Best of our wild blogs: 16 May 14

Butterflies Galore! : Green Oakblue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Walking with Nature at SOTA Day 1: Mangroves and Marine with Ria Recap from The Leafmonkey Workshop

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Working round the clock to keep Singapore's port waters safe

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 15 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has one of the busiest ports in the world, with a ship departing or arriving in the port every two to three minutes.

And it's the job of the Maritime and Port Authority's (MPA's) officers to ensure things run smoothly and ships keep to their channels.

To avoid close calls, vessel traffic officers could issue up to two warnings to ships on some days.

At MPA's Port Operations Control Centre at the PSA Vista, vessel traffic officers like Lim Man Jia monitor traffic in Singapore port waters.

She ensures that rules are followed, and provides ship captains with information on their proximity to other ships.

It is not an easy task, considering there are at least 1,000 ships in Singapore port waters at any given time.

Sometimes, warnings to these ships and those around them have to be sent out.

Lim said: "In the case of conflicting situation where ships are actually crossing, you get a bit panicky if we are unable to get hold of them. The difficulty is to actually stay composed and get our messages across as timely as possible so that these mariners they can actually make use of all this information and avoid the conflicts."

The centre monitors 60 per cent of Singapore's port waters - along western Singapore and the Singapore Strait.

The other 40 per cent of port waters is handled by another operations control centre, situated at the Changi Naval Base.

MPA says the two centres can also serve as back-ups to each other, and each centre has the capability to take control of all of Singapore's Port waters when either one of them sees an emergency.

Port inspectors also brave inclement weather to conduct between 25 and 40 enforcement checks during each of their shifts.

Each shift sees about 12 staff working a maximum of two hours before taking a break.

After the break, they are assigned to a different console which includes being out at sea.

For port inspectors like Andi Johan Shah and his 44 port inspection officers, this is anything but a routine shift.

They could be inspecting anything between 25 and 40 harbour and pleasure crafts that operate in Singapore port waters, on any given day during each of their shifts".

Andi and his team conduct enforcement and safety checks, and they could see violations ranging from manning a craft without proper licences to being overloaded.

They are also the first to respond to incidents such as oil spills, collisions, as well as search and rescue missions.

"The port waters have become smaller because of the reclamation works. Singapore is expanding. It's very challenging because you've got to be kept updated on where you can go and where we can't go," said Andi.

He added: "When reclamation works are ongoing, the waters also change, the depth of waters also changes so vessels do run aground based on that."

However, Andi said their training and keeping abreast of changes keeps them a step ahead all the time.

- CNA/fa

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New framework for marine habitat protection in the Coral Triangle will help secure food and livelihoods – WWF

WWF 14 May 14;

14 May 2014, Manado, INDONESIA: WWF applauds the governments of the six Coral Triangle countries for launching the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System (CTMPAS) Framework and Action Plan today at the World Coral Reef Conference.

“Healthy marine habitats, through the effective protection and management of key areas, are vital for people’s food security, livelihoods, and economic stability. WWF welcomes this significant accomplishment of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security,” says Jackie Thomas, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Leader.

“With effective management and investment, these areas can help reduce pressure on fish stocks by preventing overfishing, destructive fishing, and habitat degradation—the very threats causing fish stocks to decline. They will lead, over time, to increases in fish populations, size, and biomass, allowing spillover to nearby fishing grounds,” adds Thomas.

The CTMPAS Framework and Action Plan, endorsed in 2012 by the six Coral Triangle countries, contains criteria for the effective management of Marine Protected Area (MPA) and guides the development of a system of MPAs in the region.

The launch recognizes the first set of regionally-significant MPAs in the Coral Triangle region.

Biggest MPA in Malaysia
One of the flagship marine areas being touted as part of this regional system of protected sites is the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in Sabah, Malaysia—a globally-significant priority conservation area in the Coral Triangle, threatened by overfishing, destructive fishing, and pollution.

The Malaysian State of Sabah has made the commitment to gazette TMP by 2015 and WWF is currently advocating for the Sabah government to meet this target.

“TMP’s rich marine biodiversity creates productive fishing grounds that support more than 80,000 people in coastal and island communities within this area. Fisheries is the economic driver of this area with approximately 100 tonnes of daily fisheries landing valued at USD200,000 a day,” says Robecca Jumin, WWF-Malaysia Marine Programme Manager.

“The CTMPAS Framework and Action Plan provides a much needed boost for gazetting this site and will help secure food and jobs for communities that are mostly made up of fishermen and fish traders,” adds Jumin.

An exemplary regional platform for food security and livelihoods
The six Coral Triangle countries–Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste—came together in 2007 to form a multilateral partnership to safeguard the marine and coastal resources of the Coral Triangle region. The landmark initiative is now known as the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

The CTI-CFF is an example of a regional framework under which governments, private sector, civil society, donors and development partners collectively aim for the sustainable management of marine resources with the goal of protecting the critical marine ecosystems essential to support food security and livelihoods in the Coral Triangle.

With more than 120 million people directly dependent on the region’s finite marine resources, protecting and managing key areas that are critical to food and livelihoods has been one of WWF’s priorities in the region.

