Best of our wild blogs: 22 Apr 15

9 May (Sat) morning: Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Apple surprise at special Changi shore
wild shores of singapore

An “Otterly” Exciting Morning
My Itchy Fingers

Plantain Squirrel’s call
Bird Ecology Study Group

The Earth Day Coastal Cleanup recce @ Pasir Ris Beach 6 – welcoming new volunteers!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Earth Day celebrations – 144 volunteers remove 1,500kg of trash @ Pasir Ris Beach 6
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Read more!

Historic images get fresh breath of life

Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Apr 14;

A COLLECTION of 14,500 images charting the transformation of Singapore has been largely unseen by the general public for up to half a century.

The slides, dating from 1965 to 1995 and taken by the late architectural historian Lee Kip Lin, capture memories such as the city centre's inter-connected five- foot-ways, which were designed to shade pedestrians from the tropical weather, as mandated by the 1822 colonial town plan.

Many have since been replaced by modern towers and complexes.

In 2009, two years before Mr Lee died at age 86, his family donated the collection to the National Library Board (NLB).

About 500 of these stills have now been given a fresh breath of life in an NLB-commissioned book by architectural historian Lai Chee Kien.

Dr Lai worked for a year on the project - titled Through The Lens Of Lee Kip Lin: Photographs Of Singapore 1965-1995 - categorising the images into chapters such as landscapes and streetscapes, houses and residential forms, and other buildings and structures.

The themes are in sync with Mr Lee's conservation role with the Preservation of Monuments Board, which is known as the Preservation of Sites and Monuments today. Some of his shots helped to justify the conservation of areas such as Kampong Glam.

"The photos document a period of physical transformation and urban renewal in Singapore," said Dr Lai.

"For Mr Lee to have taken the thousands of photos in such a sustained, consistent and meticulous manner over three decades is very impressive.

"Many of the stills are in black and white to show contrast in the details. They were also taken from angles that only a practised eye such as an architectural historian can capture."

Highlights in the book include a feature on the reclamation of parts of East Coast beginning in mid-1965.

Mr Lee's photos serve as a record of the various steps of the reclamation process, including the introduction of a sandbar in 1969 to mark out the Amber Road reclamation project's boundary.

Later photos show the nearby Chinese Swimming Club, which was engulfed by the reclamation.

Another section in the book is dedicated to reconstructing the now expunged Chong Pang Village, which was part of the estate of rubber plantation owner Lim Nee Soon.

Dr Lai pieced together Mr Lee's 1985 photos according to an earlier map of the village.

The final chapter is dedicated to reviewing the various building forms that used to be a feature of Singapore. These include the rarely documented compound houses and warehouses built with archways for boats to pass through.

The $42 (excluding goods and services tax) book, published by NLB and EDM Books, is on sale at major bookshops.

It will be launched officially next Tuesday at the National Library Building in Victoria Street.

Read more!

New Jurong Heritage Trail to feature 12 historical sites

Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The Jurong community and the National Heritage Board (NHB) have launched a new heritage trail, as part of Singapore HeritageFest 2015.

The self-guided Jurong Heritage Trail will feature 12 sites which have contributed significantly to the area's development.

NHB said at the launch on Tuesday (Apr 21) that input from the residents form a large part of the trail. Over a year and a half, NHB conducted interviews with 100 residents between the ages of 20 and 80, and did archival research.

Sites include the area where a drive-in cinema used to be, and Jurong Hill, where dignitaries including the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II planted trees to commemorate their visit to Jurong Industrial Estate. There is also a look-out tower there, with a bird's-eye view of Jurong's port and shipyard.

Pandan Reservoir was also chosen as a heritage site after extensive research.

Ms Stefanie Tham, a spokesperson for education and community outreach at NHB, said: "Through our interviews, we found out that Jurong was very famous for its prawn ponds and residents made a living through prawning in the Pandan Reservoir, which used to be the Sungei Pandan or the mangroves area.

"These are the small anecdotes which I think made the area more than what it is today, which is an industrial estate."

Today, Pandan Reservoir serves the community in a different way - water sports enthusiasts go to the reservoir to canoe, sail and row.

Another heritage site is Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre, which was formed from a merger of Yuan Sheng Food Centre - Singapore's first hawker centre - and Corporation Drive Market.

