway Park and an upcoming coral reef survey

Singapore, 29 Sep 2012 - To celebrate 101 years of pioneering work in gases for industry, health and the environment, over 250 participants from Singapore Oxygen Air Liquide (SOXAL) gathered at Punggol Waterway Park this morning to plant 101 native trees. The Air Liquide Group, together with the Air Liquide Foundation, will also contribute funds for an upcoming survey of coral reefs. Air Liquide Group’s total donation of more than $50,000 to the National Parks Board's Garden City Fund signals its commitment to the conservation of Singapore’s natural assets.

The planting of 101 native trees by the Air Liquide Group was made possible under the GCF’s Plant-A-Tree (PAT) programme. Launched in 2007, the PAT programme is an avenue for individuals and organisations to do their part for nature by planting trees at designated parks. To date, over 12,000 trees have been pledged and planted by some 16,000 participants, including more than 200 corporations.

Scheduled to commence in 2013, the coral reef survey is part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, a national initiative to take stock of Singapore's marine ecosystem, species diversity and distribution. Led by NParks and partnering experts from tertiary institutions, non-governmental organisations and individual enthusiasts, the Survey began in 2010, and covers a range of habitats including mudflats, intertidal, coral reefs and the seabed of Singapore. For the coral reef survey to be carried out, the GCF is seeking additional funds of $220,000.

"We are encouraged by and thankful for the support from the Air Liquide Group. It is with such partnerships that we can continue our efforts to conserve and sustain our biodiversity for present and future generations to enjoy,” said Prof Leo Tan, Chairman of the Garden City Fund. “Air Liquide is supporting an important national project that will contribute towards the management of Singapore’s coastal and marine environment. As this is a huge undertaking, we would like to invite more private sector support for the coral reef survey.”

“In commemorating our centennial presence in Singapore, we find it appropriate to collaborate with the Garden City Fund to support their admirable efforts to drive key environmental concerns. Air Liquide’s gases are used to protect lives and support technologies that contribute to environment protection. Similarly, many of the gases we supply to our customers in Singapore are used to decrease polluting emissions or to produce energies of tomorrow. In addition, we believe that we can always do more and as such, we are constantly looking at different ways to make meaningful contributions to the environmental landmark in Singapore and this opportunity could not have come at a better time,” said Mr Christophe Chalier, Managing Director, SOXAL.

The tree-planting event was jointly organised by Air Liquide Group, GCF and NParks.

Read more!

Man vs monkey at MacRitchie

Joel Cooper Straits Times 30 Sep 12;

Who says Singapore is a safe country?

Only the other week, I was forced to step in after witnessing an attempted mugging.

Worse still, it happened in broad daylight on the crowded boardwalk of MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

The petite victim was clinging desperately to her bag as her assailant - a short, hairy chap - tried to wrestle it from her. I couldn't just stand by and do nothing. It was time to act.

"Get away from her," I shouted.

The mugger turned and glared, eyes boring into me with a look of pure animal rage. Then, releasing his grip on the woman's bag, he bared his teeth and hissed in contempt before scurrying off on all fours along the boardwalk.

Damn those cheeky monkeys.

I used to love hanging out with the long-tailed macaques of MacRitchie. But since witnessing this shameless attempted robbery, I have started to regard them as a bit of a menace.

It's not the first time that something like this has happened. Last year, a fitness corner was renovated near the entrance to the park. But before it had even been opened, the equipment was already being put to use - and I don't mean by senior citizens. Like a troupe of little furry gymnasts, the macaques swarmed all over it, balancing on the sit-up machine and hanging from the bars.

One of them was even perched proudly on the exercise bike like an Olympic cyclist about to start his workout. I was shocked. Here was this fresh, shiny facility designed for the wellbeing of old folk in the area being abused by a bunch of hairy interlopers.

Of course, the macaques have been making a nuisance of themselves for quite a while now, ever since some bone- headed park visitors first mistook them for pets and started feeding them. But even in the 11/2 years that I've lived in the area, the problem seems to have gotten worse.

