Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jun 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [3 - 9 Jun 2013]
from Green Business Times

Save MacRitchie Forest: 4. Fragile Frogs and Tender Tadpoles
from Bird Ecology Study Group

12 Jun (Wed): Talk on "Singapore’s Underwater Meadows" by Dr. Len McKenzie from wild shores of singapore

Diving with the Minister of State
from Pulau Hantu and The Silt Thickens

Video clip of "Copepods -- an introduction to the 'Insects of the Sea'" by Prof Rony Huys from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

TeamSeagrass Training Level 1, Day 2 (9 Jun 2013)
from teamseagrass

RIP Choo Chee Kuang
from wild shores of singapore

China to build $17B worth of dams in Indonesian Borneo
from news by Rhett Butler

Sailfin Armoured Catfish
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Be a responsible seafood consumer

Yuen MeiKeng The Star 10 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: The next time you go to a seafood restaurant, choose lala clams and salmon over soft-shelled crab and stingray.

This is because seafood such as the silver pomfret, the common stingray and soft-shelled crabs are from over-fished and unsustainable fisheries.

This was revealed in the Malaysia Sustainable Seafood Guide May 2013: Save Our Seafood (SOS) 2.0, launched yesterday by the World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF) and SOS ambassador and celebrity chef Bobby Chinn to commemorate Coral Triangle Day and World Oceans Week, reported Bernama.

The guide states that Malaysia is the biggest seafood consumer in South-East Asia, with one person consuming an average of 50.4kg of seafood a year.

“By 2048, scientists predict that there will be no seafood left if we do not eat responsibly,” it said.

WWF-Malaysia conservation di­­rector Dr Sundari Ramakrishna said that the guide aimed to raise awareness among the people about the current status of local fisheries.

Chinn said he was concerned with the dwindling number of fish every year and had tried to educate his customers when serving them sustainably-caught seafood.

“The number of fish is clearly declining, but I have also noticed that the size of fish being sold is also getting smaller,” he said in the Bernama report.

The guide groups seafood into three categories – “recommended”, “think twice” and “avoid”.

Those in the recommended list, namely seafood that is well managed and in sustainable stock, include green mussels, blood cockles, tilapia and pollock.

Among those in the “think twice” category – seafood at risk of being unsustainable – are sardines, belacan shrimp and anchovies.

Seafood to be avoided are sharks, common squid and sea cucumber.

To view and download the SOS 2.0 guide, log on to

Our Fish Stocks are in the Red: WWF-Malaysia’s New S.O.S Guide Reveals the Hard Truth
WWF 10 Jun 13;

9 June 2013, Kuala Lumpur: Will Malaysians continue to enjoy local seafood in the future? WWF-Malaysia’s new Save Our Seafood (S.O.S) guide tells a grim story. This updated version of the first guide paints a bleak picture of the state of fisheries in Malaysia. Between 1971 and 2007, the country has lost almost 92% of its fishery resources.

Compared to the first guide, which featured about 44% of the assessed species falling into the red list, the new S.O.S guide has an astounding 52% in the red list. The assessment covered about 100 commercially-important species in Malaysia, assessed using the international methodology developed jointly by WWF and North Sea Foundation.

This red alert brings a clear message on choosing seafood carefully. The consumption of food fish in Malaysia has increased by 150% since 1961 (FAO, 2013) and Malaysians’ reliance on fish as a major protein source has also increased.

The average Malaysian consumes about 52 kilograms of seafood per year with an expected increase of its consumption in 2020 to be at 1.68 billion kilograms (FAO, 2013).

More than 200,000 fishermen, fish farmers, processors, ice and boat-makers depend on this industry (valued at more than RM10 billion) for their livelihood. The inevitable crash of the fisheries could potentially cripple the nation’s economy and jeopardize the food security of locals.

