Best of our wild blogs: 1 Mar

Mass Marine Mortality at Pasir Ris
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Thousands of dead fishes at Pasir Ris
from wild shores of singapore

Mar 14, Saturday: We are resuming our Free Chek Jawa Guided Walks
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks 21 Mar & 4 Apr
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Pellets from Tuas: 3. It’s a mouse!
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Happy Yellow-vented Bulbuls
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Life History of the Grand Imperial
from Butterflies of Singapore

CAT Walk with us!
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

Sharing with the Sustainability Mentorship Programme
from wild shores of singapore

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Large stocks of fish wiped out by plankton blooms

Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Several fish farmers in the East saw large stocks of their fish wiped out early Saturday (Feb 28) morning after the coast was hit by a tide containing huge plankton blooms.

When this happens fish have to compete with the micro-organisms for oxygen, which could cause them to die.

Philip Lim, who owns three fish farms, said: "It's huge. It'll cost me about S$50,000. All the fishes have come in just about three months ago, some of them just came in one month ago."

Mr Lim sent Channel NewsAsia videos of the scene on Saturday, saying his entire stock of fish was either dead or dying.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) had said in a statement on Friday that it would monitor the situation, and work closely with the fish farmers to mitigate the situation.

It had warned the farmers early last week after detecting elevated plankton levels in the area, said AVA.

AVA has also deployed waste disposal vessels to assist farmers in the disposal of dead fish at the East Johor Straits caused by the elevated plankton levels.

On Feb 18, coastal fish farms at the Straits reported dead fish in the area. Since then, AVA has been visiting the fish farmers to ascertain the situation, offer advice to them to mitigate the situation, such as canvas-bagging, and collecting fish samples from the affected farms for analyses.

AVA said some farms have carried out emergency harvest of the fish in view of the elevated plankton levels.

It had earlier reported that laboratory tests conducted did not detect marine biotoxins in the fish. AVA said fish harvested from local farms are safe for consumption.

- CNA/al

Mass fish deaths overnight hit Changi farmers hard

BY KASH CHEONG Straits Times 1 Mar 15;

Thousands of fish have died in coastal farms off Changi, in a repeat of last year's nightmare for farmers.

Farmers woke up yesterday morning to the sight of their fish floating belly up - the mass deaths had occurred through the night, so they had no opportunity to try to save their fish.

Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remains safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.

At around the same period last year, 160 tonnes of fish died suddenly, also after being poisoned by plankton, and the 39 affected fish farms lost hundreds of thousands of dollars..

Yesterday, some despairing farmers told The Sunday Times that they hope to get more support and training in modern farming methods that can minimise pollution and bacteria growth, particularly since the authorities are encouraging the trade to help boost Singapore's self-sufficiency in food production.

AVA had advised farmers to take precautions since Feb 16, when there were elevated plankton levels detected in the East Johor Strait.

But the overnight deaths took most by surprise.

"I thought I was prepared this year. I even had aerated tanks to save the fish if a few started dying," said fish farmer Timothy Hromatka, 42, who studied marine biology.

"But it was too late," said Mr Hromatka, who lost most of his fish.

Fish farmer Phillip Lim, 53, noting that a few fish had started dying as early as mid-February, added dejectedly: "That was just the 'appetiser'. Friday night was the 'main course'."

The former president of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative estimates that almost 50 farms were affected this time round.

"It could be worse than last year. This year, it looks like more fish died and the wild fish also died," added Mr Lim, who estimates his losses at more than $50,000. He reared popular species such as seabass, snapper and pomfret.

Fish farmer Daniel Wee, 40 is in the same predicament.

He had received tens of thousands of dollars from the AVA to kick-start his fish farm again after last year's mass deaths wiped out his stock, and spent another $20,000 on fish feed. But yet again, most of his 70,000 fish were wiped out. "It's a really, really tough business now," said Mr Wee, who estimates he lost $100,000.

"We need to learn new methods to take local fish farming to the next level,"

Too late to act

"I was prepared this year. I even had aerated tanks to save the fish if a few started dying... But it was too late. This morning, when I came in, I saw my fish dying."