Warnings that monkey feeders will be prosecuted don't appear to make much difference. At the entrance to the nature reserve, the surly primates can sometimes be seen sauntering about like teenage delinquents clutching empty chip packets or even cigarette cartons.

Littering, mugging, a taste for junk food: It seems the macaques are finally suffering one of the worst fates that could befall any creature. They are becoming human.

It's a tragedy that inevitably occurs whenever people and animals are thrown together by the relentless advance of modern living. MacRitchie may have escaped being sucked into the concrete wilderness, but even in their woodland oasis, the macaques cannot hide from mankind's corrupting influence.

Once, way back before the dawn of history, humans were mere guests in a world ruled by animals. Hunted by tigers and terrorised by floods, droughts or herds of stampeding elephants, our ancestors tiptoed around in fear of the mighty beasts they could not control.

Nowadays, we rule the roost. And if any other creature wants to survive in this plastic world that we've created, it had better be on our terms. Is it any wonder that the more the monkeys see of humans, the more they feel the need to act like us?

In a tiny, industrialised country like Singapore, the problem is especially acute. The garden city may be clean, green and blessed with well-run national parks, but that does not mean man and beast won't occasionally clash.

Less than two weeks ago, an elderly woman fell and broke her hip after a wild boar on Pulau Ubin started tugging at a bag of food she was carrying.

The biggest tragedy is that the only places where humans and animals can coexist happily are those where the people are poorest materially. The tribes of the Amazon basin have a fantastic relationship with the creatures of the forest. Unfortunately, they also have very little in the way of money, clothes or modern gadgets. And as soon as they acquire these things - which, let's face it, all of us want - the harmony is shattered forever.

I hope that we can find a way to live alongside the monkeys of MacRitchie. In the meantime, I've a suggestion for how to deal with those irresponsible buffoons who continue to offer them food. Simply send them to live in the forest and give the macaques their houses.

What better way to give both species a taste of how the other half lives?

I'll bet that after a few days spent trawling through household bills or negotiating the packed MRT, the monkeys will be itching to escape from the urban jungle.

Read more!

Malaysia: Protest at Pengerang refinery project

Mohd Farhaan Shah The Star 30 Sep 12;

PENGERANG: The Himpunan Hijau group held a demonstration over the RM60bil refinery and petrochemical project at Kampung Sungai Rengit here.

The protesters, mostly members of non-governmental organisations from outside the area, arrived early and were clad in green T-shirts.

They carried placards and banners highlighting the destruction to the environment and effects of the project to the livelihood of the residents.

It was largely a peaceful gathering which started at about 10am with speeches by several state opposition leaders. The crowd dispersed after noon.

Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the opposition was using the project as a political move to instil hatred towards the government.

She added that the opposition had been twisting facts about the project to gain votes.

She blasted the protest organisers for saying that she was invited to attend the event. "I did not received any invitation from them. This is the way Opposition works which is lying to the people," she said.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub told reporters at the rally that the party never opposed the project but reminded the Government of the welfare of the people in Pengerang.

"There are nine fishing villages that would be affected due to the project.

"The Government should have moved the project further down to Desaru where the spillover effect will benefit the people without affecting their lives," he said.

Salahuddin's statement seems to contradict his Pakatan Rakyat ally, Johor PKR chief Datuk Chua Jui Meng, who had called for the project to be scrapped.

Present at the rally were Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau and several Bersih 2.0 committee members, including Wong Chin Huat and Hishammuddin Rais.

Thousands protest against Malaysia petroleum hub
Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands rallied in southern Malaysia on Sunday against a government-backed US$56 billion petroleum hub they say will force thousands out of their homes and damage a fishing community.

Environmentalists from across the country gathered in the sleepy coastal town of Pengerang where the project, spearheaded by state oil giant Petronas and also involving private companies, is due to be completed by 2016.

