Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jan 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [31 Dec 2012 - 6 Jan 2013]
from Green Business Times

Ashy tailorbird moment @ Labrador Park - Jan2013
from SGBeachBum

Rose-ringed parakeet eating fruits of Caesalpinia pulcherrima var. flava from Bird Ecology Study Group

Painted Bronzeback
from Monday Morgue

CMBS centre spread in The New Paper
from Raffles Museum News

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New regulations to ensure safer recreational diving

Channel NewsAsia 7 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Safety regulations have been launched for recreational diving, which is becoming more popular, to ensure that enthusiasts are able to enjoy the sport in a safe and responsible manner.

They cover areas such as the roles and responsibilities of participants, best practices for dive masters and diving instructors, as well as safety requirements for diving activities.

The regulations were launched by the Singapore Standards Council and the National Water Safety Council (NWSC) on Monday.

Chairman of the NWSC, Dr Teo Ho Pin, said recreational diving incidents can be prevented with better understanding and rigorous safety requirements.

As part of ongoing efforts to make the sport safer, Singapore Underwater Federation will launch a certification programme called DiveSafer in April 2013 for operators.

Consumers will be encouraged to use the services of operators who are certified.


Accreditation of dive operators, safety guidelines for enthusiasts
Kimberly Spykerman Today Online 8 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE - Dive enthusiasts can soon choose their dive operators more wisely. From April, the Singapore Underwater Federation will start the accreditation of dive operators, looking at criteria, such as their diving and medical equipment, as well as the practices of their instructors. The move has been cheered by industry players.

Dive operator Eddy Neo said: "We want a general standard in the industry so that it not only makes dive operators in Singapore aware of what all of us should be doing but also educate the public, those who want to take up diving, to be more aware and give them more knowledge on who they choose to learn diving from."

Although an increasingly popular sport, recreational diving is still unregulated here.

But the Singapore Standards Council and the National Water Safety Council put out a set of safety guidelines yesterday in the hope that it would shore up safety standards.

Among the guidelines in a handbook called the Technical Reference for Recreational Diving are a standardised pre-dive medical screening checklist for participants and recommendations on the standards of medical equipment operators should have.

The guidelines were compiled after studies on international standards for scuba diving and snorkelling.


Guidelines to keep recreational divers safe
Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 8 Jan 13;

RECREATIONAL divers here now have new guidelines to keep them safe, and most dive operators said they are keen to adopt them.

The guide, introduced by the Singapore Standards Council and the National Water Safety Council (NWSC), outlines the roles and responsibilities of and safety requirements for divers and operators.

For instance, it stipulates that staff-to-diver ratio should be one to five if the divers have done fewer than 10 dives. Previously, such a ratio was never standardised across operators.

The councils said a set of standards will hopefully keep the popular sport's accident rate low and ensure consumers know the safety standards to expect of operators.

NWSC chairman Teo Ho Pin, who launched the guide yesterday, encouraged the diving community to adopt the new standards. "It's in the interest of the various stakeholders to take ownership and to exercise responsibility," he said.

Recreational diving is a dive to a maximum depth of 30m for leisure. The new code does not apply to diving at work, which has its own standards.

Industry players welcomed it, saying it could help address the issue of freelance instructors who cut corners to keep costs low. "It will make sure freelance operators missing a storefront don't skimp on the necessary," said Mr Eddy Neo, 36, owner of Ren Scubaworx.

There are about 80 operators and 30,000 divers here.

A new certification scheme, DiveSafer, to accredit operators based on the new guidelines, will be launched in April.

Singapore Underwater Federation (SUF), the national sports authority for diving and underwater activities, will take charge of certifying and auditing operators, and will list accredited ones on its website.

SUF president Song Shing Hae said the certification programme will better allow the federation to check if operators are complying with standards.

Other certification schemes, such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, will still be recognised here.

Diving enthusiast Hansen Ng, 23, an undergraduate, believes the new standards will clear up the murky waters surrounding dubious businesses in operation and make the decision-making process easier.

