Best of our wild blogs: 21 Apr 14

14-16 May: Walking with Nature at SOTA Workshop
from The Leafmonkey Workshop

Quiet but great day guiding at Pulau Hantu
from Peiyan.Photography

Our Reefs in Motion
from Hantu Blog

Our Special Sisters Islands
from wild shores of singapore

Brittle Stars, Basket Stars, and Noble Snails
from Hantu Blog

Common Sandpiper @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Eating seafood responsibly

Chew Hui-Yan The Business Times AsiaOne 21 Apr 14;

From chili crab to cereal prawns, seafood is a firm fixture in Singapore's ever-expanding gastronomical landscape. It would be unthinkable, then, that the likes of red snapper and tiger prawns may cease to exist here.

The threat of such an occurrence is why the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) wants to raise awareness of the issue. hence, they are organising Singapore's first Sustainable Seafood Festival, slated to take place this June.

From June 8-15, eight restaurants including Absinthe Restaurant Francais, Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare and the soon-to-be-opened Seasons Bistro will serve a special menu with seafood supplied by MSC certified distributors such as Indoguna and Lee Fish.

The MSC label means that the seafood was sustainably caught, allowing ocean stocks to be replenished and the ecosystem to remain in balance.

Diners can look forward to environmentally friendly fare such as Blackened Hake Fish Tacos ($16) at the Seasons Bistro and Marinated Chilean Sea bass ($45) at the Conrad hotel's Oscar's.

The Hilton Hotel, which recently announced the removal of shark's fin from its menus, will also participate in the festival with dishes such as Salmon Tartare with Watermelon, Marjoram and Raspberries Vinaigrette (from $33) at its restaurant il Cielo.

Supermarket Cold Storage is also set to expand their existing range of MSC certified products and hold promotions at selected outlets during this one week period.

According to Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF, Singapore consumes 140 million kilogrammes of seafood a year, most of which comes from neighbouring countries such as The Philippines that form the Coral Triangle.

Kelvin Ng, regional director for MSC Asia-Pacific, says that unfortunately, many of the fisheries within the Coral Triangle have not been certified by the MSC.

He also explains that ultimately, consumers have the power to change that. "The reason that fisheries aren't taking that step toward getting certified is consumers aren't asking for it. As such, these fisheries won't spend money to get certified."

At present, consumers can get their hands on tamper-proof MSC certified products at supermarkets such as Cold Storage, NTUC and Sheng Siong. Frozen fish fingers and breaded cod fillets are among the options.

Fresh seafood however, remains available only to restaurants through selected distributors. "It's definitely an eventual goal for the MSC to get fresh seafood out to consumers, but it's hard to ask a business to put out products that people are not asking for," says Mr Ng.

He also explains that awareness remains low as restaurants which may use sustainably caught seafood do not get certified by the MSC. Therefore, the MSC logo is not used on menus and customers are left in the dark about sustainable seafood.

But the executive chef of Absinthe, Francois Mermilliod, explains that becoming MSC certified is not that simple. "I would love to explore that idea; even now we use as much sustainably caught seafood as we can. However, to be certified by the MSC, you can only use products with MSC labels. As a restaurateur, it's impossible to survive because the variety of MSC certified seafood at the moment is too low," says the chef.

Helene Raudaschl, managing director of Indoguna agrees, adding that the variety of sustainable seafood is still very low and priced roughly 15-20 per cent higher than non-sustainably fished seafood.

However, other restaurants such as the Seasons Bistro - set to open on May 5 - says that it is looking into getting certified and using the MSC logo on its menus so as to support the movement.

Other efforts to raise awareness by the WWF include roadshows across Singapore and the distribution of a Singapore Seafood Guide - a pocket-sized booklet that helps consumers choose seafood that is generally sustainably harvested. The booklet, first created in 2010 will be available at all participating restaurants during the week-long festival.

Despite the current low awareness in Singapore, Mr Ng is positive that with the up-coming festival, which WWF and the MSC intend to hold annually, it's only a matter of time before things change.

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Keen interest to restore Cashin House

Cashin House in Lim Chu Kang is due to be restored and linked with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve about 2km away. The project is to start by the first quarter of 2016 and be done by the second quarter of 2017.
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE - Companies are sparring to come up with the winning plan to restore a colonial-era bungalow on Singapore’s north-western coast and link it by trails to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

At least five teams of consultants had said they were interested in developing the old Cashin House and its surroundings into a western extension of the reserve on Singapore’s north-west coast.

“Interest in the Cashin House restoration project has been encouraging,” National Parks Board (NParks) conservation director Wong Tuan Wah told The Straits Times.

Last month, NParks put out a request on government tender website GeBIZ for companies to express their interest in doing so, and its request closed last Friday.

Five teams of consultants with skills in architecture, landscape architecture, engineering and surveying will be shortlisted out of those who expressed interest, and invited to tender for the project.

NParks wants a team to restore Cashin House, design its interior and exterior for new use, test if it is structurally sound, and add trails and landscaping to connect it to Sungei Buloh about 2km away.

All this must be done in an environmentally sound way, adhering to the Green Mark for Parks gold standard, which means designers have to make sure that the fittings of the house use electricity and water efficiently, among other things.

The project is to start by the first quarter of 2016 and be done by the second quarter of 2017.

The colonial-era bungalow, once the property of the land-owning Cashin family originally from Ireland, stands vacant off a pier in Lim Chu Kang and was part of a rubber plantation estate with a larger main house. The pier was used to transport rubber before Lim Chu Kang Road was built.

Its last owner, the late Mr Howard Edmund Cashin, had practised law here for more than 50 years, and died in 2009. In an oral history account, he said the house had been used by the Japanese during World War II, and may have been their first landing point here. Plans to restore the house were in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Draft Master Plan released last year.

The Cashin family’s other colonial-era property, Matilda House in Punggol, is also being restored and conserved as the centrepiece of a new condominium.

Heritage enthusiast and naval architect Jerome Lim, 49, said Cashin House’s architectural elements, such as its entrance grilles, should be kept.

“(The house) is a reminder of our agricultural past, and points back to a way of life that we’ve forgotten about,” he said.

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