Best of our wild blogs: 1 Oct 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [24 - 30 Sep 2012]
from Green Business Times

Weevils fighting
from Everyday Nature

What I learnt at the TMSI Open House
from wild shores of singapore

Mega Marine Survey at the TMSI Open House
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Eartheater Cichlid
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Johor petrochem hub runs into flak

Opposition joins protest against mega project's impact on villagers
Carolyn Hong Straits Times 1 Oct 12;

KUALA LUMPUR - Thousands of Malaysians turned up in a small village in Johor yesterday to protest against a massive petrochemical project which villagers say would cause them to lose their homes and livelihoods.

Opposition Johor politicians joined the peaceful protest in a state that will be keenly fought in the next general election, which must be called by next April.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) hopes to make inroads into Johor which has always been a Barisan Nasional bastion.

This Himpunan Hijau (Green Gathering) protest is among a growing number of environmental rallies held around the country in the last two years.

After the green movement stopped a coal plant from being built in Sabah two years ago, environmental groups mobilised a campaign against a rare earths plant by Australian miner Lynas and a gold mine, both in Pahang.

Political analyst P. Sivamurugan, from University Sains Malaysia, said the green movement can be powerful but its appeal is largely restricted to urban middle-class voters. "The government has been trying to address the issues, for instance, by setting up a committee to look into concerns over Lynas," he said.

The Johor protest comes after months of complaints from the villagers, many of them fishermen, that the RM60 billion (S$24 billion) petrochemical project in south-east Johor would cause them severe losses. The protesters gathered for two hours in Kampung Sungai Rengit, Pengerang, to demand a better deal for the 2,000 villagers asked to relocate.

State opposition leaders such as the Democratic Action Party's Johor chief Boo Cheng Hau were present.

Opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, who is leading the PR campaign in Johor, said at the rally they are not opposing the project but wanted the government to consider the people's welfare.

"There are nine fishing villages that would be affected due to the project. The government should have moved the project farther down to Desaru where the spillover effect will benefit the people without affecting their lives," he was quoted as saying by The Star Online.

The Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex aims to turn south-east Johor into a mega petrochemical hub so as to add value to Malaysia's oil and gas industry.

Some 9,100ha have been allocated for the project, of which 2,400ha have been taken up by the national oil firm Petronas for its refinery project that is causing unhappiness among the villagers.

Other projects there include a liquefied natural gas terminal and a petroleum storage terminal.

A news website quoted a leader of the protesters, Ms Anis Afida Mohd Azli, as saying they will go to the Johor Menteri Besar's office this month to voice their protest.

"Today, I think, was enough to send a message to the government that Pengerang folk want to be able to enjoy their God-given blessings," she said.

The Johor government had earlier met the villagers to resolve their complaints but to no avail. The Pengerang location is seen as vital to the project, given its proximity to Singapore, its deep waters and other advantages.

Pengerang's Umno MP Azalina Othman Said blamed the opposition for stirring up hatred towards the government.

The BN will be concerned by this protest as Johor is set to be a key battleground in the next general election. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has made his rally rounds in the state several times.

"If the opposition can even make slight inroads, it would be a major morale booster for it," said Professor Sivamurugan, but added it would not be easy to do so.

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Malaysia: Divers to protect marine life

The Star 1 Oct 12;

BACHOK: The Department of Marine Park has set up a team of 100 scuba divers to protect marine life in 38 marine parks in the peninsula, as well as in four other locations in Labuan.

Its director-general, Dr Sukarno Wagiman, said the team was entrusted to track down poachers who collect valuable marine life.

Efforts to detect such culprits had been difficult as the activities were carried out on the seabed using scuba gear, he said.

He said poaching activities were on the rise due to the high demand from foreign markets for exotic marine life. - Bernama

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Indonesia: With Sea Turtle Population Under Threat, Conservationists Asked to Leave

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 1 Oct 12;

Balikpapan. Thousands of sea turtle eggs and offspring in East Kalimantan are under threat, a leading environmental group warned on Sunday, after a land dispute involving the turtle’s breeding ground forced all conservation officials off the premises.