MR TIMOTHY HROMATKA, a fish farmer

Workers showing the dead pompano and red snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach yesterday. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Workers showing the dead pompano and red snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach yesterday. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Dead snappers at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on Feb 28, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Workers showing the dead sea bass at a kelong. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton.  -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Workers looking at dead fish at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on 28 February 2015.. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remain safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.  -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The dead fish, believed to have come from the wild, washed ashore along Pasir Ris beach. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Piles of dead fish at Pasir Ris beach
Today Online 1 Mar 15;

Thousand of dead fishes, including catfish and puffer fish, washed up at Pasir Ris beach yesterday (Feb 28). Mass deaths have also been spotted at fish farms here.

Above are some pictures that showed the devastation along the shore line and the farms. (featuring mainly photos from
Sean Yap’s Facebook page and Wild Shores of Singapore)

Related links
This was also reported on Channel 8 News:

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New satellite to keep sharper, quicker tabs on Singapore skies

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Want better and more frequent forecasts and alerts about the weather in Singapore? You are in luck, and it could happen well before the end of this year.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) will be getting data from a new and improved Japanese weather satellite called the Himawari-8 after it becomes fully operational later this year.

Launched in October last year, it will orbit Earth at an altitude of 36,000km above the Equator. The satellite will provide snapshots of the planet and its weather, including developing storm clouds, every 10 minutes.

This is a marked improvement over the information provided by the Japanese MTSAT satellite currently used by the MSS, as the MTSAT can give updates only once every half-hour.

The Japan Meteorological Agency plans to switch its operations from MTSAT to the Himawari-8 in the middle of this year.

An MSS spokesman told The Straits Times: "With more frequent observations and a higher spatial resolution, (the Himawari-8) can detect weather systems, as well as smoke haze, at more frequent intervals."

Experts said the satellite's features are especially suited to predicting the type of storm that is common in the tropics, including in Singapore.

Weather scientist Koh Tieh Yong said: "Most of the storms here are convective storms, which are caused by the rising of hot air and the sinking of cold air.

"The time-scale for such rising and sinking is in the order of 10 minutes, so the satellite's frequent observation is a good improvement in terms of observing this phenomenon of convective weather."

Dr Koh, a professor at Nanyang Technological University and a principal investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, noted that the Himawari-8 is able to provide greater detail about temperatures and humidity at various heights.

This information, plugged into weather-modelling computer systems, would allow forecasters to better predict the likelihood of storms over the ensuing four hours.

Even so, Dr Koh added, the horizontal resolution of the Himawari-8 images might not be high enough to capture isolated clouds or small clusters of clouds that could bring showers to Singapore.

"The resolution is already fantastic for most countries, but Singapore is very small, so we will always need better data," he said.

Dr Santo Salinas, a senior research scientist at the National University of Singapore's Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, said the satellite could help the authorities monitor forest fires and smoke haze more effectively.

However, he said, it might not be able to detect small fires or fires that burn underground, which are common in the region.

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Malaysia willing to work with Singapore on regional oil pricing

Today Online 27 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE, Feb 27 - Malaysia is willing to work with Singapore to become part of a regional oil pricing area, including offering land for storage the island state lacks, the head of a Malaysian state body coordinating a major new oil hub said.

Despite being an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia lacks sufficient storage and refineries to allow it to act as a pricing hub like Singapore, Europe's ARA hub (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp) or Houston in the United States.

In a bid to remedy this, Malaysia is building the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) at its southern most point in Johor state, about 10 km east of Singapore. The first phase of the project, led by state-owned firm Petronas as well as private firms Dialog Group and Vopak, is expected to be completed by 2019.

Singapore is Asia's leading oil and petrochemical trading hub, but a lack of land is capping further expansion.

"We should work with Singapore. We can offer new land, which Singapore doesn't have," said Mohd Yazid Ja'afar, chief executive of the state run Johor Petroleum Development Corporation (JPDC), which is in charge of coordinating the oil hub developments.

Commodity price reporting agency Platts has said it is "actively studying the evolution of the geographical coverage of its 'FOB Singapore' refined oil products benchmarks" due to "the limited possibility of further expansion of Singapore's on-land oil storage."

Platts already includes some Malaysian assets located nearby in its FOB (free on board) Singapore price, but Singapore's sites on Jurong Island still far outweigh them.

"There's an idea by Platts for a FOB Straits (price). That would involve Johor," said J'afar, who was speaking during an interview with Reuters this week. He added that any cooperation had to be on terms in which all sides got a fair share of profits.