Eighty-year-old Madam Chia Thor Kee ran a hawker store at Yuan Sheng Food Centre before moving to Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre. She said: "In the 1960s, I was at the first market in Singapore and in the 1970s, I moved here when it was a single-storey building.

"Now it has renovated to become three storeys. The history of this place is long. A lot of people recognise me when I am out."

Madam Chia's fish soup stall, which is still located at Taman Jurong, is now run by her daughter and her grandson.

Other heritage sites include the Jurong River, Hong Kah Village, SAFTI, Jurong Railway, Science Centre Singapore and the former Jurong Town Hall.

Apart from marking out historical sites, the trail also aims to showcase a lesser-known side of Jurong. The area was once a hideout for pirates, said NHB. In the 1800s, Jurong Island was a maze of islands which provided pirates many places to retreat after raiding passing vessels.

NHB also published a booklet which includes personal stories and photographs contributed by long-time residents, to complement the trail. Members of the public can view it online or obtain a physical copy at Taman Jurong Community Centre.

The public can access parts of the trail through the park connector network or take a train down to the nearest heritage site.

- CNA/xq/ac

Traipse through pre-industrial Jurong
Olivia Ho The Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Apr 15;

AS A young woman, Ms Cecilia Choo queued with colleagues to get into Singapore's first and only drive-in cinema in Jurong.

"The whole road was jammed when Bruce Lee's movie The Big Boss came," recalled the 60-year-old senior administration executive. "People would sit on top of their cars to watch."

Opened in 1971 by Cathay Organisation, the cinema could squeeze in up to 900 cars. But crowds dwindled with the rise of video piracy, as well as gatecrashers and illegal circuit racing. The cinema finally shut in 1985, after which the Fairway (golf) Club took over the grounds.

The cinema may no longer be standing, but visitors can learn about it from a marker at the site, which is one of the highlights of a new National Heritage Board (NHB) trail.

Developed in partnership with the Taman Jurong Citizens' Consultative Committee, the trail showcases little-known facets of Jurong's history. It will be launched on Saturday as part of the Singapore HeritageFest at the Taman Jurong Community Club by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also MP for Jurong GRC.

The trail is the NHB's 13th and will highlight 12 heritage spots, including the old Jurong Railway, which transported raw materials and goods to and from Malaysia, and the former Jurong Town Hall with its 58m-high clock tower.

NHB spokesman Stefanie Tham said: "The stereotype of Jurong is that it is merely an industrial town, but through our research we realised there is so much more."

Before factories, shipyards and large malls filled Jurong, the area was home to gambier and rubber plantations. It also hosted a spy and guerilla training camp, where the Japanese tried to build a submarine base during World War II.

Resident Soh Ah Choo, 71, recalled how as a child of eight she would walk barefoot from her kampung to the rubber plantation where her mother worked to take her lunch. The retired cleaner added that she misses her old kampung, which was demolished to make way for Jurong Road.

She said in Mandarin: "We kept pigs, we kept chickens, we planted trees. We were very poor, but we had so many friends."

Memories of residents such as Madam Soh were an important factor in the trail's design, said Ms Tham. "It's the residents' stories that made this trail come alive, how they felt so much fondness towards the place."

This Saturday's free NHB tours were fully booked within three weeks of registration.

Heritage buffs can also do a self-guided trail using a booklet published by NHB. It is available for download from the HeritageFest website or in hard copy at community centres in Jurong.

Jurong Heritage Trail officially launched
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 25 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The Jurong heritage trail which traces the development of the area was officially launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday (Apr 25).

The trail features 12 sites of heritage significance in the area, including Jurong Hill, Pandan Reservoir, and Jurong Lake.

Visitors can also explore the story of Jurong when it was formerly peppered with gambier and rubber plantations and follow its transformation into Singapore’s first industrial estate.

The launch also saw the opening of a new exhibition at the community museum in Taman Jurong, which explores the history of schools in Jurong since the 1930s. Titled My School is Cool: An Exhibition of Educational Institutions in Jurong, it also shows how the schools adapted to meet the challenges faced by the nation.

Mr Tharman said such efforts are worthwhile: "Most important is that the memories of our pioneers and the generation after them that will keep our culture going... Each generation will have its own memories and each generation will keep its memories for the future generations."