“The message from this new S.O.S guide further stresses the need for urgent recovery measures for fisheries in Malaysia. We need drastic changes in the management regime to address key issues of unreliable fish stock data, by-catch reduction, impacts to marine ecosystem and habitats, and ineffective enforcement. While the Malaysian government has prioritized aquaculture investment in the 10th Malaysia Plan, WWF is concerned that aquaculture could be seen as a way to compensate for over-harvested fish stocks, and without clear guidelines and application of certification schemes such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the general public cannot be guaranteed that farmed fish they consume do not cause even more harm to the environment,” WWF-Malaysia’s Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, said.

“Parallel to that endeavour is S.O.S 2.0 campaign’s objective to drive market transformation
toward sustainable seafood sourcing by business and industry players. We aim to garner commitments from retailers, hotels and restaurants to phase out red-listed seafood from their counters and menu, and support certified products,” added Dr Dionysius.

He said: “How, where and when is a fish caught or farmed? It is quite challenging for a consumer to track the source of their seafood, which is why certification schemes like Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) take the burden off the consumer with their traceability system. In order for our fisheries to shift toward this direction, there needs to be a call from consumers demanding for more MSC-/-ASC-certified local products. The first ASC-certified fish for Malaysia is the tilapia from Lake Temengor.

The S.O.S 2.0 guide was launched today in conjunction with Coral Triangle Day and World Oceans Week (3 June – 11 June). In addition, a new Public Service Announcement video made its debut at the event along with a new S.O.S website ( which will be more responsive and interactive for the public to learn about and participate in the campaign. Award-winning Celebrity Chef, Bobby Chinn, also made a special appearance at the launch to promote sustainable seafood. Guests were treated to his trademark recipes served with MSC-certified Alaskan Pollock and ASC-certified tilapia produced in Malaysia. The fish products were sponsored by Golden Fresh Sdn Bhd and Trapia Malaysia Sdn Bhd, respectively.

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Malaysia: Despite stricter enforcement, illegal wildlife trade at worrying levels

P. Aruna The Star 10 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: The illegal wildlife trade in the country is rising at worrying levels despite stricter enforcement and heavier penalties.

Greedy traffickers who gain huge profits from the cruel and unethical trade are focusing on Malaysia as it is among the few countries which still has tigers, elephants, sun bears, pangolins and other sought after species.

A live tiger is worth about US$50,000 (RM154,690) in the black market. Its skin alone can be worth up to US$35,000 (RM108,283).

A dead tiger's carcass, without the skin, fetches about US$5,000 (RM15,469). The prized parts of the big cat are sold separately with its penis worth about US$4,000 (RM12,370).

Elephant tusks sell for US$1,800 (RM5,566) a kilo while rhinoceros horns are priced at about US$97,000 (RM299,944) a kilo.

Among the animals highly sought after by poachers in Malaysia are wild boar, sambar deer, barking deer, mousedeer and porcupine and several species of rare birds.

According to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), traffickers are motivated by the high profit margins in the wildlife trade.

“Animal parts are used in traditional medicine, folk remedies and as aphrodisiacs,” said a department spokesman.

He said tigers were mostly hunted for bones, skin and body parts, bears for their gall bladders and paws, pangolins for their meat and for their scales while snakes such as pythons are traded for their skins.

Rare birds are sold at high prices while geckos are traded based on the myth that they are able to cure ailments, including erectile dysfunction.

“Wildlife crime is run by international networks and operate much like the illegal drugs and weapons business,” he said, adding that stricter laws and tighter enforcement had not deterred poachers and traffickers.

Under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, any person who sets or uses any snare for the purpose of hunting can face fines ranging from RM50,000 and RM100,000 and be jailed for a maximum of two years.

Between 2008 and last year, Perhilitan enforcement officers found and destroyed 2,377 snares set by poachers in forests and protected forest reserves.

The global illegal wildlife trade is worth an estimated US$5bil (RM15.46bil) to US$20bil (RM61.84bil) annually, with China, the US and Europe as prime markets.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior programme officer for Traffic South-East Asia, a wildlife monitoring network, said the demand for wildlife parts was on the rise worldwide, with the rate of poaching for elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns at its highest in 20 years.

