Best of our wild blogs: 21 May 13

About the Singapore Ladybird Diversity Survey
by sgbeetlenut and How Can YOU Help?

Three Tours!
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

New donut nudi on Day 1 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Bukit Brown and Bidadari do not a Global Eco-city make
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Population of two
from Life's Indulgences

Blue-rumped Parrot eats starfruit (Averrhoa carambola)
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Beautiful Blue-Eared Kingfisher
from Photojournalist

Top Indonesian official calls out misinformation in environmental campaign
from news by Rhett Butler

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Fishing with long nets endangers wildlife, people

Straits Times Forum 21 May 13;

MANY people have taken up recreational fishing as a hobby.

Using a fishing line seems to be the top choice of anglers. This is followed by using long nets that are stretched across the width of a river or canal - anything that gets caught in the net gets hauled out of the water. However, this poses a danger to certain creatures such as monitor lizards and terrapins, which may get caught in these nets.

Kayaks and motorised boats that ply the area may also get ensnared. I once saw the propeller of a boat getting caught in a long net at a canal in Kallang.

I hope the authorities will answer these questions:

- What fishing methods are permitted in our water bodies, and how do the authorities view the use of long nets in rivers and canals?

- What regulations are in place to protect wildlife in such areas?

To strike a balance between recreational fishing and wildlife conservation, signs could be put up to educate the public on how to fish using low-impact methods.

As a number of anglers are from countries such as China, India and Thailand, the signs should carry translations and make use of pictures to convey the message.

Mallika Naguran (Ms)

Have single agency to enforce law against illegal fishing
Straits Times 21 May 13;

WE HAVE made great strides in turning Singapore into a garden city with natural waterways and lush vegetation. However, are we doing enough to protect our precious fauna?

Every day, one spots people fishing in our reservoirs and canals despite the presence of "no fishing" signs. Besides using fishing rods, these poachers use long drift nets and fish traps.

The seeming lack of enforcement sends a wrong signal to the public that it is permissible to fish in our protected water bodies.

What penalties do these poachers face, or are they merely given a warning? Perhaps it is time to impose hefty fines and publicise these cases in media reports, to serve as a warning to others.

The present "no fishing" signs are not conspicuous and there is no hotline for people to call if they spot illegal fishing.

I have called the national water agency PUB but it was unable to locate the place I was trying to describe.

I also found out that parks come under the purview of the National Parks Board while the water bodies in them come under the PUB. This leads to confusion over which agency is in charge of enforcing the law against illegal fishing. Would it be better to have one agency in charge of all matters relating to the protection of our natural resources?

Lee Swee Mun

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Malaysia: Malacca tops in Hawksbill turtle landings

Jason Gerald John New Straits Times 20 May 13;

CONSERVATION SUCCESS: Padang Kemunting centre hatches 25,300 turtles for release to habitat

ALOR GAJAH: A total of 25,264 Hawksbill turtles have been successfully hatched at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre in Padang Kemunting here last year, as part of efforts to save the species from extinction.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry ministry secretary-general Datuk Mohd Hassim Abdullah said the number made up 60.22 per cent of the 41,952 Hawksbill turtle eggs incubated at the centre.

Last year, some 353 turtle landings were recorded in the state.

"Malacca has the highest landings of the Hawksbill turtles in Peninsular Malaysia and one of the highest in Southeast Asia. Between 2006 and 2012, a total of 2,952 turtles have landed on the beaches of Malacca.

"This is a huge success for the conservation centre in Padang Kemunting, which began operations in 1990.

"It has now gained a reputation as one of the outstanding conservation centres, popular among local and foreign tourists and researchers," he said after releasing 120 Hawksbill hatchlings to the sea near the conservation centre.

The release was part of the Fisheries Department's 2013 Media Expedition Programme, jointly organised with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Skudai and SMK Ghafar Baba here

Also present were Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Sabki Mahmood, Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Md Rawi Mahmod and state Fisheries Department director Rosmawati Ghazali.

Hassim said Malacca was now the most important location for turtle landings in the Southeast Asian region with Pulau Upeh, located off the coast of Klebang becoming a key location as between 350 and 550 turtles of various species, especially the Hawksbill, landed on its shores each year.

