Best of our wild blogs: 23 Feb 16

Saving MacRitchie
Saving MacRitchie

Singapore's last Western reefs at Tuas Merawang Beacon
wild shores of singapore

Birds of Singapore Android App
Singapore Bird Group

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Put $2 billion for realignment in context

Straits Times Forum 23 Feb 16;

Yesterday's report had the Land Transport Authority saying that if the Cross Island MRT Line were to skirt the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, instead of going under it, an extra $2 billion in costs could be incurred ("$2b extra cost if MRT line skirts reserve").

While $2 billion sounds like a huge sum of money, the figure should be put in proper context.

The 4km stretch of the Circle Line extension to link HarbourFront to Marina Bay, with just three additional MRT stations, is expected to cost $3.7 billion.

By contrast, realigning the Cross Island Line (CRL) to avoid the nature reserve would add an additional 5km of train line at the cost of $2 billion, which could also be used to serve new stations.

Furthermore, when stacked against the total cost of the Cross Island Line, an additional $2 billion is not likely to be a substantially large increase; the similarly ambitious Downtown Line is already estimated to cost $20.7 billion.

In another case, construction of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) cost $4.3 billion. This was essentially a rerouting of the original East Coast Parkway-Ayer Rajah Expressway, so as to free up land along Tanjong Pagar for future development.

Singapore has always prided itself on planning for the long term, and the MCE is one such example.

Rerouting the CRL now to protect our nature reserve for future generations would merely be a continuation of this laudable policy.

Finally, we also spent $1 billion (not including the substantial cost of land reclamation) to build Gardens by the Bay, which, today, is a well-loved park.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve, on the other hand, is a biologically rich rainforest that sits in the heart of our country, something that cannot be found in other world-class cities like London, New York or Tokyo.

Enjoyed by generations of Singaporeans from the very birth of our country, it is a national treasure that makes Singapore unique among the metropolises of the world.

If we are willing to spend such money on creating new nature-themed attractions, what more to protect our primeval, natural heritage inherited from our ancestors and which we can pass down to our descendants?

Jonathan Tan Yong How

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Controversy over Cross Island Line: 9 questions about the MRT line answered

There has been much debate over whether the Cross Island Line should tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Chew Hui Min Straits Times 22 Feb 16;
SINGAPORE - There has been much debate about the Cross Island Line and whether a 2km stretch of the line should tunnel under Singapore's largest nature reserve.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is considering two options for the line - one which goes under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and one which skirts the reserve but adds an estimated $2 billion in costs.

Owners of homes and businesses in central Singapore are concerned that they will be affected, while green groups have been lobbying hard for Singapore's wildlife and nature to be preserved.

Here are nine questions about the MRT line answered:


The Cross Island Line, which will be the eighth MRT line in Singapore, was announced in January 2013.

It was the most ambitious part of a plan to almost double Singapore's rail network by 2030, and to place eight out of 10 households within a 10-minute walk of a train station.

The Jurong Region Line and extensions to the Circle Line, North-East Line and Downtown Line were also announced at the same time.


It is expected to open in 2030.


The Cross Island Line will provide commuters with an alternative to the current East-West Line. It will also complement the Circle Line by being a "key transfer line" linking to other major MRT lines.


It is a 50km MRT line that will span Jurong to Changi.

Singapore's longest MRT line, the East-West Line, is 57km long.


It will connect Changi and Jurong Industrial Estate, passing through Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming, Bukit Timah, Clementi and West Coast. The line will also have a fork that links Pasir Ris to Punggol.

The exact locations for the stations have not been determined.


It will have interchanges at all existing radial lines so it will relieve loads on these systems - in particular the North-East and East-West lines.

Radial lines are train routes linking the city with the suburbs.


The total cost is yet to be determined. A 9km-long alternative alignment, which does not go through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, could add about $2 billion to the project, LTA said.


* The Direct alignment involves building a 2km tunnel approximately 40m deep beneath the nature reserve's MacRitchie area. There will be no physical structure on the surface level.

Related Story
From The Straits Times Archives: All you need to know about the Cross Island Line

Preliminary plans showed it cutting under primary and secondary forests in the nature reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir.

The nature reserve is Singapore's largest patch of primary rainforest. It is home to at least 413 species of plants, 218 species of birds, 30 mammals, 24 freshwater fish species, and 17 species of amphibians.

* The Skirting alignment is a 9km route that skirts south of the reserve, and will go under homes and businesses, with supporting ventilation facilities on the surface level.

The second option will increase end-to-end travel time by about four minutes and may entail land acquisition.

It will run beneath a swathe of private homes near Upper Thomson Road, such as Windsor Park and Yew Lian Park. It then turns west under Lornie Road before heading northwards, parallel to the Pan-Island Expressway.


As the line will affect the nature reserve, a global environmental consultancy was hired to assess the environmental impact of constructing it. The study began in July 2014, and the portion released in early February 2016 is Phase 1 of the study.

Phase 1 evaluates the impact of planned soil investigation works. These works are required to help the LTA determine if the ground is suitable for tunnel construction.

The study has found that there will be "moderate" impact on the nature reserve if mitigating measures, such as the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge, are effectively carried out.

For the alternative route around the reserve, the impact of soil investigation works along Lornie Road was deemed to be "negligible", and "minor" for areas near Venus Drive and a golf course.

The 1,000-page environmental impact assessment report is available for viewing online at the LTA's website.

Phase 2 of the study, to be completed by the end of this year, will look at the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the MRT line for the different possible alignments in or around the nature reserve.

From The Straits Times Archives: All you need to know about the Cross Island Line
Straits Times 22 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE - The proposed alignment of the new Cross Island Line, which could run through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, has sparked heated debate.

The 50km MRT line, which will link Changi and Jurong when it is completed by 2030, was first announced in early 2013.

Here's a look at what the controversy is about.


Cross Island Line is most ambitious yet

Singapore is embarking on its most ambitious MRT project yet: the 50km Cross Island Line (CRL), expected to be ready by 2030.