She said in Malaysia, sambar deer and barking deer have been so rampantly hunted that Perhilitan has banned all deer hunting until 2015.

“Another species of concern is the pangolin, which is the mammal most commonly encountered in seizures across South-East Asia.

“Rarer and more endangered animals like tigers and serow are also very much in demand,” she said.

She said poachers often targeted the Belum-Temengor Forest area, Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin, especially for larger animals such as tigers and bears.

“Poachers are very good at what they do. They know the landscape and are usually a part of a vast, well-oiled network that illegally takes, smuggles and trades wildlife with great speed, using clever methods to evade the law,” she said.

High demand for animal parts driving illegal trade
The Star 10 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: Aphrodisiac value, traditional medicine, exotic food and decorative items are among the “uses” of animal parts, which fuel the lucrative wildlife trade.

Besides its skin, bones and claws, the tiger’s penis is also highly prized for its supposed potency.

Although such claims have no medical basis, the organ of the big cat is still being sold to enhance male virility and ends up in very expensive soups.

Tigers, elephants and snakes such as pythons are also killed to making trophies and luxury goods such as shoes, belts and bags.

The bones of tigers, bile and gall bladder of bears, porcupine bezoars (foreign material that is swallowed and collects in the stomach) and scales of pangolin are among the parts still being used in traditional medicine.

The flesh of the pangolin is also eaten as a sex stimulant.

Geckos are also much sought after for their supposed aphrodisiac value. A lizard weighing 300gm now sells for about US$1,200 (RM3,715).

Traffic South-East Asia’s senior programme officer Kanitha Krishna­samy said tigers were also being hunted for their teeth, claws and whiskers – used for “magic or superstition” – while freshwater tortoises and turtles and deer were sold as food.

She said while some of the wildlife parts were exported, there was still a demand for such “exotic” food among locals.

Kanitha noted that in Sabah and Sarawak, orang utan and bears were even kept as pets.

As for banned bear products, Malaysia ranks fourth among 13 countries studied in Traffic’s regional survey on traditional medicine shops across Asia.

“Although it is completely illegal, the trade continues,” she said, citing a case in 2011 when the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) seized parts of a leopard, bear and deer from a man’s freezer in Pahang.

Kanitha said the most powerful action Malaysians could take in fighting illegal wildlife trade was to “think before buying”.

“Don’t consume the meat of totally protected or endangered wildlife, don’t buy products and medicines made from these animals, don’t take them home as pets and don’t support places which do all these.

“When the demand stops, so will the destruction,” she said, adding that speaking up about the issue would help make decision-makers sit up and take notice.

On its part, Perhilitan has urged the public to report suspected illegal activities such as poaching, trapping or the sale of illegal wildlife meat to its hotline at 1-800-885-151 or e-mail it to

To report to Traffic, contact the network’s 24-hour Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194.

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Malaysia: Call to declare Setiu wetlands a state park

New Straits Times 10 Jun 13;

SETIU: THE World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia has urged the state government to declare the Setiu wetlands a state park.

This, it said, was because the wetlands were an important ecological area for endangered freshwater and marine species, including river terrapins and sea turtles.

WWF freshwater technical coordinator Daria Mathew said declaring the area a state park would also be in line with the East Coast Economic Region masterplan which recognised the Setiu wetlands' potential as a catalyst to boost tourism in Terengganu.

Mathew was speaking after launching a video titled The Setiu Wetlands: Nature's Jewel in Kampung Mangkuk here on Friday in conjunction with World Environment Day. The video was produced by WWF in collaboration with Nestle Malaysia.

In Kuala Lumpur, Bernama reported that WWF and its "Save our Seafood" (SOS) ambassador, celebrity chef Bobby Chinn, launched its "SOS 2.0" guide in conjunction with Coral Triangle Day and World Oceans Week yesterday.

