Best of our wild blogs: 16-17 Jan 16

FREE Guided Herp Walk @ Treetop Walk!
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Reserve (15 Jan 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Seletar Country Club
Butterflies of Singapore

I Finally met aliens
Nature's Amore

Read more!

New measures introduced to improve safety and security on Pulau Ubin

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 17 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — With more visitors descending on Pulau Ubin in recent times, crime prevention, fire safety and safe cycling tips will be dished out to islanders and visitors as part of a new safety and security initiative launched on the island this morning (Jan 17).

The Pulau Ubin Safety and Security Team (SST) will be stationed at the island's public jetty and the Chek Jawa Wetlands every third Sunday of each month, spreading the word on crime prevention, fire safety and safe cycling habits. The team is also trained to keep a lookout for criminal activity, serving as the police's eyes and ears on the ground.

The team, which began their patrols last December, is composed of grassroots volunteers from the Changi Point-Ubin Area Sub Committee and the Siglap Community Emergency and Engagement Committee as well as Civil Defence Lionhearters from Temasek Polytechnic and ITE College East.

The SST draws on a pool of between 30 and 40 volunteers, with about 10 volunteers patrolling alongside police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers each time the team is deployed on the island, a police spokesperson told reporters at the launch, which was attended by Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs), Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman.

As part of its efforts to impart safe cycling tips, the SST will remind cyclists to dismount and push their bicycles at dangerous spots, such as steep slopes, and to don appropriate safety gear.

Pulau Ubin, which draws about 2,000 visitors to its shores every weekend, is a known hotspot for cycling accidents. In January last year, TODAY reported that the National Parks Board (NParks) was considering the possibility of establishing a first-aid facility there, as interest in cycling on the island grows.

Last July, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) set up a temporary first-aid post on the island, as part of its First Aiders on Wheels programme. The first-aid post, manned by SRC volunteers and staff, operates every public holiday.

Civil Defence Lionhearter Norfikah Samsudin, 21, who is part of the SST, felt it was important to promote safe cycling on the island, because some cyclists do not heed the warning signs put up at dangerous spots, resulting in injuries.

"The (cycling) tracks here are not really that ... (even)," said the second-year facility management student at ITE College East.

Pulau Ubin visitors to get safety, security tips
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 18 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — With Pulau Ubin drawing about 2,000 visitors each weekend and more people making trips there in recent times, tips on crime prevention, fire safety and safe cycling will be given to islanders and visitors as part of a new safety and security initiative launched today (Jan 17).

A recently-formed Pulau Ubin Safety and Security Team will be stationed near the island’s jetty and outside the Chek Jawa Wetlands, every third Sunday of each month, to help create awareness on these concerns.

The team, which began patrols in December, is made up of grass roots volunteers from the Changi Point-Ubin Area Sub-Committee and the Siglap Community Emergency and Engagement Committee, as well as the Civil Defence Lionhearters from Temasek Polytechnic and ITE College East.

There are about 30 to 40 volunteers, with about 10 of them patrolling alongside police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers each time it is deployed on the island, a police spokesperson told reporters at the launch.

The team builds on the Ubin Community on Patrol, which began patrols on the island in 2009 to promote safe cycling practices. Some of the safety tips that the new team will offer include reminding riders to dismount and push their bicycles when they arrive at dangerous spots, such as steep slopes, and to wear proper safety gear.

Madam Doreen Ling, 61, a retiree on the team, noted that six in 10 cyclists would heed advice to rent a helmet, while others were wary that it could be unhygienic. Student volunteer Norfikah Samsudin, 21, recalled how in December, a cyclist ignored their advice to dismount and push his bicycle near Chek Jawa Wetlands, where tracks are quite uneven, and ended up falling and injuring his knee.

The team members, who underwent a one-day training programme conducted by the police and SCDF, also impart fire safety and crime prevention advice to visitors and residents by means of patrols and house visits.

