Best of our wild blogs: 2 Mar 15

Dead fish update: Changi, Ubin, Pasir Ris, Punggol
from wild shores of singapore

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (28 Feb 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015)
from Rojak Librarian and Birdwatching in Tampines Echo (February 22, 2015)

Spotted-tail Frogfish (Lophiocharon trisignatus) @ Pasir Ris
from Monday Morgue

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More dead fish, marine life at Pasir Ris beach

SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Following the mass fish deaths that affected farmers along the eastern Johor Straits over the weekend, other marine wildlife, including species such as Frogfish, horseshoe crab and puffer fish, have washed up on Pasir Ris beach.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the post-mortem results of fish samples collected from the affected farms indicated the fish had died as a result of gill damage caused by plankton, which are micro-organisms found in seawater. They can bloom or multiply quickly in a very short time, draining the seawater of oxygen.

“Laboratory tests conducted so far did not detect marine biotoxins in the fish,” it said.

Local fish farmers said the fish deaths on Saturday morning were worse than those during a similar event that happened at around the same time last year.

Mr Teh Aik Hua, who owns two fish farms in Sembawang and Pasir Ris, said he is left with only 1 per cent of his fish stock, compared with a 20 per cent survival rate last year.

“The problem is more serious this year. Even wild fish were found dead,” he added.

With the recent hot and dry weather, which is expected to stretch into this month, Mr Teh said about 40 per cent of his fish stock at the Sembawang farm has also died from the increasing salinity of the water.

Another fish farmer, who only wanted to be known as Simon, painted a similar picture. Nearly all his fish were wiped out this time, whereas last year, half of his stock had survived.

Around this time last year, there were fish deaths at 34 fish farms along the East Johor Straits and five farms along the West Johor Straits. About 160 tonnes of fish were found dead because of low levels of dissolved oxygen in the waters or a plankton bloom, or both, as well as the hot weather.

In response to queries, the AVA said fish harvested from local farms are safe for consumption.

The largest supermarket chain here, NTUC FairPrice, also assuaged consumer concerns, saying it imports fish from local farms that are accredited by the AVA, which has taken steps to ensure only live and healthy fish are being supplied.

FairPrice, which has more than 120 outlets, said some of these fish farms, including those in Pasir Ris, Changi, Lim Chu Kang and inland Kranji, have taken steps to move their harvests to other locations and increase the aeration of the water.

“As such, our supply of local fish remains unaffected,” said a FairPrice spokesperson.

Fish farmers source donations online to tide them over during plankton bloom
JALELAH ABU BAKER Straits Times 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Offshore farmers from a fishing farm here have put up an appeal for donations online after an environmental crisis that has caused them huge losses.

Ah Hua Kelong, which is located off Lorong Halus on the north-east coast, attributed the loss in 80 per cent of their fish to a plankton bloom. The phenomenon happens when the micro-organisms found in seawater multiply quickly in a very short time, draining the seawater of oxygen. Majority of the farm's fishes have died as a result.

The farmers wrote on crowdfunding site Indiegogo: "We are on the verge of losing the workers, the farm and everything we have and it is not just because of broken supply but because of the news and speculations."

They added that 20 per cent of their fish are healthy and safe to sell and eat because they were transferred out of "troubled waters". Ah Hua Kelong specialises in farming Grouper, Seabass and Golden pomfret, according to its website.

The Straits Times reported on Sunday that thousands of fish died in coastal farms off Changi. 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. AVA was quoted as saying that lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remains safe to eat.

Ah Hua Kelong started the project on Feb 28, and has set a goal of US$20,000 (S$27,303). By Monday morning, it has raised US$3,563 (S$4,864). The fund-raising will continue till March 30.

"We are not asking for much. We hope to raise enough to only help us pay off expense for at least 3 months since now both demand and supply are in the ditch," the farmers wrote.

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Malaysia: ‘Spread of toxic plant under control’


PETALING JAYA: The toxic invasive weed spreading through the country is under control for now, said the Agriculture Department’s Plant Biosecurity Division.

The weed (Parthenium hysterophorus), which currently covers 60ha of land across most states, is being held at bay by herbicides.

“The affected areas were sprayed with herbicide and follow-up sprays were carried out. People are also more aware about its existence and impact on plants, animals and humans.

“Nine agencies have come together to battle the weed including the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and the Institute of Medical Research,” it said in an e-mail.

