Best of our wild blogs: 16 Oct 13

18-29 Nov: Workshop on Climate change challenges in cities
from wild shores of singapore

A Venomous Snake at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Rose-ringed Parakeet Feasting On Peacock Flower
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Environmental journalism: rich with stories but 'extremely under-resourced'
from news by Rhett Butler

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Student on a mission to save Singapore's monkeys

Jeanette Tan Yahoo Newsroom 16 Oct 13;

Meet 26-year-old Amanda Tan, the only Singaporean and also the only person currently pursuing a PhD in primatology — the study of monkeys — in Singapore.

The postgraduate student at Nanyang Technological University also happens to be on a quest to change the public's behaviour and attitude toward wild monkeys in Singapore, and to stop the animals from being killed.

Since she started observing the long-tailed macaques in Singapore's Bukit Timah Nature Reserve some years ago, Tan has become a familiar face to people in the area. She goes door-to-door and attends resident committee meetings to spread her message.

The complaints residents have against monkeys are numerous and seemingly unceasing, with a 24-hour hotline for monkey-related issues even set up to hear them.

The grousing has driven government agencies like the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to hire animal control agencies as contractors to capture and kill the macaques that stray out of territory overseen by NParks, or the National Parks Board.

Figures from the AVA show that the number of complaints received about monkeys have more than doubled in the past two years: in 2011, the AVA recorded about 730 instances of feedback, while in the first nine months of this year alone, the number jumped to about 1,560.

According to the AVA, the nature of complaints involved monkeys snatching belongings and chasing pedestrians or cyclists, and in some cases biting, scratching or injuring children, the elderly or pets. In January this year, there was a report of a monkey in a school chapel that repeatedly dislodged glass window panes, while another incident last month involved a monkey reportedly entering a condominium and injuring an infant.

"I think macaques in general are just very, very misunderstood, which makes me feel very sad for them and at the same time I want to do something about it to tell people about macaques and how they're not really this evil creature that everyone thinks they are," she told Yahoo Singapore in a sit-down interview recently.

Tan says she likes bringing residents out to see macaques in nature reserve areas as well, in order to help them better understand how they behave in their natural habitats — instead of simply seeing them raiding dustbins and stealing fruit off the trees in their garden, for instance.

"You can see that once people start to be around macaques more and observe them more, they realise that they're actually not that terrible and that they're actually quite enjoyable to watch and you can live peacefully with them," she added.

Behaviour conditioned by humans

Tan said people's perceptions of macaques has mostly been shaped by negative portrayals of them in the media, apart from years of human behaviour that has conditioned the monkeys into thinking that people are sources of food.

When she was growing up, she always saw people feeding macaques alongside the turtles at Macritchie Reservoir Park on weekends, describing it as "a Sunday activity", even.

Since this was before the no-feeding rule was implemented by the authorities, however, she said she can understand why monkeys have over the years learned to approach people, vehicles, houses and dustbins for food instead of relying on the abundance that the forest offers.

"And now we have to sort of try to reverse that behavior, which is possible. Everyone just really needs to stop feeding them and exclude them from any food sources, but it's been years so it will probably take years to reverse the behaviour as well."

"In fact, monkeys can eat insects, leaves, fruits off the trees, even some types of bark," Tan added while leading us around Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and showing us the usual places the group of macaques she follows appears. "So the forest has no shortage of food for the macaques, and they certainly don't need to look outside for more."

What can people do?

So what can people do to help reverse macaque behaviour without driving them to extinction in Singapore?

"People have to start doing things like not planting fruit trees in their gardens if they don't want macaques, and keeping their windows closed if no one's in the room to supervise," she said for example.

"It's quite hard to ask people to do things to their houses because they feel like they have the right to live how they want and shouldn't have to change because of monkeys, but I guess people have to understand that in areas where they live very close to nature reserves… they need to understand what it really means to live with nature," she added.

And what can government agencies do? Tan said she understands the need for them to attend to people's concerns about public safety and to immediately address the macaques' aggressive behaviour where it is manifested, but at the same time, to her, culling is but a "band-aid solution" that will not help residents in the long-term.

"Most of the time, it's the babies who get caught in traps, not the adults who are smarter and who tend to exhibit the aggressive behaviour where it happens," said Tan. "That's not solving the problem because the adults will just have more babies, and it's also not dealing with the root cause of the issue, which is human behaviour."

