Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jan 14

Brown-throated Sunbird dealing with Costus spicatus flower
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Malayan Snow Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

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AVA: Why items were marked

Shaffiq Alkhatib The New Paper 26 Jan 14;

SINGAPORE- The mark was to identify loose items on the fish farms that may prove to be a safety hazard or end up as floating debris.

The figure is part of a unique identification number each farm has. That was what the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said when we contacted it to find out why its officers had spray-painted items on the fish farm.

An AVA spokesman said on Wednesday that in July last year, it conducted a briefing for offshore fish farmers to inform them that as part of its inspection, its officers will be visiting the farms to conduct inventory checks of loose or moveable items and structures. These included container drums, sofas, television sets and refrigerators.

Its spokesman added that any loose items or structures on farms would be marked for identification purposes and to ensure traceability.

These items tend to fall in the sea, forming unsightly floating debris. The marking will help the AVA know where they came from. The AVA recently changed the method of marking loose material.


Now, the unique farm number will be stencilled on the loose items or structures.

It also said that under licensing conditions, farmers are required to ensure farms are clean, tidy and safe. It had received public complaints that items from coastal fish farms had been drifting in the sea or washed up ashore as litter.

The AVA also said it revoked the men's farming licence in October last year.

To date, the licences of six coastal fish farms have been revoked for very low to zero production.

Five of them, including the men's farm, were in a dilapidated condition and their partially collapsed and loose structures were a safety hazard to neighbouring farms and seafarers.


The men's farm did not meet the productivity target of 17 tonnes of fish a year. There was "barely any fish farming activities" during its inspections, said the AVA.

It pointed out that the farm produced below its target between 2008 and last year.

The AVA's group director of its agri establishment regulation group, Dr Wong Hon Mun, said the minimum production of 17 tonnes per annum per 5,000 sq m of sea area has been a condition of licensing for more than 30 years.

The AVA added that for the past years, it has sent "numerous reminders" to the men to seek their compliance with licensing conditions.

Last year, it issued three reminder letters to them to take immediate action to rectify the situation.

The farm was given an ultimatum in June last year to produce at least 2.5 tonnes of fish in three months to show that the farm was seriously committed to active production.

The AVA said: "As there was no indication of active or improved production by the given deadline and the farm was continued to be left in a dilapidated condition, the AVA was left with no option other than to revoke (the farm's) licence."

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Malaysia: Trapped air pollutants cause of haze says Environment Ministry

The Star 28 Jan 14;

PETALING JAYA: The haze that has been hovering over Klang Valley is actually fine particles from air pollutants that are unable to disperse due to dry weather conditions, said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

It said in a statement yesterday that the air pollutants were released into the atmosphere from various human activities, including vehicle fumes, land development and construction activities.

“There have been no cases of open burning that could jeopardise the air quality in the Klang Valley. The current haze is a weather phenomenon and will not affect the public’s health,” it said.

The ministry said based on a report by the Meteorological Depart-ment, wind flow in Peninsular Malaysia over the past few days had been slow at around 10kph.

The department also reported that several areas in the Klang Valley, including Hulu Selangor, Klang, Kuala Selangor, Petaling Jaya and Sepang had not received rainfall for five consecutive days since Jan 22.

“Weather factors and Klang Valley’s topography caused the fine particles to be caught in the air space and were unable to disperse quickly,” it said.

The ministry also assured the public that the Department of Environment (DOE) was keeping a close eye on the air quality readings throughout the country, and had activated its plan to prevent open burning in all states.

It said DOE was also increasing its efforts to prevent peat fires, so it could ensure that no local sources were causing the worsening air quality and haze.

The Star had reported that visibility readings worsened in various parts of the country on Sunday, with Petaling Jaya and Kuala Pilah in Negri Sembilan recording visibility readings of up to 4km.

Normal visibility levels are from a range of 10km and further.

Members of the public have also been reminded not to carry out open burning because of the current dry weather and northeasterly winds and to put out any small fires besides reporting any cases of open burning.

The Fire and Rescue Department’s hotline is 999 while DOE’s hotline is 1-800-88-2727.

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China: Inside the world's biggest shark abattoir: shocking pictures show scale of slaughter

Zhejiang plant 'processing hundreds of endangered specimens a year'
Darren Wee South China Morning Post 27 Jan 14;

A Hong Kong-based conservation group claims a Zhejiang company is running the world's largest shark abattoir, processing hundreds of endangered specimens a year to produce health supplements and meat for restaurants.

The factory on the southeastern coast of the province processes more than 600 endangered whale sharks a year, as well as dealing in two other threatened species of shark, according to a four-year investigation by the marine conservation group WildLifeRisk.