“Ignoring marine habitat protection means risking the future of humanity. We urge governments from other parts of the world to follow this exemplary initiative of Coral Triangle countries and provide more investments in ocean protection for people’s wellbeing,” says Thomas.

6 Coral Triangle Iniative (CTI) Countries Establish Permanent Regional Institution
Antara 16 May 14;

MANADO, North Sulawesi, May 15, 2014 (ANTARA) -- Six state members of Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI - CFF) commemorated its 5th anniversary by officially establishing a Permanent Regional Secretariat which is absed on Manado, Indonesia. CTI-CFF is multilateral partnership of six countries, spanning of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Island, and East Timor, established on 2009 with the mission of eradicating the real threats faced by the Coral Triangle.

The Secretariat, which is to reside a 1.5 hectare of new complex in Manado, North Sulawesi, will act as the control centre and the main coordinating board to implement the CTI-CFF Regional Action Plan. Sharif C. Sutardjo, the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, said, "The Action Plan covers the establishment of seascapes towards the focus of the marine resource management, the development of the waters conservation zone, the sustainable fishery management building, the adaptation reinforcement of the coastal areas to the climate change, and the conservation of the endangered marine species."

Sharif continued, "Four of six CTI-CFF countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, and Solomon Island, have already ratified the agreement. The agreement therefore is already kicked off."

In addition to the inauguration of the Coral Triangle Center, the CTI-CFF Ministerial Council also approved the application for the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System (CTMPAS) and the CTI-CFF Women Leaders Forum as well as ratifying a few last steps of the admission process of Brunei Darussalam as the new CTI-CFF member. the Ministerial Council consists of the Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Sharif C. Sutardjo; Department Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, Papua Nugini Gunther Joku; Undersecretary for Policy and Planning,Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Philippines, Manuel Gerochi; The Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology, Solomon Island, Bradley Tovosia; and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, East Timor, Mariano Assanami Sabino.

The CTI-CFF is supported by a number of governmental, organizational, and NGO partners, such as The Government of Australia, the Government of United States, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Global Environment Facility, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Worldwide Fund for Nature, and Coral Triangle Center.

For more information, please contact:

Anang Noegroho
Head of Statistic and Data Center
The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries

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El Nino's threat to major food crop yields

Mark Kinver BBC News 15 May 14;

El Nino events can have a significant impact on the yields of certain major food crops, a study has shown.

Researchers say the climatic phenomenon, which triggers changes in temperature and rainfall, can reduce maize yields by more than 4%.

El Nino episodes are caused by changes in the sea surface temperature in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Writing in Nature Communications, the team said the data could be used by governments to manage food supplies.

They wrote: "Results show that El Nino likely improves the global-mean soybean yield by 2.1-5.4% but appears to change the yields of maize, rice and wheat by -4.3% to 0.8%.

"The global-mean yield of all four crops during La Nina years tend to be below normal (-4.5% to 0.0%)," they observed.

The periodic warming (El Nino) and cooling (La Nina) of sea surface temperature in the eastern Pacific Ocean are phases in the naturally occurring phenomenon El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

These phases cause a shift in the position of the jetstream, which - in turns - alters temperature and rainfall patterns in many regions around the world.

These changes result in extreme weather conditions, such as drought or abnormal rainfall, in the affected areas. This has a knock-on effect on crop yields, which are heavily influenced by temperature and precipitation levels.

Food forecasts

"This new work tells us that we can predict when the bad years will be, ahead of the harvest," explain co-author Prof Andy Challinor from the University of Leeds, UK.

The researchers found that the high reliability of ENSO forecasts presented an opportunity to link it with global crop yields data.

This, in turn, would be potentially beneficial for food monitoring and famine early warning systems.

The team mapped the impact of ENSO on the yields of four major food crops: maize, rice, wheat and soybean.

These crops account for almost 60% of the world's food calories produced on croplands.

The team observed: "Our results reveal that ENSO's impacts on the yield vary among geographical locations, crop types, ENSO phase and technology used by the crop-producing regions.

"Consequently, minimising the negative impacts or maximising the positive impacts of ENSO on global yields are increasingly important not only to ensure short-term food availability but also to maintain positive yield trends."

The scientists suggested that the forecasts could help mitigate impacts by influencing planting dates, crop choices, as well as considering other inputs such as chemical treatments and irrigation.

"An improved response to ENSO could reduce the risk of malnutrition; allow for an increase in agricultural investment in positively impacted years; and improve the adaptation capability to climate variability and change."

Earlier this year, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicted a warming of the tropical Pacific, with a majority of models indicating that an "El Nino may develop around the middle of the year".

This week, data collected by Nasa satellites showed that conditions in the eastern Pacific at the beginning of May 2014 were similar to those experienced in May 1997 - a year that saw one of the powerful El Nino episodes in the 20th Century, which claimed an estimated 2,100 lives and caused US $33bn damage to properties.

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Brazil laundering illegal timber on a 'massive and growing scale'

Greenpeace uncovers evidence that illegally logged timber is being sold on to buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China
Jonathan Watts and John Vidal 15 May 14;

Illegally logged timber in Brazil is being laundered on a massive and growing scale and then sold on to unwitting buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China, Greenpeace claimed on Thursday.