Setiu Wetlands: A Perfect Choice to be Terengganu’s First State Park
WWF 10 Jun 13;

6 June 2013, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu: WWF-Malaysia calls on the State Government to step up protection of Setiu Wetlands by gazetting the site as Terengganu’s very first State Park.

“Setiu Wetlands meets all the criteria to become a State Park - its rich wetland resources offer a playground for researchers and has the potential as an ecotourism destination that can generate economic opportunities for the locals,” said WWF-Malaysia’s Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

“In the long run, the Terengganu State as a whole will gain in terms of the sustained provision of ecosystem services for the well-being of its people as well as economic benefits particularly from ecotourism that can contribute to the State’s revenue,” Dr Dionysius added.

Setiu Wetlands harbours natural features comprising a diverse array of freshwater, brackish and marine ecosystems including unique habitats such as the Gelam forest and a 14-km lagoon stretching parallel to the coastline. Setiu is also home to the last viable population of the critically threatened Painted Terrapins (Batagur borneoensis) in the world and provides a sanctuary to other wildlife including 29 species of mammals, 161 species of birds and 36 species of reptiles and amphibians. Livelihoods are also dependent on the resources found in Setiu Wetlands, as reflected by the economic income derived by the locals involved in the fishing industry – from boat making to fish-based food processing.

In the last few years, changes in land use resulting in degradation and reduced size of the different wetlands habitats are sending red alerts. According to a study on land cover changes in Setiu Wetlands conducted by WWF-Malaysia, nearly 20% of the natural vegetation, particularly swamps and mangroves, have been drained, cleared and converted to other land use during the period between 2008 and 2011.

Based on preliminary findings from a recent study carried out by WWF-Malaysia titled ‘Economic Valuation of the Setiu Wetlands Ecosystem’, 77% of the 200 locals from the Setiu district who were interviewed agreed that Setiu Wetlands has economic value and need to be conserved for future generation.

“It is high time to protect Setiu Wetlands and serious steps in this direction need to be taken. By doing so, we will be able to ensure that Setiu Wetlands will remain for all to benefit,” Dr Dionysius added.

WWF-Malaysia’s proposal to gazette Setiu Wetlands dates back to 1996 when it was jointly pitched with the Department of Fisheries to the State Government. Fast forward 17 years later, the threats are escalating and these can jeopardise the wetlands’ ability to continue providing the ecological, social and economic goods and services. “We need a sustainable management system in place to address these threats that are associated with widespread and incompatible land conversion and development in the wetlands,” said Dr Dionysius.

In conjunction with the World Environment Day on 5 June, WWF-Malaysia today held a screening of ‘Setiu Wetlands: Nature’s Jewel’ video in Kuala Terengganu. Produced by WWF-Malaysia with the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and NestlĂ© (Malaysia) Berhad, the video features interviews with local community members, stakeholders and researchers which aim to introduce the public to the Setiu Wetlands in Terengganu, its vital ecological functions and natural resources as well as the efforts that are being carried out to conserve this valuable site.

The “Setiu Wetlands: Nature’s Jewel” can be viewed on the following link:

Setiu Wetlands on the road to becoming state park
Joseph Kaos Jr The Star 12 Jun 13;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Setiu Wetlands is on course to become Terengganu's first state park following plans to protect the area's unique ecosystem.

State chairman of science, green technology and water Datuk Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the Government was also aware of the wetlands huge ecotourism potential which could lead to benefits for the locals here.

“Turtle watching, honey harvesting and fishing are just among the many ecotourism activities that can be organised at Setiu Wetlands. Ecotourism can generate an alternative income for the locals, who mostly rely on the fishing sector as their main source of income,” he said at the opening of a national seminar of coastal forest conservation at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) here yesterday.

Ahmad Razif said that Setiu Wetlands was unique as it had nine interconnected ecosystems the sea, beach, mudflat, lagoon, estuary, river, islands, coastal forest and mangrove forest.

“The state government therefore recommends that Setiu Wetlands be gazetted into a state park to protect the ecosystem,” he said.