Research is being carried out about the effects of the weed, also called congress grass, on human health.

DVS has since stepped up its monitoring of imported animals to ensure they are not transporting any seeds, and it is ready to impose quarantine conditions on countries found exporting livestock with parthenium seeds in or on them, especially in faecal matter.

The Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services would also quarantine agricultural materials, especially seeds and planting material, if there is sufficient risk of parthenium coming through Malaysian entry points.

Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Malaya Kelantan (UMK) are researching control methods for the weed, which has been dubbed the “worst weed of the century”.

UMK Prof Dr S. M. Rezaul Karim, who first discovered the weed in Ulu Yam in 2013, warned the public to avoid it at all costs.

“The pollen grains, airborne dried plant parts, and roots of parthenium cause various allergies like contact dermatitis, hay fever, asthma and bronchitis.

“Its pollen is responsible for asthma, especially in children playing outdoors,” he said when contacted.

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Malaysia: Teamwork can keep forest fires at bay, says department

MENG YEW CHOONG The Star 2 Mar 15;

KUALA SELANGOR: There must be interagency and community-based partnerships to fight forest fires, especially at peatland forest reserves. says Selangor Forestry Department director Dr Puat Dahalan.

He said they welcomed the contributions from the community when it came to keeping forest encroachment to a minimal level – a measure that reduces the probability of irresponsible behaviour such as setting fires, accidentally or otherwise.

“This joining of hands has proven to be effective, especially at the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest,” Puat said at the opening of the World Wetlands Day 2015 celebrations at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve here on Saturday.

The reserve is a peat forest that is being rehabilitated via a joint programme between the Global Environment Centre (GEC), the state government as well as the state forestry department.

The effort seeks to restore 4,000ha of peat swamp within the North Selangor peat swamp forest that has been logged in the past, and subsequently encroached by illegal land-clearing for agriculture.

At 73,392ha, the North Selangor peat swamp is located in the north western part of the state, and it consists of Raja Musa Forest Reserve (23,486ha) and the Sungai Karang forest reserve (50,106ha).

GEC is a Malaysian-registered charity that works on environmental issues of global importance, and its community partner at Raja Musa are villagers nearby who are members of the Sahabat Hutan Gambut Selangor Utara (Friends of North Selangor Peat Forest), an NGO for forest protection and rehabilitation.

“For this year, we intend to increase the number of patrols conducted by the villagers who live on the fringe of the forest,” said Faisal Parish, GEC’s director, who added that the villagers would report suspicious activities besides being on the lookout for possible fires.

“The key to successful management here is the engagement of stakeholders outside the peat forest. We have to sensitise all landowners and work with plantation owners such as Sime Darby and Felda.

“Smallholders are also very important, as fires normally start on their land. We also have to ingrain the message that fires are not good for the peat land as it will destroy the land, rather than enhance the land,” he added.

Selangor is also trying something new this year to prevent peat fires and it involves tapping water from disused mining ponds.

“We have built a network of pipes stretching 2km, and we intend to add more length so that we can pump water from the pond to moisten the peat forest during extended dry periods.

On the message for World Wetlands Day, Puat said there needed to be awareness among the younger generation as well as villagers on the importance of peat swamps.

“Only then will they care about the forest, but this cannot be nurtured overnight. It needs time, money and other resources,” said Puat.

“We are satisfied with the level of interagency and community cooperation and we are looking at replicating this model at the Kuala Langat North and South peat forests.”

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Indonesia: Govt to make artificial rain in Riau

The Jakarta Post 1 Mar 15;

The government is set to start modifying the weather on Monday to create artificial downpours in an endeavor to put out forest fires in Riau.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Sunday that according to a report from the forest fire directorate at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the ministry in cooperation with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) would begin the weather modification on Monday.

She said that the government would maintain a state of emergency in the handling of forest fires and land burning in the hope that all sides would comply with the banning of burning for land-clearing purposes.

“We have made a coordination with security and law enforcement authorities to arrest any companies or farmers using fires in land clearing,” she said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Riau and several other provinces are entering the dry season.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, has detected 39 hotspots, mostly in Bengkalis, Meranti, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hilir and Pelalawan.

In the past few years, the province has been covered by thick haze during dry season, triggered by forest fires and land clearing. The haze has disturbed not only air transportation to and from Riau but also daily activities both within the province and in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. The thick haze has also triggered health problem for locals. (rms)(++++)

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