Best of our wild blogs: 20 May 14

Exploring a new stretch of Serapong at Sentosa
from wonderful creation and wild shores of singapore

I'm a human climbing crab at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal
from Peiyan.Photography

New signs of life on Changi Beach
from Peiyan.Photography

Jane’s Walk Singapore feat. Love MacRitchie
from Toddycats!

Butterflies Galore! : Cruiser
from Butterflies of Singapore

Lime Butterfly and its host tree Clausena excavata
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Farmed fish consumption at record high, UN report reveals

High hopes for fishing hitting sustainable levels as rise in aquaculture decreases over-exploitation of wild stocks
John Vidal 19 May 14;

Humans have never eaten so much fish and other seafood, but nearly half of it is no longer caught wild but is grown in farms, says the United Nations.

New figures from the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggest while around 80m tonnes of fish were caught "wild" in 2011-12, global aquaculture production set another all-time high at more than 90 million tonnes, including nearly 24 million tonnes of edible plants like seaweeds.

In total, the world harvested an extra 10m tonnes of aquatic food in 2012 compared to the previous year, says the report.

"Fish farming holds tremendous promise in responding to surging demand for food which is taking place due to global population growth," the report says.

But the UN was upbeat on global fish stocks, identifying a marginal decrease from 30% to 28.8% in the over-exploitation of the stocks which it assessed.

"71.2% of the fish stocks are being fished within biologically sustainable levels. Of these, fully-fished stocks – meaning those at or very close to their maximum sustainable production – account for over 60% and underfished stocks about 10%", said a spokesman. "This is a reversal in [the] trend observed during the past few years, a positive sign in the right direction."

But the authors warned that the burgeoning fish farming industry needs to become far less dependent on wild fish for feed and should rear many different species to avoid wastage. Small-sized species, they say, "can be an excellent source of essential minerals when consumed whole. However, consumer preferences have seen a switch towards larger farmed species whose bones and heads are often discarded."

The rapid growth in the number of people living near coasts and fish farming's ability to keep up with population growth has seen per capita fish consumption soar from 10kg per person in the 1960s to more than 19kg in 2012. It has also led to nearly 10-12% of the world's population, or over 700m people, now depending on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods, say the authors.

The UN estimates thare are now about 4.7m fishing vessels in the world ranging from vast industrtial trawlers to the small boats used by most people in developing countries.

The human diet continues to be limited to just a few fish species, says the report, with 10 species now accounting for about 24% of world marine capture fisheries in 2011. These include the Peruvian anchovy, the Alaskan pollock, the skipjack tuna and the Atlantic herring.

Most of these species, says the UN, are now fully-fished and increases in their production may be possible only if effective restocking plans are put in place.

A record 43% fall was recorded in catches of Peruvian anchovy, which is the world's most popular fish. This species thrives in the cold, plankton-saturated Humboldt current along the coast of Peru and Chile and is essential to global fish farming. According to the report, nearly a third of the catch, of 4.69m tonnes in 2012 goes to the fishmeal industry and is used to fatten farmed seafood. Much of the rest of the anchovy catch is ground up into feed and rendered into oil for livestock.

Report highlights growing role of fish in feeding the world
New edition of FAO's “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” released
Fish now accounts for almost 17 percent of the global population’s intake of protein.
FAO 19 May 14;

19 May 2014, Rome – More people than ever before rely on fisheries and aquaculture for food and as a source of income, but harmful practices and poor management threaten the sector’s sustainability, says a new FAO report published today.

According to the latest edition of FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, global fisheries and aquaculture production totalled 158 million tonnes in 2012 - around 10 million tonnes more than 2010.

The rapid expansion of aquaculture, including the activities of small-scale farmers, is driving this growth in production.

Fish farming holds tremendous promise in responding to surging demand for food which is taking place due to global population growth, the report says.

At the same time, the planet's oceans – if sustainably managed – have an important role to play in providing jobs and feeding the world, according to FAO's report.

“The health of our planet as well as our own health and future food security all hinge on how we treat the blue world,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said. “We need to ensure that environmental well-being is compatible with human well-being in order to make long-term sustainable prosperity a reality for all. For this reason, FAO is committed to promoting 'Blue Growth,' which is based on the sustainable and responsible management of our aquatic resources.”

The renewed focus on the so-called “blue world” comes as the share of fisheries production used by humans for food has increased from about 70 percent in the 1980s to a record high of more than 85 percent (136 million tonnes) in 2012.

At the same time per capita fish consumption has soared from 10 kg in the 1960s to more than 19 kg in 2012.

The new report also says fish now accounts for almost 17 percent of the global population’s intake of protein -- in some coastal and island countries it can top 70 percent.

FAO estimates that fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of 10–12 percent of the world’s population.

Since 1990 employment in the sector has grown at a faster rate than the world’s population and in 2012 provided jobs for some 60 million people engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture. Of these, 84 percent were employed in Asia, followed by Africa with about 10 percent.

Capture fisheries stable, aquaculture boom continues

Global marine capture fishery production was stable at about 80 million tonnes in 2012, the new report indicates.

