Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jan 15

13 Jan (Tue): Talk about marine flatworms
from wild shores of singapore

Exclusive Valentine’s Day Programme: Love Gone Wild
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Job: Intern/part-time student assistants for common palm civet research project
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Dairy Farm Nature Park
from My Nature Experiences

Violet Cuckoo feasting on caterpillars
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Johor project's size not cut, says developer

The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jan 15;

KUALA LUMPUR - The developer of Malaysia's controversial Forest City in the Strait of Johor has denied reports that the 1,600ha reclamation project has been shrunk to a quarter of its size following directives by the Department of Environment (DOE).

Country Garden Pacific View's (CGP's) executive director, Md. Othman, said in a statement on Monday that limiting the project's size was never discussed with the DOE.

"In the most recent discussions, in late December last year, DOE and CGP discussed assessment directives and compliance to high standards. These discussions do not mean that the project size is to be limited or compromised in any way," Mr Othman said in the statement which was issued after a report by The Malaysian Insider said the project will be limited to 405ha.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Insider reported that the new limit was verbally conveyed to the developer, following issues raised by locals as well as the Singapore government over the environmental impact of the project. It was to issue an official decision to CGP next week.

"CGP is in constant communication with multiple stakeholders and the regulatory authorities, ensuring that the project development always takes into consideration the needs of the communities and the environment. The DOE is one such regulatory authority that we engage (with) and consult to ensure full compliance," Mr Othman said in the statement.

The firm said it would release the details of the projects when its "metrics, monitoring and assessment initiatives" had been finalised.

Forest City was originally conceived as a man-made island with a title deed amounting to 2,000ha, about four times the size of Sentosa. Its split into four man-made islands reduced the total land size, which has reportedly been cut again by the DOE.

The DOE made its decision after Singapore presented videos and documentary proof of continued reclamation works for the ambitious China-Malaysia joint venture.

The project involves massive reclamation in the narrow waterway between Singapore and Malaysia off Tuas where luxury homes would be on offer.

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Singapore Races to Clean Up Oil Spill

Collision Between Oil Tanker and Cargo Ship Spilled Estimated 4,500 Tons of Oil Into Sea
ERIC YEP Asian Wall Street Journal 6 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE—Singapore is scrambling to clean up one of Asia’s largest oil spills in years after two ships collided late last week, amid worries the slick could spread to the nearby Indonesian tourist island of Bintan.

A Libyan-registered oil tanker, the Alyarmouk, and a Singaporean cargo ship, the Sinar Kapuas, collided on Jan. 2 in the busy shipping lanes northeast of Singapore, spilling an estimated 4,500 tons of crude oil into the ocean. While there are no reports of further oil leakage, four vessels with equipment such as dispersants and skimmers have been deployed to the site to contain the oil spill, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said.

On Tuesday, the maritime authority said that satellite images taken and aerial surveillance didn’t show any oil headed toward Bintan, but the agency also said it had reported a possible sighting of an oil patch northeast of the island to Indonesian authorities, without providing further details.

Over the weekend the maritime authority said patches of oil may affect the northern parts of Bintan. Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment didn’t respond to queries seeking information about the impact of the oil spill on Bintan island.

“By today’s standards 4,500 tons is a significant spill and the largest in this region for some time,” said Euan Graham, Senior Fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He said Singapore’s shipping lanes are well-regulated and have a good safety record, though this isn't the first collision involving a large oil tanker in area.

“Rough seas in the area may have been a contributing factor to the collision, but may also assist in breaking up the spill,” Mr. Graham said.

The Alyarmouk was traveling from the port of Tanjung Pelapas in Malaysia to China, and the Sinar Kapuas was heading from Hong Kong to Singapore. The Alyarmouk is owned by a shipping group called V. Ships. The company didn’t respond to queries seeking comment. Samudera Shipping Line Ltd. , which owns the Sinar Kapuas, said it is currently investigating the cause of the collision and assessing the damage and impact on the group’s financial performance if any.

Oil spills in excess of 700 tons of oil are classified as large spills, according to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd., a nonprofit organization that tackles such disasters. The spill off Singapore is more than 10 times larger an oil leak off Bangladesh last month that endangered the world’s largest mangrove forest, and dwarfs the 50 tons spilled in the middle of last year near the popular tourist island of Koh Samet in Thailand.

Since the 1990s, the International Maritime Organization has mandated that oil tankers be built with double hulls, which Mr. Graham says has led to a significant drop in the number of oil spills at sea since. A double-hull oil tanker has an extra layer in its outer structure that reinforces the body of the ship. The Alyarmouk, built in 2008, is a double-hulled vessel.

No further oil leakage from collision near Pedra Branca: MPA
MATTHIAS TAY Today Online 7 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — The oil leak caused by the collision of two vessels near Pedra Branca island last Friday has been brought under control, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a press release yesterday. The MPA said no further oil spills had been reported around the area.

Last Friday, Libyan-registered oil tank Alyarmouk and Singapore-registered bulk carrier Sinar Kapuas collided near Pedra Branca at around 6am.

The oil spill from Alyarmouk was estimated at around 4,500 tonnes. Both vessels are now anchored north-east of Pedra Branca and in a stable condition.

The MPA said a total of four vessels were deployed with bio-degradable dispersants to deal with the spill.

Aerial surveillance carried out on Monday by International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, which the MPA had enlisted to provide technical assistance, did not reveal any spread of the oil. The finding was confirmed by satellite images obtained by the MPA.

This quelled fears that the spillage might have spread to the coast of the Indonesian island of Bintan.

The MPA said it would conduct daily aerial surveillance when possible and keep a look out for oil leaks. It will also poll vessels operating in the region on whether any oil patches have been seen.

The MPA added that it would continue to offer its assistance and share available information with the Indonesian authorities.