Rusli Andar, marine coordinator for the Berau district office of WWF Indonesia, said that since last week sea turtle conservation efforts had stopped in the Sangalaki island of Berau because several residents protested the conservationist’s presence.

“The hatched eggs produce baby sea turtles, and a lot of them couldn’t get out [of] the sands. This is what conservation officials have tried to monitor [in order] to save the sea turtles,” he said.

Rusli noted there are 20 to 30 breeding sites scattered across the island, which is also a popular diving site, and each spot can produce up to 100 eggs.

But locals have been complaining about the harsh treatment they have been getting from conservationists, who have been accusing them of stealing the eggs. Locals in the area recently told the Tribun Kaltim newspaper that conservation officials have even extorted fishermen.

“For nearly 10 years, we have been nothing but spectators,” one local, Yakobus, told the newspaper, adding that conservationists are also seeking control of the island’s management. “We are asking Sangalaki to be free [of conservationists].”

But the chairman of the Berau Sea Turtle Foundation, Ahang Moord, said that with locals driving conservationists out of the island, the creature’s population is under threat, particularly in September to November, the turtle’s mating season.

“Officials there are tasked with relocating the hatchery two to four times a day to prevent sea turtles from dying,” he said.

Ahang added that conservationists in the island have been relocating eggs to softer sands and areas with less predators like rats, lizards and birds. “We can only hope that the locals and the conservation agency can resolve this dispute soon, because a lot of damage is being done,” he said.

The island is now guarded by the local police to prevent poachers from stealing the eggs and locals from occupying the island. But East Kalimantan conservation chief Muhammad Zaidi added that police are not trained and tasked with saving the turtles.

“We will quickly resolve the matter with the locals. We shall accommodate their demands but still prioritize the existing rules because this area is a conservation area protected under the law,” he said.

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Indonesia: Forest Fires Continue to Ravage East and Central Java

SP/Nanda Aries Jakarta Globe 1 Oct 12;

Forest fires that have razed the Arjuno Mountain in East Java during the past month have burned hundreds of hectares of forest land in the Pasuruan and Malang districts. The blazes have now spread to Batu city and the Mojokerto district.

New hotspots were detected in Block Nggabes, forest areas in Tulungrejo and Giripuro, and villages in the Bumiaji subdistrict in Kota Batu.

Gatot Sundoro, the head of the R. Soerjo Forest Park Malang-Pasuruan division, told reporters that the fires have burned an estimated 800 hectares of forest in Pasuruan, Malang, Kota Batu and Mojokerto. Some of the fires in Lawang and Pasuruan have started to diminish but some have also spread, moving westward and southward.

Gatot said that he and his men were having difficulties containing the fires that were spreading to the touristic city of Batu due to visibility problems from the thick smoke. He added that he could only pray that the fire in Nggabes doesn’t spread farther.

Meanwhile, fires also burned 2.5 hectares of teak forest in Pemangku Hutan Resort (RPH) in Malang from Thursday night until Friday. The forest is located next to Jalan Raya Karangkates, the border of the districts of Malang and Blitar. The forest fire is believed to have stemmed from a fire that was intentionally lit by an irresponsible person in the area.

“It seems like somebody had intentionally [set] fire to the bushes near the road,” said Agus Salim, head of the RPH Sukowilangun, on Friday night.

Although there were no casualties or material losses caused by the fire, the condition of the teak trees worsened.

“The land that got burned had actually been given fertilizer. [The fire] is causing the land’s contour and fertility [to] become [limited].” he said.

RPH officers were forced to contain the fire manually using tree branches.

“It’s difficult to extinguish it with water. The way to do it is by hitting it with branches,” Agus said. He was relieved that he and his men were able to extinguish the fire by midday on Friday.

Meanwhile, in Karanganyar, Central Java, more than 500 hectares of forests and tree nurseries burned on the slopes of Mount Lawu.

Aji Pratama, head of the Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the extremely dry conditions and strong winds helped to spread the fires and made it difficult for firefighters to douse them.

“It’s not just the brush and shrubs that are getting burned, but also trees, especially pines,” he said.