The agencies should also make it a priority to assist residents living near nature reserve areas with structural improvements such as the provision of monkey-proof bins, and teach them to quickly harvest fruits that grow on their fruit trees and allow them to ripen off them instead of where monkeys can reach them, for instance. Central rubbish disposal areas should also be monkey-proofed as well, she added.

Tan says Singapore can also be liked other countries that are moving away from culling and going toward longer-term solutions like training and deploying manpower to respond to macaque complaints on the ground and assist and educate people being harassed by monkeys.

"If agencies see the need to manage the macaques properly as wildlife, and maybe allotted more funding to hiring more staff to train people to work with macaques and manage them better, it would definitely help," she said.

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Eastern parts of Singapore hit by flash floods

Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 16 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — Several areas in the eastern parts of Singapore were yesterday hit by flash floods after the pre-dawn thundery showers, which also caused some damage to Pasir Ris Polyclinic.

According to the PUB, the “intense storms” flooded lanes on the Pan Island Expressway Tampines Avenue 5 exit, Upper Paya Lebar Road (near Lim Teck Boo Road), and Tampines Road (near Jalan Teliti) although the roads remained passable to traffic. There were no major traffic incidents reported.

Parts of the second floor of the Pasir Ris Polyclinic — which was closed for the Hari Raya Haji public holiday — were flooded. Two ceiling boards collapsed on the ground floor of the polyclinic. The management was alerted to the damage at 6am after the security alarms went off.

Dr Peter Moey, the clinic’s Director, said: “We are investigating the cause and also assessing the damage severity and doing some maintenance work to assess that the building is safe for operations. At the moment, from what we see, the equipment and building look okay, but we need a more comprehensive assessment.”

Mr Kelvin Tan, who lives along Tampines Road, said the area is prone to flooding and that he has seen floods there two to three times a year over the last three years.

“Athough the flood subsided in about 20 minutes this time round, this has happened before and I hope the authorities will resolve the issue soon,” said Mr Tan, who is in his 30s.

The PUB said the drains there will be upgraded from the second half of next year. In the interim, it will also install an additional water level sensor in the drain at the affected stretch so that it can better monitor the water levels during heavy storms and send alerts should flash floods occur. It noted that a water level sensor has already been installed in the drain further downstream at Hougang Avenue 7.

Yesterday’s incidents follow severe flash floods last month that forced the closure of the Ayer Rajah Expressway, uprooted trees and caused massive traffic snarls.

In the aftermath of the Sept 5 floods, the agency acknowledged that it could take some time for the improvement works that are in progress and in the pipeline to bear fruit.

Sumita Sreedharan

Parts of Pasir Ris Polyclinic damaged by morning downpour
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 13;

A heavy downpour early Tuesday morning caused some damage to Pasir Ris Polyclinic. The damage has since been repaired, and the polyclinic will resume operations on Wednesday.

A staff member wiping down the counter at Pasir Ris Polyclinic after it was hit by a downpour on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Sara Grosse)
SINGAPORE: A heavy downpour early Tuesday morning caused some damage at Pasir Ris Polyclinic.

The damage has since been repaired, and the polyclinic will resume operations on Wednesday.

A section of the ceiling on the first level of the clinic had collapsed, while puddles of water were found at all three levels of the polyclinic.

SingHealth Polyclinics said initial investigations show that the incident was likely due to the heavy downpour.

At 6am, the clinic's director was alerted that the security alarm had gone off.

Dr Peter Moey, Family Physician & Clinic Director at SingHealth Polycinics (Pasir Ris), said: "We are investigating the cause and also assessing the damage severity and doing some maintenance work to assess that the building is safe for operations.

"At the moment, from what we see, the equipment and building looks okay but we need a more comprehensive assessment."

With parts of the ceiling still leaking, staff quickly took preventive measures. Fortunately, the polyclinic was closed on Tuesday as it was a public holiday, so no patients were affected.

SingHealth Polyclinics said it has assessed the clinic situation and done thorough checks on its systems and facilities to ensure that the clinic is safe and ready for operation.

It also said the polyclinic has been cleaned up, and the damaged ceiling boards replaced.

The polyclinic is situated within the Pasir Ris East Community Building. It is working with the building's managing agent to investigate the cause of this incident.