Madam Ling said that members were trained to detect signs — such as persons in drenched clothes particularly on Chek Jawa Wetlands, which is adjacent to the sea — that could indicate that they may have entered Singapore’s shores illegally.

New Ubin scheme to push safety message
Lester Hio, The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Jan 16;

Pulau Ubin now has an improved scheme where volunteers promote safe cycling habits to visitors and provide fire safety advice.

The Pulau Ubin Safety and Security Team initiative was launched yesterday at the kampung island, by the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force, together with the Siglap Citizens' Consultative Committee and the National Parks Board.

The team will spread crime prevention messages and serve as the eyes and ears for the police on the island. It comprises grassroots volunteers from the Changi Point-Ubin Area sub-committee, along with members of the Civil Defence Lionhearters and Siglap Community Emergency and Engagement Committee.

This initiative is part of the Home Team's community engagement efforts on Pulau Ubin to boost safety and security there.

The team is an enhancement to the Ubin Community on Patrol initiative, formed in 2009, where volunteers patrol near Punai Hut, outside the Chek Jawa Wetlands, every third Sunday of the month.

During their patrols, these volunteers provide advice on safe cycling practices, such as dismounting and pushing bicycles on steep slopes, and wearing proper cycling gear. They are also trained to provide basic first aid, where necessary.

Read more!

Ex-HDB chief says no to popular demands, ‘turkeys’ in urban planning

LOUISA TANG Today Online 15 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — When it comes to policymaking, the Government needs to consciously make decisions not just by listening to the people, but to also source widely for opinions, Singapore’s former chief architect Liu Thai Ker said.

Raising an example from his 20-year experience in the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which began in 1969, the former HDB head told of how residents would ask the authorities for a bus-stop on their streets, but they would not want the bus-stop to be “in front of their house”.

“If we listened to that,” Dr Liu said, “since nobody wanted to put bus-stops in front of their houses, there would be no bus-stops. It is quite undesirable and dangerous for any government official to say, ‘I’m doing this because I’m responding to people’s requests’. That, to me, is not serving the best interests of the people.”

Dr Liu was speaking today (Jan 15) at the second of a six-part dialogue series with Singapore pioneers titled Pioneering the Future, jointly organised by The Economic Development Board (EDB) Society and The Straits Times. He was one of the keynote speakers along with Singapore Airlines founding chairman JY Pillay, who also used to be managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Dr Liu added that policymakers should listen to professional associations as well, given that businesses “have a broader perspective”. This was vital to him during his time in the Urban Redevelopment Authority, he said, where he was chief planner from 1989 to 1992.

He stressed the importance of having a long-term “grand civic design” for Singapore in the future. Going back to remarks he had boldly made previously, he added that planning for a population of 10 million in Singapore is one way to retain the nation’s status as a global city and to “advance further to become a great city”.

“(We should also) identify certain physical errors for grand urban design… and look at cultural developments,” he said.

Dr Liu envisioned Singapore’s physical infrastructure to be a “bird of paradise”, stating that he had drawn up a concrete plan to see land use flourish over the next 100 years, but Singapore’s urban planners are now designing the city-state for just the next 15 years, like a “turkey”.

“You must think through the issues and understand them carefully… find the root cause and the most effective solution, and once you have that, you dare to go against world trends,” he said.

Read more!

Warmer-than-usual conditions to persist in Singapore

According to the Meteorological Service of Singapore, the first two weeks of the year saw the hottest mean temperature for January.
Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The average temperature for January this year is likely to be "significantly warmer" than the long-term mean of 26.5 degrees Celsius for January, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

In a media release on Friday (Jan 15), MSS said temperatures in January will likely be between 24 to 34 degrees Celsius.

"The significantly warmer than usual temperatures experienced in recent months can be attributed to the prevailing strong El Nino, which is currently at a mature level," MSS said. For the next few months, El Nino is still expected to bring drier and warmer conditions to Singapore.

Based on the first fortnight of 2016, Singapore saw its hottest ever January, with the mean temperature for the first two weeks coming in at 28.1 degrees Celsius.