"We went there three times in the past three years and each time the scale of the slaughter was truly staggering," directors Paul Hilton and Alex Hofford wrote in a report. "It's even more incredible that this carnage is all for the sake of non-essential lifestyle props, such as lipsticks, face creams, health supplements and shark's fin soup."

Hilton said WildLifeRisk was tipped off about the factory by a local wildlife conservation group in 2010.

"We went undercover, posing as an international seafood trading company looking for new products," he said. "The general manager of the plant was filmed saying more than 600 whale sharks were processed there each year."

DNA testing of oil samples given by the manager, who also owns a wholesaler of shark products, confirmed traces of basking and great white sharks, which he said were processed in lesser quantities.

The investigation found that whale shark skin was sold as leather to the bag trade, the meat went to Chinese restaurants in France and Italy, and dried fins were sold to restaurants in Guangzhou.

But the real money-maker is shark's liver oil, according to WildLifeRisk. It is used in skincare products, lipstick and Omega-3 health supplements.

Hilton said the oil was taken to a factory in Hainan where it was blended, turned into capsules and exported to the United States and Canada as fish oil.

The investigation found the sharks were caught, either targeted or as by-catch, in the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and in waters off the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico.

Hilton said there were probably other factories along the mainland coast.

Mainland media have reported that a whale shark can sell for up to 200,000 yuan (HK$254,000).

"There's nothing like this on this scale," said Hilton. "The amount of fins on the floor in the courtyard was phenomenal."

He said when he first visited the plant, there were at least 30 fins on the floor and more hidden under tarpaulins.

"It is legal to have a shark-processing plant, but the species they are actually processing are protected internationally and in China," Hilton said.

Whale sharks are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. China is a signatory and bans the export of products that come from endangered species.

WildLifeRisk is calling on mainland authorities to close the factory and investigate the company.

Hilton said it was a positive time for conservation on the mainland, citing as examples the crushing of six tonnes of ivory earlier this month and a ban on shark fin soup at official banquets.

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India: Hundreds of dead turtles washed ashore

T. Appala Naidu The Hindu 28 Jan 14;

115 kilometre coast of the Krishna district is an ideal nesting ground for turtles

Hundreds of dead Olive Ridley Turtles are getting washed ashore along the Krishna district coastline of Bay of Bengal after getting trapped in the nets of fishermen.

The 115-km coast of the district serves as an ideal nesting ground for turtles. The dead turtles can be found in large numbers between Gilakaladindi Harbour and Manginapudi.

Unsafe practices

Unfriendly fishing practices are posing a major threat to Olive Ridley Turtles, which are classified as ‘vulnerable’ according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Around 250 boats, including 150 small engine boats, are operating from Gilakaladindi harbour and not even 10 per cent of them are equipped with Turtle Excluder Device (TED), despite repeated appeals by the authorities.

The TED allows the turtle that get trapped in the fishing net to escape safely.

Appeals to use the TED is falling on deaf ears of boat operators, leading to sharp rise in death toll of turtles.

No data

The Fisheries Department officials are not bothered about turtles and never insisted on use of TED by the boat operators, operating from Gilakaladindi harbour.

When asked about the number of boats equipped with TED, Harbour Fisheries Development Officer B. Raj Kumar told The Hindu that the department had no data and did not moot the issue with fishermen till date. Many boat operators said that they were releasing the turtles into sea when they were found in their nets .


The Wildlife Management Division, Eluru, in support of Yanadi tribal people set up four rookeries for the conservation of the turtles at Jinakapalem, Sangameswaram, Lighthouse area and Eelachetladibba, which is heart of the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary, in Krishna district.

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Biologists investigate deaths of 25 whales off Florida's coast

Kevin Gray and Zachary Fagenson PlanetArk 28 Jan 14;

Biologists on Friday examined the carcasses of 25 dead pilot whales found off the coast of southwest Florida, collecting samples from the animals to try to determine the cause of a recent spike in whale deaths.

Wildlife officials completed necropsies on six whales among the group of 16 females and 9 males a day after they were spotted by boaters near Kice Island, Florida, said Kim Amendola, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The whales were part of a pod originally seen swimming in shallow waters near the city of Naples on Sunday, prompting a team of wildlife officials concerned about a spate of stranded whales, to mark the animals to better identify them.

Earlier this week, eight other whales were found dead after they swam into shallow waters near Fort Myers, Florida.

The group of 25 whales were found to be thin and showed no signs of having interacted with humans, Amendola said.

Biologists have said the whales' close-knit social structure may be playing a role in the deaths. Pilot whales are a social, deep-water species. They live in pods of 20 to 90 whales and typically will not leave ailing or dead members behind.

The bonds are so strong that dead whales have to be cleared from beaches before others swimming in shallow waters can be guided out to sea.

(Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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