- CNA/ac

Read more!

More than 9 million plastic bags saved in 2014 with FairPrice BYOB scheme

Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: More than 9 million plastic bags were saved through the FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme in 2014, and more than S$450,000 in rebates given out, NTUC FairPrice announced on the eve of Earth Day. The number of plastic bags saved last year was a record for the supermarket chain.

FairPrice said in a news release on Tuesday (Apr 21) since the launch of its bring-your-own-bag scheme in 2007, it has given out more than S$2.3 million in rebates, which works out to more than 46.5 million plastic bags saved. Since launching this initiative, FairPrice has also seen an increase in plastic bags saved at its stores by about 10 per cent on-year.

FairPrice has been supporting the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Earth Hour movement this year by switching off all non-essential lights at its stores, offices and warehouses. It will also be donating S$12,500 to WWF.

- CNA/ac

Record 9 million plastic bags saved last year: NTUC FairPrice
Today Online 21 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE – NTUC FairPrice saved more than nine million plastic bags last year, making it the highest number of plastic bags saved since the launch of its FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme in 2007. The supermarket chain also gave out more than S$450,000 in rebates last year.

A spokesman said the number of plastic bags saved is derived by estimating from the amount of rebates given out yearly.

In a press release issued today (April 21), FairPrice said it has given out more than S$2.3 million in rebates to customers since 2007, which works out to savings of more than 46.5 million plastic bags.

Since launching the initiative - which urges shoppers to use less plastic bags - it has seen a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of plastic bags saved at its stores, said FairPrice.

Mr Koh Kok Sin, Chairperson of the FairPrice Green Committee said: “We are encouraged that our customers recognise the call to care for the Earth, and share our commitment to save plastic bags and take on other sustainable initiatives. We will continue to work together with our stakeholders to build a green and eco-friendly Singapore.”

Mr Koh said they will continue to upgrade and make their stores as eco-friendly as possible, and will find ways to raise environmental consciousness among shoppers. To date, there are 60 stores with green features such as energy-saving equipment and lighting.

FairPrice also said it has donated S$12,500 to WWF this year in support of Earth Hour.

NTUC FairPrice shoppers saved over 9 million plastic bags in 2014
AsiaOne 21 Apr 15;

Over 9 million plastic bags were saved and more than $450,000 in rebates were given out to shoppers through the FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme last year, NTUC FairPrice (FairPrice) said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Koh Kok Sin, Chairperson of the FairPrice Green Committee, said: "Securing a sustainable future for our Earth is the responsibility of everyone in this generation. We continue to upgrade and make our stores as eco-friendly as possible, find ways to raise environmental consciousness among shoppers, and encourage them to Think Green and Shop Green."

"We are encouraged that our customers recognise the call to care for the Earth, and share our commitment to save plastic bags and take on other sustainable initiatives. We will continue to work together with our stakeholders to build a green and eco-friendly Singapore."

The FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme was first launched in 2007 to encourage shoppers to reduce the use of plastic bags by bringing their own bags to carry their purchases.

Over the years, more than $2.3 million in rebates were given out as an estimated 46.5 million plastic bags were saved. The highest number of plastic bags was saved in 2014.

Besides encouraging shoppers to cut down on using plastic bags, FairPrice also supported Earth Hour this year by switching off all non-essential lights at its stores, offices and warehouses.

In addition, FairPrice donated $12,500 to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in its seventh year of supporting the initiative.

Read more!

Fishing impacts on the Great Barrier Reef

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies Science Daily 21 Apr 15;

Fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef, new research shows. Removing predatory fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef's fish populations, they say.

New research shows that fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef.

It's long been known that environmental impacts such as climate change and pollution are amongst the drivers of change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Now researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that removing predatory fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef's fish populations.

"A stable and healthy reef includes a high abundance and diversity of predatory fish and a relatively low number of herbivorous and small prey fish," says study lead author April Boaden, a PhD student at the Coral CoE.

"Predatory fish are extremely important for maintaining a balanced ecosystem on the reef, yet predators such as coral trout, snapper and emperor fish remain the main target for both recreational and commercial fishers," she says.

As part of the study, the researchers conducted extensive surveys of fish and their habitats at multiple sites across the Great Barrier Reef.