"This value exceeds the highest ever recorded mean temperature of 28.0 degrees Celsius (recorded in 1998) for the whole of January," MSS said.

The mean maximum temperature for the first fortnight of January 2016 was 31.3 degrees Celsius, while the mean lowest temperature was 25.9 degrees Celsius,. This is above the long-term average mean of 30.4 degrees Celsius and 23.9 degrees Celsius for January, respectively, MSS said.

Despite the hot weather, the island is likely to experience widespread rain and occasionally windy conditions on two to three days for the next fortnight, thanks to stronger northeasterly winds over the region due to the Northeast Monsoon, the Met Services added.

For the other days, MSS said to expect short showers in the afternoon and early evening on five to seven days.

Still, rainfall for the month of January is expected to be below normal.

Warmer than usual days in second half of January
Today Online 15 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Expect the warm weather to continue over the next two weeks. 

The mean monthly temperature for this month is likely to be significantly warmer than its long-term mean of 26.5°C, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) today (Jan 15). The temperature for January is forecast to range between 24°C and 34°C.

The first two weeks of this month also saw a mean temperature of 28.1°C, which exceeds the highest-ever recorded mean temperature of 28.0°C in 1998 for the whole of the month.

These significantly warmer than usual temperatures in recent months can be attributed to the prevailing strong El Nino, said the MSS.

The El Nino is expected to gradually weaken over the next few months and return to neutral conditions by “around mid-2016”, based on the forecasts from international climate centres.


For two to three days, Singapore is likely to experience widespread rain and occasionally windy conditions. Short thundery showers can be mainly expected in the afternoon and early evening on five to seven days. These showers may be heavy at times on days, said the MSS.

Still, rainfall for January is expected to be below normal. The rainfall for the first two weeks of this month was “well below average”, said the MSS.

Expect more hot weather in next few months; January set to be hotter than usual
Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE - Expect hot and dry weather for the next few months.

Cooler weather will set in only in the middle of the year, when the El Nino effect is expected to gradually weaken, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Friday (Jan 15).

The average temperature this month is expected to be significantly warmer than usual, with the temperature range forecast to be between 24 and 34 deg C.

The mean temperature for the first fortnight of January was 28.1 deg C, topping the highest-ever recorded mean temperature of 28 deg C for the whole of January, which was recorded in 1998.

The mean monthly temperature is likely to be significantly warmer than the long-term average of 26.5 deg C for January, NEA said.

The mean daily maximum temperature for the first fortnight of January was 31.3 deg C, well above the long-term average mean of 30.4 deg C.

The warm weather is due to a strong El Nino, which is now at a "mature level", NEA said.

But there will be some rainy days in January due to stronger north-easterly winds, NEA said. For the next fortnight, north-east monsoon conditions are expected to persist.

Singapore is likely to experience widespread rain and occasionally windy conditions on two to three days.

Short thundery showers can be expected in the afternoon and early evening on five to seven days. But rainfall for January 2016 is expected to be below normal.

Read more!

Malaysia halts bauxite mining in Pahang for 3 months

Bauxite mining activities have been suspended in the Malaysian state of Pahang after complaints over pollution and concern for public health.
Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: After widespread concern for public health and the environment, bauxite mining activities in Malaysia's Pahang state has come to a halt for three-months as of Friday (Jan 15).

On Jan 6, Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Wan Jaafar and Pahang Chief Minister Adnan Yaakob announced a moratorium on all mining activities for the world's main source of aluminium after residents complained of dust pollution and rivers and seas running red.

The three months will be used to clear the eleven existing stockpiles through export, shifting whatever remains to a central stockpile with proper drainage, washing bays and filtration.

"Hopefully after the moratorium period we can come up with a very comprehensive plan which can solve this problem permanently to the satisfaction of all people, of all quarters," said Mr Adnan.

The Minister has warned that those who fail to comply with the moratorium will be charged under the Minerals Development Act 1994.

