Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jan 14

Fang Blenny’s Glass House
from Pulau Hantu

Sat 25 Jan & Sun 26 Jan Morning Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Brown-throated Sunbird and Costus spicatus flowers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Striped Blue Crow
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Malaysia: 'Tourism revenue offsets timber losses'

Laili Ismil New Straits Times 22 Jan 14;

BOLD MOVE: CM made the right decision in cancelling logging licences, says Masidi

KOTA KINABALU: REVENUE from the tourism industry had made up for losses in timber earnings since the state government began reducing its stake in logging.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state was once heavily dependent on logging and there was a time when Sabah could earn up to RM2 billion from the industry.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman took a bold step 12 years ago in cancelling logging licences, concessions, while stepping up tourism promotions.

Masidi said last year, revenue from logging stood at about RM100 million.

"The state government knew that the resources were not going to last forever, so, we had to make the right decision even if it was an unpopular one," he said during the launch of a book, titled Sensational Seas of Sabah, published by Scubazoo here on Monday.

Masidi said the spike in the number of tourist arrivals had compensated the loss of logging revenue, and this year the state was expected to rake in RM5.7 billion in earnings. He added that despite all the potential, the government would continue to protect the environment.

He said limiting visitors to certain nature attractions was important for sustainability, citing the 120 divers a day limit on Sipadan Island and 192 summit climbers a day on Gunung Kinabalu as examples.

Masidi also said Sabah was lucky to have those who are passionate about conserving the state's natural heritage and educating the public on the importance of looking after the environment.
Present were Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort General manager Craig Powell.

Scubazoo managing director Jason Isley said the book was to promote the lesser visited islands in the state to take the pressure off Sipadan Island.

"It also helps illustrate the beauty under Sabah's waters and its bio-diversity captured in 300 fascinating images," he said, adding that they hoped the books would woo tourists.

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A quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction

IUCN 21 Jan 14

A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, with ray species found to be at a higher risk than sharks. The findings are part of the first ever global analysis of these species carried out by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG).

The study, which comes at the start of the year marking the 50th anniversary of The IUCN Red List, was published today in the journal eLIFE. It includes the analysis of the conservation status of 1,041 shark, ray and closely related chimaera species.

According to the findings, sharks, rays and chimaeras are at a substantially higher risk than most other groups of animals and have the lowest percentage of species considered safe – with only 23% categorized as Least Concern.

“Our analysis shows that sharks and their relatives are facing an alarmingly elevated risk of extinction,” says Dr Nick Dulvy, IUCN SSG Co-Chair and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “In greatest peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in shallow water that is accessible to fisheries.”

Overfishing is the main threat to the species, according to the paper. Reported catches of sharks, rays and chimaeras peaked in 2003 and have been dominated by rays for the last 40 years. Actual catches are likely to be grossly under-reported.

Unintentionally caught sharks and rays account for much of the catch, yet developing markets and depleting fishery targets have made this “bycatch” increasingly welcome. Intentional killing of sharks and rays due to the perceived risk that they pose to people, fishing gear or target species is contributing to the threatened status of at least 12 species.

“Surprisingly, we have found that the rays, including sawfish, guitarfish, stingrays, and wedgefish, are generally worse off than the sharks, with five out of the seven most threatened families made up of rays,” says Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, IUCN SSG Co-Chair and Professor of Environmental Science at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. “While public, media and government attention to the plight of sharks is growing, the widespread depletion of rays is largely unnoticed. Conservation action for rays is lagging far behind, which only heightens our concern for this species group.”

The global market for shark fins used in shark fin soup is a major factor in the depletion of not only sharks but also some rays with valuable fins, such as guitarfish. Sharks, rays and chimaeras are also sought for their meat. Other products from these species include a Chinese tonic made from manta and devil ray gills and pharmaceuticals made from deep sea shark livers.

The Indo-Pacific, particularly the Gulf of Thailand and the Mediterranean Sea are the two ‘hotspots’ where the depletion of sharks and rays is most dramatic. The Red Sea is also home to a relatively high number of threatened sharks and rays, according to the experts.

“Sharks, rays and chimaeras tend to grow slowly and produce few young, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to overfishing,” says Sonja Fordham, IUCN SSG Deputy Chair and president of the Washington, DC-based Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation.

“Significant policy strides have been made over the last two decades but effective conservation requires a dramatic acceleration in pace as well as an expansion of scope to include all shapes and sizes of these exceptional species. Our analysis clearly demonstrates that the need for such action is urgent.”

Sharks, rays and chimaeras are known as ‘cartilaginous fish’ due to the fact that their skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone. They are one of the world’s oldest and most ecologically-diverse groups of animals.

The study is the result of a collaboration of 302 experts from 64 countries.

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NOAA: World in 2013 was fourth hottest on record

Seth Borenstein Associated Press Yahoo News 21 Jan 14;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sweltering year of 1988 first put global warming in the headlines and ended up as the hottest year on record. But on Tuesday, it was pushed out of the top 20 warmest by 2013.

Last year tied for the fourth hottest and 1988 fell to 21st.

The average world temperature was 58.12 degrees (14.52 Celsius) tying with 2003 for the fourth warmest since 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.

At the same time, NASA, which calculates records in a different manner, ranked last year as the seventh warmest on record, with an average temperature of 58.3 degrees (14.6 Celsius). The difference is related to how the two agencies calculate temperatures in the Arctic and other remote places and is based on differences that are in the hundredths of a degree, scientists said.

Both agencies said nine of the 10th warmest years on record have happened in the 21st century. The hottest year was 2010, according to NOAA.

The reports were released as a big snowstorm was hitting the U.S. East Coast.

"There are times such as today when we can have snow even in a globally warmed world," said Gavin Schmidt, deputy director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. "But the long term trends are not going to disappear ... Quite frankly people have a very short memory when it comes to climate and weather."

Those longer trends show the world has seen "fairly dramatic warming" since the 1960s with "a smaller rate of warming over the last decade or so," said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. In the past 50 years, the world annual temperature has increased by nearly 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius), according to NOAA data.

Unlike 2012, much of the worst heat and biggest climate disasters last year were outside the U.S. Parts of central Asia, central Africa and Australia were record warm. Only a few places, including the central U.S., were cooler than normal last year.

Temperatures that were only the 37th warmest for the nation last year. That followed the warmest year on record for the U.S.

View galleryFILE - In this Dec. 25, 2013 file photo, children line …
FILE - In this Dec. 25, 2013 file photo, children line up to receive a Christmas gift from volunteer …
Last year, the world had 41 billion-dollar weather disasters, the second highest number behind only 2010, according to insurance firm Aon Benfield, which tracks global disasters. Since 2000, the world has averaged 28 such billion dollar disasters, which are adjusted for inflation.

Nearly half of last year's biggest weather disasters were in Asia and the Pacific region, including Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 6,100 people and caused $13 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam. Other costly weather disasters included $22 billion from central European flooding in June, $10 billion in damage from Typhoon Fitow in China and Japan, and a $10 billion drought in much of China, according to the insurance firm.

Usually the weather event called El Nino, a warming of the central Pacific, is responsible for boosting already warm years into the world's hottest years. But in 2013, there was no El Nino.

The fact that a year with no El Nino "was so hot tells me that the climate really is shifting," said Andrew Dessler, a Texas A&M University climate scientist, who was not part of either the NOAA or NASA teams.



NOAA climate report:

NASA climate report:

Aon Benfield climate disasters report:

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