They compared fish communities in designated marine reserves (green zones), recreational fishing areas (yellow zones) and sites that allowed both commercial and recreational fishing (blue zones).

"We found that the fish communities on reefs differed greatly according to the level of fishing that they were subject to," Ms Boaden says.

"Predator numbers were severely depleted in heavily fished areas, while smaller prey fish such as damselfish, and herbivores such as parrotfish, had increased greatly in number having been released from predation."

The reduction in predator abundance through fishing altered the balance and structure of the coral reef ecosystem.

"Major disturbances such as cyclones, coral bleaching, climate change, Crown of Thorns Starfish and river run-off are thought to be the primary agents of change on the Great Barrier Reef," says study co-author, Professor Mike Kingsford from the Coral CoE.

"Despite this, we have demonstrated that great differences in the abundance of predatory reef fish, and of their prey, can be attributed to humans," Professor Kingsford says.

The findings support the continued and improved use of the existing marine networks on the Great Barrier Reef.

"The good news is that the data demonstrate that the current system of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef is effective in preserving predator numbers, and in doing so we can learn more about the processes affecting reefs in the face of multiple impacts," Professor Kingsford says.

"Fishing impacts are something that we can manage fairly easily compared to other threats such as climate change and run-off pollution, which are threatening the Great Barrier Reef," adds Ms Boaden.

Journal Reference: A. E. Boaden, M. .J Kingsford. Predators drive community structure in coral reef fish assemblages. Ecosphere, 2015; 6 (4): art46 DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00292.1

Read more!

Illegal trade in endangered wildlife thriving on eBay despite controls

World’s largest online marketplace failing to combat online illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts despite a policy of deleting adverts, while many sites flourish completely unregulated, reports Yale Environment 360
Ted Williams for Yale Environment360, part of the Guardian Environment Network
The Guardian 21 Apr 15;

Illegal online trafficking in imperiled wildlife is rampant, and attempted controls are few and largely ineffective. Log on to most any international internet store that deals in wildlife or wildlife parts, and you’ll find a charnel house of endangered and protected species hawked openly or under phony names and in violation of US law and international agreements.

The world’s largest online marketplace by far, eBay, is one of the few that makes a serious effort to control wildlife smuggling by deleting ads for illegal products — but only the few it notices or hears about. Chris Nagano of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Division is a trained lepidopterist. When I asked him if he sees any ads for illegal butterflies on eBay he replied: “There are a number of imperiled butterflies openly advertised on eBay, including some listed under the Endangered Species Act or protected under laws of countries they inhabit. Some of these species are sold to collectors for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.”

Ivory products are the most popular wildlife items on internet markets, despite a global ban on ivory sales imposed by the 180-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The National Academy of Sciences, a body of scholars established by the US Congress, estimates that 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers between 2010 and 2012, mostly to sate ivory demand of China’s newly-moneyed middle class. At that unsustainable rate elephants are likely to be extinct in the wild within two decades.

In less than 10 minutes I found what looked like five ivory trinkets on eBay. When I reported them to Ryan Moore, eBay’s senior manager of global corporate affairs, four were confirmed and immediately deleted. A week later I told him about an ad for the critically endangered, globally protected Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, the world’s largest butterfly with wings sometimes spanning a foot and males aglow with iridescent yellows, blues and greens — the holy grail of collectors. Next day the ad was gone.

But such deletions scarcely make a dent. And although eBay has installed filters to catch words like “ivory,” smugglers dance around them. First, they called ivory “fauxivory”. When filters caught that ruse, smugglers called ivory “ox bone” — until filters picked up that, too. Each time eBay programs an alias into its filters another pops up. In the apt analogy of the company’s regulations and policy boss, Wolfgang Weber, kicking wildlife smugglers off eBay’s international sites is like playing the game “Whack-a-Mole.”

The sellers would say, ‘Don’t worry. We do this all the time. We’ve got contacts with customs'.
Ken McCloud
Private citizens like me — and even large NGOs — are hampered in our investigations because we can only flag what’s illegal or looks that way. We can’t procure hard evidence by buying the actual contraband because we’d be violating national and international laws. Not so with retired US Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Ken McCloud.