Authorities are also cracking down on corruption in an industry where rampant and illegal mining is a problem. At least 10 officials from the Pahang Land and Mines Department have been remanded to facilitate investigations. Two have been charged for graft related to illegal mining.

Bauxite mining took off in Pahang after Indonesia banned the export of all mineral ore in 2014 to encourage domestic processing. According to Reuters, Malaysia accounted for over 40 percent of China's 49 million tonnes of bauxite imports across January to November 2015.

The mining boom has left layers of red dust coating roads to cars around Pahang's capital, Kuantan. Locals in the town along Peninsular Malaysia's east coast blame bauxite mining for turning parts of the sea and rivers red as well.

Health officials have warned of potential long term health risks, deterring residents from going near the water or buying seafood.

"I don't let my children go to the river, play in the river, I'm scared," one mother of four living near Sungai Balok told Channel NewsAsia.

- CNA/rw

Read more!

Malaysia: ‘Trash’ in Klang River revealed to be trail of dead fish

D. KANYAKUMARI The Star 16 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: A close inspection of unusual amounts of “garbage” in the Klang River on Friday revealed a trail of dead fish flowing from Masjid Jamek all the way to Brickfields.

Graphic designer Jeffrey Lim, 37, told The Star Online on Friday that he noticed the situation at about 11am on Friday when he was cycling along the bicycle lane in Brickfields, which runs alongside the Klang River.

“I noticed an odd amount of trash, more than usual, in the river. When I looked closer, I realised it was dead fish.

“It stretched as far upriver and downriver as I could see. Later, I met a fellow cyclist who had just got off the monorail at Tun Sambanthan station and he mentioned that he too had seen it from the train,” he said, adding that his friend said the trail of dead fish stretched as far as Pasar Seni.

Lim said he and his friend then cycled further to investigate the situation, which is when they climbed down the embankment and took the pictures of the dead fish.

“After that I headed off for an appointment, and when I returned an hour later, there were still dead fish flowing from upriver, so I decided to trace the source of the dead fish.

“I arrived at Masjid Jamek just before the rain started and found that it was coming from the Sungai Gombak side, which means it could be from the northwest, or north Sungai Batu, Sungai Keroh or even north Sungai Gombak,” he said.

Lim said he then came across some people from NGO River of Life who told him that they had seen the flow of dead fish since early Friday.

Read more!

Malaysia: Terengganu not taking chances despite drop in dengue cases

QISHIN TARIQ The Star 17 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: There is a drop in the number of dengue patients in the state but the capital here remains on high alert after two new localities were declared outbreak areas.

State Health Department director Dr Mohamed Omar said the new localities – Kondo Rakyat Kuala Ibai and Lorong Bakti – brought the total number of outbreak areas to 14.

However, he said the total number of dengue patients in Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah – where all dengue cases are being referred to – had dropped to 100 from 125 on Friday.

At the peak, the hospital had three dedicated dengue wards, serving 159 patients.

“It’s under control, though it’s still in an outbreak situation. We have fewer cases, but they’re spread out,” Dr Mohamed told a press conference before a statewide Gotong-Royong Perdana programme yesterday.

Dr Mohamed said new cases had decreased to about 10-15 a day, about the same level as before the outbreak was declared.

“Problem is, in Kuala Terengganu, people can travel between localities in under five minutes,” he said, adding that people who had the virus could spread it when a mosquito bit them and transferred it to someone else.

State Assembly Speaker Datuk Mohd Zubir Embong called the rising trend “very worrying”, saying there had been 123 cases, up from 60 in the same period last year.

Kampung Panji Alam and Haji Losong were still the worst hit areas, with 24 and 18 cases.

He said residents appeared slack about keeping their areas clean, with some areas that had gotong-royong programmes already seeing garbage strewn around again.

Mohd Zubir said the state had been more strict – issuing 69 compounds to dirty areas in the last month.

He said the Gotong-Royong Perdana programme had the participation of some 1,000 volunteers from colleges, the Health Depar­t­ment, the Fire and Rescue Depart­ment and the 1M4U squad.