Due to the heavy rain, national water agency PUB said flash floods occurred in the eastern parts of Singapore, including Tampines.

- CNA/xq/gn

Early morning thunderstorm causes flash floods
Melissa Lin Straits Times 16 Oct 13;

HEAVY rain caused flash floods across Singapore after a thunderstorm early yesterday morning, though most areas escaped major damage.

Worst hit was Pasir Ris Polyclinic, where two ceiling boards collapsed after a build-up of water. No one was injured in the incident, which happened at around 6am. Water puddles also formed on three levels.

The clinic, run by SingHealth Polyclinics, was closed yesterday for the Hari Raya Haji public holiday but is expected to re-open as normal today.

When The Straits Times visited the place in Pasir Ris Drive 4 yesterday afternoon, workers were assessing the damage.

The clinic director, Dr Peter Moey Kirm Seng, said the company has conducted "thorough checks" to ensure that the clinic is safe and ready for operation.

"The polyclinic has been cleaned up and damaged ceiling boards have been replaced," he said.

"In the meantime, we are working closely with the managing agent of Pasir Ris East Community Building to investigate the cause of this incident".

Yesterday's thunderstorm started at around 5am and lasted for close to five hours. Flash floods were reported at several locations. At 5.40am, intense rain caused flooding on the Pan Island Expressway towards Changi near the Tampines Avenue 5 exit.

The flood waters subsided after four minutes, according to national water agency PUB's Facebook and Twitter updates.

Three hours later, flash floods were reported at Upper Paya Lebar Road.

At Changi Airport, soaked carpets were spotted at the skytrain station of Terminal 2's transit area after rainwater leaked in. A Changi Airport spokesman said it was investigating how the water got in.

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Space crunch? More roads may be built underground

LTA studying plan to expand subterranean road network
Christopher Tan Straits Times 16 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE'S Central Business District, new Marina Bay Downtown and its future southern waterfront district may be linked by an extensive underground road network beyond 2030.

The plan being studied by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will see traffic zipping about unobtrusively beneath the surface in a series of subterranean ring roads.

Such roads, which free up surface space and improve the liveability of urban areas, are found in cities such as Brussels, Stockholm, Madrid, Paris, Hamburg and Boston.

Singapore's plan is seen as part of a larger one to accommodate a growing population, and it dates back to the 1980s.

Then in 1996, the LTA envisioned 30km of two- to four-lane roads forming a pair of concentric rings under the city centre.

It revisited the idea in the recently released 2013 Land Transport Masterplan, but added that the so-called Singapore Underground Road System (Surs) will now be more extensive.

"We are now studying how Surs can serve new developments in the Marina Bay area and the new southern waterfront city that will extend from Keppel Channel to Pasir Panjang Terminal," a spokesman said.

But until exact development plans for these two districts are clearer, he said, the scale and alignment of the underground roads remain conceptual.

Experts said going underground is inevitable.

Dr Park Byung Joon, head of the urban transport management programme at SIM University, said intense development is expected for the new downtown areas. Thus, building roads on the surface "may not be desirable due to the limited supply of land".

Elevated roads may also mar the visual appeal and perceived prestige of a district, he said. Noise is another consideration.

"The only option left is an underground road network," he said.

He noted that it will be very expensive to build, but the benefits may be justifiable.

Observers said the long gestation of such a network - at least 50 years from concept to implementation - held a high cost, as many areas in the city had to be "safeguarded". The term refers to reserving space for a major infrastructure project to avoid conflicting demands in the future.

But retired traffic engineer Joseph Yee, 68, who was involved in early Surs studies, said: "The cost of not safeguarding is higher."

Safeguarding ensures that property acquisition is kept to a minimum, for instance.

Going underground is not entirely new to Singapore. The 12km Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway, which opened in 2008, is largely underground. The Marina Coastal Expressway, slated to open by the year end, is the first to have a stretch going under the seabed.

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Increased rainfall in region leaves Singapore skies clear

Khoo Fang Xuan Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is typically affected by Indonesia's slash-and-burn activities in September and October every year.

But the skies have remained relatively clear, and haze-free, so far.

Experts said the number of hotspots in Sumatra has gone down compared to the same period last year.