Last week, World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia urged the state government to step up protection of Setiu Wetlands.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the area was under threat due to degradation and reduced size of different wetlands habitats over the last few years.

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Malaysia: Couple held for trading in pangolins

Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 10 Jun 13;

PROTECTED SPECIES: Husband, wife from Johor turn car into 'home' to ply trade in Kelantan

GRIK: A COUPLE have been calling their car "home" for the past month, living and sleeping in the vehicle so that they can carry on their pangolin business.

The man, 25, and his wife, 20, were willing to travel 800km from their hometown in Batu Pahat, Johor, to Kuala Kangsar to buy the animals for sale in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

Pangolins are protected animals under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

The couple's decision to meet with an old friend in Jalan Duku, Taman Sinaran here, yesterday before proceeding to Kelantan with 16 pangolins weighing 120kg hidden in their car boot, led to their arrest.

They had apparently left a gap in the boot to enable the pangolins to breath.

Perak Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP) commander Assistant Superintendent Kasturi Othman said the couple initially refused to cooperate with his officers who had gone to check on the car by refusing to get out of the vehicle and winding up all the windows. They then sped off.

"However, our officers managed to nab them in front of their friend's house. We searched the car and found 16 pangolins.

"The suspects admitted that they bought the animals from traders in Kuala Kangsar at a cost of RM31,200 or RM260 per kg for sale to restaurants in Kelantan."

Kasturi said his officers were assisted by five policemen from the Grik district police headquarters.

Several types of soaps, detergents and clothing, believed to be supplies for the couple, were found inside the Proton Waja.

"The husband and wife admitted they had turned the car into their 'home' to make it easier for them to carry out their business. They had left their infant child in the care of a relative back home.

The couple and the pangolins have been handed over to the National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) for further action under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

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Malaysia: Arrest the destruction of our pristine hills

Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 10 Jun 13;

LITTLE is known about the green lacewing insect, Semachrysa jade, until it brought fame to the country recently.

The new species did Malaysia proud when it made it into this year's list of top 10 newly discovered species from around the world.

Semachrysa jade joined nine other new discoveries from Peru, the United States, Congo, Panama, France, New Guinea, Madagascar, Ecuador and China to make it into the top 10.

The list was selected by the International Institute for Species Exploration at the Arizona State University out of more than 140 nominated species.

Malaysia, undoubtedly, is rich in flora and fauna.

According to the World Development Indicators, Malaysia has one of the richest biodiversity of fauna and flora in the world, second only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia.

The Global Diversity Outlook had previously recognised Malaysia as one of the 12 mega-diversity countries in the world, hosting more than 170,000 species of flora and fauna. This is something we, as Malaysians, can all be proud of.

Take for example, Cameron Highlands in Pahang, one of Malaysia's most extensive hill stations. Smack right in this very highlands is where the Simulium (Gomphostilbia) sofiani, a new species of black fly, was discovered in 2011.

Just two years earlier, a new microhylid frog, Kalophrynus yongi, was recorded there.

Even its Sumatran serow, mountain peacock-pheasant and Malayan whistling-thrush were listed in the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

And, so, it came as a huge surprise for many, more so nature lovers, when it was brought to light the "rape" of the highlands at an alarming rate in recent years.

It was reported that unsustainable land-clearing continued at a staggering scale, with pristine virgin jungle chopped down to make way for agriculture.

Some no longer resembled hills as deep shelves had been cut into the land, which was flattened so that farmers could start planting vegetables.

During a chance visit to the highlands not too long ago, I had a first-hand look at the destruction of the hills. Huge ugly brown patches now replaced what was once, I was told, lush greenery as one approaches Ringlet and thereafter Tanah Rata. Earth covers the main road leading to the highlands.

Has anyone stopped to think how many yet-to-be-discovered species in Cameron Highlands we have destroyed with all the clearing works?

Did anyone carry out a comprehensive study on all the now- levelled hills to find out what was there before? Has it ever crossed our minds that we may be destroying a new species which is only privy to Cameron Highlands and nowhere else in the world?