While it is not the longest line here - that is the 57km East-West Line - it could be the first in Singapore to have trains with more than six carriages.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) would not confirm this, merely saying that the CRL will be “a heavy-load system”.

The CRL will also pass through densely built up areas such as Sin Ming, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Clementi.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line is most ambitious yet, It could be first in Singapore to have trains with more than six carriages, Christopher Tan Straits Times 18 Jan 13;


Studies for Cross Island Line to start

While the Cross Island Line is expected to be ready only in 2030, studies will start at the end of this year to plan for Singapore's most ambitious MRT project yet.

The 50km line runs from Tampines to Jurong, passing through densely built-up areas such as Sin Ming, Hougang, Clementi, and beneath the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area.

The LTA is planning well ahead of time because contractors will need to dig deeper underground in land-scarce Singapore for new rail projects.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line: Impact on nature to be studied, LTA: No decision on route at largest nature reserve until assessment done, Royston Sim Straits Times 12 Sep 13;

Nature Society suggests different route for Cross Island Line

Running the planned Cross Island MRT Line along Lornie Road instead of through Singapore's largest nature reserve would add just 2km and four minutes to travel time.

That would help reduce the damage to the reserve's ecosystem, the Nature Society (Singapore) suggested in a 40-page paper giving its take on the new line.

The position paper, released yesterday, also described the environmental damage that may be caused by the soil investigations and tunnelling needed for the 50km MRT project, which is expected to be ready in 2030.

READ MORE HERE: Nature Society suggests different route for MRT line, Cross Island Line works put nature reserve 'at risk', Grace Chua Straits Times 19 Jul 13;


Cross Island Line: Impact on nature to be studied

A study to investigate the environmental impact of the Cross Island Line (CRL) on Singapore's largest nature reserve will begin next year.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday said it will call a tender in the first quarter of next year for the assessment, which will help it decide if this MRT line should pass through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve or skirt around it.

Apart from investigating the impact of possible alignments, the consultant will also have to suggest how to reduce any possible negative impact and come up with guidelines on suitable ways to carry out works such as soil investigation in the reserve.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line: Impact on nature to be studied, LTA: No decision on route at largest nature reserve until assessment done, Royston Sim Straits Times 12 Sep 13;

Study begins on green impact of Cross Island Line

A global environmental consultancy has clinched a $2 million job to find out the impact that a future MRT line might have on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Environmental Resources Management (ERM), which has offices in 40 countries, will start immediately on an environmental impact assessment of the Cross Island Line, slated to serve several areas including Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio.

Going by the proposed alignment, the 50km line that stretches from Changi to Jurong will cut through a southern tip of the nature reserve.

READ MORE HERE: Study begins on green impact of future MRT line, Team will assess Cross Island Line’s possible impact on nature reserve, Christopher Tan Straits Times 5 Jul 14;


Cross Island Line: Site tests will be green

An aerial view of the four reservoirs in the Singapore central catchment area. PHOTO: ST FILE
Tests to see how a train tunnel through Singapore's largest and most important nature reserve can be built have been slated for the third quarter.

The impact on the animals and plants around the test sites can be kept to "moderate" levels, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday without going into detail, citing the findings of an independent environmental study.

The study suggested several strategies to mitigate the impact to flora and fauna, including the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise, and tanks to collect discharge.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line: Site tests will be green, Audrey Tan and Adrian Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Feb 16;


LTA's environment report for Cross Island Line now online after complaints that it was difficult to access

The report was open to the public, but to get information on a new environment impact assessment (EIA) for an upcoming MRT line, people had to make their way to the Land Transport Authority's Hampshire Road premises to read the 1,000-page hard copy, with no photography allowed.

Yesterday, after complaints that it was too difficult to access the study, which looked at the potential impact of soil works for the Cross Island Line if it cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) put it online.

"In response to feedback, LTA has made the EIA report available online for interested parties who are unable to come to LTA to view the documents," the authority said in a Facebook post yesterday.

READ MORE HERE: LTA puts 1,000-page environmental study online after people complained it was inconvenient to access, Audrey Tan Straits Times 19 Feb 16;


Call for 'zero impact' for Cross Island MRT Line under MacRitchie nature reserve

Renewing calls for the Government to rethink possible plans to build an MRT tunnel under Singapore's largest nature reserve, several green groups are banding together to ensure their message gets across loud and clear.

Next month, the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group and the Herpetological Society of Singapore are among those hoping to raise awareness about the issue through a "March for MacRitchie" campaign.

The moves come even as engineers say that contractors have the tools to moderate harmful impacts on the environment.

READ MORE HERE: Call for 'zero impact' for MRT line under MacRitchie nature reserve, Green groups want MRT line to go around while engineers say impact can be reduced, Audrey Tan Straits Times 14 Feb 16; and AsiaOne


Cross Island Line sparks residents' fears

Even as green groups lobby for the Cross Island Line (CRL) to be built around Singapore's largest nature reserve instead of cutting through it, residents are worried about the impact this will have on their homes and lives.

The proposed 9km option, which skirts the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, will run beneath a swathe of private homes near Upper Thomson Road, such as Windsor Park and Yew Lian Park. It then turns west under Lornie Road before heading northwards, parallel to the Pan-Island Expressway.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that it is studying both alignments for the CRL, a 50km line connecting Changi to Jurong and expected to open in 2030.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line sparks residents' fears, Adrian Lim Straits Times 21 Feb 16;


ST Senior Transport Correspondent Christopher Tan: Cross Island Line debate misses elephant in room

The proposed alignment of the new Cross Island Line, which could run through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, has sparked heated debate.

While we must do what we can to preserve our natural heritage, we should not shy away from taking hard decisions, if necessary. That has been the pragmatism Singapore prides itself on.

But is building an MRT line under Singapore's largest nature reserve necessary?

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line debate misses elephant in room, Christopher Tan Straits Times 16 Feb 16;

ST's Audrey Tan: Cross Island Line: Why Singapore forests are worth safeguarding

How much do we value our forests, and are they worth protecting?

"Not really, there is nothing to see in our forests... so I would say, build away," a banker friend told me. Another added that to get his nature fix, there are far better alternatives overseas.