Currently, under 30 percent of the wild fish stocks regularly monitored by FAO are overfished – a reversal in trend observed during the past few years, a positive sign in the right direction.

Just over 70 percent are being fished within biologically sustainable levels. Of these, fully fished stocks – meaning those at or very close to their maximum sustainable production – account for over 60 percent and underfished stocks about 10 percent.

Global aquaculture production marked a record high of more than 90 million tonnes in 2012, including almost 24 million tonnes of aquatic plants. China accounted for over 60 percent of the total share.

Aquaculture’s expansion helps improve the diets of many people, especially in poor rural areas where the presence of essential nutrients in food is often scarce.

However, the report warns that to continue to grow sustainably, aquaculture needs to become less dependent on wild fish for feeds and introduce greater diversity in farmed culture species and practices.

For example, small-sized species can be an excellent source of essential minerals when consumed whole. However, consumer preferences and other factors have seen a switch towards larger farmed species whose bones and heads are often discarded.

The role of fish is set to feature prominently at the Second International Conference on Nutrition jointly organized by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) for 19–21 November 2014 in Rome.

Greater market share for developing countries, more attention to small-scale fishers

Fish remains among the most traded food commodities worldwide, worth almost $130 billion in 2012 – a figure which likely will continue to increase.

An important trend sees developing countries boosting their share in the fishery trade – 54 percent of total fishery exports by value in 2012 and more than 60 percent by quantity (live weight).

This means fisheries and fish farming are playing an increasingly critical role for many local economies. Some 90 percent of fishers are small scale and it is estimated that, overall, 15 percent are women. In secondary activities such as processing, this figure can be as high as 90 percent.

FAO, through the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, is raising the profile of smallholder activities – including fisheries and aquaculture – with an emphasis on improving access to finance and markets, securing tenure rights and protecting the environment.

Reducing wastage, curbing harmful practices, improving traceability

An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost per year -- to about one-third of all food produced. This figure includes post-harvest fish losses, which tend to be greater in small-scale fisheries.

In small-scale fisheries, quality losses are often far more significant than physical losses. Improved handling, processing and value-addition methods could address the technical aspects of this issue, but it is also vital to extend good practices, build partnerships, raise awareness, and develop capacity and relevant policies and strategies.

The report also notes that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a major threat to marine ecosystems and also impacts negatively on livelihoods, local economies and food supplies.

Food chain traceability is increasingly a requirement in major fish markets, especially in the wake of recent scandals involving the mislabelling of food products. FAO provides technical guidelines on certification and ecolabelling which can help producers demonstrate that fish has been caught legally from a sustainably managed fishery or produced in properly run aquaculture facility.

In particular, the report stresses the importance of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which, since its adoption almost two decades ago, remains key to achieving sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The Code promotes the responsible use of aquatic resources and habitat conservation to help boost the sector’s contribution to food security, poverty alleviation and human well-being.

FAO is also promoting “Blue Growth” as a framework for ensuring sustainable and socioeconomically-sensitive management of oceans and wetlands.

At the Global Oceans Action Summit on Food Security and Blue Growth held last month in The Hague, Netherlands, governments and other participants committed to actions focused on tackling climate change, overfishing, habitat loss and pollution in a bid to restore productive, resilient oceans.

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South Africa loses first elephant to poachers in a decade

Zandi Shabalala PlanetArk 19 May 14;

An elephant bull was "purposefully shot for its tusks" by four suspected poachers at the Kruger National Park in the eastern Mpumalanga province, SANParks said in a statement.

Elephant poaching has been a problem in the rest of Africa while poaching in South Africa has been largely confined to rhinos, with more than 1,000 rhinos killed for their horns last year.

"If we compare the situation in Africa our concentration has been on rhinos. We need to now refocus our attention," SANParks spokesman Reynold Thakuli said.

Evidence suggested the tusks were headed for neighboring Mozambique as the incident took place on the northern part of the vast national park, he added.

The demand for ivory and rhino horn in East Asia is thought to be fueling the poaching. Rhino horn can fetch as much as $65,000 a kilogram on the black market, making it more expensive than gold, platinum and cocaine.

(Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)

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Floods affect over 1 million in Balkans, destruction "terrifying"

Daria Sito-Sucic and Marko Djurica PlanetArk 20 May 14

Bosnia said on Monday that more than a quarter of its 4 million people had been affected by the worst floods to hit the Balkans in living memory, comparing the "terrifying" destruction to that of the country's 1992-95 war.

The extent of the devastation became apparent in Serbia too, as waters receded in some of the worst-hit areas to reveal homes toppled or submerged in mud, trees felled and villages strewn with the rotting corpses of livestock.

The regional death toll reached more than 40, after the heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago caused rivers to burst their banks and triggered hundreds of landslides.

"The consequences ... are terrifying," Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija told a news conference. "The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war."

Lagumdzija said more than 100,000 houses and other buildings in Bosnia were no longer fit to use and that over a million people had been cut off from clean water supplies.

"During the war, many people lost everything," he said. "Today, again they have nothing."