Environmentalist D. Kanda Kumar believes that there are many more new species in the country which have yet to be discovered.

Kanda, who is also the Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch adviser, said this was why environmentalists had been pushing the authorities for greater emphasis on conducting compulsory surveys before any development.

"This is critical as many of the yet-to-be-developed areas have yet to be reached even by humans."

It may be too late for us to salvage what had been destroyed, but it is better late than never.

The time has come for the authorities to seriously address the "rape" before the highlands is totally wiped out.

The authorities had announced the setting up of a special task force to tackle the widespread ravage of the highlands together with the help of the Pahang government.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, who is also Cameron Highlands member of parliament, had said the wanton destruction of the hills must be stopped.

The MIC president has surely set a huge challenge for himself to meet, what more after being given a five-year mandate by the people to set things straight.

Will he be able to deliver? Only time will tell.

Until then, let us pray that more new species will be discovered in Cameron Highlands in the near future so that we can continue to put Malaysia on the world map.

And as we celebrated World Environment Day last Wednesday, let us join hands with Palanivel to make a pledge to stop the "rape" of Cameron Highlands now and forever.

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Indonesia: Calls for Eco-Tourism as Alternative to Shark Exports

Fitri Jakarta Globe 10 Jun 13;

The habitat of sharks may further dwindle as shark fins continued to be in high demand in foreign restaurants.

WWF Indonesia data show that up to 150,000 sharks are killed each year for export to Hong Kong and China.

“This is a very concerning situation as Indonesia is now the number one exporter for sharks,” Wawan Ridwan, program director for marine species at WWF Indonesia, said during a Coral Triangle Day celebration event at Tanjung Karang Beach in Lombok on Sunday.

Wawan said WWF Indonesia continues to face difficulties in reducing shark hunting activities as sharks are not listed as a state-protected species in Indonesia.

The WWF lists Hong Kong as the world’s largest shark importer, with 80 percent of the world’s demand for shark fin consumption coming from the city. But Wawan said the Hong Kong government was working toward a total ban on shark consumption there.

“In 2015, there will be an official prohibition on Hong Kong shark consumption. We believe China is very strict in its law enforcement efforts. This is the case with corruption, as the Chinese government orders those convicted to be hanged. I imagine this will also apply with the shark consumption ban. If China says it should end, then it will be ended,” Wawan said.

He also expressed hopes that Indonesia, as the world’s largest shark exporter, would move to reduce and ultimately end all shark fishing activities. He said the administration in Raja Ampat, West Papua, has banned shark fishing, manta rays and several other species in Raja Ampat waters.

Raja Ampat has also turned areas in the region where sharks can be found into diving tourism spots. “Instead of allowing those sharks to be caught and killed for a meager Rp 1.3 million ($133) each, it is better to develop the area into a diving tourism destination, where each tourist will [instead] pay Rp 1 million to see those sharks,” Wawan said.

At the East Lombok Tanjung Luar Fish Auctions (TPI), hundreds of sharks are sold each month. They are subsequently exported to Taiwan and Japan for between Rp 200 million and Rp 400 million. Sudirman Saad, director general at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries overseeing the seas, coastal areas and small islands, attended the Coral Triangle Day event.

He said he supported Raja Ampat’s effort to develop eco-tourism destinations in shark habitats in the region, saying that shark fishing could be significantly reduced in Indonesia if others followed suit.

“This Coral Triangle Day 2013 event is celebrated by six member countries of the CTI: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste,” Sudirman said. He said it would be celebrated annually to promote the protection of the biodiversity of the Coral Triangle.

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Brunei bans shark trade

Borneo Post 9 Jun 13;

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: With the consent of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the government, through the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), will enforce the ban on the catch and landings of all shark species from Brunei’s waters and thus cease the sale of any related products in the domestic market, Borneo Bulletin reported.

Furthermore, the government will also now officially enforce the ban on the importation and trade of shark products which has been in place since August 2012.