A coalition of local NGOS say the 170-billion-ringgit Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex -- an industrial park for the oil industry -- will harm the livelihoods of local residents and fishermen in an area famed for its lobsters.

On Sunday protestors, mostly dressed in green, heard opposition leaders promise to cancel the project if they come to power at national elections that must be held by the middle of next year.

Organisers said 8,000 demonstrators took part although reports estimated the crowd to be less than half that figure.

"We want development but not when it oppresses the people. The government must give the public the right to decide on the location of such projects," Anis Afida Mohd Azli, who is leading opposition to the project, told AFP.

She added the NGOs will hand over a list of demands to the state government on October 8.

The protest movement began early last year as local anger mounted against the 22,500-acre petrochemical hub.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has faced numerous protests over projects allegedly harmful to the environment since taking power a year after his Barisan Nasional suffered its worst ever electoral result in 2008.

A green movement, largely supported by the opposition, has gained momentum in recent years with Australian rare earths producer Lynas Corp bearing the brunt of the backlash over a planned plant near an eastern resort town.

- AFP/ck

Read more!

Newly discovered "Bubble shark" found in Philippines

DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network AsiaOne 30 Sep 12;

BATANGAS CITY - An odd-looking sea creature locally christened the "bubble shark" is breathing new life into a campaign to preserve a vital marine corridor straddling five provinces in the Southern Tagalog region.

Discovered only last year by marine biologists, the bubble shark, also described as an "inflatable shark" and believed to be a new species of swell shark, has been observed in waters off Batangas and Mindoro island.

It is so named because of its defence mechanism to puff up to twice its size in the face of danger.

For environmental officials, the discovery of the weird shark adds new meaning to efforts to save the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC), a bustling sea-lane renowned for having some of the highest concentrations of shore-fish and underwater life in the world.

"It's a wonderful sign," said Lynette Laroya, assistant director of the environment department's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

"It's a good indication that we have good diversity … And it shows that perhaps there are a lot of other species that have not been discovered out there," she said in an interview on the sidelines of the VIPMC Summit held in this city on Sept. 27 and 28.

Center of marine diversity

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, in a message read on his behalf by Undersecretary Analiza Teh, gave special mention to bubble sharks in his remarks, saying "they have been recorded thriving in the Verde Island Passage."

Laroya said the discovery of the bubble shark was especially important in light of the acknowledgment by a group of international marine scientists in 2006 that the Philippines was the "centre of the centre of marine diversity."

The attention given to a species that might be new to science highlighted the need to protect the habitat where it had been found, she said.

"The whole world is watching this. That means we have to protect our marine habitats and we have to prioritize the VIPMC," Laroya said.

Migratory wildlife

The VIPMC is both a bustling sea-lane for ships and vessels, and a pathway for migratory wildlife such as dolphin and tuna.

Although still under the process of verification, the presence of the bubble shark was discovered last year by a group of researchers who found a treasure trove of previously unknown terrestrial and marine wildlife during the 2011 Philippine Wildlife Expedition spearheaded by the California Academy of the Sciences.

The 42-day expedition by 43 international and local scientists yielded previously undocumented wildlife species, both in land and water, and even along the shorelines, the first attempt to study simultaneously marine and terrestrial habitats in the Philippines.

Beginning April 26, 2011, it encompassed waters in Lake Taal, Anilao and the Verde Island Passage in Batangas, and mountains in Makiling in Laguna, Banahaw in Quezon, Malarayat in Batangas and Isarog in Bicol.

According to an article on the science news website, one of the discoveries made by the researchers was a possible new species of swell shark, "a shark that pumps water into its stomach to puff up."

Camouflaged colour

Unlike its relatives in other seas, however, the shark found in the VIPMC "possesses a very distinctive camouflaged colour pattern," the report said.

Other swell sharks feature dark round spots, but the species found in the Philippines, based on pictures, have white or lighter spots instead.

"But very little is known yet about this species, as to whether it is really a new species, how large the population is, and whether it is endemic to us or just migrating," Laroya said.

