Best of our wild blogs: 15 Apr 15

Giant clam pearls
Neo Mei Lin

Purple Heron’s Eel Catch
Bird Ecology Study Group

The Oriental Darter at Bukit Gombak
Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

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Malaysia: Johor to gazette water catchments as protected areas

NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 15 Apr 15;

JOHOR BARU: The state government wants to gazette all 15 water catchment areas in the state as “protected areas” to better manage its water resources.

Once they are gazetted by year-end, there would be better supervision and enforcement around the catchment areas, said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad.

“Only a few have been gazetted so far. With the gazette, signs and fences would be put up at certain spots to warn people against fishing or planting trees or crops within the catchment areas,” he said in an interview.

Hasni said the state water regulatory body would also have to iron out some issues with the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), as four of the catchment areas were within their purview.

He said the cost of gazetting would be huge, but the state government was committed towards better managing the water resources.

“Building more dams is not the best solution as it requires a lot of land,” he said, adding that some of the state’s water resources were under threat.

Hasni noted that the critical ones included the Sembrong Dam in Kluang, pollution in Simpang Renggam and Machap and salt water issues in Muar, especially during the dry season and changing of tides.

“The continuous drop in the water level at the Sg Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi is also a cause for concern,” he said, adding that if the water level dropped too low, they might have to pump water from other rivers into the dam.

The Star had previously reported that the Sembrong Dam – a major water source for 120,000 people in the districts of Kluang and parts of Batu Pahat – was “slowly dying” due to an algae bloom, which threatened to halt water production and the existence of marine life in it.

The dam, which was built for flood mitigation in 1984 and managed by the DID, had been providing water for consumption since 1990.

Hasni said all local authorities had also been told to be strict in approving the construction of factories beside waterways.

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WWF-Malaysia Would Like to Respond to the Issue of Sturgeon Farming

WWF 14 Apr 15;

13 April, Petaling Jaya: WWF-Malaysia welcomes the decision by the authorities to suspend the proposed sturgeon project in Sungai Tabung, Kuala Tahan. Based on news reports in the Sinar Harian (Projek ternak sturgeon pindah on 23 March 2015) and The Rakyat Post (Environmentals Celebrate Victory Over Sturgeon Project on 24 March 2015), the proposed location for the project was deemed unsuitable due to the sensitivity of the area. Many parties, including local communities and NGOs, have highlighted their concerns regarding this project.

WWF-Malaysia is dedicated to undertaking biodiversity conservation projects to build resilience of the ecosystems. Hence, we share these concerns and are also of the opinion that the area is environmentally sensitive, especially due to the proximity of the area to Taman Negara. We believe that any sensitive ecosystem needs to be safeguarded completely against any ecologically unsustainable development and areas that have been compromised in any way, rehabilitated and restored. As some forests have already been cleared which had also caused siltation and affected the water quality of surrounding rivers as part of preliminary works for the proposed aquaculture farm at Kuala Tahan, we strongly call on the area to be restored, with the cost of restoration borne by the developer.

While WWF-Malaysia welcomes the news that the project will not go ahead near Taman Negara, we are concerned that it will still be implemented by relocating it to another site. We urge the government to reconsider the decision to proceed with this project based on the following reasons. The introduction of a non-native species, such as the sturgeon, through an aquaculture project involves risks and this includes accidental release of the species into local river systems. The potential long term impacts of accidental release of a non-native species into our freshwater or other natural ecosystems may not be adequately known, and could be detrimental and irreversible.

We understand that an Import Risk Analysis for certain sturgeon species has been carried out by the Department of Fisheries. Some of the potential risks associated with this species may have been assessed through this analysis. In view of the concerns regarding this project, we appeal to the government to make this analysis public.

In the absence of well-established scientific evidence that sturgeons will not impact or pose any risks to our local ecosystem, we strongly urge the government to halt this sturgeon project and to prohibit future farming of new non-native species in Malaysia.

Dato’ Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma
Executive Director/CEO

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U.S. West Coast sardine season called off amid population decline

JEFF BARNARD Associated Press Yahoo News 13 Apr 15;

Fisheries managers have decided to call off the West Coast sardine fishing season that starts in July because of rapidly dwindling numbers, hoping to save an iconic industry from the kind of collapse that hit in the 1940s and lasted 50 years.

Meeting outside Santa Rosa, California, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Sunday to close the season starting July 1.

It had little choice. Estimates of sardine abundance have fallen below the level for a mandatory fishing shutdown.

"We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery," David Crabbe, a council member and commercial fishing boat owner, said in a statement.

The council next will decide whether overfishing has been a factor in the latest collapse, which could trigger an emergency shutdown of the current season, which runs through June. It votes Wednesday.

Made famous by John Steinbeck's novel "Cannery Row," the once-thriving sardine industry crashed in the 1940s.

It revived in the 1990s when fisheries developed in Oregon and Washington waters, but population estimates have been declining since 2006, and catch values since 2012. The reasons are not well-understood, though it is widely accepted that huge swings in populations are natural, and generally are related to water temperatures.