His remarks threw into sharp relief the extent of the challenge now facing the cash-strapped governments of both Bosnia and Serbia.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the cost in Serbia would run to hundreds of millions of euros. President Tomislav Nikolic appealed for outside aid.

"We expect huge support, because not many countries have experienced such a catastrophe," he said.

Even as the crisis eased in some areas, a new flood wave from the swollen River Sava threatened others, notably Serbia's largest power plant, the Nikola Tesla complex, 30 km (18 miles) southwest of the capital Belgrade.

In Bosnia, Assistant Security Minister Samir Agic told Reuters that up to 35,000 people had been evacuated by helicopter, boat and truck. As many as 500,000 had left their homes of their own accord, he said, in the kind of human displacement not seen since more than a million were driven out by ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war two decades ago.


At least 25,000 people have been evacuated in Serbia, but many more are believed to have fled the flooding.

Hundreds of volunteers in the Serbian capital filled sandbags and stacked them along the banks of the Sava. Police issued an appeal for more bags.

Soldiers and energy workers toiled through the night to build barriers of sandbags to keep the water back from the Nikola Tesla complex and from the coal-fired Kostolac power plant, east of Belgrade.

Djina Trisovic, a union spokeswoman at Serbia's EPS power utility, said some workers at the Nikola Tesla plant had worked three days with barely a break because relief teams could not reach the plant.

"The plant should be safe now," she told Reuters. "We've done all we could. Now it's in the hands of God."

The plant provides roughly half of Serbia's electricity. Parts of it had already been shut down as a precaution, but it would have to be powered down completely if the waters breached the defences.

Flooding had already caused considerable damage, estimated by the government at over 100 million euros ($140 million), to the Kolubara coal mine that supplies the plant.

Authorities in Bosnia issued a fresh warning about the danger of landmines left over from the war and now dislodged by the flooding.

In the north Bosnian region of Maglaj, barely a single house was left untouched by the waters, which receded to leave a tide of mud and debris.

In the village of Donja Polja, where Muslim Bosniaks returned in 1995 to homes burned or shelled during the war, Hatidza Muhic swept the mud from the hallway of her house. Dark lines on the walls indicated the water had reached some 3 metres high.

"I thought the war was as bad as it can get, but it can get worse," Muhic said. "I just pray to God that we can save our minds, because first we were hit by the war, and now this."

(Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Matt Robinson in Belgrade, Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo, Igor Ilic and Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Climate change will hit nations' creditworthiness: S&P

Ben Garside PlanetArk 19 May 14;

S&P said climate change will be the 21st Century's second global "mega-trend", after aging populations, to put downward pressure on sovereign ratings, which could harm economic growth and government coffers.

The report said extreme weather events such as typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 5,000 people in the Philippines late last year, seem to have been on the rise since the early 1980s but none have so far caused S&P to revise its rating of any country.

"We have taken a view that the size of devastation, while large in absolute terms, has not been sufficient to impact a rating overall," S&P said in a statement to the report published Thursday.

"However, assuming that extreme weather events are on the rise in terms of frequency and destruction, how this trend could feed through to our ratings on sovereign states bears consideration," S&P said.

S&P ranked the 116 countries it rates for climate vulnerability, with all of the 20 most vulnerable in emerging markets. Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh occupied the bottom three spots.

"Their vulnerability is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost," it said.

The 20 least-vulnerable nations were all advanced economies, led by Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria.

Nearly 200 governments agree that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed by mid-century to ensure global temperature rises are kept below the 2-degree Celsius level.

U.N.-backed scientists say that is needed to prevent a huge increase in droughts, flooding and rising sea levels.

Under the U.N., countries are aiming to sign a binding global climate pact next year to oblige all nations to curb emissions from 2020.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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'Best before' dates add to food waste: EU paper

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 19 May 14;

Food waste in the West has become a hot topic because of its environmental and humanitarian implications. A report last year found up to half of the food produced worldwide was wasted because of poor harvesting, storage and transport methods, as well as irresponsible retailer and consumer behavior.

The discussion paper, seen by Reuters and put forward by the Netherlands and Sweden, says date-labeling in many EU countries is adding to the problem and calls on the European Commission to consider whether products with a very long shelf life could be exempt from best before labels.

It also wants EU policymakers to explore how to make consumers better understand durability dates.

The paper, which also has the backing of Austria, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg, says food waste has a social, environmental and economic dimension. "The need to reduce food losses and food waste is also closely linked to the principle that everyone in the world has a right to adequate food," it says.

According to figures from the Commission, up to 100 million tonnes of food are wasted in Europe each year, while last year's report from the London-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that between 30 percent and 50 percent of the food which gets to supermarket shelves is wasted - often because of poor understanding of best before and use by dates.

A use by date is applied if there is a health risk in eating food after that date, whereas a best before date is more about quality - when it expires it does not necessarily mean food is harmful, but it may lose flavor and texture.

The Commission says it is looking at solutions to food waste, including how to end the confusion over date labeling, and will issue a policy paper on the issue later this year.

(Editing by David Holmes)

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