The term "bubble shark" also appears to have been coined locally, as foreign reports identify the species either as swell shark or inflatable shark.

Laroya said environmental groups such as Conservation International had already known of the bubble shark for some time, but it only hit headlines when the scientists reported their findings to the media.

Flagship species

The publicity generated by a possible new species can amply benefit marine habitats, according to researcher Vera Horigue, a Ph.D. student in conservation planning at James Cook University in Australia.

"That's what we call flagship species. [It's important] because when you sell conservation to people, especially people who are not really interested or who do not really care, they need something else, like, why is it important?" she told the Inquirer.

"It's really helpful to get people to become interested, because you can show just how special the place is by the uniqueness of the species found in it," said Horigue, who is studying the management plans of certain marine protected areas in the Philippines, including those covering the VIPMC.

"It promotes the area; thus, funds pour in," she said.

Conservation strategy

Another unintended benefit is that any campaign to save a particular species will have an impact on lesser-known species that are part of the ecosystem. In the case of marine species, she said, the best way of conserving is to ensure that the habitat is left undisturbed through the skillful management of marine protected areas.

Horigue said her laboratory mates working on dugong and turtles found that they could apply their conservation strategy toward improving the condition of sea grass beds, the main food sources of dugong and turtles, and which the community would otherwise not care about.

The VIPMC covers parts of the coastal waters of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon. It is said to have the largest concentration of marine life in the world, with more than 1,700 marine species recorded within a 10-square-kilometer area in the habitat.

It is both a highly productive fishing ground for traditional and commercial fishers and a development area for coastal and marine tourism, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

But the saltwater highway is threatened by overfishing, pollution and climate change. In 2009, a task force on the Verde Island Passage, as part of government efforts to protect and preserve the marine habitat, sought to guide provincial leaders in formulating and designing management plans for the VIPMC.

VIPMC Summit

It was agreed that the plan would be revisited after three years, which was why the DENR, along with its partner organisations and agencies, held the VIPMC Summit at the Pontefino Hotel and Residences in this city.

More than a hundred policy-makers from the five provinces with stakes in the marine corridor attended the summit where they discussed the challenges, the best practices and the most effective management plans for the conservation project.

Read more!

Malaysia: Sea turtles are still facing an uphill struggle

Conservation blues
Zuhaila Sedek New Straits Times 30 Sep 12;

Sea turtles are still facing an uphill struggle for survival especially in Terengganu, writes Zuhaila Sedek

SEA turtles are magnificent. They have journeyed the world’s oceans for more than 175 million years, outliving dinosaurs. Given the fact that they are descendants of ancient reptiles and have lived far longer than humans, they more than deserve our respect and care.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Besides being hunted for food, their eggs are gathered and sold for consumption too.

Luckily this happens only in Terengganu. Elsewhere in the country (Sabah, Sarawak, Pahang, Kelantan, Johor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca) there is a a ban on turtle egg trading.

Life & Times recently interviewed Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim, director of Terengganu’s Department Of Fisheries (DoF) and Syed Abdullah Syed Abdul Kadir, head of Turtle & Marine Ecosystem Center (TUMEC).

The interview was made possible with the help of WWF-Malaysia, a major champion of turtle conservation in the country.

Our country is home to four out of seven species of sea turtles in the world — leatherback (penyu belimbing), green (penyu agar), Hawksbill (penyu karah) and Olive Ridley (penyu lipas).

Abdul Khalil says the DoF has no power to impose a ban on turtle egg trading. This is because turtle conservation falls under the jurisdiction of State governments and Terengganu State’s enactment clearly states that turtle egg trading is legal. DoF is under the Ministry Of Agriculture And Agro-Based Industry.

“However, we can continue our conservation efforts. So far, we have done well in that respect,” he says, adding that DoF awareness programmes have been well-received by the public.

Abdul Khalil says sale of turtle eggs in Terengganu has been going on for generations.