Before he left the service in 2007, McCloud was in charge of all eBay investigations for the agency’s eight regions. In 2011 he took on an assignment for his then-employer — the Burlingame, California-based Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, which is not your typical humane outfit in that it is wildlife-savvy. McCloud got permission from his former Office of Law Enforcement colleagues to buy wildlife contraband on eBay.

“I just started ordering illegal items offered overseas that eBay had already warned sellers about,” he says. “I’d write the sellers through eBay and say, ‘Is this illegal and are we gonna get in trouble for it?’ They’d write back and say, ‘Don’t worry; we do this all the time. We’ve got contacts with [US] customs’. The correspondence was juicy and blatant. When I used to go undercover to work our educated US poachers and smugglers, it would take me at least a month to get them to trust me. These guys on eBay would open up the second I showed any concern. They’d give me examples of how they paid people off. Everything I bought came in falsely labeled.”

When eBay officials came to Burlingame in 2011 to view the enormous display of eBay contraband McCloud and Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA president Ken White had set up in a conference room, they were “blown away and horrified,” to borrow White’s words. “It looked like a black-market silent auction,” as one of White’s staffers put it. Soon thereafter eBay flew McCloud to its Salt Lake City, Utah, office for a day to teach screeners wildlife identification.

Rare butterfly for sale on Ebay Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Rare butterfly for sale on Ebay Photograph: Ebay
Until last May, McCloud was sending eBay pages-long lists of contraband he and his volunteers found advertised on its sites, along with the specific laws being violated. Here are four examples of thousands:

“Ocelot is an endangered species and CITES Appendix I and if shipped to the USA will be in felony violation of the Lacey Act.”
“Siamese Croc., endangered species, CITES App. I & felony Lacey Act & Money Laundering.”
“Real python skin CITES App. II purse offered in international commerce and in violation of felony Lacey Act.”
“Real lynx coat offered in international commerce in violation of CITES and felony Lacey Act.”
As McCloud’s listings of illegal ads poured in, eBay deleted many of them. But filter dodging continued.

Ken White describes eBay as “a good company with a desire to do right,” but one that still offers “a tremendous amount of illegal animal products”. White and McCloud weren’t interested in doing a sting. They wanted to work with, not against, eBay; and for a brief time they did. The company even provided modest funding; but White says he needed lots more.

“As far as we ever heard from eBay they were thrilled with how we were helping make their marketplace better,” says White. “But they wouldn’t allow us to talk about the problem through the media or even through grant requests for the financial support we believed was available. We’re a large humane society with a $13m (£8.7m) operating budget, but that’s nothing in their world. So we ran out of money and had to shut down the program.

After a report found 4,304 ivory links on eBay, the company banned ivory sales from its international sites.
“This was an opportunity for a huge corporation to set an example. But eBay was unwilling to allow us to tell the story. Not only am I disappointed that they pulled the plug on our program but that it didn’t become a model for the way corporate America can work with environmental and animal welfare organizations.”

When I asked eBay’s senior manager for global regulation, Mike Rou, for a response, he referred me back to White.

Internet traffic in wildlife was accelerating the extinction process even a decade ago. In 2004 the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) launched an investigation called “Caught in the Web” that documented massive online marketing of live endangered and protected species and their parts including elephants, rhinos, sea turtles, tigers, lions, falcons, gorillas, parrots, and serval cats.

Three years later, another IFAW investigation, “Bidding for Extinction,” focused on eBay sites in the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, France, and China. IFAW reported that “of those [2,275] items we investigated, more than 90% breached the stated ivory listing policies of the respective eBay websites.”

Any US business that helps sell wildlife or wildlife parts unlawfully obtained from any nation (or in the US and transported between states, if the value is at least $350) can be prosecuted for felony violation of the Lacey Act. This fact and all the bad press provided by yet another IFAW investigation in 2008 were apparently not lost on eBay. That investigation, “Killing with Keystrokes,” revealed that of 5,159 elephant ivory listings on 7,122 online links in eight countries, 4,304 were offered by eBay. Almost simultaneously with the report’s release, the company banned ivory sale from its international sites.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t have a cyber crimes unit, but IFAW’s findings inspired it to launch undercover stings in 2011 and 2012 called respectively Operation Cyberwild and Operation Wild Web.