Council member Frank Lockhart of NOAA Fisheries Service noted that several other fisheries — such as salmon, lingcod and rockfish — have recovered after going through steep declines.

Today, about 100 boats have permits to fish for sardines on the West Coast, about half the number during the heyday. Much of the catch, landed from Mexico to British Columbia, is exported to Asia and Europe, where some is canned, and the rest goes for bait.

West Coast landings have risen from a value of $1.4 million in 1991 to a peak of $21 million in 2012, but are again declining.

Geoff Shester, California campaign director for the conservation group Oceana, said this is the first shutdown of sardine fishing on the West Coast since the council began regulating harvests in 2000. He added the fishery should have been shut down years ago, when it first became clear more fish were being harvested than reproduced.

Shester said every ton of sardines left in the ocean is important as a food source for other wildlife and as a foundation for rebuilding the population.

The council allowed some sardines to be caught inadvertently in the course of related fisheries but reduced the amount. That means boats targeting anchovies, mackerel and herring won't have to stop fishing but could run up against limits in sardines caught that would shut them down, as well.

The council also allowed the Quinault tribe in Washington state to go ahead with a small sardine fishery.

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2050: Water supplies to dwindle in parts of the world, threatening food security and livelihoods

Better policies and more investments needed, including adaptation of agriculture to climate change
FAO 14 Apr 15;

14 April, Rome/Daegu - In 2050 there will be enough water to help produce the food needed to feed a global population expected to top nine billion, but overconsumption, degradation and the impact of climate change will reduce water supplies in many regions, especially developing countries, FAO and the World Water Council (WWC) have warned in a paper published today.

"Towards a water and food secure future", calls for government policies and investments by the public and private sectors to ensure that crops, livestock and fish are sustainably produced in ways also aimed at safeguarding water resources.

Such actions are essential in order to reduce poverty, increase incomes and ensure food security for many people living in rural and urban areas, the paper stresses.

"Food and water security are inextricably linked. We believe that by developing local approaches and making the right investments, world leaders can ensure that there will be sufficient water volume, quality and access to meet food security in 2050 and beyond," said Benedito Braga, President of the World Water Council, on the occasion of the launching of the paper at the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk, South Korea.

"The essence of the challenge is to adopt programs that involve investments in longer-term returns, such as the rehabilitation of infrastructure. Agriculture has to follow the path of sustainability and not the one of immediate profitability," added Braga.

"In an era of accelerated changes unparalleled to any in our past, our ability to provide adequate, safe and nutritious food sustainably and equitably is more relevant than ever. Water, as an irreplaceable element of achieving this end, is already under pressure by increasing demands from other uses, exacerbated by weak governance, inadequate capacities, and underinvestment," said FAO Deputy Director-General Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo.

"This is an opportune time to re-visit our public policies, investment frameworks, governance structures and institutions. We are entering the post-2015 development era and we should mark it with solid commitments," she added.

Agriculture will still account for most water consumption

By 2050 some 60 percent more food - up to 100 percent in developing countries - will be needed to feed the world while agriculture will continue to be the largest user of water globally, accounting in many countries for around two-thirds or more of supplies drawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers.

Even with increasing urbanization, in 2050 much of the global population and most of the poor will continue to earn their living in agriculture. Yet the sector will see the volume of water available to it reduced due to a competing demand from cities and industry, the FAO/WWC paper notes.

As such, through technology and management practice, farmers, especially smallholders, will need to find ways to increase their output on the limited land and water available.

Currently, water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people in the world, a proportion set to reach two-thirds by 2050.

This is largely due to overconsumption of water for food production and agriculture. For example in large areas of South and East Asia, in the Near East, North Africa and North and Central America, more groundwater is used than can be replenished naturally.

In some regions intensive agriculture, industrial development and growing cities are responsible for polluting water sources, the paper adds.

Policy changes and investments essential

Improvements aimed at helping farmers increase food output using increasingly limited water resources -- including in the area of crop and livestock genetics - are widely needed. Empowering farmers to better manage risks associated with water scarcity will also be critical, according to FAO and the WWC. This will require a combination of public and private investment as well as supportive training.

To address degradation and waste, water institutions should be more transparent in their allocation and pricing mechanisms, the two organizations argue. Crucially, water rights need to be allocated in fair and inclusive ways.

In particular the paper highlights the need to guarantee security of land and water tenure and access to credit in ways that enhance the role of women, who in Africa and Asia are responsible for much of farming.

Addressing climate change

The effects of global warming including unusual rainfall and temperature patterns and more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts and cyclones, will have an increasing impact on agriculture and water resources in particular, today's paper warns.

Mountain areas provide up to 80 per cent of the world's water resources, but the ongoing retreat of glaciers as a result of climate change threatens the existence of those supplies in the future.

Forests on the other hand use water but also provide it - at least one third of the world's biggest cities draw a significant portion of their drinking water from forested areas.

This underscores the importance of stronger efforts to protect forests and upland areas where much of the world's freshwater supply originates.

Today's paper calls for policies and investments to enhance adaptation at the watershed and household levels, such as improved water storage facilities, wastewater capture and reuse, as well as research that generates more resilient agricultural production systems for smallholders.