These are typical answers I get when I ask laymen about the possibility of the Cross Island Line tunnelling under Singapore's largest nature reserve.

READ MORE HERE: Why our forests are worth safeguarding, Audrey Tan Straits Times 18 Feb 16;


$2b extra cost if Cross Island Line skirts Central Catchment Nature Reserve

The alternative alignment that routes the Cross Island Line (CRL) around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) could add about $2 billion to the rail project, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has revealed.

This 9km-long "skirting alignment" will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities, it said, compared with the 4km direct route, of which 2km will cut through Singapore's largest nature reserve.

"Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur $2 billion more in expenditure," said LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong.

READ MORE HERE: Cross Island Line: Path around reserve may cost $2 billion more, Adrian Lim, MyPaper AsiaOne 22 Feb 16;

Both possible alignments for Cross Island Line will be studied

We thank all writers who have shared their views on the two possible alignments of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL).

The Government is studying both underground alignments, and no decision has been taken yet.

For the 4km direct alignment, 2km of the tunnel will be below the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), while the other 2km is located outside it.

READ MORE HERE: LTA: Both possible alignments for CRL being studied, Straits Times Forum 21 Feb 16;

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Over '200' golf balls hit into sea at Pasir Ris

'SEASIDE DRILL': A passer-by, Mr Low, recorded the 'golf practice session' on his mobile phone and estimated that more than 200 balls had gone into the sea.
MY PAPER AsiaOne 23 Feb 16;


Four youngsters used the seaside of Pasir Ris Park as a driving range on Sunday by whacking golf balls into the sea, according to a financial consultant who ran into the group and their apparent trainer that morning.

The man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Low, told the Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao he was bothered seeing the public coastal park being used for golf practice and was concerned that the balls would contribute to the pollution of the sea.

A man stood at one side and watched as the youngsters took turns to swing their clubs and send golf balls into the sea, said Mr Low.

The 60-year-old, who has been visiting Pasir Ris Park on weekends over the past 15 years for walks, said he had never seen golf being played in the area before.

After watching the group for about 15 minutes, Mr Low took out his phone and recorded a 28-second footage of the "seaside" drill.

The group realised that they were being filmed but went on with their activity after throwing a glance at Mr Low and smiling at each other, Wanbao was told.

"As the footage showed the children hit one ball every 15 seconds, more than 200 balls must have gone into the sea in 15 minutes," said Mr Low.

"So how is this different from damaging the marine environment by dumping garbage into sea water?" he asked.

"And what a waste of money, even if they were rich," he added, pointing out that a dozen golf balls could cost up to $25 in Singapore.

Briton Nigel Dark, who has taught golf for 12 years and is currently here on a coaching contract, told Wanbao that it is not uncommon for golfers abroad to train at the seaside, one famous example being the late Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros.

"Perhaps some people took inspiration from these instances, which provide a more convenient alternative to going to a range," said Mr Dark.

But he pointed out that a flying golf ball could threaten lives and properties as it could hit someone in the sea or deviate and head towards the shore.

According to the National Parks Board website, users of parks in Singapore should keep all facilities clean and take care not to endanger the safety of others, reported Wanbao.

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NUS researchers create new biodegradable packaging material

The eco-friendly composite film which is made from natural ingredients can double the shelf life of perishable food.
Channel NewsAsia 22 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have created a biodegradable packaging material that can double the shelf life of perishable food, like bread.

While the eco-friendly composite film is similar to the plastic used in cling wrap or ziplock bags, it is actually made from natural ingredients like grapefruit seed extract and chitosan, a biomaterial derived from the shells of crustaceans.

The inherent properties of these materials slow fungal and bacterial growth.

The researchers plan to conduct further studies to improve the technology.

"Next, we will test on the anti-microbial properties of the film, anti-bacterial properties, and also a degradation study,” said Ms Tan Yi Min, a PhD candidate in the National University of Singapore’s Mechanical Engineering Department. “Then we will carry out an extended accelerated shelf-life study on various food products such as red meat, dairy products, as well as seafood."

The group hopes to commercialise the film, with the support of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology.

However cost is a hurdle, as the researchers said the film is about 30 per cent more expensive than plastic films that are currently used.

Ms Tan explained: "The chitosan material is not commonly used for manufacturing in the industry, so the cost is slightly higher than synthetic polymer films. However, with its anti-microbial properties being able to extend the shelf life of food products, we can minimise food wastage, thus extending to an increase in cost-savings and protection for our environment."

- CNA/ek

Longer shelf-life for food thanks to breakthrough in packaging tech
CLIFFORD LEE Today Online 23 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Food products that last longer in their packaging, with little, or no chemical preservatives needed — that is the promise of a breakthrough in packaging technology made by two National University of Singapore researchers.

Associate Professor Thian Eng San from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Ms Tan Yi Min, a PhD student, have developed an environment-friendly food packaging material that slows down fungal and microbial growth, and is free of chemical additives.

The researchers took a naturally microbial-resistant and biodegradable composite film based on chitosan — a renewable material derived from crustaceans’ exoskeletons — and combined it with grapefruit seed extract to enhance its antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

Bread samples packaged with this composite film was found to last more than three times longer, compared with those in conventional synthetic packaging film, where visible mould appeared after three days.

With the composite film, mould growth started on the 10th day.

With this new material, there is no need to use silver ions to give it anti-microbial properties — as is the current practice on packaging films — since there is a small possibility of the silver leeching into the food, which can be harmful if accumulated in large amounts in the body.

Food manufacturers will also be able to cut back on chemical preservatives when using the composite film.

More studies will be done using the film with other products such as meat, seafood and dairy. If proven commercially viable, Assoc Prof Thian hopes the material will be used in three to five years.

Ms Tan sees the wider benefit: “(In) being able to extend the food products’ shelf life, we can minimise food wastage, (leading) to an increase in cost savings and protection for our environment.”

In 2014 alone, Singapore generated 788,600 tonnes of food waste, the equivalent of about two bowls of rice per person a day, contributing to more than 10 per cent of total waste. Plastic waste, including food packaging, rose to a high of 869,000 tonnes.