Sumatra Fires Create Breathing Problems
SP/Usmin & Radesman Saragih Jakarta Globe 1 Oct 12;

Almost 2,000 people in Bengkulu and Jambi are suffering from breathing problems after both provinces experienced a series of forest fires for more than a month, officials said over the weekend.

Bengkulu city health agency chief Mixon Syahbudin said the number of people suffering from respiratory ailments, known as ISPA, continues to rise because of a fire-induced smoky haze that has settled into the western part of Sumatra.

“If rain does not fall in Bengkulu in October, the number of people with ISPA in the area will rise,” Mixon said. “This is happening because the air quality in Bengkulu is getting worse and the haze is getting thicker.”

Mixon said his office has treated more than 400 people with respiratory problems. Sixty percent of those affected are children while the remainder are elderly people.

“We hope the rain will come soon so that the haze covering this area will diminish and the air quality will return to normal,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Jambi, the local health agency has recorded more than 1,400 people with ISPA in the capital alone since the start of September. At the provincial level, the figure has exceeded 3,000 people.

“The air pollution caused by the haze during the drought has caused many to suffer ISPA,” said Jambi city health agency chief Polisman Sitanggang. The people affected by ISPA are mostly children and the elderly.”

Polisman added that his office distributing 10,000 masks over the last few days as the forest fires continue to spread and haze thickens.

The Ministry of Forestry recently said that it counted 24,663 hot spots — areas of high temperature indicating forest or brush fires — this year, with Sumatra and Kalimantan having the most, because of drought and land clearing by fire.

The forest fires have also forced several airlines to cut down the number of flights to Jambi because of poor visibility.

“The flight schedule from Jambi to Jakarta, and Jakarta to Jambi has been reduced,” said Rudi Iriandi, marketing manager at the Jambi office of flag carrier Garuda Indonesia. “We have canceled all of our morning flights because Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport in Jambi cannot operate because of the haze.

“We have been canceling flights dozens of times over the last three weeks. The cancellations have cost the company a lot of money.”

Visibility early in the morning at the airport has been limited to 500 meters, preventing planes from landing. Planes have only been able to land and take off after 8:30 a.m., when the haze partially clears.

Separately, Samsul Bandri, chief of the Fatmawati Airport in Bengkulu, said the haze in the province had not forced any flight cancelations. He added that visibility in that area is still acceptable to most pilots. But Samsul warned that the haze is thickening and could force flights to be canceled if the fires continue.

Haze Forces Garuda Flight Suspensions, Disruptions in Several Airports
Jakarta Globe 29 Sep 12;

Jambi. Garuda Indonesia has suspended morning flights to and from Jambi as a blanket of smoke continued to shroud the Sumatran city.

Garuda has suspended its morning flights GA 130 from Jambi to Jakarta, and GA 131 from Jakarta to Jambi, according to Alzog, the operations manager of Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport in Jambi, who spoke to the media on Saturday.

Rudi Iriandi, sales and marketing officer at Garuda Indonesia's branch office in Jambi, said the morning flight suspension is to continue until October 7.

"Only two flights are postponed. Meanwhile, the flight schedules for GA 132, GA 133, GA 134, and GA 135 remain unchanged," he said.

A blanket of smoke has also disrupted flights in other areas in the country.

In Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan province, six flights had to be postponed from the city's Syamsudin Noor airport on Saturday due to the smog, an official of state airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I said.

"You can't see more than five meters away, so it is not possible for an aircraft to take off," Haruman said.

The smog was believed to be coming from forest or bush fires in undeveloped lands following the long drought.

Further, Lion Air had to delay three flights, including those to Jakarta, Surabaya and Yogyakarta, and Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air and Batavia Air each had to postpone take offs to Jakarta.

"They have to wait for the haze to dissipate and the line of vision to clear to at least 400 meters before planning take offs," Haruman said.

"The clouds this morning are the worst ever crippling the airport operations," he said, adding we have had hazes before but never caused a delay in take off."


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Fish Getting Smaller as the Oceans Warm

ScienceDaily 30 Sep 12;

Changes in ocean and climate systems could lead to smaller fish, according to a new study led by fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia.

The study, published September 30 in the journal Nature Climate Change, provides the first-ever global projection of the potential reduction in the maximum size of fish in a warmer and less-oxygenated ocean.