“According to a recent survey, the older generation still eats turtle eggs. However, most young people are not interested. My prediction is that the act of eating turtle eggs will be less significant in future,” he says.

There are more than 35 beaches in the State and 13 are managed by DoF. Rangers patrol these 13 beaches regularly and monitor turtle landings.

They also collect eggs and send them to hatcheries. Every beach under DoF has a hatchery where the eggs are incubated and the hatchlings released into the sea.

However, more rangers are needed as villagers often steal the eggs, hampering conservation efforts. At beaches without rangers, DoF has appointed licensed egg collectors to collect the eggs. These are either bound to DoF or WWF-Malaysia. They collect the eggs and sell them to the two organisations. Prices vary according to species. It’s RM5 each for leatherback eggs, RM4 each for olive ridley and hawksbill and RM2 for green turtle eggs. Those with WWF-Malaysia are paid extra if the eggs they have collected hatch.

Abdul Khalil says egg collectors have to meet a quota set by DoF. They are required to sell 70 per cent of their collection to DoF. The remainder can be sold elsewhere.

“As long as the quota is met, our conservation work will run smoothly,” he says.

Last year, 377,494 eggs were hatched by the department.

“Although the number of turtles coming to our shores is decreasing, we are still able to meet the target set for our conservation work.”

Meanwhile Syed Abdullah fully supports the effort to promote the ban on the sale of turtle eggs. By doing so, the National Plan Of Action For Conservation And Management Of Sea Turtles will be able to meet its aim for a national ban on commercial sale of turtle eggs.

Because there is no ban right now, the government has to buy turtle eggs collected to carry out its conservation work. Even so, some of the eggs are still sold for consumption.

“I hope multinational companies, especially those with power plants in Terengganu, will donate money for turtle conservation work,” he says, adding that this will enable DoF to buy all the eggs for incubation.

Power plants are mostly located in Kerteh. According to a WWF-Malaysia representative, the stretch where the power plants are located were once sandy beaches.

“The plants are the main reason for the decrease in the number of turtles. They emit too much light and turtles hate this,” says Syed Abdullah. Turtles prefer quiet, dark and clean places to lay their eggs.

“Research shows that of 1,000 olive ridley hatchlings released into the sea, only one will live to be an adult and return to its place of origin,” says Syed.

Turtles face many natural and man-made threats. Natural threats include being eaten by predators such as sharks and other big fish. Crabs eat hatchlings too.

But man-made threats can be controlled, says Syed Abdullah. These include pollution, unbalanced development, turtle meat consumption, sale and consumption of eggs and poor hatchery practices.

Many turtles are also found dead and stuck to rubbish thrown in the sea. Syed Abdullah explains: “Plastic bags, for instance, can suffocate them. Turtles need to come out from the sea once in a while. When they are caught in plastic bags, they struggle to release themselves and end up dead.”

Unbalanced development also causes too much noise and light pollution which is harmful. Another threat comes from fishermen as many turtles get trapped in fishing nets and lines and are killed.

“Poor management of hatcheries is also a problem. Proper handling of eggs is crucial to ensure a high success rate. It is important to train workers properly,” says Syed Abdullah, adding that many turtles also get hit by ships.

One major threat to turtles is the consumption of its meat. Sea turtles are a delicacy in many parts of Asia, especially China, Fiji, the Philippines, Vietnam and Timor Leste where it is believed that eating turtles offers longevity and increased fertility.

Although Malaysians do not eat turtle meat, many still consume the eggs. And for this, they head for Terengganu.

Syed Abdullah says the people have to change their mindset about Terengganu as the place to buy and eat turtle eggs as otherwise, the demand for turtle eggs will never stop.

I am told that one of the most popular places to buy turtle eggs is Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu. When I am there, I am offered bags of turtle eggs “from Terengganu and Sabah”.

Those from Terengganu cost more as they are considered fresher.