Dr Liew Soo Chin, Principal Research Scientist for National University of Singapore’s Research Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, said this could be due to this year's El-Nino condition being different from previous years.

He explained: "This year, the El Nino condition tends to be neutral, and slightly towards the La Nina. That's the opposite of El Nino, so it tends to have more rainfall, the weather tends to be wetter. So that's why we don't see many hotspots in this time of the year."

Meteorological Service Singapore also said any change in wind direction brought about by the latest Typhoon Nari is not likely to result in transboundary haze.

This is because increasing showers in the region are expected to help put out fires in Sumatra.

The meteorological service added that Singapore is located in the equatorial region, where prevailing winds are generally weak, variable and difficult to predict at times.

The presence of typhoons in the region could influence the direction of prevailing winds, but the occurrence of transboundary haze depends not only on wind direction.

A combination of other factors such as the location of fires in Sumatra and rainfall in the surrounding region also play a part.

Experts said the transboundary haze that Singapore experienced in June was largely due to two tropical storms over the Philippines.

Dr Liew added: "In order for the haze to come to Singapore, the wind directions must blow in the general direction from west to east, and usually it doesn't happen. But this year in June, the wind pattern of the typhoon interfered with the local wind patterns and the effect is that it changed the wind directions, and that brings the haze to Singapore."

- CNA/gn

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Malaysia: Malacca revives straits bridge project

R.S.N. Murali The Star 16 Oct 13;

MALACCA: The Malacca Government has revived the controversial 48.69km-long Malacca-Dumai, Indonesia, bridge project across the Straits of Malacca, after a seven-year lull.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said finer details of the project linking Teluk Gong in Malacca in the peninsula to the port of Dumai, in Sumatra, would be revealed when all mechanisms were in place.

If implemented, the bridge straddling the busiest international shipping waterway would be the world’s longest, even without including a 71.2km-long highway to be built between Dumai and Pulau Rupat, the closest connecting point.

“The project was discussed during the 10th Chief Ministers and Governors’ Forum (CMGF) of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) convened in Koh Samui, Thailand, on Sept 12.

“The forum took note of the economic potential and strategic positioning of the IMT-GT with the construction of the Malacca-Dumai Bridge,” Idris said yesterday.

Insights on a feasibility study on the bridge undertaken by Strait of Malacca Partners Sdn Bhd were given during the meeting.

The company had earlier appointed the Hunan Provincial Communi-cations Planning, Survey & Design Institute of China to prepare documents pertaining to the study.

The idea of the bridge was first mooted in 1995 to foster new economic opportunities, especially in trade and tourism, between the two countries but died down during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

In 2006, then Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam restored interest in the project by saying that the groundwork for it had started and that studies showed that the bridge was technically feasible.

He also announced that the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China had agreed to finance 85% of the link’s total cost, then estimated at RM44.3bil.

The proposal was submitted to the Economic Planning Unit with details on how the bridge would stimulate economic activities between the peninsula and Sumatra.

However, the plan came under strong objection from various quarters, including environmentalists.

Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof, when contacted, said he was yet to be briefed on plans to revive the project.

Concern over straits bridge plan
The Star 17 Oct 13;

PETALING JAYA: While a bridge between Malacca and Dumai, Indonesia, could be a catalyst for economic growth, the Maritime Institute of Malaysia is concerned about its effects to shipping, safety and the environment.

According to maritime analyst Nazery Khalid, there are grounds to be concerned over how the bridge will affect the smooth passage of ships through the Straits of Malacca, which is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

“Ships would have to slow down when sailing through the construction site and traversing under the bridge to avoid collision with the structures.

“This may also affect their sailing schedules, to the detriment of the supply chains and the interests of stakeholders such as ports, businesses, industries and consumers,” said Nazery, who was among a team of experts from the institute who conducted a study on the subject four years ago.

Nazery was responding to the plan to revive the project, which was first mooted in 1995, and then again in 2006.

On Tuesday, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron raised the idea again, which he claimed was discussed during the 10th Chief Ministers and Governors’ Forum (CMGF) of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) at Koh Samui, Thailand, on Sept 12.

The 2009 Mima study entitled “A Bridge Too Far? An Analysis of the Proposed Bridge Across the Straits of Malacca From a Maritime Perspective” stated that the shipping community was not comfortable with the increase of transit time through the straits, while the slower speed could increase the risk of being attacked by pirates.