After a two-year investigation, the environmental campaign group says it has uncovered evidence of systematic abuse and a flawed monitoring system that contradicts the Brazilian government's claims to be coping with the problem of deforestation in the Amazon.

In a report released on Thursday, Greenpeace cited five case studies of the fraudulent techniques used by the log launderers, including over-reporting the number and size of rare trees, logging trees protected by law, and over-extraction. It notes how forest management officials are implicated in the wrongdoing and several have previously been fined or detained for similar crimes in the past.

Far more than half of the wood from the two biggest timber producing regions of Brazil probably comes from illegal sources, it says, citing figures from the Brazilian environmental research NGO, Imazon, that 78% of the wood shipped from the vast Amazonian state of Pará is illegally felled, while the figure is 54% in Mato Grosso.

"Logging in the Brazilian Amazon is absolutely out of control. The current control system is being used to launder illegal timber," said Marcio Astrini, a campaigner who was part of the two-year investigation.

Widespread abuse of the current regulations for timber extraction allow illegal loggers to acquire dubiously obtained credits, according to environmental campaigners and federal prosecutors.

With little oversight, big landowners obtain permission to cut down more trees than they intend to log and then sell on unused credits to lumber mills and other farmers.

The investigation is likely to increase pressure on the government to tighten its monitoring and certification systems to minimise the damage done to the Amazon, the world's biggest forest.

Logging is often the first step towards deforestation. The extraction of the most valuable trees, such as Apé, reduces canopy cover and opens up paths into the forest that are often later used to start fires for illegal land clearance.

Estimates of the scale of the problem are based on satellite date analysis by Imazon. Using publicly available images, the organisation traces the degree of degradation of key areas in the Amazon, estimates the amount of timber felled in unauthorised areas and then compares this with official figures for timber sales.

According to Paulo Barreto of Imazon, the situation is rapidly getting worse. He says the area illegally logged increased by 151% in Pará and by 63% in Mato Grosso between 2011 and 2012.

Greenpeace says this data and the findings of their investigation point to alarming gaps in the government's control system.

"The government is failing to inspect, or verify when they grant permission for logging," said Astrini. "The government system is weak, insecure and incapable of assuring customers that they are buying sustainable timber. As a result, buyers in Brazil and overseas are involuntarily financing crime."

The government has recognised problems in the system, though it disputes the scale of the illegal logging. Last month, the Brazilian Environment Ministry said fraud in Pará was responsible for the unlawful sale of 26.8 million cubic metres of forest products.

It admitted that the control system used by the state is also flawed. In Santarem - one of the biggest cities in Pará – the authorities are also investigating a local environment ministry chief who is alleged to have colluded with logging firms.

Government officials say they have identified the loopholes and are acting to tighten the system. But federal prosecutors in Pará are unconvinced by the results so far.

"Certainly the situation is not improving. It may be the same as before or it may be getting worse," said Bruno Valente, the federal prosecutor in Pará State.

He said the authorities needed to tighten the control system and increase the number of monitors checking the veracity of logging claims.

Greenpeace also alleged that UK high street building supply chain Jewson had been selling Ipe wood from Para state without being able to show the documents that prove it is not illegal.

"Jewson sources its timber, including the rare species Ipe, from International Timber," said a Greenpeace spokesman. Both are owned by the French multinational, Saint Gobain.

Greenpeace's spokesman added: "We asked Jewson what steps it was taking to ensure its Brazilian timber was legal. The company said it 'fully recognised the importance of auditable and independent certification' and said its 'priority was always to ask for Chain of Custody certified product wherever possible'."

The environment group group has asked the UK National Measurements Office to conduct urgent checks on Jewson and other companies known to be importing Brazilian Amazon timber into the UK.

A spokesman for Jewson said: “Jewson fully recognises its obligation in regards to the important issue of the importation of timber and acts strictly in accordance with the EU timber regulation. Jewson primarily acts as a trader in relation to these regulations and as such its obligation relates primarily to keeping detailed records of the sources of all timber purchased and where this timber is then sold.

"Jewson also complies with the UK government’s timber procurement policy, which additionally requires that only timber and wood-derived products originating from an independently verifiable legal and sustainable source will be purchased for use on the government estate, with documentation required to prove it.

"With regards specifically to Brazilian timber we are committed to ensure the legality of our timber, and take extensive steps to gather all the necessary evidence from suppliers regarding its legality including the collection of the following documents: The validated authorisation of the landowner with the document which defines the longitude and latitude areas and volume of the area, together with the sale agreement between the landowner and logger: GF3 and DOF and PEFC or FSC if appropriate.

"Jewson is very happy to work closely with Greenpeace and other similar organisations in order to address any specific questions they may have in a constructive and collaborative way.

"At this stage, however, Jewson have not been presented with any specific, detailed questions, or allegations about illegal timber. If they were, this would be treated extremely seriously and would be investigated and appropriate action taken immediately.”

International Timber were contacted by the Guardian but had not replied before publication.

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