These were the words declared by Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources during the ‘Celebrate the Sea Festival’ in-conjunction with the Worlds Oceans Day 2013 yesterday.

“These measures are, probably, the world’s first commitment by any country,” said the minister. The rationale are “Firstly; our concern on food security and secondly the environmental consideration.”

The minister said sharks are targeted for their fins only, whereas the rest of the body are discarded back to the sea – most of the time barely breathing – to die.

He reminded the audience that sharks occupy an important hierarchy in the marine food web as “higher predators” in the marine environment. “Any alternation of the level will inevitably result in the disturbance of the existing balance of nature and the marine food web,” he said.

The ban supports the international bodies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the recently concluded 16th Conference of Parties (16th COP) on CITES in Bangkok, Thailand. More shark species were listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, endangered and threatened.

The minister believes that the impact from the ban would decrease the fishing pressure towards the shark resources, especially in Brunei and in international waters while more importantly safeguard the nation’s overall fishers’ resources to be in a preserved state in the future.

“Therefore, with this ban, it is further hoped it would become a lesson to us that the fish resources are not finite to be exploited as much as one can.

“This ban would be able to assist in the stock recovery and to prevent further species loss culminating in the loss of the marine biodiversity of the region, and with particular emphasis to waters in Brunei.

“These resources should be well-managed and taken care of so that they would always be sustainable for the generations to come,” the minister emphasised.

Fish resources around the waters of Brunei are declining significantly, similar to other countries in the world, with about 21 per cent of what it was in 1999 mainly due to overfishing.

The minister narrowed down his point on shark catches, which are declining significantly over the years. “The catches were around 40 metric tonnes in 1994 and they fell to 16 metric tonnes in 2011, even though shark is not a targeted fish in Brunei,” said the minister.

The event marks the 12th Celebrate the Sea Festival, which Brunei, with more than 41,000 square kilometres of majestic ocean and marine biodiversity, is a home for more than 400 coral species and a diversity of 670 species of fish, hosts.

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EU agrees to tighten its ban on 'shark finning'

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 7 Jun 13;

The European Union agreed on Thursday to tighten an existing ban on "shark finning", or slicing fins off sharks often while they are still alive, which environmental campaigners say is cruel and threatens the survival of some species.

Once the change comes into effect, the ban will forbid shark finning by all vessels in EU waters and by all EU-registered vessels anywhere in the world, a move its supporters believe will put pressure on countries where the practice is common.

"Shark finning is one of the main threats to the shark population," said Sandrine Polti, policy adviser to the Shark Alliance. "We're now in a much better position to push for a global shark-finning ban."

A surge in demand for shark fins, mostly for soup and traditional medicine in Asia, and in particular China, means they can fetch up to 1,000 euros ($1,300) each.

The proposed new law, approved by EU ministers and expected to come into effect later this year, closes a loophole in EU rules by which fishermen with special permits are still allowed to remove fins from shark carcasses at sea.

Under the tighter rules, fishermen will have to land all sharks with their fins attached, although they will be allowed to slice partly through each fin and fold it against the carcass for ease of storage and handling.

Portugal, worried about the impact of the changes on fishing revenues, voted against the law, ministers said in a statement, but it was not able to veto the agreement.

Animal rights groups say finning is cruel because the shark is often still alive when the fin is removed and drowns when it is thrown back into the water.

The practice also poses a threat to several species that play a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems, environmental groups add.

About one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing because of their slow growth rate and small number of young.

The EU supplies around a third of all shark fins to the Hong Kong market, the global centre of the shark fin trade.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Rex Merrifield and Mike Collett-White)

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For South-east Asia, climate change is just as dangerous

Le Dinh Tinh Today Online 10 Jun 13;

The big question facing Southeast Asia’s policymakers today is not making a choice between butter and guns, but how to face the growing threats from other various sources, including climate change.

Given the chronic scarcity of resources, can countries in Southeast Asia cope with the long-term impact of climate change not just on their economies, but also on their citizens and their livelihoods?