"It is important operators adhere to guidelines because even the most minute protocols can affect the safety of a diver in such a high-risk sport."

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Malaysia: Sabah issues red tide alert

Muguntan Vanar The Star 7 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: The deadly algae bloom, commonly known as the red tide phenomenon, will peak in the next two months statewide.

Sabah Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel Galid said that red tide was recorded in November last year and will begin peaking between this month and February before tailing off by June.

“We are conducting daily tests and have found high toxicity in the west coast,” he said, adding that anything above 400 mouse units (MU) was considered dangerous.

Galid advised people to avoid eating oysters, mussels, cockles and any type of clam though other marine products like fish, prawns and crabs were safe for consumption.

He said the red tide has been seen in waters off Papar, Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran in the west coast while they have not received any reports in the east coast.

Two boys, aged 14 and nine, died from paralytic shellfish poisoning after consuming cockles on Jan 1.

The older boy died a day after eating the shellfish while the second boy died on Friday, according to Sabah Health Department director Dr Christina Rundi in a statement.

The boys had collected the cockles from the seafront at Sepanggar about 30km from here and were said to have eaten them raw.

Galid said clams, even when cooked, are still poisonous and should be avoided during the red tide season.

Red tide is a natural phenomenon whereby algae form large colonies which produce harmful effects to marine life. The density of the algae colours the surface of the sea red.

Red tide warning
New Straits Times 7 Jan 13;

HIGHLY TOXIC: Public advised not to consume shellfish for the time being

TWO people have died after consuming shellfish contaminated with the red tide toxin here earlier this week.

State Fisheries director Rayner Stuel Galid, who confirmed the deaths, said the two cases were reported at Sepanggar last Wedensday.

The red tide is an occasional natural phenomenon in Sabah where microorganisms which are naturally living in the sea undergo a population explosion.

Their numbers become so large that they impart a brownish-red colour to the sea.

Rayner said that the latest red tide reading was recorded at 6,000 mouse unit (MU), which indicated very high toxicity.

The department carried out the reading in the waters along the Sepanggar Bay.

"It is harmful to health if toxic shellfish from these waters is consumed," he said yesterday, adding that a reading as low as 400MU was considered dangerous.

The department has detected the red tide in waters here and off Papar, Putatan, Tuaran and Tasik Sitompok in Kuala Penyu.

Rayner said that eating toxic shellfish could cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans, which was caused by saxitoxin produced by dinoflagellate, which the shellfish feed on.

"This phenomenon is expected to continue until May.

"The department will continue to monitor the situation and provide information from time to time for the safety of the public.

"We advise the public to refrain from eating shellfish, bivalves and small fish for the time being.

"Deep sea fish, squid and crab can be eaten, but as a precautionary measure, it is important to remove the gills and other internal organs before cooking."

The first PSP case in Sabah was recorded in 1976, when 202 people were reported to suffer illnesses and seven died.

Since then, PSP occurrences had been detected every few years off the west coast of Sabah.

Early symptoms of PSP include tingling of the lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes of eating poisonous shellfish or may take a few hours to develop.

Depending on the amount of toxin a person has ingested, symptoms may progress to the sensation of "pricking of pins and needles" in the skin, loss of sensation in the arms and legs, followed by difficulty in breathing and in more serious cases, nausea.

Warning of shellfish poisoning in Sabah
New Straits Times 7 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Six people suffered from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) following the red-tide phenomenon in the state, with two placed in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Jan 1.

However, the two succumbed to severe anaphylactic shock in the following days.

The first victim, a 14-year-old boy, died at his home on Jan 2, after being discharged while a 9-year-old boy was pronounced dead in hospital two days later.

State Health director Dr Christina Rundi confirmed that the department received a notification regarding food poisoning cases involving six people on Jan 2.

"All the patients had consumed shellfish contaminated with red-tide toxin around noon on Jan 1. The shellfish were picked up from Sepanggar waters.