In the second and more ambitious sting, agents from the service, 16 US states, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia hit the Internet hard for two weeks. They didn’t pay much attention to eBay because it had made an effort to police itself. They focused instead on other sites like Etsy (apparently getting a reaction because Etsy followed eBay’s good example in 2013). Nor did they pay much attention to ivory because lobbying by big-game hunting interests, most notably Safari Club International, has riddled U.S. ivory laws with so many loopholes they’re nearly impossible to understand, let alone enforce.

The team didn’t go after the sites themselves. Instead, it targeted traffickers, making 154 busts. Crimes included selling everything from skins of tiger, leopard, and jaguar to whale teeth, walrus tusks, elephant ivory, dangerous invasive fish like piranhas, walking catfish, and live snakes and migratory birds.

The team knew it wouldn’t catch any big-time smugglers, but it also knew the power of publicity and how to work the media. Everyone cited was prosecuted amid a blizzard of press releases and smartly maestroed media feeding frenzies.

For a while traffickers got the message. Forty-eight hours after Operation Wild Web shut down, it had been mentioned 335 million times on the Internet.

The State of Florida, an enthusiastic participant in Operation Wild Web and with a cyber crimes unit, liked the sting so much that it does repeats about every eight months.

The ban on ivory imposed by eBay has had mixed results. In 2013, IFAW found that ads for endangered wildlife products in Australia, most on eBay, had increased 266% since 2008. A year later it documented a 48% increase in apparent ivory items offered by eBay in the UK On the other hand, IFAW’s team leader for wildlife cyber crime, Tania McCrea-Steele, told me this: “The ivory ban is working well on eBay sites based in Canada, Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.”

That progress doesn’t amount to much globally, and such voluntary measures clearly aren’t a solution. Last year IFAW looked at 280 online markets across 16 countries. In just six weeks it found ads for 33,006 endangered animals and their parts. About one-third were for elephant ivory.

So what is the solution? Regional field offices of the Fish and Wildlife Service have had serious discussions with prosecutors about charging eBay under a section of the federal code called “Causing an Act to be Done.” But it’s probably not a smart move for the US or any other CITES nation to take legal action against eBay. The service’s big artillery piece — Lacey Act felony prosecution — would likely be ineffective against a company that attempts, however unsuccessfully, to delete illegal items. According to Joe Johns, environmental crimes chief for the US Attorney’s office in central California, prosecution under Lacey Act misdemeanor provisions — which require only proof of negligence, not knowledge and intent — might well succeed. But that’s a BB gun.

To save endangered species, CITES nations need to move with more than misdemeanor indictments against the worst online markets. Consider the mountains of wildlife contraband available on eBay, one of the very few sites that makes a good-faith effort at control, then imagine what traffic is like on those that don’t.

Global Internet marketplaces need to be required by legislation to ban all wildlife products, regardless of species, and all imitation ivory products. That’s the only way to shut down illegal trafficking and significantly slow the accelerating extinction rate.

Read more!

EU threatens Thailand with trade ban over illegal fishing

World’s third-largest seafood exporter given six months to clean up its industry where ‘illegal fishing is almost totally allowed’
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 21 Apr 15;

The EU has given Thailand, the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, six months to crack down on illegal fishing or face a trade ban on its fish imports.

South Korea and the Philippines though have escaped the commission’s net after bringing in legal reforms and improved control and inspection systems.

“The commission has put Thailand on formal notice, after identifying serious shortcoming in its fish monitoring, control and sanctioning systems,” the environment and fisheries commissioner, Karmenu Vella told a press conference in Brussels. “There are no controls whatsoever and no efforts being made whatsoever and illegal fishing is almost totally allowed.”

Unless Thailand now cleans up its fishing industry, it risks an embargo on its fish exports in October. EU vessels could also be prevented from fishing in Thai waters.

To avert sanctions, “as a minimum we would expect that control and monitoring measures and enforcements should come into place,” Vella told the Guardian.

Thailand’s agriculture ministry has announced a six-point plan for combatting illegal fishing. But meeting the EU benchmarks by October is considered unlikely, as Thailand’s legal and regulatory framework for fishing has not been changed since it was drawn up in 1947.

A high percentage of the Thai fishing fleet is unregistered and outside government control. Even registered vessels often sail without strong catch documentation and operation certificates.

