Best of our wild blogs: 13 Apr 14

Olive-backed Sunbirds nesting in my garden!!
from My Nature Experiences

Common Flameback ‘anting’ – but using tree sap
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Nights at Pasir Ris mangroves are wild!
from wild shores of singapore

Where to recycle your gadgets?
from Midnight Monkey Monitor

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Fish stakes: Giant grouper caught off Pedra Branca

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 13 Apr 14;

He has net himself a 172kg Queensland grouper - and he isn't letting it go.

Not even for the $10,000 he claims to have been offered by a businessman from Tianjin, China.

Mr Johnny Tan, 52, owner of seafood restaurant Grouper King, bought the rare 2.3m giant for "between $5,000 to $6,000".

It was caught by local fishermen in waters off Pedra Branca on Tuesday evening.

"It would have been easier for me to just sell the fish, but this is my first 'big' fish of the year," said Mr Tan.

He said that fish this size are popular in China and Hong Kong and can reel in a high price.

Mr Tan, whose restaurant is at the SAF Yacht Club on Tanah Merah Coast Road, intends to serve the fish to customers on Saturday.

"My phone has been ringing non-stop as a lot of loyal customers have already heard the news," said Mr Tan.

A businessman has reserved the 60kg fish head for himself and some friends. The businessman is overseas now, but will fly back on Saturday to savour the fish head, which is likely to be steamed, Mr Tan said.

The fish head costs about $120 per kg. The restaurant owner did not reveal how much other parts will cost.

But that has not stopped orders from coming in and more than 150 customers already have reservations to eat it this Saturday at the 700-seater restaurant.

Mr Tan told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that the fish skin is an inch (2.3cm) thick and rich in collagen. It has a chewy texture, much like sea cucumber.

"I would steam or braise the fish instead of frying it. It would be a waste to destroy the collagen in the process of frying," said Mr Tan, who is also a chef.

"I will boil the bones of the fish in ginseng for 20 hours and it will be good for detoxification," he said.

Even the scales can be eaten, he claimed, and they are said to be good for the joints.

Groupers served in restaurants usually weigh between 20kg and 50kg. Those weighing over 100kg are rare.

45 minutes to clean

It took eight people to lift the fish and three hours to clean it. A typical 30kg grouper would take about 45 minutes to clean and carve up.

This is not Mr Tan's biggest fish. Last June, he bought a 270 kg, 2m-long grouper. It required a forklift and seven men to carry it into the kitchen. The price: over $6,000.

In 2010, he bought a 220kg fish that was more than 2m long and had a girth of 1.52m.

Mr Tan said that the size of the grouper deters most people.

"Because of its size, some people think it's a thousand-year-old monster," he said with a laugh.

"It's a full-grown, adult fish and many parts are very tender. The bigger the fish, the faster it sells out," he said.

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NEA steps up enforcement against littering offenders

Seet Sok Hwee Channel NewsAsia 12 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE: Enforcement efforts against littering have been stepped up.

In the first quarter of this year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued 4,255 tickets to littering offenders.

This is nearly half the number of tickets (9,346) issued last year.

On Saturday, NEA conducted its enforcement blitz at more than 30 littering hotspots islandwide, as plainclothes officers stood watch.

One university student was caught throwing his cigarette on the ground, and was fined S$300 on the spot.

Since April 1, fines for littering offenders have doubled.

The Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA) has been amended to deter those who continue to act irresponsibly.

Under the revised EPHA, the maximum court fines for littering offenders have been doubled since April 1 to $2,000 for a first conviction, $4,000 for a second conviction and $10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.

NEA said there are 92 littering hotspots in Singapore, mostly in town areas and near MRT stations.

Mr Derek Ho, director-general of Environmental Public Health Division at NEA, said: "We still tend to see more litter occurring in such congregated areas, maybe because when some people see that the place is littered, they think that it is okay to continue to add to the litter. So we tend to see that in places with a high congregation of people, (there is) a higher incidence of littering."

- CNA/de

Anti-litter blitz at 30 hot spots
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE - An anti-littering blitz yesterday nabbed 21 people in four areas across Woodlands and Yishun alone, with the National Environment Agency (NEA) saying that it will continue to conduct such exercises at 92 hot spots across the island.

This was the first large-scale operation - 30 hot spots were targeted - since the agency doubled penalties for littering on April 1.

Recalcitrant litterbugs now face a maximum fine of $2,000, $4,000, and $10,000 respectively for the first, second as well as the third and subsequent court convictions under the Environmental Public Health Act.

During yesterday's exercise, The Sunday Times tailed six plainclothes NEA officers doing their rounds at the area next to Woodlands MRT station between 4pm and 5pm.

At least five offenders were caught for littering and smoking in prohibited areas there during the hour.

Some were seen pleading with NEA officers and trying to give excuses for their actions. One man caught smoking claimed that he was only puffing under a covered walkway "for a short while".

A fresh ITE graduate, who was caught dumping a cigarette butt on the floor, was stoic even when he was issued a summons.

Said the 19-year-old, who declined to be named: "There weren't any dustbins with ashtrays nearby - if they don't want people to litter, they should have more bins."

When someone is caught throwing rubbish, officers approach the litterbug, identify themselves, and explain the offence before issuing a ticket. They also ask to check the offender's identity card.

The NEA has identified 92 littering hot spots across the island, mostly in busy areas such as MRT stations, where it conducts regular enforcement blitzes.