The report also stated that such a massive project would adversely affect coastal ecosystems on both ends of the bridge.

Vital nesting areas for hawksbill turtles on the Malaysian side near Padang Kemunting (near Tanjung Bidara) could also be affected, along with other marine life, as well as the coastal tourism industry.

The report also stated the 2004 earthquake that hit Sumatra, triggering the massive tsunami, served as warning about the safety of the bridge.

“One shudders to think of the effects of a bridge collapse on the marine environment and also the economy of the region,” said Nazery, who was speaking in his personal capacity.

Idris said the details of 48.69km-long bridge linking Teluk Gong in Malacca to Dumai, Sumatra, would be revealed when all mechanisms were in place.

The bridge would be the world’s longest, even without including a 71.2km-long highway to be built between Dumai and Pulau Rupat on the Indonesian side.

Malacca businessmen want say in bridge project discussions
The Star 17 Oct 13;

MALACCA: The Malacca business community has urged the state government to include it in discussions on the proposed Malacca-Dumai Bridge project.

Malacca Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Tan Poh Seng said the government should convene a round-table discussion with local business leaders from all communities before reviving the multi-billion-ringgit pro­ject.

Tan said under current economic conditions, many locals were employed under minimal salaries and matters would worsen with an influx of foreigners via the bridge into the already saturated local job market.

“It would be easier for Indo­nesians to cross over here where some employers might prefer hiring them on lower pay scales.

“Both the federal and state governments should iron out adverse impacts of the project first,” he said.

Tan said the government must be transparent on how the funding from the Exim Bank of China was to be repaid, the period of repayment, the interest rate imposed and the commitment of the Indonesian counterpart on the repayment.

“We have to evaluate whether the local business community will benefit or suffer from the project.

“Local tourists could also frequent the other side more often in search of cheaper products due to the exchange rate between the ringgit and the rupiah.

“The findings should be tabled prior to the construction of the project apart from details like border controls to safeguard the interest of locals,” he added.

Tan said the government should also consider the security aspects of the project as the bridge would make it easier for foreigners to commit crime and escape in just hours.

It's back: Malacca Strait bridge plan
China's Exim Bank to 'fund most of the project' linking Malaysia and Indonesia
Yong Yen Nie Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur And Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta Straits Times 17 Oct 13;

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal for an almost 50km-long bridge from Malacca in Malaysia to Dumai in Indonesia is back on the table, with funding lined up from China's Export-Import Bank.

Feasibility studies are starting again for the bridge over one of the world's busiest shipping routes, the Strait of Malacca. The project was previously thwarted by the regional economic crisis and then by environmental concerns.

Now the Malacca state government has re-appointed Strait of Malacca Partners to be the master planner and builder of the bridge, estimated to cost RM44.3 billion (S$17.3 billion).

"The project is definitely on, but it will take time as we are still at the feasibility stage," Datuk Lim Sue Beng, the private firm's managing director, told The Straits Times yesterday. He said approval from the federal government is still needed.

The bridge is to span 48.7 km, with an additional 71.2 km-long expressway from Pulau Rupat, where the bridge ends, to Dumai in Riau province, which is known for its oil palm plantations, including some owned by Malaysian companies.

The bridge will make it easier to transport raw materials from Indonesia's Sumatra island to Malaysia while opening new markets for businesses in both countries.

Datuk Lim said the Exim Bank, an equity partner in the project, has agreed to loan 85 per cent of the bridge's cost. The rest will come from regional sovereign funds and private investors.

The partners, he said, plan to charge motorists US$80 (S$99) each way.

China's Exim Bank could not be reached for comment. Officials at Malaysia's Economic Planning Unit, which oversees national projects, did not respond to The Straits Times' queries.

However, Dr Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli, a researcher from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia who has done studies on the bridge proposal, said planners will have to figure out the impact on the environment and on shipping.

Also, he said, economic benefits beyond palm oil are limited. "Unlike Malacca's proximity to Kuala Lumpur or even Singapore, Dumai is not near any of Indonesia's major cities... The bridge is still not viable enough yet."

The idea of a bridge between the two countries was first mooted in 1996 by then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad when he met Indonesia's President Suharto in Kuala Lumpur. Then came the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Over the years, the Malacca government has tried but failed to revive it.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the project was discussed at a chief ministers and governors' forum for Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand recently.