“They have a long way to go,” an EU source told the Guardian. “But we are not looking for trade sanctions so it is really up to them to decide.”

The EU’s ‘yellow card’ to Thailand is the most high profile action taken against illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, under a 2010 regulation against such practises.

“Yellow-carding has been proved to be a strong incentive for states to combat illegal fishing,” said Tony Long, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ending Illegal Fishing project. “Commissioner Vella has shown global leadership in implementing the EU’s tough illegal fishing regulation against such a significant fishing state.”

Thailand’s global fish exports were valued at €7bn (£5bn) in 2013. Last year, €642m of that catch – weighing 145,907 tonnes – was destined for European dishes, where it made up over 3% of the continent’s overall fish imports.

According to Eurostat, the UK has the largest appetite for Thai fish, consuming over €153.4m of it a year, closely followed by Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Much of that will have been caught by pirates.

Illegal fishing in the Asia-Pacific region killed between 3.8-8.1m tonnes of fish in 2014, according to one report. In Thailand, up to 39% of wild-caught seafood entering the US market last year is estimated to have been unlawfully caught.

Illegal fishing trawlers have also been accused of using Thais as slave labour on fishing expeditions, with their catches entering the global food supply chain via Thai ports.

After the de-listing of South Korea, the Philippines and Belize, Cambodia, Guinea and Sri Lanka are the only countries affected by the ‘red card’ from Brussels for illegal fishing. While welcoming news that Thailand could soon be joining it, some conservationists protested that the de-listing had been premature and partial.

“Serious concerns remain about the South Korean fishing fleet and the role of the Korean authorities in clamping down on illegal fishing,” said the Swedish Green Party’s fisheries spokesperson, Linnéa Engström. “South Korea has introduced new legislation but this has been criticised as insufficient and cosmetic, while implementation remains open to question.”

The Greens argue that European trading interests with Korea have been allowed to trump marine conservation, even as the threat of EU sanctions has led other countries to revise their fishing laws.

Fish catches measured per unit of effort in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea have already plunged by more than 86% since 1966 and boats now catch just 14% of what they caught in the mid-1960s, according to the Environment Justice Foundation.

Depleted fish stocks have spurred a ‘ghost fleet’ of unregistered pirate ships that plunder the waters of other countries, often under assumed identities, the group says.

An estimated 11-26m tonnes – or 15% - of the world’s fish are caught illegally each year.

Read more!

Climate change: Paris 'last chance' for action

Helen Briggs BBC 22 Apr 15;

Scientists are calling on world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action at landmark talks in Paris.

The key element is the goal to limit global warming to below 2C by moving to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The UN meeting in December is "the last chance" to avert dangerous climate change, according to the Earth League.

Scientific evidence shows this can be achieved, but only with bold action now, says an alliance of climate researchers from 17 institutions.

The statement involves eight calls for action:
=Limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius
=Keeping future CO2 emissions below 1,000 gigatonnes (billion tonnes)
=Creating a zero-carbon society by 2050
=Equity of approach - with richer countries helping poorer ones
=Technological research and innovation
=A global strategy to address loss and damage from climate change
=Safeguarding ecosystems such as forests and oceans that absorb CO2
=Providing climate finance for developing countries.

Chair of the Earth League, Johan Rockstrom, of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, said the statement set out the scientific stance on what needed to happen at the Paris talks.

"Six years after the failure at Copenhagen, the world now has a second chance to agree upon a safe pathway towards a future that does not undermine human well-being in the world."

He said the statement summarised what the group of scientists believe has to happen at the Paris talks to avoid the risk of severe climate change linked with sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts and floods.

"The window is still open but just barely," he said. "There is still an opportunity to transition into a safe, reasonably stable climate future."

He added: "The statement says very clearly that 2 degrees is the absolute upper limit that the world should aim for."

'In this together'

The Earth League includes 17 scientific research institutions around the world, including two in the UK.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins of the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College, London, said to achieve the goal, global carbon emissions would need to peak around 2020 and fall very rapidly to near zero by around 2050.

He said rich countries would have to take the lead on this and help the less developed world.

"We're all in this together - we share one planet, we share one atmosphere, we share one climate system."

The statement was released to coincide with Earth Day, an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

Read more!