The Health Department hopes to declare the outbreak over by the end of the month.

According to its protocol, no new cases are to be reported for 14 days before an area can be declared cleared.

Read more!

Indonesia: Two Sumatran tiger cubs born at Bukittinggi wildlife park

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 16 Jan 16;

A Sumatran tiger at the Kinantan Cultural and Wildlife Park (TMBK) in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, gave birth to a pair of male cubs on Thursday, increasing the number of Sumatran tigers at the park to seven.

TMBK head Ikbal said that the mother tiger, Sean, was 4-years-old and had been pregnant for three months before delivering her cubs. The gestation period for tigers ranges from 80 to 100 days.

“At 8 in the morning, our officers noticed the mother had given birth to two tigers, each weighing 1.5 kilograms and in robust health,” Ikbal told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

According to Ikbal, Sean shares a cage with her mate, 4-year-old Si Bancah; to prevent trouble, Sean and her two babies have now been moved.

“We’ve isolated Sean and her two babies from Si Bancah and visitors because they could distract her. The mother tiger might even refuse to breastfeed her cubs,” Ikbal said.

The isolation period would last around two months, Ikbal said, based on the park’s previous experience, in 2014, of a female tiger giving birth.

After two months, Ikbal said, Sean and her babies would be returned to Si Bancah’s cage, where visitors would be allowed to observe them and, on certain occasions, touch them.

The two infant tigers will have been given names by the time they are introduced to the public.

With the births of the two cubs, the park boasts seven Sumatran tigers, four of them male.

“This has been a happy week for us because on Jan. 7 a clouded leopard also gave birth to a healthy cub here,” Ikbal revealed.

West Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) head Margo Utomo warmly welcomed the birth of the two tiger cubs, referring to it as a blessing for the beginning of the year.

“This news comes as very welcome news in light of the current decreasing tiger population,” Margo said.

The population of Sumatran tigers, he added, was currently was around 400 in the whole of Sumatra, and the species is under severe threat. Last year the West Sumatra BKSDA found a tiger that had been killed as a result of conflict with humans.

“We are optimistic that tiger habitats still exist in the forests of West Sumatra. We installed a camera in a protected forest in Pasaman, and it recorded footage showing four tigers,” Margo said.

His office’s primary function, he went on, was to prevent the tiger population from falling any further by working to prevent conflict with humans arising in buffer zones.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Sumatran tiger as a critically endangered species since 1996.

The organization reported that the species had been struggling with habitat loss amid expansion of oil palm and acacia plantations, as well as illegal trade, primarily for the domestic market.

Poachers frequently hunt the tigers, which are native to the vast and diverse habitats of Sumatra, as their body parts fetch high prices for their use in traditional Chinese medicine.

In August last year, the Indonesian police arrested four men for allegedly killing a Sumatran tiger and trying to sell its body parts.

Acting on a tipoff, a group of police officers posing as potential buyers arrested the men as they allegedly attempted to sell the tiger’s skin, bones and teeth.

Read more!

Indonesia: Authorities, hospitals brace for dengue fever outbreak

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari & Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 16 Jan 16;

Indonesia is anticipating an outbreak of dengue fever after the disease killed dozens of people in several regions and hospitalized hundreds of others following the country’s entry into the rainy season over the past several weeks.

In Gorontalo municipality, a six-year-old child from Pulubala subdistrict died earlier this week due to dengue fever. Meanwhile, scores of local residents have been put under intensive hospital treatment due to a similar disease.

Yana Suleman, head of the disease control and environmental health (P2PL) unit at the Gorontalo Health Agency, said the number of dengue fever patients would likely increase as local hospitals had reported an increasing number of incoming patients showing symptoms of dengue fever.

“The hospitals need to wait for lab results to confirm whether a person is suffering from dengue fever. Looking at the current situation, the list of [dengue fever] patients will probably get longer,” she told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Dengue fever is a disease carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It takes between four and 10 days for symptoms to manifest after a person has been bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. The most common signs are high fever, severe headache, nausea, swollen glands and joint pain.