Some Indonesian counterparts fear this bridge might rival another29-km bridge linking Java and Sumatra, called the Sunda Strait Bridge. Currently, most goods are manufactured in Java and shipped to Sumatra by sea via the Sunda Strait.

Dumai's mayor Khairul Anwar said a bridge across the Malacca Strait will benefit Malaysia at the expense of Indonesia. He has urged the Indonesian government to hasten the construction of the Sunda Strait bridge.

"We must have that bridge first or at least the same time"

'Bridge project needs careful study'
New Straits Times 20 Oct 13;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is in no hurry to revive the Malacca-Dumai Bridge project across the Straits of Malacca although Malaysia is keen.

The project has been put on hold since the Asian financial crisis in 1998.
Indonesian Public Works Ministry's director-general for highways, Djoko Murjanto, said the ministry, together with other relevant ministries and departments such as the foreign ministry and the National Counter-terrorism Agency, would need to study how Indonesia could benefit from the project.

"We know the project's importance in strengthening connectivity across Asean, particularly between Indonesia and Malaysia.

"But we have to be prepared in terms of infrastructure, safety and security before the bridge can be constructed, as it will not only connect our country to Malaysia but the whole of Asia," Djoko said yesterday in The Jakarta Post.

He said Indonesia was not rushing the project as there was no urgency for it.

The idea of building a bridge between Malaysia and Indonesia was mooted in 1996 by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he met then Indonesia president Suharto in Kuala Lumpur.
The idea, however, was thwarted by the regional economic crisis and environmental concerns.
The project was discussed again during the 10th Chief Ministers and Governors' Forum of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle convention in Koh Samui, Thailand, on Sept 12.
The project will involve the construction of a 48.7km bridge from Teluk Gong in Malacca to Indonesia's Rupat Island, with an additional 71.2km-long expressway running from Rupat to Dumai.

It was reported recently that the Malacca government had re-appointed Strait of Malacca Partners to be the master planner and builder of the bridge, estimated to cost RM44.3 billion, with financial backing from China's Export-Import Bank.
Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron had said the project's details concerning the linking of Teluk Gong and Dumai Port would be revealed when all relevant mechanisms were in place. Bernama

With additional reporting by Kor Kian Beng in China

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2013 Ocean Health Index Shows Food Provision Remains an Area of Great Concern

Science Daily 15 Oct 13;

In the 2013 Ocean Health Index (OHI) -- an annual assessment of ocean health led by Ben Halpern, a research associate at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management -- scientists point to food provision as the factor that continues to require serious attention.

The OHI defines a healthy ocean as one that sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people now and in the future based on 10 diverse public goals. The 2013 score of 65 out of 100 demonstrates the ongoing need for more effective management of this precious resource.
"I'm encouraged because people, organizations and governments are paying attention to the Ocean Health Index and what they can learn from it," Halpern said. "Not only has the OHI been adopted as an indicator to gauge how well countries are meeting their biodiversity conservation targets, but it is beginning to inform the United Nations World Ocean Assessment and was named by the World Economic Forum as one of two endorsed tools for helping achieve sustainable oceans."

Goal scores out of a possible 100 for categories that make up the OHI ranged from a low of 31 for natural products to a high of 95 for artisanal fishing opportunities. Other categories include food provision (33), carbon storage (74), coastal protection (69), coastal livelihoods and economies (82), tourism and recreation (39), sense of place (60), clean waters (78) and biodiversity (85).

With a score of only 33 out of 100, food production from wild harvest and mariculture (cultivation of marine organisms in the open ocean) was the second-lowest-scoring goal and one of the most important resources from the sea for people around the world. A score of 100 is given for wild-caught fisheries if the biomass of landed stocks at sea is within ±5 percent of a buffered amount below the biomass that can deliver maximum sustainable yield. For mariculture, the number of tonnes of product per coastal inhabitant living within 31 miles of the coast is calculated for each country, and all countries above the 95th percentile receive scores of 100. Countries that have never had mariculture are not scored.

"Seafood is a major source of protein for one-third of the world's population, and it is estimated we will need 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the growing population," said Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us project and leader of the University of British Columbia team of science contributors to OHI. "The score of 33 out of 100 for food provision indicates we are not ready to meet that challenge."