"Between 3pm and 6pm, the patients experienced symptoms, such as numbness in the neck, vomiting, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Christina said the department had sent samples of the contaminated shellfish and seawater to the state Fisheries Department where results showed a high presence of PSP toxin.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin advised residents in the state to seek treatment at hospitals immediately if they experienced symptoms such as numbness and breathing difficulty after consuming cockles.

"In the wake of the red-tide phenomenon, they should refrain from consuming shellfish and bivalve shellfish. However, should they crave for such food, they should eat those that were not obtained from waters off Sabah's west coast."

On Saturday, state Fisheries director Rayner Stuel Galid said the latest red-tide reading carried out in waters along Sepanggar Bay was recorded at 6,000 mouse unit (MU).

This indicates high toxicity as reading as low as 400MU is considered dangerous to humans.

Red-tide is an occasional natural phenomenon in Sabah where microorganisms (dinoflagellate) which are naturally living in the sea undergo a population explosion.

Those who consumed toxic shellfish will suffer from PSP, which is caused by saxitoxin produced by dinoflagellate, which the shellfish feed on.

The red-tide phenomenon has been detected in waters here, and off Ppar, Putatan, Tuaran and Kuala Penyu. It is expected to continue until May.

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Biofuels cause pollution, not as green as thought - study

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 7 Jan 13;

OSLO (Reuters) - Green schemes to fight climate change by producing more bio-fuels could actually worsen a little-known type of air pollution and cause almost 1,400 premature deaths a year in Europe by 2020, a study showed on Sunday.

The report said trees grown to produce wood fuel - seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal - released a chemical into the air that, when mixed with other pollutants, could also reduce farmers' crop yields.

"Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said Nick Hewitt, who worked on the study with colleagues from England's Lancaster University.

"What we're saying is 'yes, that's great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality'," he added.

The report, in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked into the impact of a European Union scheme to slow climate change by producing more biofuels.

Hewitt told Reuters there would be a similar impact wherever biofuels were produced in large quantities in areas suffering air pollution, including the United States and China.

Poplar, willow or eucalyptus trees, all used as fast-growing sources of renewable wood fuel, emit high levels of the chemical isoprene as they grow, the study said. Isoprene forms toxic ozone when mixed with other air pollutants in sunlight.

"Large-scale production of biofuels in Europe would have small but significant effects on human mortality and crop yields," said Hewitt.

"As far as we know, no one has looked at the air quality of growing biofuel crops before," he added.

The report estimated that ozone from wood-based energy to meet the European Union's 2020 goal would cause nearly 1,400 premature deaths a year, costing society $7.1 billion.

The European plan would also would reduce the annual value of wheat and maize production by $1.5 billion since ozone impairs crop growth, the study added.


Siting new biofuel plantations far away from polluted population centres would help limit ozone formation, the study suggested. Genetic engineering might be used to reduce isoprene emissions, it said.

Ozone can cause lung problems and is blamed for killing about 22,000 people a year in Europe. Overall air pollution, mainly from fossil fuels, causes about 500,000 premature deaths in Europe a year, according to the European Environment Agency.

Sunday's study did not compare the potential damage caused by biofuels to the impact on human health from producing coal, oil or natural gas as part of policies to slow global warming. "We're not in a position to make that comparison," Hewitt said.

He noted that the main reason to shift to biofuels was to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuels, that U.N. studies project will become ever more damaging this century.

The United Nations' World Health Organization estimates global warming has caused more than 140,000 deaths annually worldwide since the 1970s.

The biggest impact was recorded in developing nations where the floods, droughts and other disasters blamed on climate change left millions suffering from diarrhea, malnutrition, malaria and dengue fever.

Burning biofuels is viewed as neutral for climate change because plants soak up carbon when they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, add carbon to the atmosphere from underground stores millions of years old.

Biofuels are often blamed for causing food price spikes by competing for cropland. Responding to such criticisms, the European Commission said last year it aimed to limit crop-based biofuels - such as from maize or sugar - to five percent of transport fuels.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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