The researchers used computer modeling to study more than 600 species of fish from oceans around the world and found that the maximum body weight they can reach could decline by 14-20 per cent between years 2000 and 2050, with the tropics being one of the most impacted regions.

"We were surprised to see such a large decrease in fish size," says the study's lead author William Cheung, an assistant professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre. "Marine fish are generally known to respond to climate change through changing distribution and seasonality. But the unexpectedly big effect that climate change could have on body size suggests that we may be missing a big piece of the puzzle of understanding climate change effects in the ocean."

This is the first global-scale application of the idea that fish growth is limited by oxygen supply, which was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Daniel Pauly, principal investigator with UBC's Sea Around Us Project and the study's co-author.

"It's a constant challenge for fish to get enough oxygen from water to grow, and the situation gets worse as fish get bigger," explains Pauly. "A warmer and less-oxygenated ocean, as predicted under climate change, would make it more difficult for bigger fish to get enough oxygen, which means they will stop growing sooner."

This study highlights the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions and develop strategies to monitor and adapt to changes that we are already seeing, or we risk disruption of fisheries, food security and the way ocean ecosystems work.

Journal Reference:

William W. L. Cheung, Jorge L. Sarmiento, John Dunne, Thomas L. Frölicher, Vicky W. Y. Lam, M. L. Deng Palomares, Reg Watson, Daniel Pauly. Shrinking of fishes exacerbates impacts of global ocean changes on marine ecosystems. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1691

Climate change 'may shrink fish'
Matt McGrath BBC World Service 30 Sep 12;

Fish species are expected to shrink in size by up to 24% because of global warming, say scientists.

Researchers modelled the impact of rising temperatures on more than 600 species between 2001 and 2050.

Warmer waters could decrease ocean oxygen levels and significantly reduce fish body weight.

The scientists argue that failure to control greenhouse gas emissions will have a greater impact on marine ecosystems than previously thought.

Previous research has suggested that changing ocean temperatures would impact both the distribution and the reproductive abilities of many species of fish. This new work suggests that fish size would also be heavily impacted.

The researchers built a model to see how fish would react to lower levels of oxygen in the water. They used data from one of the higher emissions scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Warming the fish

Although this data projects relatively small changes in temperatures at the bottom of the oceans, the resulting impacts on fish body size are "unexpectedly large" according to the paper.

As ocean temperatures increase, so do the body temperatures of fish. But, according to lead author, Dr William Cheung, from the University of British Columbia, the level of oxygen in the water is key.

"Rising temperatures directly increase the metabolic rate of the fish's body function," he told BBC News.

"This leads to an increase in oxygen demand for normal body activities. So the fish will run out of oxygen for growth at a smaller body size."

The research team also used its model to predict fish movements as a result of warming waters. The group believes that most fish populations will move towards the Earth's poles at a rate of up to 36km per decade.

"So in, say, the North Sea," says Dr Cheung, "one would expect to see more smaller-body fish from tropical waters in the future."
Conservative model

Taking both the movements and the physiological impacts of rising temperatures together, the research team concludes that fish body size will shrink between 14% and 24%, with the largest decreases in the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

When compared with actual observations of fish sizes, the model seems to underestimate what's actually happening in the seas.

The researchers looked at two case studies involving North Atlantic cod and haddock. They found that recorded data on these fish showed greater decreases in body size than the models had predicted.

Other scientists say the impact could be widely felt.

Dr Alan Baudron, from the University of Aberdeen, UK, has studied changes in the growth of haddock in the North Sea. He says this latest research is a "strong result".

He believes it could have negative implications for the yields of fisheries. And it could also seriously impact the ability of fish to reproduce, he adds.

"Smaller individuals produce fewer and smaller eggs which could affect the reproductive potential of fish stocks and could potentially reduce their resilience to other factors such as fishing pressure and pollution," he told BBC News.

The authors point out a number of limiting factors in their study, including uncertainties in the predictions for the climate and the oceans. According to Dr Cheung, further research is required.

"Our study shows that climate change can lead to a substantial decrease in the maximum body weight of fish. We need to look more closely at the biological response in the future."

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