The National Environment Agency estimated that the recently expanded Semakau landfill would be filled by 2035.

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Malaysia: Northern Sarawak hit by forest fires

STEPHEN THEN The Star 23 Feb 16;

MIRI: Forest fires have so far ravaged at least 404.6ha of land in Kuala Baram district in northern Sarawak – an area roughly the size of 1,000 football fields combined.

As at 2pm yesterday, some 121.4ha (300 acres) of forest were still on fire.

The Air Pollutant Index in the district shot to very unhealthy levels of 300 and 400 yesterday morning as forest fires raged on.

A big fire near the Industrial Training Institute resulted in very dense smoke blown by strong winds into Miri City some 20km away.

Residential houses and commercial centres were hit by dense smog, ashes and strong smell of burnt vegetation.

Sarawak Assistant Minister for Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin said that the API went up to more than 400 at one point.

As at 3pm, the API was still above 300, he said.

Lee said Kuala Baram has a population of more than 100,000 people.

“The areas affected by the dense smoke are recording high pollutant index. Fire fighters on the ground are doing all they can to contain the flames.

“Aerial water bombings have been increased and we are requesting an even bigger aircraft from the army that can carry at least 6,000 litres of water at a time.

“The worry is that the fires may burn underground since the district has large areas of peat soil,” he said.

Preliminary reports from Bomba indicated that the fires were deliberately set off by people who had trespassed into the forests, he added.

Miri fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong yesterday morning said the department were resuming aerial water bombing using helicopters while firefighters battle the flames on the ground.

The department had already carried out 60 rounds of aerial water bombing over the past 48 hours but the fires started spreading due to strong winds. Northern Sarawak is being hit by a very hot spell now.

Fire-sparked haze forces closure of training institute in Miri
BERNAMA New Straits Times 22 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Industrial Training Institute (ILP) in Kuala Baram, Miri, was ordered to close today after the air quality there reached the hazardous level this morning due to haze from a fire.

Human Resource and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had informed the Department of Environment (DOE) to instruct the ILP to close immediately.

“We will also inform the Education Department to advise schools in the vicinity affected by the haze to close,” he said when contacted.

Over the past week, a has fire raged through more than 80 hectares of forests near the ILP and sparked concern about the haze.

As at 11am, the DOE website showed the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading still at the hazardous level of 321 although it had dropped from 336 recorded at 10am.

Wan Junaidi said DOE personnel and a team of fire-fighters were being stationed at the location to monitor the situation and release water bombs to stop the fire from spreading. -- Bernama

Malaysian Borneo's air quality hits hazardous levels as forest fires rage
The fires have spurred an emergency response from the state fire and rescue department, which is at the same time scrambling to manage nearly 8,000 people displaced by floods.
Channel NewsAsia 22 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Forest fires spread over 500 acres in the north of the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo island have raised air pollution to hazardous levels on Monday (Feb 22) in areas close to the inferno, government data showed.

The fires have spurred an emergency response from the state fire and rescue department, which is at the same time scrambling to manage nearly 8,000 people displaced by floods in Sarawak's southern region as of Monday morning, according to the Bernama newswire.

Sensors located in the coastal town of Miri - which is closest to the fires - registered an air pollutant index reading of over 300 parts per million (ppm) as at 9 a.m., though it went down to 185 ppm as at 3 p.m., the data showed. Readings above 300 ppm are deemed a health hazard.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammad told Reuters that the situation in the north of Malaysia's largest state is "quite bad" and expects the fires to rage for a "minimum of one week".

Sarawak's forests are renowned for being home to eight out of the world's 54 species of hornbills, according to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, and also to the Orang Utan in some regions of the Bornean state.

Nor Hisham said the fires are unlikely to have affected the local wildlife as their numbers would be small because most of the timber in the area was already harvested.

The fires, however, forced local authorities to evacuate 650 students from an industrial training centre on Sunday, but classes have since resumed on Monday morning, Nor Hisham said.

Nor Hisham said a total of 50 personnel along with two helicopters and two excavators have been deployed and are working round the clock to contain the fires.

The fire and rescue department believes local hunters had started the fires, but are still investigating the matter.

Malaysian Meteorological Department senior officer Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the severity of the fires was caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, which typically affects the northern region of Sarawak and the neighbouring state of Sabah.

Forest fires have increased in frequency over the past few years in Sarawak, where there are large tracts of peat soil.

This year's forest fires, however, cover more than double the 200 acres in the same region scorched by forest fires in July last year.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

- Reuters

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Malaysia: Flood situation improving in Sarawak

SHARON LING The Star 23 Feb 16;

KUCHING: The number of flood evacuees in southern Sarawak has decreased to just over 7,000 people on Tuesday morning.

At 8am, a total of 7,177 people from 1,822 families remained in relief centres in Kuching, Serian and Samarahan divisions, compared to 7,965 people from 2,051 families at noon on Monday.

Civil Defence Department public relations officer Siti Huzaimah Ibrahim said they were sheltered in 31 centres in Kuching, 12 in Serian and four in Samarahan.

She also said 10 relief centres had been closed, including eight on Monday and two on Sunday.

River levels have mostly returned to normal, but the Batang Sadong at Serian was still at danger level of 9.69m and Sungai Sarawak Kiri at Batu Kitang at alert level of 3.07m as at 8am on Tuesday.

Dry days bring respite
SHARON LING The Star 23 Feb 16;

KUCHING: Drier weather brought some respite to flood-hit areas in southern Sarawak although nearly 8,000 evacuees remained at relief centres, while some schools were still closed.

At noon yesterday, a total of 7,965 flood victims from 2,051 families were sheltering at 48 relief centres.

Meanwhile, the body of a youth who went missing while crossing a river during the floods in Kampung Maang, Siburan, on Saturday, was found by a search team at 6.15pm yesterday.

Fire and Rescue and Civil Defence personnel found the body of Judus Jalina, 18, about 150m from where he was reported to have fallen although they had recovered his bag and slippers earlier.