The World Water Forum (12-17 April) is the largest international event aimed at finding joint solutions to the planet's main water challanges. In addition to jointly producing the White Paper with the World Water Council, FAO also teamed up with several partners and issued the 2030 Vision and Global Framework for Action, a set of policy guidelines and recommendations to improve groundwater management, during the forum.

Over-consumption, climate change threaten food security, water supply: FAO
Magdalena Mis PlanetArk 16 Apr 15;

Over-consumption, climate change threaten food security, water supply: FAO Photo: Alessandro Bianchi
The logo of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is seen on the door of the headquarters in Rome August 31, 2005.
Photo: Alessandro Bianchi

There will be enough water to produce food for 10 billion people in 2050, but over-consumption and the impact of climate change threaten food security and water supplies in many regions, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.

By 2050 some 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the world's people and as farming remains the largest user of water, food must be produced sustainably to ensure future supplies of food and water, the FAO and the World Water Council (WWC) said in a joint report.

"In an era of accelerated changes unparalleled ... in our past, our ability to provide adequate, safe and nutritious food sustainably and equitably is more relevant than ever," Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General Natural Resources, said in a statement accompanying the report.

"Water, as an irreplaceable element of achieving this end, is already under pressure by increasing demands from other uses, exacerbated by weak governance, inadequate capacities, and under-investment."

Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world's population, largely because too much water is used to produce food.

Excessive use and pollution of water resources in key food-producing regions are threatening the sustainability of jobs that depend on water and agriculture, the report said.

"Agriculture has to follow the path of sustainability and not the one of immediate profitability," said Benedito Braga, president of the WWC, an international think tank.

The two organizations called for government policies and investment by both private and public sectors to ensure that crops, livestock and fish are produced sustainably, and in ways that also protect water resources.

This is essential to reduce poverty, increase people's incomes and ensure food security, the report said.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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China to surpass U.S. as top cause of modern global warming

Alister Doyle Reuters 14 Apr 15;

China is poised to overtake the United States as the main cause of man-made global warming since 1990, the benchmark year for U.N.-led action, in a historic shift that may raise pressure on Beijing to act.

China's cumulative greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, when governments were becoming aware of climate change, will outstrip those of the United States in 2015 or 2016, according to separate estimates by experts in Norway and the United States.

The shift, reflecting China's stellar economic growth, raises questions about historical blame for rising temperatures and more floods, desertification, heatwaves and sea level rise.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Paris in December to work out a global deal to fight climate actions beyond 2020.

"A few years ago China's per capita emissions were low, its historical responsibility was low. That's changing fast," said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO), who says China will overtake the United States this year.

Using slightly different data, the U.S.-based World Resources Institute think-tank estimated that China's cumulative carbon dioxide emissions will total 151 billion tonnes for 1990-2016, overtaking the U.S. total of 147 billion next year.

The rise of cumulative emissions "obviously does open China up to claims of responsibility from other developing countries," said Daniel Farber, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In a U.N. principle laid down in 1992, rich nations are meant to lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions because their wealth is based on burning coal, oil and natural gas since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century.

Emerging nations, meanwhile, can burn more fossil fuels to catch up and end poverty. But the rapid economic rise of China, India, Brazil and many other emerging nations is straining the traditional divide between rich and poor.


"All countries now have responsibility. It's not just a story about China -- it's a story about the whole world," said Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of a U.N. climate report last year.

India will overtake Russia's cumulative emissions since 1990 in the 2020s to rank fourth behind China, the United States and the European Union, according to the CICERO calculations.

China surpassed the United States as the top annual emitter of carbon dioxide in around 2006 and now emits more each year than the United States and the European Union combined. Per capita emissions by its 1.3 billion people are around EU levels.

Beijing says the best yardstick for historical responsibility is per capita emissions since the 18th century, by which measure its emissions are less than a tenth those of the United States.

But stretching liability so far back is complicated.

Should heat-trapping methane gas emitted by rice paddies in Asia in the 19th century, now omitted, count alongside industrial carbon emissions by Europe? Should Britain be responsible for India's emissions before independence in 1947?

Lawyers say it is difficult to blame people living today for emissions by ancestors who had no inkling that greenhouse gases might damage the climate.

"I feel very uneasy about going back more than a generation in terms of historic responsibility," said Farber, arguing that Berlin could hardly be blamed if someone died by setting off a rusting German World War One landmine in France.

All governments are now working out plans for a climate summit in Paris in December that will set targets for 2025 or 2030. Beijing set a goal last year of peaking its rising emissions around 2030, perhaps before.

"China is acting. It has acknowledged its position as a key polluter," said Saleemel Huq, of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London.

And historical responsibility is at the heart of talks on solving the problem.

The U.N. panel of climate scientists estimated last year that humankind had emitted 1.9 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide since the late 19th century and can only emit a trillion more before rising temperatures breach a U.N. ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Any fair formula for sharing out that trillion tonnes, or roughly 30 years of emissions at current rates, inevitably has to consider what each country has done in the past, said Myles Allen, a scientist at Oxford University.

"Until people start thinking about blame and responsibility they are not taking the problem seriously," he said.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

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