The 2013 OHI also assessed coastal protection, giving it a score of 69 out of 100 and indicating that further declines are likely. Coastal habitats -- including mangrove forests, sea-grass beds and salt marshes, coral reefs and sea ice -- protect coastlines from storm surges and coastal flooding. Forty-five countries that sit in the annual path of tropical cyclones had an average score of 52 out of 100. A score below 100 indicates a decline in area and condition of key natural habitats that protect shorelines from storms.
Among those cyclone-prone countries with a population exceeding 10 million people, the average coastal protection score is only 51 compared to the global average score of 69. The score was down slightly (-0.2 percent) from 2012 and the OHI calculates that the likely future status will decrease by 1 percent in the coming five years.

"Restoring natural protective habitats in storm-prone regions, in combination with sensible coastal planning and creative civil engineering, is essential," said Greg Stone, a leading authority on marine conservation policy and ocean health issues and executive vice president at Conservation International's Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans.
Wealthy countries have the greatest impact on industry and policy so their performance on the OHI is important to ocean health, but there was little correlation between their economic performance as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and their OHI scores. The average score of countries with the 15 highest GDPs was 65 -- higher than the global average, but still not optimal.

"In its second year now, the OHI demonstrates that the areas with the least human impact have healthier oceans, but it also shows that nations who manage their resources better achieve higher OHI scores," Halpern said. "We depend on the health of the ocean for many benefits, such as food, livelihood and tourism, and the OHI indicates that the condition of these benefits needs to be improved in order to provide a healthy thriving ocean for our children and their children."

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Coordinated efforts in aquaculture needed to meet global demand

Global partnership to find sustainable solutions ‘imperative’, FAO says
FAO 15 Oct 13;

15 October 2013, Rome/St Petersburg, Russia – The creation of a global partnership to help ensure that the world’s fish supplies can keep pace with booming demand has received a green light from FAO’s Sub-Committee on Aquaculture.

Over 50 countries endorsed the Global Aquaculture Advancement Partnership (GAAP) programme, which will bring together governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to find sustainable solutions to meeting the need for fish products.

Aquaculture already supplies nearly 50 percent – or nearly 63 million tonnes – of fish consumed globally, and with production from wild fish stocks levelling off, it will fall to fish farmers to supply the estimated 50 million additional tonnes required to feed the rising world population by 2030.

But while aquaculture is one of the fastest expanding food sectors in the world with a current growth rate of around 6.1 percent a year, recent trends predict a gradual decline which might see the sector fall short of bridging the gap between projected supply and demand.

“This is an alarming situation and urgent concerted efforts to build a strong private-public partnership are imperative to maintain the current rate of growth of aquaculture over the coming years,” said Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The partnership will be tasked with overcoming obstacles to the expansion of the sector, which include the increasing scarcity of land and water for the development of inland fisheries and the need to step up aquaculture activities in the world’s seas and oceans.

This in turn will require strict governance to safeguard aquatic animal health and conserve biodiversity.

“GAAP will also help tap the huge potential of aquaculture to help reduce poverty, unemployment and socio-economic inequalities through proper planning and development,” Mathiesen said, recalling that around 80 percent of fish farmers are small-scale.

Some 55 million people are directly employed by the fisheries and aquaculture sector, of whom 85 percent live in Asia.

The initiative will now go for approval to the Committee on Fisheries when it meets at FAO headquarters in Rome in June 2014.

Certification benchmarking

A tool to help countries assess whether public and private aquaculture certification schemes are in line with FAO’s global guidelines for certification has also received a nod from the sub-committee, which is the only global intergovernmental forum discussing aquaculture development.

Covering animal health, food safety, the environment and worker welfare issues, the FAO aquaculture guidelines were approved in 2011 after four years of consultation among governments, producers, processors and traders.

“It is overwhelmingly positive that consumers want to see a label on a product showing that it is sustainably produced. The challenge is to ensure certification provides adequate incentives to small producers and eventually contributes to overall sustainability of the sector,” said FAO Senior Aquaculture Officer Rohana Subasinghe.

“Many schemes claim they are within the FAO guidelines, but this new evaluation framework will allow them to self-assess whether that’s true,” he said.

The evaluation framework will also now pass to the Committee on Fisheries for approval in June next year.

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