Ahmad Sabki said the Fisheries Department aimed to create safe landing areas on the beaches throughout the country, especially for the highly endangered Leatherback and Olive Ridley turtles.

"These two species of turtles are now under threat of extinction and we have established a monitoring and regulatory system with third parties in conducting various management and conservation programmes.

"The threat to these turtles include marine pollution, coastal erosion, exploitation of turtle eggs for food and fishing activities."

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Malaysia Hydropower Meeting to Open Amid Controversy

Agence France-Presse Jakarta Globe 20 May 13;

Kuching. The world hydroelectric industry’s decision to meet in a Malaysian state where dams have uprooted rainforests and native peoples is drawing bitter fire from environmental and tribal groups.

The International Hydropower Association’s four-day biennial meeting to push “sustainable hydropower” opens on Tuesday in Kuching, the languid capital of Sarawak state on Borneo island, and a highly contentious choice.

Sarawak’s powerful boss is widely accused of felling huge swathes of rainforest in a much-criticized dam-building drive.

Opponents of Taib Mahmud — Sarawak’s chief minister for 42 years — plan to hold their own “parallel congress” in Kuching and other protests, bringing to the capital a resistance campaign previously confined to the interior.

“The Taib government is using the IHA name to ‘greenwash’ all the damage it has done,” said Peter Kallang, head of Save Sarawak Rivers, a coalition of local NGOs and tribal groups.

“The IHA also will promote dams and get more business. It’s scandalous.”

Malaysia’s largest state, yet one of its poorest, Sarawak was a vast jungle wilderness of mighty rivers and hunter-gatherer tribes.

But activists say 95 percent of primary forest has been destroyed, accusing Taib of profiting through his grip on land and timber concessions.

Swiss-based forest-protection group Bruno Manser Fund estimates his worth at $15 billion, based on financial and corporate records, which would make him Malaysia’s richest man.

Taib, 76, is regularly cited by antigraft groups as the prime example of endemic corruption, which watchdogs say bleeds Malaysia of billions of dollars annually.

Yet Malaysian authorities have failed to act against Taib, whose political party is vital to keeping the 56-year ruling coalition in power.

“He is basically untouchable,” said BMF head Lukas Straumann.

Taib’s office did not respond to requests for comment. He has previously denied wrongdoing and defended his policies as necessary to develop Sarawak.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office declined comment.

“IHA is pleased to be convening its congress where hydropower is under focus, and where we can share knowledge and experience,” IHA President Richard Taylor said in emailed comments to AFP, adding the congress will hear “alternative” voices.

But Kallang said those voices will be chosen by Taib, and that poor native stakeholders are excluded by high delegate fees.

The IHA board includes the head of Sarawak’s Taib-linked energy firm, which Kallang said raises questions about how Kuching was chosen.

Activists say Taib and his family, through control of some of Sarawak’s biggest companies, pocket huge kickbacks for ill-advised big projects.

Malaysia’s biggest dam, Sarawak’s Bakun hydroelectric facility, has been called a “monument to corruption” by Transparency International, displacing more than 10,000 people, many now living in squalid resettlements.

Officials admit Bakun will produce twice as much energy as Sarawak needs, yet plans for up to a dozen more dams have been mooted. Construction has begun at one, sparking native protests last year.

Resource-rich Sarawak remains poor and leaders are keen to diversify from mining, agriculture and forestry into heavier industries, saying ample power is needed to lure foreign investment.

Josie Fernandez, secretary-general of TI’s Malaysia office, said there are grave concerns about graft and further ecological damage from the industrial drive, adding Sarawak’s people have not benefited from Taib’s development.

“Sarawak is so rich in resources. It could have been developed for the good of its people, but hasn’t,” she said.

Renewable hydropower has received a boost amid climate-change concerns, especially in Asia with its growing energy needs. But projects in the region are often plagued by allegations of corruption and environmental and social harm.

Straumann said the Sarawak congress weakens the IHA’s credibility in addressing such problems.