“Yes, trading of turtle eggs is legal in Terengganu, but the eggs from Sabah shouldn’t have reached the market here. They should have been detected at the airport and not permitted to leave the State,” says Syed Abdullah, adding that Sabah imposes a strict ban on turtle egg trading.

He hopes Terengganu will soon be added to the list of States that ban the sale and consumption of turtle eggs.

“If the other States can do it, why not us?” he wonders.


• Sea turtle eggs are extremely high in cholesterol.
• The last leatherback turtle seen in the country was in 2010, at Rantau Abang, the country’s turtle sanctuary.
• Some sea turtles that came here to lay eggs have been tagged so that their movements can be monitored.
• Other types of sea turtles in the world are Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley and Flatback.
• Although cloning is very controversial, it may be the only way to prevent the extinction of species such as the endangered leatherback.
• Recognisable turtles are known as far back as the Triassic Period (at least 180 million years ago), before the Jurassic Period.

Why do sea turtles cry?
Turtles have glands in their eyes that remove excess salt and these “tears” also wash away sand from the eyes.

Read more!

Philippines: WWF calls for regional moratorium on trade of live reef food fish

The Philippine Star 30 Sep 12;

MANILA, Philippines - Top sustainable seafood advocate World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently launched a report revealing legal and policy gaps in the trade of live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle, highlighting the urgent need for a comprehensive management framework – starting with a moratorium on endangered 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 all six Coral Triangle countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

“At the heart of this report is the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is one of the most challenging issues in the trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle,” explains WWF Coral Triangle program strategy leader Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon.

“A regional moratorium 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.

One of the world’s most massive, colorful and long-lived reef fish, the Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) can reach six feet from snout to tail and can tip the scales at over 200 kilos. Juveniles look somewhat like gray-green tilapia, while adults sport an impressive forehead bump. They are delectable and expensive, turning up in seafood restaurants, markets and even exotic Philippine pet retail centers like Cartimar.

Decades of unregulated collection has depleted global numbers. The Humphead Wrasse is now classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered and is listed under 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.

In the Philippines, it is protected under Section 97 of Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998. Mere possession of the fish can net a P120,000 fine and up to 20 years of jail time.

“The regulation of trade in Humphead Wrasse, while different from country to country, is consistently inadequate across the region. As an Appendix II listed species, non-detrimental findings (NDF), which sets a quota on exports, is required before trading in this species can occur. We believe the trade is not being monitored in accordance with the NDF studies that have been conducted. 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 in monitoring and highlighting sustainability impacts from consumption in Hong Kong and China,” adds Dr. Muldoon.

Highly lucrative trade

The Coral Triangle, a six million square kilometer ocean expanse in Asia Pacific, contains roughly 37 percent 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 $810 million in 2002. High value species include Humphead Wrasse, selling for as much as HK$99 to HK$150 per kilo in luxury restaurants in Hong Kong and more than $350 per kilo in Beijing and Shanghai.

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

On the remote southern Philippine isles of Tawi-Tawi, divers with compressors search for young Napoleon Wrasse in shallow reefs and drop-offs. Once spotted and driven into cracks and crevices, the divers squirt a diluted mixture of sodium cyanide to stun and draw them out, inevitably killing all corals, sponges and other invertebrates around the site. If captured, the juvenile fish are reared in rudimentary shallow pens made of corals and limestone.

Traders from mainland China, Malaysia and other countries come to buy the fish, which are then kept alive in aerated, filtered holds. In December 2006, 359 juvenile Mameng were confiscated from the M/V Hoi Wan, a Chinese fishing vessel apprehended in Palawan. The find remains one of the most significant wildlife apprehensions in Philippine history. WWF-Philippines now works to promote viable alternatives to dwindling marine species such as Napoleon Wrasse through its Better Choices sustainable seafood campaign.

“The live reef food fish trade is largely an unregulated fishery in the region and poses serious threats to the health of coral reef environments and its ability to provide fish resources to an ever-growing global demand on seafood. There is currently no specific framework for live reef food fish management in the region, which presents a major weakness in ensuring the sustainability of the trade,” says Dr. Muldoon.

