Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jan 14

Singapore's only marine station - Tropical Marine Science Institute, St John's Island from Psychedelic Nature

Butterflies Galore! : Rustic
from Butterflies of Singapore

Set in the sea
from The annotated budak

Leopard cats in the news: human-wildlife conflict and poaching/pet trade from Through the Eyes of the Leopard Cat

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Giant US trade deal might weaken shark fin ban

Matt McGrath BBC News 16 Jan 14;

Environmental campaigners are "extremely concerned" that a new trade deal involving the US could weaken a global ban on shark finning.

The first steps to outlaw the practice were agreed at a meeting in Bangkok last March.

But the leaked draft text of the new deal involving 12 Pacific countries has no binding commitment to curb finning.

The long-running negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are due to conclude in April.

The TPP is being billed as a critical part of President Obama's strategy of engaging with Asia. He's called it his "top trade priority."

But green groups are disturbed over the direction the negotiations are taking. They are worried that concessions are being made on critical environmental issues in order to secure agreement.

Last March, delegates at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in Bangkok agreed to end shark finning for a number of species.

In finning, the fish are left to die after their fins are cut off, to supply a lucrative trade in shark fin soup. It's estimated that millions of sharks die this way every year.

But the leaked draft text of the environmental chapter of the new agreement is "very weak" on this issue according to campaigners.

"We've been calling for a ban on shark finning, which should be in this chapter," said Ilana Solomon from the Sierra Club.

"All we got in the text was a suggestion that countries should come up with fish management plans that may include, as appropriate, measures to address shark finning."

Toothless agreement

In 2007, President George W Bush reached an agreement with Congress that any future free trade agreements would include a list of environmental treaties that all the signatories would agree to uphold.

But the proposed new deal simply acknowledges that countries have made commitments under agreements like Cites. It does not insist that the commitments be honoured.

"If the environment chapter is finalised as written in this leaked document, President Obama's environmental trade record would be worse than George W Bush's," said Michael Brune, also with the Sierra Club.

"This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues - oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections - and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts."

The US negotiators say they are pushing hard for strong environmental protection in the deal. But since the nations they are negotiating with are huge exporters of natural resources including timber and fish, environmentalists are concerned that free trade will mean a free for all in endangered but valuable species.

"This peek behind the curtain reveals the absence of an ambitious 21st Century trade agreement promised by negotiating countries," said Carter Roberts from WWF.

"The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers."

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Taiwan seizes seven tonnes of dolphin meat

Channel NewsAsia 14 Jan 14;

TAIPEI: Taiwanese authorities said Tuesday they had confiscated 7.65 tonnes of dolphin meat in one of the largest hauls of its kind.

Officials seized the meat while searching a frozen goods factory in the southern city of Kaohsiung over the weekend.

Tests confirmed the product was dolphin, and it is estimated 150 of the animals were slaughtered to create the stockpile, the Pingtung Forest District Office said.

The factory owner, who said he bought the meat from local fishermen, faces up to five years in jail and a maximum fine of NT$1.5 million ($50,000) for violating wildlife protection laws, said the agency which organised the search.

An investigation is ongoing and it is not clear where the dolphins were caught and sold.

Eating wild animals, including whales and dolphins, has long been a tradition for residents in some coastal areas of Taiwan, who believe they are good for health.

All species of whales and dolphins have been protected by Taiwan's conservation law since 1989.

It is illegal to buy protected animals for any purpose.

- AFP/fa

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UN climate chief urges investors to bolster global warming fight

Author: Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 16 Jan 14;

Institutional investors managing trillions of dollars should shift their portfolios away from fossil fuel investments toward cleaner energy sources to put a stop to the dangerous rise in global temperatures causing climate change, the United Nations' climate chief said on Wednesday.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told an investors conference at the United Nations that their investment decisions should reflect the latest scientific evidence of dangerous climate change to protect the health and financial savings of ordinary citizens well into the future.

"The pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds," she said in prepared remarks.

"Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy," Figueres added.

She said the private sector will need to play a crucial role to ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a threshold that UN scientists have said would avoid catastrophic climate change even as nearly 200 countries continue to negotiate a global deal to rein in global greenhouse gas emissions.

"No matter how many efforts we make... that is not enough to put us on track to the 2 degrees," she told a news conference.

The fraught UN climate negotiations have a 2015 deadline to agree in Paris on a global plan to address climate change set after an eleventh-hour agreement at the last UN summit in November in Poland.

The 2015 deal will consist of a patchwork of national plans to curb emissions that could blur a 20-year-old distinction between the obligations of rich and poor nations.

Figueres said she expects the first of the national contributions to trickle in around September, when U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon hosts a United Nations climate change summit that will involve heads of state, business and civil society groups.

She said she is already aware that some countries will need until the first part of 2015 to ready their national plans.

Figueres said the September summit will "prime the pump" for what she hopes will be a successful outcome in Paris in 2015.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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