The State Disaster Management Committee secretariat said 34 relief centres remained open in Kuching, eight in Serian and six in Samarahan.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammad said some evacuations were still carried out yesterday although the weather had improved considerably.

He said the department’s personnel evacuated 94 villagers from Kampung Sorak Melayu, Serian, as well as 132 people from Kampung Selampit and 197 people from Kampung Bitokan in Lundu.

“We are monitoring the situation in other flood-affected areas. We also have one team with a lorry attached to the Welfare Department to supply rations to evacuees,” he added.

The state Education Department said 19 schools were closed due to floods yesterday, comprising seven in Bau, nine in Padawan, one in Lundu and two in Lubok Antu.

It also said eight schools in Padawan, Bau, Serian and Samarahan were being used as temporary relief centres.

At a relief centre in Kampung Batu Kitang here, villager Amirul Amin said he was evacuated with nine family members on Saturday afternoon after non-stop rain caused flooding.

“We saw the water rising quickly so we knew we had to move,” he said, adding that the Fire and Rescue personnel helped them to evacuate.

“The flood came all of a sudden. The water kept rising beyond our expectations.

“Together with the village head, we immediately took action to move people to this relief centre on top of a hill,” said Kampung Batu Kitang’s flood management committee member Zat Rosli.

More evacuees return home as Sarawak floodwaters recede
The Star 24 Feb 16;

KUCHING: More flood evacuees left relief centres for their homes Wednesday as the flood-hit areas of Sarawak enjoyed fine weather.

As at 11am, the number of evacuees dropped to 1,643 from 479 families at 10 centres compared to 2,366 from 668 families at 15 centres at 8am, said Sarawak Department of Civil Defence public relations officer Siti Huzaimah Ibrahim.

In the Kuching district, there were 150 evacuees from 16 families at one centre, in Serian, 1,413 from 439 families at eight centres, and in Samarahan, 80 from 24 families at eight centres, she said.

She also said that all 14 relief centres in the Bau district have closed after all the evacuees returned to their homes. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Group makes first mother turtle tagging

The Star 23 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The first mother turtle has been tagged at Libaran Island off Sandakan by a non-governmental organisation - Foster (Friends Of Sea Turtles Education & Research) on Sunday.

Foster president Alexander Yee said they have been working closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) on a turtle hatchery for the past three years.

“The turtle landings on the island have seen a marked increase and we have released over 30,000 baby turtles from this hatchery”, he said.

Yee said the department has suggested the move to tag the turtles and it is a significant milestone for this programme.

He said the taggings allowed researchers to monitor the movement of turtles.

University Malaysia Sabah lecturer and researcher Dr. James Alhin, who is also adviser to Foster, said the tagging was important for them to be able to carry out scientific work.

“The tag marks the turtle and allows us to identify her when she visits other shores or returns to Libaran”, he said.

In the event, a green turtle weighing about 180kg came ashore and laid 74 eggs on the beach.

It was only after she laid her eggs that the researchers measured and tagged her before releasing her back to the sea.

Turtle's conservation gets cracking after tagging turtle which laid 74 eggs
AWANG ALI OMAR New Straits Times 22 Feb 16;

SANDAKAN: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) has embarked on new milestone in conservation efforts by tagging their first turtle at Libaran island here yesterday.

Friends of Sea Turtles Education and Research (FOSTER) measured and tagged the 180-kg Green turtle after it laid 74 eggs on the beach.

Its president Alexander Yee said FOSTER had been working with Sabah Wildlife Department to operate the turtle hatchery for the past three years.

“Turtle landings on the island have seen a remarkable increase and we have released more than 30,000 baby turtles from this hatchery.

"These (moves) are being done in response to a call by the Sabah Wildlife Department to work together to solve illegal turtle poaching on the island as reported by one of the villagers,” he said in a statement, adding the department had also provided FOSTER with the tags.

Present was University Malaysia Sabah researcher Dr James Alhin, who is also FOSTER advisor to witness the tagging process.

He said the tagging would be useful to track turtles movement to be used in scientific works.

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Malaysia: Pangolins in Sabah need help

The Star 23 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The state government needs help from animal conservationists and those with in-depth knowledge of pangolins to save the animal.

“So far in Sabah, we do not have bodies or organisations that focus on helping the conservation and rescue of pangolins,” said Tourism, Culture and Environment assistant minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.

Although the state, through the Sabah Wildlife Department, was doing its part in protecting endangered species including the pangolins, help from non-governmental organisations was also crucial, he added.

Pang said pangolins used to be a common sight in Sabah, even in the cities but their numbers have dwindled drastically over the years due to high demand for medicinal purposes.

Pangolin scales are said to have medicinal qualities whereas the meat is being sought after by those with exotic taste buds, he added.

Pang said this after launching a book titled Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology yesterday.

File picture of a pangolin in the wild. (Jan 18)(picture goes with story slug kkmpangolin18)

Earlier, Pang said Sabahs wildlife and natural resources were one of the main reasons tourists visit the state.

These indirectly provide job opportunities to Sabahans.

The total number of land mammals in Borneo is 247, of which 63 or 25% were endemic.

“Many of the animals such as the Pgymy elephants, Proboscis monkey, orang utan and the banteng are found only in the state or Borneo, therefore it is important for us to protect these wildlife,” Pang added.

The newly-launched book on the mammals of Borneo was written and illustrated by researchers Karen and Quentin Phillipps, who have also written several other books on the animals of Borneo.

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Malaysia: Better biodiversity efforts with revised policy


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has further increased its commitment to biodiversity management with the launch of a revised National Policy on Biological Diversity.

The revised policy emphasises the need for continued conservation, sustainable utilisation and the sharing of benefits from biodiversity in a fair and equitable manner, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The policy, said Najib, will provide the nation’s guide to manage biodiversity over the next decade.

“It has clear targets, actions and timelines for implementation and calls for active participation by all stakeholders.

“The revised policy complements Malaysia’s obligations under the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity and to implementing the Sustainable Develop­ment Goals,” said Najib in his speech at the fourth plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform For Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services (IPBES) yesterday.

Also present were Natural Resources and Environment Minis­ter Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah.