Why regulate trade?

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 percent 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.

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.

In addition to its analysis of key IUU issues, the report also examines relevant laws at the national level in Coral Triangle countries, looking at four key areas: ecosystem approach to fisheries management, port state measures, trade and market measures, and IUU fishing.

“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,” concludes Dr. Muldoon. (30)

Download the full report at:

Read more!

Many nations lag in plan to slow extinctions by 2020: U.N.

Alister Doyle and David Fogarty Reuters 28 Sep 12;

(Reuters) - Many nations need to do more to slow extinctions of animals and plants under U.N. targets for 2020 that would also save the world economy billions of dollars a year, U.N. experts say.

Only a few countries -- including France and Guatemala -- have so far adopted new national plans to tackle threats such as pollution or climate change in line with a sweeping pact agreed in Japan in 2010.

"There is a lot more to do," David Cooper, head of the scientific, technical and technological unit at the Secretariat of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, told Reuters by phone.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Hyderabad, India, from October 8-19 to review progress towards goals to protect life on earth that U.N. reports say is suffering the biggest wave of extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.

Governments agreed in 2010 to 20 targets including phasing out damaging subsidies and expanding protected areas, for instance to save valuable coral reefs that are nurseries for fish or to slow deforestation from the Congo to the Amazon.

"There is substantial progress. Is it fast enough to achieve the targets by 2020 for most of them? Probably not overall," Cooper said. Biodiversity is threatened by a projected rise in the human population to 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now.

"We need a step up in the activities," he said as part of a series of interviews on the outlook for Hyderabad. Biodiversity underpins everything from food to timber production.

Many other countries, such as Australia, Brazil or China, were making progress. China, for instance, has made big strides in reforestation, Cooper said. The United States is not a member of the CBD.

Nations have also been sluggish in ratifying a protocol laying out rules for access to genetic resources, such as rare tropical plants used in medicines, and ways to share benefits among companies, indigenous peoples or governments.

So far, 92 nations have signed the Nagoya Protocol but just six have ratified, well short of the 50 needed for it to gain legal force. The target is for the protocol to be up and running by 2015.


"We were a bit too optimistic," said Valerie Normand, senior programme officer for access and benefit sharing at the CBD, who said the Secretariat had hoped for it to come into force this year. The Secretariat now expected entry into force in 2014.

Cooper said many of the targets set for 2020 would save billions of dollars a year, by ensuring that farming, logging or fishing can be managed sustainably. Some fisheries, for instance, have been exploited to the point of collapse.

In Nagoya, experts estimated that annual funding to safeguard biodiversity totaled about $3 billion a year but some developing countries wanted it raised to about $300 billion.

"These are big numbers but they are trivial compared to the benefits we are getting from biodiversity. If we don't act the costs will be very much greater," Cooper said.

Among concerns, 32 percent of livestock breeds are under threat of extinction within the next 20 years, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says. And 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost since 1900.

"Because we don't really know the full impacts of climate change down the line, we don't really know what's going to happen in terms of growing conditions around the world. It's just safer for us to have a lot of these other varieties in our pocket," said David Ainsworth, spokesman of the CBD Secretariat.

Cooper said the pace of extinctions among the planet's estimated 9 million species -- plants, animals from insects to whales but excluding legions of tiny bacteria -- was perhaps 100 times the background rate estimated in fossil records.

"If you project the rates into the future, the rest of the century, they are likely to be 100 times larger still," he said. The rising human population threatens ever more habitats with expanding cities, farms and roads.

Among goals set in 2010 were to increase protected areas for wildlife to 17 percent of the world's land area by 2020 and to raise marine areas to 10 percent of those under national control. In 2010, respective sizes were 12.7 and 4 percent.

"I am optimistic" that the goal can be reached, said Sarat Babu Gidda, the CBD official who oversees protected areas.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Jason Webb)

Read more!