Those caught littering for the first time face a $300 composition fine but will not be charged in court. However, those caught littering for the second time are slapped with a heftier fine and will be charged in court.

Since May last year, hours spent enforcing anti-littering and smoking laws have gone up by about 50 per cent. The number of tickets issued to litterbugs has also risen.

In 2012, the NEA issued 8,195 tickets. This went up to 9,346 last year. For the first three months of this year, 4,255 tickets have already been issued.

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More Than Haze to Contend With When the Earth Burns

Agus P. Sari Jakarta Globe 13 Apr 14;

Leading up to Earth Day on April 22, the Riau haze has become one of major the environmental topics under discussion.

In recent years, Riau has come under the international media spotlight at least once a year due to the major fires there, set to clear land for agriculture. In June last year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even felt the need to publicly apologize to neighboring countries for the haze generated by the fires — while overlooking the fact that residents of Riau were the worst affected by the smoke.

The irresponsible act of slash-and-burn clearing for farmland can be attributed to the outdated thinking that the forest is considered more valuable when it is cut, and not when it remains standing, functioning as the lungs of the Earth.

In a report by Nigel Sizer from the World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch found 3,101 hot spots in Sumatra this year. A remarkable 87 percent of the fires were in Riau, and half of them came from concessions held by pulpwood, oil palm and logging companies. Some of the largest fires were found on fully developed plantations that had committed to eliminating fire from their practices.

At a glance, Riau is one of the richest provinces in the country. It is minting money through oil and gas, mining, forestry, plantations and manufacturing. About a third of Indonesia’s oil production, as well as two of the largest pulp and paper companies, come from Riau. But the province is a microcosm of natural resource management gone awry.

The depletion of forest resources in Riau has been overwhelmingly. Forest Statistics states that Riau lost about 191,000 hectares of forests in 2009 and 2010, the most in the country. Not only is the significance of its forests decreasing, but it is also home to some of the poorest people in the country.

An understanding that there should be new, innovative ways to address deforestation already exists at the global level. The collective effort to reduce emissions is called REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. It was coined by Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and has been fully acknowledged as a climate change mitigation action at the UNFCCC conference in Bali in 2007.

REDD+ promotes positive incentives to developing countries willing and able to reduce emissions of climate change-inducing greenhouse gases from deforestation and degradation of forests. It is a whole new perspective in creating a sustainable environment for both civil society and business communities, and 129 countries are working together to get the model done. Providing values to standing forests that is higher than cut is indeed an innovative way. This way, economic incentives alone may be able to prevent forests from being cut.

“REDD+ is a new paradigm that allows people to address the issue at hand innovatively,” says Heru Prasetyo, the chairman of Indonesia’s REDD+ Management Agency.

“We are establishing a time-sensitive list of actions in the near term, which includes prevention and mitigation of forest fires,” says Willy Sabandar, the deputy chairman designate for operations at the REDD+ Management Agency.

Prevention and mitigation of fires is urgent since the worst of this year’s fires are thought to be yet to come in the dry season. Other actions include the landmark Constitutional Court ruling recognizing indigenous land rights and establishment of baseline of deforestation.

What role does Indonesia play in this matter? A pioneer, if we can really deliver on our commitments. As the home of the world’s largest forest destruction, Indonesia is a very important REDD+ country. The world produces 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and Indonesia is the largest contributor of land-based emissions.

In 2009, Yudhoyono announced Indonesia’s commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions unilaterally at 26 percent under its otherwise business-as-usual scenario, or 41 percent with foreign cooperation, by 2020. This decision impressed many countries. Norway was among the first country to offer cooperation. A Letter of Intent that lays out a three-phase plan to achieve the emissions reduction target was signed in May 2010. The pledge also comes with a $1 billion performance-based payment. In the same month, a presidential regulation on a moratorium of new permits for new land use change in primary forests was issued.

The following September, the Presidential Task Force on REDD+ was established. It is mandated to carry out national strategies. The strategy is supported by five “pillars,” namely legal reform, institutional development, paradigm shift and awareness raising, stakeholder engagement, and strategic programs to implement REDD+ initiatives to directly reduce forest destruction and the resulting emissions.

To address the urgency of the Riau haze, as well as other climate-related problems, the president established REDD+ Management Agency in September last year.

“Some of the most urgent items on the agenda include legal review of permits, and enforcement of existing laws,” says Heru. The full implementation of REDD+ includes preparedness for the monitoring, reporting, and verification of emissions reductions, and preparedness for payment upon performance starting in early 2017.

To ensure that REDD+ is successful, and our forests are protected, law enforcement needs to be strengthened. But what can we do as citizens? First, we can exercise our power as consumers. We should only consume forest-friendly products. Be very aware that the production of palm oil, wood and paper may harm the forest. We must only use products from companies that submit to sustainable production practices. Only consume eco-labeled products. And for most consumer products, there are standards that show their practices. For example, there is the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil to demonstrate sustainability practices in the palm oil industry.

In the wake of the presidential changeover later this year, it may be useful to ensure that the next president should submit to the REDD+ agenda.

Earlier this year, nearly 50,000 people in Riau had respiratory problems and flocked to nearby hospitals. We don’t need to join a rally to show our support. By being disciplined and eco-conscious consumers, we can help prevent Riau from burning again.

Agus P. Sari is an environmental financing observer.

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