Apart from carrying out regular fogging measures, Yana said her agency had been campaigning to encourage local residents to maintain cleanliness in their houses and communities, particularly during the wet season, when mosquitoes usually reproduced quickly.

Locals, she added, must also implement the 3M-plus procedure, or mengubur (bury), menguras (drain) and menutup (cover), in order to eliminate stagnant water in which mosquitoes can breed.

Last year, Gorontalo recorded 62 dengue fever cases, four of which produced fatalities.

As of Thursday, the 350-bed Aloei Saboe General Hospital (RSUD), the biggest hospital in Gorontalo province, had been forced to admit 400 patients due to the increasing number of incoming dengue fever patients from the provincial capital of Gorontalo and from several neighboring regions.

Femmy Udoki, a local resident, said she had found it difficult to get her child admitted to a hospital in the city after the latter’s lab test for dengue fever had come back positive.

“Last [Wednesday] night, I checked every hospital in the city but all of them were full,” she told the Post at Aloei Saboe RSUD’s emergency unit.

Meanwhile in Bandung, West Java Deputy Governor Deddy Mizwar called on all hospitals in the province to prepare for a dengue fever outbreak after the disease killed 17 people in Indramayu regency in the past three months.

“The hospitals must be ready to provide immediate medical assistance to dengue fever patients as the disease can be fatal if a patient receives late medical assistance,” he said on Friday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

The disease has also killed three people in Merangin, Jambi, two people in Boyolali, Central Java, and one in Sleman, Yogyakarta, during the first two weeks of this year.

Head of Kolonel Abundjani Bangko General Hospital in Merangin, Berman Saragih, said that the hospital had treated 29 dengue fever patients since the beginning of this year, most of them children and elderly people.

“To contain the spread of the disease, we will work with the local health agency to carry out fogging measures in more areas in the regency,” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: La Nina forecast to begin in September 2016

Antara 15 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The natural phenomenon of La Nina, which usually triggers a heavy rainy season in Indonesia, is forecast to begin in September 2016, according to the national meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG).

"We continue to monitor the signs of La Nina, and we do not exactly know how it would be. El Nino is forecast to weaken after March, following which there will be a balance, and thereafter, La Nina will occur whose impacts would likely be felt in the end of 2016," Head of BMKGs Meteorology and Publication Department, Mulyono R. Prabowo, stated here, recently.

He could not forecast the intensity of La Nina, but it would usually be milder. He, however, cautioned inhabitants of the regions prone to landslides to be on alert.

La Nina would likely trigger floods in urban areas such as Jakarta, he pointed out.

"Southern Jakarta will experience high precipitation, and it will affect Central Jakarta," he noted.

Sea tides and the lack of water absorption areas could worsen the flooding.

"In such a situation, water pumps will not be effective," he remarked.

Both El Nino and La Nina have an impact on Indonesia, he affirmed.

El Nino usually causes a significant reduction in precipitation and triggers droughts such as what had occurred in 2015.

Prabowo has forecast high precipitation in February and March this year, and later it will slow down.

The meteorology agency and the Agriculture Ministry have developed a dynamic planting calendar to help farmers decide when to plant and which crops are suitable for planting in certain seasons.(*)

La Niña expected to bring heavy rainfall
The Jakarta Post 16 Jan 16;

JAKARTA: The weather phenomenon known as La Niña, which usually triggers heavy rains in the country, is expected to start in September this year, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

“We will continue to monitor the signs of La Niña, and we don’t exactly know what it will look like. The current El Niño is forecast to weaken after March, soon after we will have a lull. But soon after that we will have La Niña, the impact of which is likely to be felt at the end of 2016,” BMKG spokesperson Mulyono R. Prabowo said as quoted by Antara.

The BMKG however expected that the 2016 La Niña would be mild, although it could have the potential to trigger flooding in urban areas such as Jakarta.

“Southern Jakarta will experience heavy precipitation, and it will affect Central Jakarta,” he said.