Inclusion of a large integrated hub in Malaysia would shift the balance towards a more regional hub.

Singapore's agency for International Enterprise (IE), which is in charge of attracting commodities companies to the island-state, was not immediately available for comment. IE has previously said that "Singapore recognises the growing energy requirements of Asia and the continued importance of oil storage terminals to support the trading needs of the region." REUTERS

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Malaysia: River confluence caused worst floods

PATRICK LEE The Star 28 Feb 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Many of the towns worst hit by floods last year such as Kuala Krai in Kelantan are located in valley areas where rivers meet.

Dr Edlic Sathiamurthy of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu said these towns saw flood waters come from two bodies into one, swamping people there.

“Dabong, Temerloh and Kuala Krai, these are in areas of river confluence.

“These are areas where usually two water bodies meet, bringing an accumulation of flood flow,” he said at a workshop on the floods yesterday.

Some areas such as Kuala Krai, he said, also had depressed topographies (or lower landscapes), making them prone to floods.

Referring to Kelantan’s past rainfall data, he warned that massive floods may happen again, adding that there was a “pattern”.

In 1967, 38 people died and 537,000 people were displaced in Kelantan’s massive floods then.

He said China and the United States destroyed their levees (or embankments) at less “sensitive” areas in dealing with floods, so waters could overflow there instead of hitting the towns.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Dr Zulkifli Yusop said the Drainage and Irrigation Department had done a study to look into building a dam upstream of Dabong.

“This is a flood mitigation dam but it must have a multi-purpose function for water resources, aquaculture and floods,” he said.

Meteorological Department spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip confirmed there was a “blind spot” in weather detection over Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang.

Although there were already six radars covering the peninsula, he mooted the idea of building another one for this region.

He also revealed that Typhoon Hagupit (Dec 1 to Dec 12), the worst cyclone to hit the Philippines last year, helped to reduce the massive rainfall over Malaysia then.

This was because the typhoon drew a portion of the cold air from the north of the world away from the monsoon storms here, he said.

“If there was no Hagupit, we would have had (heavy) rain for more than three weeks instead of two (over December),” he said.

He said the department was trying to update its forecasting models.

He admitted that some years might be needed before they were properly equipped to forecast, adding that even the United States had similar problems in getting things accurate.

National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia senior researcher Marini Ideris said land use contributed to the floods in Kelantan.

Later, when asked to elaborate, she said that the findings were still preliminary and needed more research.

Though many factors led to the floods last year, it is widely agreed that an extreme rainfall of over 1,500mm in December last year led to many areas being submerged under several metres of water.

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Malaysia: Those caught with toxic weed can land behind bars

TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 28 Feb 15;

PETALING JAYA: Anyone caught spreading or transporting the eczema-causing weed Parthenium hysterophorus into or across Malaysia risk facing a RM10,000 fine or two years’ jail or both.

The species has been declared as a noxious plant under the Plant Quarantine Act 1976 by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry on Wednesday.

Under the Act, a noxious plant cannot be cultivated, kept or imported. Those who find the plant on their land should destroy it by fire or other methods stipulated by the relevant authorities.

The authorities are empowered to enter the land where the plant grows and destroy it, and recover any expenses incurred from the owner or occupier of the land. Those who contravene these directives can be fined up to RM10,000.

Agriculture Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Zakaria Mohd Sidek said that the plant was declared as a noxious weed to enable the authorities to control its spread.

“We can enter private premises to take care of the weed, as well as improve quarantine measures,” he added.

P. hysterophorus, which is found in every Malaysian state except Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan, is being held at bay by herbicides.

The Star first revealed that this weed was sweeping the nation last December, with people in parts of Kedah reportedly suffering from itchy red rashes.

A highly-allergenic plant, P. hysterophorus or ‘congress grass’ can cause severe skin disease and hay fever.

It is also toxic to livestock such as goats and cows, causing fevers, ulcers, anorexia and intestinal damage.

It can quickly replace native flora by releasing toxic substances, causing massive crop loss – leading to it being dubbed ‘the worst weed of the century’.

In a media release, the Agriculture Department advised the people to destroy the weed in its early stages before it flowers and produces seeds.

Those staying in residential areas can use salt water in a 1:4 ratio of salt to water to destroy the weed.

Similar in appearance to ulam raja, some Malaysians have cultivated the weed for its delicate white flowers, leading to its propagation.