Najib said different countries have different issues when it comes to dealing with environmental conservation.

For developing countries, finding the right balance in bringing in much needed development without sacrificing nature is pivotal.

Malaysia has also had its fair share in finding the right balance, said Najib.

Citing the opening of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) scheme in 1956 to alleviate poverty, Najib said the plan was a success with the drop of poverty level from 49% to less than four percent now.

“But I will be the first to admit that development through the opening of land for agriculture, human settlement, industrialisation, transport, has had significant impact on the natural environment.

“The issue at hand is sustainability and how to harness the power of technology and knowledge to ensure that while we continue with our growth momentum, we are also able to preserve our natural heritage,” he added.

Najib said Malaysia has also undertaken various efforts to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity.

Among them are the Central Forest Spine, an initiative that will link four main forest complexes which form the central mountain range in the peninsular.

Later in a press conference, Wan Junaidi said his ministry has consulted various stakeholders since 2014 before including it in the policy.

He said 29 comprehensive consultations were carried out between 2014 and 2015.

The first National Policy on Biological Diversity was formulated in 1989.

The revised policy will provide the direction and framework in conserving the nation’s biodiversity and use it sustainably in the face of increasing challenges.

PM launches revised National Policy on Biological Diversity
ADRIAN LAI New Straits Times 22 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launched the revised National Policy on Biological Diversity, which he hailed as an important guide to the nation’s biodiversity management over the next decade.

Speaking to the participants of the Fourth Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) here, Najib said the revised policy emphasised the need for continued conservation and the sharing of benefits from biodiversity in a fair and equitable manner.

“It has clear targets and actions and timelines for implementation and calls for active participation by all stakeholders,” Najib said when opening the conference at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here today.

This revised policy, he said, complemented Malaysia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

“As you can see, Malaysia tries very hard to forge a balance between socio-economic development and environmental wellbeing, in particular conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

Present were Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the prime minister’s Science Advisor and IPBES chairman Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi and his wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah, and United Nations Environment Programme deputy executive director Ibrahim Thiaw.

IPBES is a world body that convenes biodiversity science experts and policy makers. Its first ever assessment report, to be launched on Friday, constitutes the most authoritative review of the health and value of pollinators.

One of the primary focuses during the conference was the survival of pollinator species, which include bees, butterflies, beetles, birds and bats, and their significance to food production. The conference found that pollinator populations were under threat by human activities in many parts of the world.

“If indeed pollinators are under threat, we must find a way forward to address those problems and we look to you, the scientific community and the body of your work for the options to ensure that these species survive and thrive,” said Najib during his keynote address.

The prime minister also paid tribute to an insect from Africa, which has helped the country’s palm oil industry save over US$10 billion in its role as an effective pollinator.

“In the early years of our palm oil industry, pollination was done by hand, much of it by women -- a time-consuming and ineffective practice. After years of study, a group of researchers found a highly effective pollinator for oil palm trees in the form of a weevil from Africa.

“This development led to a significant increase in oil palm production. And the total amount of money saved by the Malaysian palm oil industry in the period 1982-2015 through using this insect pollinator instead of human labour is believed to be in the magnitude of some US$10 billion.”

Najib, during the conference, outlined to scientists and policy makers a series of other measures taken by the Malaysian government to protect biodiversity within its own jurisdiction and through regional agreements.

He said Malaysia was embarking on the Central Forest Initiative, which covers an area to create linkages between the four main forest areas covering the central mountain range in Peninsular Malaysia.

Najib said at a regional level, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei were working together under the Heart of Borneo Initiative to conserve approximately 200,000 square kilometres of forest together. About 30 per cent of the protected area, he said, was in Malaysian territory.

“The services that nature provides sustain humanity: food, shelter, clean air and clean water. And yet, recent scientific assessments indicate that at least 60 per cent of natural resources are being degraded globally due to human activity, most particularly those occurring during the last half-century.”

UN biodiversity conference opens in Malaysia
"Humanity is edging that little bit closer to an unavoidable crossroads": United Nations' official Ibrahim Thiaw on the importance of biodiversity preservation work, at the plenary opening on Monday.

Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 22 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Scientists and policy makers from about 124 countries are gathered in Malaysia's capital city for the fourth plenary of a United Nations-backed body that assesses the stage of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is being held in Malaysia from Monday (Feb 22) to Feb 28. It is set to launch its first assessment report since it was first formed in 2012, on Friday.

The IPBES plans on releasing "the most authoritative review ever" on the health and value of pollinators, which are under threat by human activity.

At the plenary opening on Monday, the deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ibrahim Thiaw also underscored the importance of work to preserve biodiversity with the human population expected to hit more than 9 billion people in less than 40 years.

"Humanity is edging that little bit closer to an unavoidable crossroads where some hard decisions must be taken to address the health and well-being of us all," he said in his speech.

He added: "By destroying or fragmenting habitats, wild species are more likely to come close to humans, notably the poorest communities that have little immunity and nearly no health facilities.

"Our best insurance against repetitive outbreaks of viruses as a global community is to maintain our ecosystems' health. "

- CNA/hs

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Indonesia: Perpetrator behind landfire that killed orangutans to face multiple charges

Antara 23 Feb 16;

Samarinda, E Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The perpetrators behind a land fire that led to the death of three orangutans in East Kalimantan last Saturday may face multiple charges, police said.

"If the perpetrator is proven guilty of setting fire to land intentionally, which led to the death of three orangutans, he will face multiple charges," Chief of the Bontang City Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Hendra Kurniawan said here on Monday.

The perpetrator may be charged with setting fire to land and killing endangered animal species, he said.

"We are focusing on investigating whether the land was set to fire intentionally. The investigation, in which members of the Kutai National Park Center (TNK) have also joined in, is aimed at uncovering this fact. If it is found that this indeed happened, then it will be investigated as to who was the perpetrator. That is what we are investigating now," he said.

The police have investigated several witnesses, including the resident who claims to be the owner of the land which caught fire, he said.

Although the owner of the land denied setting fire to the land or ordering other people to do so, the police are trying to collect information from other witnesses, he said.