Late last year the country experienced El Niño, a weather phenomenon related to the eastward drift of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, and it was considered to be the most severe since 1997.

Last year’s El Niño was also compounded by a so-called positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Niño, which is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.

A positive IOD tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia.

Read more!

The mystery of Cambodia’s dwindling marine catch

Brent Crane Phnom Penh Post 16 Jan 16;

Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration this week revealed that coastal fish yields fell 5 per cent last year. The cause, according to Sihanoukville administration official Nen Chamroeun, was less fishing. However, according to fisherman and environmentalists, Chamroeun has the cause and effect around backwards. Fishermen are fishing less because there are less fish to catch. To hear more, Brent Crane spoke with Paul Ferber, the founder of Marine Conservation Cambodia, an environmental group that monitors illegal fishing and marine health around Kep

What do you think is the reason behind dwindling fish yields?
It’s a mixture of habitat destruction, overfishing and illegal and destructive fishing. Different areas are affected by all three in differing amounts, but that mixture of issues put together is why it is happening rapidly and across the entire coastal area. Good management of marine resources and law enforcement following Cambodia’s national fisheries law in full would almost immediately change the situation and begin a reversal, increasing catches and coastal livelihoods.

What is causing habitat destruction?
There’s been an awful lot of land reclamation that’s gone on, especially the big port development in Kampot which has destroyed huge areas of seagrass. But I think the habitat losses are mostly from illegal trawling. That’s a really big one. It scrapes the seabed. It rips seagrass up by the roots, a little bit like a bulldozer going through a forest.

How important is seagrass to a marine environment?
It’s incredibly important. Seagrass doesn’t tend to grow in deeper waters because it needs sunlight. So you have a range of half a metre to around seven metres for your seagrass beds. Your three major habitats are mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs, and they’re all interconnected. They create a habitat for nurseries and breeding grounds. Seagrass itself is the major breeding ground for the blue swimmer crab, but it’s basically a big juvenile nursery. The shallow areas in Kampot and the ocean in Kep would be – if they were fully protected from trawling – a massive breeding ground allowing fish to flourish and go out to other areas.

How are fishermen responding to this habitat loss?
The harder it is for them to catch fish with sustainable methods, the more likely they are to use illegal destructive methods because most of those methods are a very quick way of getting fish. You’ve got trawling boats that use electric nets. They’ve trawled and destroyed so much of the marine life that there’s not enough left for them to just trawl the way they used to, so they’ve connected electric cables to their nets which shocks the last remaining sea life to jump out of the seabed so they can catch it in the net. As marine life becomes less, the destructive and illegal fishing becomes greater because the need to use those techniques to catch the last remaining life is essential to be able to carry on fishing.

Where is illegal trawling most pervasive?
Kampot and Kep, I would say. It’s there daily. Sihanoukville and Koh Kong do have it but with the largest seagrass beds being in Kep and Kampot they’re the most susceptible because the water is so much shallower.

Are fishermen having to leave the profession altogether?
Yes, a lot. We interviewed and surveyed three different communities in Kep. In each one of them – these are all legal fishermen – we saw around 90 to 95 per cent of people complain of a lack of fish and illegal activity being the major cause of that. Most of them had family members or had to themselves give up fishing because they could no longer catch enough to sustain their families using legal gear.

How long would it take for damaged habitats to recover?
The areas that haven’t been completely destroyed will actually recover quite quickly if trawling is stopped. The areas that have been completely destroyed might take 15 to 20 years. If you think of a hillside with lots of grass on it and you have heavy rains, the hillside stays intact. If you dig up that grass and it’s just soil and you have heavy rains, all that soil washes away. Nothing can grow in it. In the ocean it’s the same. Once the trawlers have been too many times in the same area you get a sloppy mud sediment. The seagrass can’t grow in there. Keep in mind that the Kep government has been making a fairly big effort to tackle this issue, illegal fishing. But it’s not an easy issue to tackle. There are just so many boats.

Read more!