Imagine that climate change is reducing the world’s gross domestic product by 1.6 per cent, which is about US$1.2 trillion (S$1.5 trillion). This is like the Republic of Korea’s economy being wiped out from the world economic map.

Let’s take another specific example. The Mekong Delta helps Vietnam become a big exporter of rice to the world. Vietnam is a major contributor to the world’s food security.

Local scientists, however, predict that if Vietnam cannot stop climate change and its impact at the current level, which is among the worst in the world, Vietnam will have to import rice five times larger in volume than its export today. In addition, sea-level rise, coupled with river-level drop, is salinating vast areas of the Delta, potentially affecting the livelihoods of millions of people.

From land to the oceans, climate change is having a major impact. It is thought to change the natural formation of the islands and affecting the resources in the South China Sea on which different claims have been made.

Equally alarming, climate change may increase the likelihood of the resort to violence. Under the stress of climate change, competition for natural resources might well lead to conflicts between nations, as forecast by experts.

For instance, lack of access to water due to low availability and human factors might threaten to increase tensions and undermine the hard-won peace and stability of South-east Asia. It is therefore sensible to state that the bigger question for every regional government and various organisations today is the strategic one.


The repercussions of climate change have transcended economics and traditional security. It now has to do with the well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

For example, South-east Asia is classified as an area that is being or about to be a “seriously affected” area by climate change, according to a report by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

This is because a vast part of its population lives on agriculture and natural resources, both of which depend on stability in the global climate. It thus makes sense for policymakers to reflect on the issue with a wider and deeper lens.

Most of the economies in South-east Asia are still developing. The World Bank estimates that more than 35 per cent of South-east Asians live in “direst poverty”. This group of people is located in rural areas where the adaptive capacity for climate change is “very limited”.

The rest of the population is not free from the adverse impact of climate change. Sea-level rise, droughts, floods are recurring themes in this part of the world.

The flood in Bangkok in 2011 was estimated to have cost Thailand US$17 billion and economists say it would take much more than that for recovery.

Some scholars also look at the cultural factor. The land and water that people have lived on for generations will not stay the same because of changes in the climate. Traditional ways of living have to be adapted to the new context.

With their traditional cultures affected, can people remain as they are?

At the same time, threats from traditional security challenges such as conflicts and wars in South-east Asia remain, even though the region has generally been stable and peaceful. There is no doubt that because of the security dilemma, no country can consider itself safe.

That means, traditional security enhancement is a top priority for any country in this anarchic world, not just South-east Asia. The problem is, how much should a country spend for this? Also, how should it balance its limited resources with the need to meet non-traditional security challenges such as mitigating climate change?


According to The Economist and IHS Jane’s, South-east Asian countries increased defence spending by 13.5 per cent in 2011, to US$24.5 billion. This is larger than the GDP size of some South-east Asian countries combined. Policymakers are not simply working with numbers; they are dealing with people.

Can anyone convince governments that non-traditional security challenges are threatening people no less than those afflicted by traditional security threats, and that we have to reallocate resources accordingly? Policy legacies are not melting at the speed of ice in the Arctic. Quite the contrary, the traditional security industry still has a big say in the policymaking of many countries.

The remaining part of the question — how — is equally gloomy. Capacity is at a chokepoint for most of the South-east Asian governments. How can they restructure their economies to become low-carbon or green economies? Where would they get the technologies?

Myriad questions remain in the fight against climate change alone in South-east Asia. Awareness has been raised, but is it enough? When a soldier is holding a weapon, he is supposed to point it at a specific target. But now with his “enemy” being threats from everywhere, where can he point?

Against this background, many are hoping for a South-east Asia that rebalances its resources and does the right thing. The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) is taking steps in addressing climate change, for example via the mechanisms under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

Given the magnitude of the issue, it may be just as well that it is also being considered under the ambit of the ASEAN Political-Security Community.


Le Dinh Tinh is Deputy Director General, Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam. He contributed this personal comment to RSIS Commentaries.

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