Head of the Kutai National Park Office Erly Sukrismanto confirmed on Sunday that three orangutans had died near the protected forest in Bontang city, East Kalimantan.

"The land fire occurred yesterday (Saturday). We came to know about the death of the three orangutans in the land fire only after a resident uploaded pictures on the social media this morning. When I checked the scene of the land fire on Sunday afternoon, I found three orangutans had been killed in the fire," he said.

After investigating the death of the orangutans, a joint team of officers from the Kutai National Park, the Bontang city police and a number of relevant agencies buried the three orangutans, he said.(*)

Three orangutans reportedly killed in E Kalimantan`s land fire
Antara 22 Feb 16;

Samarinda, E Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Three orangutans were reportedly killed in a land fire near protected forest in Bontang city, East Kalimantan, on Saturday.

Head of the Kutai National Park Office Erly Sukrismanto confirmed on Sunday the death of three orangutans near the fertilizer producer PT Pupuk Kaltim.

"The land fire occurred yesterday (Saturday). We know the death of the three orangutans in the land fire only after a resident uploaded it on the social media this morning. When I checked the scene of the land fire on Sunday afternoon I found three orangutans killed in the fire," he said.

After investigating the death of the orangutans, a joint team of officers from the Kutai National Park, the Bontang city police and a number of relevant agencies buried the three orangutans, he said.

"The bodies of the orangutans have decayed so we buried the orangutans soon after investigating them to prevent them from spreading disease," he said.

He said he had reported the death of the three orangutans to the head of the East Kalimantan Provincial Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the director of biodiversity conservation at the Forestry and Environment Ministry.(*)

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Indonesia: Full moon, high tides to occur this week

Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 16;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted that a full moon will occur this week, causing high tides off Jakarta’s coast.

BMKG spokesman Harry Tirto said the agency predicted a full moon to occur on Tuesday and warned of high tides for all areas, including North Jakarta.

“Astronomically, a full moon occurs once a month,” Harry said over the phone on Monday.

Harry said tides were usually high before and after a full moon. When the moon’s gravitational pull reaches its peak, it drags water on the Earth’s surface to its highest level. Thus, he said, if a full moon was to occur on Feb. 23, high tides would begin on Feb. 20, before dying down on Feb. 26.

This month’s high tides are expected to coincide with the peak of the rainy season, which is predicted to end on Feb. 28. Despite the coinciding schedules, however, its impacts are expected to be minimal on account of low precipitation.

Harry previously said that precipitation would be slightly lower compared to 2015, during which rainfall measured 400 to 500 millimeters per month during the peak of the rainy season, while this year precipitation is expected to measure 300 to 400 mm per month, a high precipitation level. The BMKG categorizes low rainfall intensity as 0 to 100 mm per month, mid-level as 101 to 300 mm and very high above 401 mm.

Last year, a lackluster rainy season followed by a prolonged dry season caused a water shortage scare among suppliers and residents.

Water operators in Jakarta are preparing for another shortage as a result of this year’s estimated low precipitation.

Water operator PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) cut down production last year at a water treatment plant in Cilandak by 50 percent on account of the shortage. Palyja spokeswoman Meyritha Maryanie said that the company might experience a shortage this year if another prolonged dry season occurred.

Meyritha, however, said that Palyja had anticipated such a situation by developing moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) water treatment technology in its Cilandak plant. An MBBR biologically treats wastewater by circulating moving media in aerobic and anaerobic activated sludge environments.

The Cilandak plant is among Palyja’s four plants serving customers in South Jakarta. From the company’s 405,000 customers, drinking water for around 15,000 people is supplied by the Cilandak plant.

The other plants are Pejompongan I and Pejompongan II in Central Jakarta, with a respective capacity of 2,000 liters per second (lps) and 3,600 lps, as well as the Taman Kota plant in West Jakarta with a capacity of 150 lps.

PT Aetra Air Jakarta (Aetra) corporate secretary Pratama S. Adi said that the company would also take anticipatory measures to ensure clean water supply should the city experience another prolonged dry season.

Separately, Jakarta Water Management Agency head Teguh Hendrawan said that the agency would not let its guard down despite the lower rainfall. Teguh said all officials directly handling flooding were prohibited from taking leave and must make daily reports of conditions in all areas.

“Our cleaners are also on standby to make sure all waterways are clean. We will continue monitoring and preparing for potential flooding, although it seems high tides due to the full moon and peak of the rainy season will likely not have a big effect this year,” he said.f

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Indonesia: Govt to reform forestry revenue system to foil rampant graft

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 16;

The government is planning to reform its non-tax state revenue (PNBP) system in the forestry sector following a finding that corruption in the sector is causing trillions of rupiah in state losses every year.

The national plan is laid out in a draft by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and other related government institutions including the Finance Ministry, the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).

KPK forestry-sector investigator Hariadi Kartodiharjo told The Jakarta Post on Monday that related government institutions would kick off an integrated plan to improve the revenue system on Wednesday.

“The draft has been finalized. There will be a brief presentation [during the signing ceremony] to make sure that every government institutions adopts the plan that has been discussed.”

The plan is a follow-up on a KPK study published in October, which found that state losses from missing potential non-tax state revenue in the forestry sector between 2003 and 2014 amounted Rp 86.9 trillion (US$521 million), or Rp 7.24 trillion per year.

The number was based on a calculation of all forestry products that could be collected and shows the necessity of establishing a non-tax state revenue system to prevent illegal logging.

The KPK report cited ineffective law enforcement, inaccurate production data and auditing by timber plantations, a lack of transparency on royalties data within government ministries and poor coordination between central and regional administrations as causes for the lost timber revenue.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry responded to the finding by revamping its online system as well as conducting an audit, according to Hariadi.

“But it’s not just the Environment and Forestry Ministry [that needs to act]. The Finance Ministry and the BPK also [have to be involved],” he said.

Therefore, the national plan stipulates that there should be an online non-tax state revenue system connected to the Finance Ministry, the government institution tasked with collecting non-state tax revenue, said Hariadi.