Agence France-Presse

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Malaysia: 'Less than 1pc of forests illegally logged'

New Straits Times 20 May 13;

IPOH: The problem of illegal logging in the peninsula is under control, said Forestry Department director-general (peninsula) Professor Datuk Dr Abd Rahman Abd Rahim.

Abd Rahman said that of the 5.6 million hectares of forests in the country, less than one per cent was being illegally logged.

He said people tend to push the blame of illegal logging on the lack of enforcement by the department.

"Logging that is being carried out in government reserve land and privately owned land are not under our jurisdiction."

Asked on complaints of illegal logging in Cameron Highlands, Abd Rahman said the issue was best answered by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Abd Rahman was reacting to a call by the Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (REACH), a community-based organisation formed by a group of residents in Cameron Highlands, for Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, who is their newly elected member of parliament, to solve critical pollution issues in the constituency.

Its president, R. Ramakrishnan, said that uncontrolled land clearing carried out in several forest reserve areas was so severe that it was causing river pollution in Cameron Highlands.

In Kuala Lumpur, Palanivel said destruction of forests and hillslopes, mainly in Cameron Highlands, should be stopped.

Palanivel, who is also natural resources and environment minister, said that there was rampant and careless destruction of forests, not only in Cameron Highlands, but also in other areas, including Sabah and Sarawak.

He said he would set up a special team from his ministry to work together with state governments to look into the matter.

"The ministry already has some plans in line and it is my duty to implement them as well as initiate further action."

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Why We Need to Put the Fish Back Into Fisheries

Science Daily 19 May 13;

May 19, 2013 — Overfishing has reduced fish populations and biodiversity across much of the world's oceans. In response, fisheries are increasingly reliant on a handful of highly valuable shellfish. However, new research by the University of York shows this approach to be extremely risky.

The research, published today in the journal Fish and Fisheries, shows that traditional fisheries targeting large predators such as cod and haddock, have declined over the past hundred years. In their place, catches of shellfish such as prawns, scallops and lobsters have rocketed as they begin to thrive in unnaturally predator-low environments often degraded by the passage of trawls and dredges.

In many places, including the UK, shellfish are now the most valuable marine resource. The research by the Environment Department at York suggests that although a shellfish-dominated ecosystem appears beneficial from an economic perspective, it is highly risky. Like simplified agricultural systems, these shellfisheries are unstable in the long-term and at great risk of collapse from disease, species invasions and climate change. Warming and acidification of our oceans due to greenhouse gas emissions is expected to affect shellfish worst. Ocean acidification, in particular, will limit the ability of scallops and other shellfish to form proper shells, and lead to widespread mortality.

Lead author, Leigh Howarth, says: "Prawns are now the most valuable fishery in the UK, with catches currently worth over £110 million a year. But this fishery has come to exist only after we overexploited populations of cod, haddock and other predators. If shellfish now collapsed the social consequences for fishermen would be devastating. There are simply very few remaining species left to target."

The study reports similar findings from all over the world. In the United States and Canada, catches of lobster, scallops and crab have also come to dominate following the collapse of cod. However, disease and climate change again put these species at great risk. While in the Black Sea, Baltic and off the west coast of Africa, overfishing of large predators have caused the ecosystems to become overrun with jellyfish, resulting in severe oxygen depletion and eruptions of hydrogen sulphide, thereby wiping out important food chains across 100,000 square kilometres of seabed.

Co-author Dr Bryce Stewart adds: "Shellfish make a valuable contribution to our fisheries. But we cannot just assume everything is rosy. There is an urgent need for continued improvements in management of finfish fisheries, and an ecosystem approach which rebuilds the diversity, resilience and productivity of our oceans into the future."

Co-author Professor Callum Roberts concludes: "The rise of shellfish has been welcomed by many as a lifeline for the fishing industry. However, such changes are not a result of successful management, but rather a result of management failure, a failure to protect stocks and their habitats in the face of industry innovation and overfishing. This study highlights why the UK needs to urgently act to protect our seas. We need more marine protected areas to stop our seas from becoming a wasteland and to restore the diversity and productivity of fisheries well into the future."

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