Collision between Oil Tanker Alyarmouk and Bulk Carrier Sinar Kapuas north-east of Pedra Branca - Update 2
MPA News Release 6 Jan 15;

Following the collision between Libyan-registered oil tanker "Alyarmouk" and Singapore-registered bulk carrier "Sinar Kapuas" reported at about 0600hrs (Singapore Time) on 2 January 2015, there have been no further reports of oil leakage from "Alyarmouk". Both vessels are in stable condition and anchored safely, north-east of Pedra Branca.

Four vessels equipped with dispersants, oil booms and skimmers were deployed to the site to contain the oil spill. Non-toxic and bio-degradable dispersants were used to break up the oil into smaller globules.

MPA has also linked up with International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) for its technical expertise to assess the nature of the spill. Satellite imagery obtained on 4 January did not show any of the spilled oil headed towards Bintan. Aerial surveillance by ITOPF on the same day also did not show any spilled oil in the vicinity of Bintan.

MPA has been monitoring for sightings of the movement of the oil patches, including conducting daily aerial surveillance when possible. MPA will also continue to poll vessels operating in the region on whether they have spotted any oil patches. One report of a possible sighting of an oil patch off the coast of Tanjong Berakit, north-east of Bintan, was reported to the Indonesian authorities for their investigation.

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Malaysia: Met department issues widespread thunderstorm warning

ELVINA New Straits Times 6 Jan 15;

SEREMBAN: The Malaysian Meteorological Department has issued a widespread thunderstorm warning over the waters of Selangor, Negri Sembilan and West Johor.

In a statement on the website, the thunderstorm was expected to continue until late afternoon on Tuesday.

"This condition may cause strong winds up to 50 kmph and rough seas with waves up to 3.5 meters and dangerous to small boats," it said.

There was also strong winds and rough seas warning with wind of 40 to 50 kmph with waves up to 3.5 meters occurring over the waters off Pahang, East Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sarawak, Sabah (Interior, West Coast and Kudat) and Labuan.

"This is expected to continue until Thursday," it added.

The statement also pointed out that the condition was particularly dangerous to small craft.

"Any recreational sea activities and sea sports should be avoided," it said.

A shipping warning was also issued by the department with strong Northeasterly winds of 50 to 60 kmph and waves up to 4.5 meters occurring over the waters off Condore, Reef North, Layang-Layang, Palawan, Samui, Tioman, Bunguran, Reef South and Labuan.

It added that the situation was expected to continue until Thursday.

"This condition (of strong winds and rough seas) is dangerous to all shipping and coastal activities including fishing and ferry services."

Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Sabah brace for thunderstorms
HALIM SAID New Straits Times 6 Jan 15;

JOHOR BARU: Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Sabah braced for thunderstorms with strong winds as the Malaysian Meteorological Department issued a yellow stage thunderstorm likely to hit the states between Jan 7 until Jan 9.

Johor is currently experiencing heavy rain but was removed from the list of flood hit states.

The Portal Bencana website, had described the weather phenomenon to be monsoon rain with strong winds.

The thunderstorm will likely to occur in eight of 10 districts in Johor namely Segamat, Ledang, Muar, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Johor Baru, Kulaijaya and Pontian.

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Malaysia: Regulate sport fishing to save stock

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 7 Jan 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia wants recreational fishing to be regulated in view of the declining fish stocks in the country.

WWF executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said it was important to regulate the activity which was becoming a popular pastime among citizens and tourists.

“There is no database for the management of recreational fishing activities and the Malaysian marine fish stocks are severely depleted. In some active fishing areas, it has been seen to be reduced by as much as 90% of stocks in 1971.

“WWF-Malaysia supports any effort to regulate recreational fishing urgently to address the issue of declining fish stocks,” he said.

Dr Dionysius suggested that regulations should include specific licensing conditions for the various types of recreational fishing with licensing conditions to also provide for bag limit, catch size limit (minimum size of individual fish caught), catch and release and permitted species (avoid threatened species), among others.

“There should also be fishing gear restrictions such as hook types, quota for both individuals and fishing events (limit on total kilograms of fish caught), prohibition of recreational fishing in no-take zones and special licence for vessels to carry recreational fishermen,” he said.

Dr Dionysius explained that while commercial fishing activities had been largely responsible for the removal of juvenile fish and directly causing the decline in fish population, recreational fishing activities compounded this decline with the removal of “mega spawners”, which are large, mature fish, the source of brood stock for the rejuvenation of the fish population.

“This situation has been gradually worsening since 1997,” he said.

Dr Dionysius said cooperation was required from government agencies and the public sector, especially recreational fishermen and angler associations.

“We call upon all to make a concerted effort to adhere to a robust recreational fishing regulation to sustain our nation’s fisheries, protect diverse marine habitats and ecosystems and conserve our marine cultural heritage for future generations,” he added.

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El Nino indicators ease over recent weeks: Australia weather bureau

Colin Packham PlanetArk 7 Jan 15;

Pacific Ocean temperatures have cooled over the last two weeks, easing away from El Nino thresholds, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on Tuesday.

Ocean temperatures have oscillated near El Nino thresholds for several months but over recent weeks have again eased, the Australian weather agency said.

Sea surface temperature anomalies have cooled by around 0.4 degrees in the parts of central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the BOM said.

However, temperatures remain above average along much of the equator, the Australian weather agency said.

Beneath the surface, temperatures have also eased closer to average in many areas, the BOM said.

Despite the cooling indicators, the BOM said its climate models continue to show warmer-than-average sea temperatures persisting over the next two-to-three months.

Japan in December declared an El Nino, marking the first declaration by a major meteorological bureau of the much-feared weather phenomenon, which had been widely expected to emerge this year.

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