“There is already an online system but it’s still partial. For instance, the system is being managed by the directorate-general of sustainable forest products management at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, but it will now be merged with the system at other government institutions,” he said.

Moreover, the BPK is preparing a list of agro-forestry companies that are prone to corruption.

“These companies are at high risk from a financial perspective,” Hariadi said. “The BPK is also designing an appropriate audit system.”

He added that the reform would be implemented in 12 provinces: Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Jambi, Palembang, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi and Papua.

“These provinces have a high potential for non-tax state revenue. It follows that they also have a high potential for state losses,” said Hariadi.

He said that the KPK would help these provinces to collect non-tax state revenue in the forestry sector.

“Many provincial administrations are complaining that they find it difficult to collect data from regencies. So, in the national action plan, each governor must ask for data [on the forestry sector] from regency administration in a uniformed format. The data will then be forwarded to the KPK. So, if there are any obstacles in collecting the data, the KPK will call the regents [in question and ask them to submit the data],” Hariadi said.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) activist Emerson Yuntho said that the national action plan should be accompanied by a thorough evaluation and monitoring process.

“We’re worried this will become another action plan with no comprehensive evaluation and monitoring,” he said.

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FAO puts sustainability on the menu in the world’s fastest-growing food sector: fish

Top fishery officials gather in Morocco to review rapidly-shifting trade practices and patterns as aquaculture comes of age
FAO 22 Feb 16;

22 February, 2015, AGADIR, Morocco-High-level delegations of fisheries ministries from more than 50 countries are gathering in Agadir for a summit with industry players to discuss emerging governance needs in a sector that provides the world with 17 percent of its animal protein and developing countries with more export revenue than meat, tobacco, rice and sugar combined.

The globalization of the fish trade, driven in large part by fast growth in aquaculture, raises challenging needs for better rules and practices regarding traceability, labor conditions and the protection of biodiversity as well as commercial preparations for shifts in demand, consumption habits, climate change impacts, and the rapid rise of supermarkets with their corollary supply chains.

"Trade in fish is much more important than people think, both in absolute and relative terms," said Audun Lem, Deputy-Director in FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division as well as secretary of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade whose biennial meeting is being held in Africa for the first time.

Dialogues over the week-long meeting in Morocco will help FAO, its member countries and industry representatives understand new trends, opportunities and challenges in the fishing sector, fostering the development of strategies that can "best position developing countries to develop their fisheries sectors in a sustainable manner and to maximize their economic benefit from the growth we expect to witness," Lem said.

Enabling traceability

Ministers are also poised to agree in Agadir on FAO's proposed technical guidelines for catch documentation schemes, a set of documents testifying to the legal origin of the catch, facilitating traceability of the product throughout the supply chain. This could become an important tool in curbing illegal fishing, a goal mandated by the United Nations General Assembly.

As fish production, processing and consumption often takes place in different countries, international collaboration and harmonization is critical to assure success in this effort. Private sector engagement with a FAO project on catch documentation schemes for tuna has been unexpectedly high, reflecting industry interest in complying with sustainability goals.

Central to the effort is FAO's Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing which has now been ratified by 21 nations and is on course to have the 25 national ratifications required to enter into full legal force by the time the Committee on Fisheries, a global intergovernmental forum, meets at FAO's headquarters in July.

Work will also focus on harmonizing certification requirements for fish exports to major international markets, where consumers as well as retailers are becoming more alert to quality, safety and legality concerns.

Sustainably serving those lucrative markets is of critical importance to developing countries, where most fish - whether caught in the wild or grown in cages or farm ponds - are produced. International trade of fish and fishery products has doubled in a decade to $144 billion in 2014. Of that, lower-income nations together exported $78 billion in 2014, more than three times the value of global rice exports

Aquaculture revolution

Much of the sector's dynamism is due to aquaculture, whose output has more than tripled to 78 million tonnes over the past 20 years, making it the world's fastest-growing food producing sector.

While most fish farms are in Asia, aquaculture's highest growth rates have of late been in Africa and South and Central America, where its marginal contribution to food security can be higher than elsewhere precisely due to the fact that per-capita consumption of fish in these emerging regions has traditionally been low.

One reason aquaculture has altered industry dynamics is that its production methods are typically far less seasonal and volatile than open-sea fishing. This allows for easier access to insurance or credit - there are now salmon futures - and even tailored solutions such as assuring the provision of fattier salmon suitable for smoking.

Aquaculture, with its predictable rhythms and focus on more standardized products, also enables a longer-term and more intensive approach to supply chains. If managed efficiently, food waste can be minimized and food safety enhanced, investments in cold-storage facilities incentivized, all enabling supermarkets to plan and guarantee procurement.

New trends are emerging wherein fewer but larger operators vertically transform the industry structure, a process well advanced with species such as shrimp, tilapia, Atlantic salmon and European sea bass and bream. This can enable more investment in selective breeding, logistics, marketing and brand differentiation strategies, according to Lem.

The evolving distribution infrastructure can benefit capture fisheries, which face greater pressure to adopt sustainable practices - such as better handling methods, reducing discards and waste. And governments the world over are now collaborating to reduce and eliminate illegal fishing operations through better rules and improved enforcement. In broad terms, capture fisheries will be pushed to target consumer needs more closely rather than selling whatever is landed, and to create value by moving into higher-priced niches that highlight qualities such as uniqueness and natural origins. FAO expects wild-caught fish to grow modestly in volume terms while its share of the market for human consumption declines to 38% in 2030.

Changes on the plate

The seafood menu is changing in many ways, as exemplified by the fact that, for the first time in history, more fresh tuna was flown to the U.S. than to Japan.

Shifts in age-old patterns are likely to become a common feature in the future of fish, especially as developing countries increase their share of world imports. And develop local production for domestic demand.

Since 2013, salmon and trout have replaced shrimp as the most important commodity traded in value terms. In 2014 Vietnam passed Thailand to become the world's third-largest exporter of fish products, led by the rapid internationalization of pangasius, a freshwater white fish that competes with sea-based species such as cod, hake and pollock. Meanwhile, trading in octopus has been growing sharply in the past few years, whereas squid sales have been sluggish.

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