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Indonesia: 20 hectares of tourism forest areas in Batam catch fire

Antara 1 Mar 15;

Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - The Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency has reported that in the last two weeks, at least 20 hectares in the Nongsa tourist area caught fire due to hot weather and irresponsible activities.

"There were many cases of forest fire in Nongsa in the recent days. Some of them in less than one-hectare area and some in more than five hectares," an official of the Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency (PBK BP), Damar Nugroho, stated here on Saturday.

The Nongsa tourist area has a number of resorts, golf courses, botanical gardens and a beach. The fire there originated from roadside.

According to him, road users carelessly throw burning cigarette butts without realizing they can burn bushes and the fire can spread to nearby forests.

"We strongly discourage road users or the public from carelessly discarding cigarette butts and burning trash in forest areas. They might cause large fires due to hot weather and strong winds," he explained.

Meanwhile, the head of the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency of the Hang Nadim station, Philip Mustamu, predicted that the hot weather will continue until mid-March 2015.

The government has declared a state of emergency to prevent and handle forest fires in Riau Province, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The step is to anticipate forest and field fires in 2015," Chief of the Public Relations and Information Center of the agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Sunday (Feb. 22).

According to Sutopo, Riau Province bears the brunt of forest fires every year. Based on the hotspot data for the 2006-2014 period, forest fires occurred twice every year in Riau between February to April and June to October.

Although the government has recognized the vested interest of people in starting forest fires and has established regulations to prevent them, the disaster continues unabated.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has sought BNPBs assistance to take emergency steps in case of a spread of hotspots and fires in Bengkalis District in Riau Province.

Riau province is the neighboring province of Riau Islands. (*)

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Indonesia: Haze begins to envelope Riau capital

Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 28 Feb 15;

Haze from forest and land fires in several regencies in Riau has started covering Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, reducing visibility to only about 3 kilometers on Friday morning. It is the worst haze since fires returned to the region in mid January.

Based on the direction of the wind, the haze covering Pekanbaru is most likely to have come from the eastern coastal regions of Bengkalis, Pelalawan and Siak regencies.

The latest satellite data at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station showed 15 hot spots in Riau on Friday morning. Of them seven were detected in Siak, three each in Pelalawan and Bengkalis and two others in Rokan Hulu.

“Nine of the hot spots have been identified as fires with a reliability level of over 70 percent,” station head Sugarin said.

Seen from four observation sites, he said, only Pekanbaru was covered in thick haze on Friday morning while Pelalawan, Rengat and Dumai had thin haze with visibility ranging between 3 and 6 kilometers.

“The air quality in Pekanbaru has declined, touching 80 on the pollutant-standards index, or categorized as medium,” he said.

Cumulatively, according to Sugarin, the number of hot spots in Riau would tend to increase as the peak of the dry season approached.

This month the number of hot spots increased dramatically to 337 from 138 last month, of which 139 were identified as fires. In some areas, he said, rain had not fallen for up to over a month, making them very vulnerable to fires.

Sugarin expressed the hope that the government could extinguish the fires before the peak of the dry season in March and April.

“Otherwise, the impact will disrupt economic activities here just like previously,” he said.

In April the wind usually changes direction, blowing to the east. If forest and land fires are not properly dealt with during that time it is feared that once again haze will spread to neighboring countries.

To deal with the problem, the Riau administration has asked the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to help extinguish fires.

Head of Riau Environment Agency (BLH), Yulwiriati Moesa, said that together with other government institutions, the provincial administration had scheduled artificial-rain programs in coastal regions for the whole month of March.

“We are preparing all we need,” said Yulwiriati, adding that the forest and land fire coordination still had some 25 tons of salt powder and 43 tons more would be added for the artificial-rain program.

The program is expected to cost Rp 16 billion (US$1.2 million), including the cost of operating two Hercules C-130 and a Cassa 212 aircraft to seed the cloud with salt.

Separately the West Sumatra Forestry Agency said it continued to monitor hot spots in the region although their number had decreased. Head of the agency’s forest security and protection division, Faridil Afrasy, said that as of Thursday satellites had detected 12 hot spots, a drop from the 26 detected in January.

“Based on the short dry season’s climatic pattern this year, the situation is relatively secure, but we continue to watch and be prepared,” Faridil said.

- See more at:

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