Best of our wild blogs: 18 Apr 16

Our Chek Jawa walk in March
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Sunny at Chek Jawa!
wild shores of singapore

Short-banded Sailor (Phaedyma columella singa) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

Read more!

Indonesian minister ticks off Singapore on haze

Today Online 18 Apr 16;

JAKARTA — In the latest critical remarks by an Indonesian minister on the transboundary haze, the country’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar has told Singapore to focus on its own role in addressing the issue instead of “making so many comments”.

She was responding to Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli’s statement at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on Friday (April 15) that agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions, and that there must not be a repeat of last year’s forest fires which caused the haze.

In an interview with environment news portal on Saturday, Dr Siti Nurbaya said the Indonesian government has taken “substantial steps” to prevent land and forest fires, and the ensuing haze that envelopes the region every year.

She said such steps are based on decisions made by the Indonesian government, and not because of pressure from other countries, including Singapore,

“We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is — what has the Singaporean Government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role,” she said.

In his speech on Friday, Mr Masagos had said companies should invest in efforts to rehabilitate degraded and fire-prone peatlands.

Companies must also ensure that sustainable policies and practices don’t stop with them, but are implemented throughout their supply chain, he added.

“My message to all these companies is simply this — companies practising unsustainable production that affect us with haze must know that their actions will not lead to profitability and that they will have to face the consequences sooner or later,” he said.

Mr Masagos also reiterated the comments he made in his Committee of Supply speech in Parliament last Tuesday, where he said a multi-faceted approach is needed from all stakeholders to prevent a recurrence of last year’s fires.

Ms Siti Nurbaya told that Singapore needed to do its own part in combating the haze.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” she asked.

She said the Indonesian government had taken strict action against companies, especially those headquarted in Singapore, that are found to be negligent in handling land and forest fires that occur on their concessions.

“This is just one example of how we are not shirking our responsibilities and are doing what is expected of us,” she said.

“We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbours and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out.”

Transboundary haze caused by widespread fires in Indonesia affected the region from September to November last year and affected tens of millions of people.

The Pollutant Standards Index levels breached 2,000 in Central Kalimantan and Indonesians fled their homes for other cities, while in Singapore, the PSI crept to hazardous levels (above 300), causing schools to close on Sept 25.

While Indonesian President Joko Widodo had pledged tough action to tackle the annual haze problem, including issuing a moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations and vowing to sack local military and police chiefs for uncontrolled fires in their provinces, some Indonesian politicians however, continued to make critical remarks.

Early last year, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla had said: “For 11 months, they (our neighbours) enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset.”

In September last year, he said Indonesia should not apologise to its neighbours for the haze and a month later, in an interview with Malaysian news agency Bernama, Mr Jusuf said the haze that affected Malaysia and Singapore was blown there by the wind — something Indonesia cannot control.

In October, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan described Singapore’s offer of one aircraft to Indonesia to help fight forest fires that have caused the thick haze as “insulting”.

But a month later, Mr Luhut apologised for the massive haze and promised that the government would be better prepared next year.

On Friday, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency Nazir Foead had also pledged at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources that there is “zero chance” that any haze this year will be as severe as last year’s.

Indonesian minister rebuts Singapore over comments on haze
In an interview with the website, Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya says Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze.
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 17 Apr 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya has issued a rebuttal over comments made by her Singapore counterpart about forest fires in Indonesia, saying Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze, instead of “making so many comments”.

In an interview with local environmental news website on Saturday (Apr 16), Dr Nurbaya said the Indonesian government has taken substantial steps to prevent land and forest fires, and the ensuing haze that envelops the region every year.

These steps are based on decisions made by the Indonesian government, and not because of pressure from other countries, including Singapore, she said.

“We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is – what has the Singaporean government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role,” Dr Nurbaya was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli spoke at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue in the city-state.

“Agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions. There must not be a repeat of last year’s fires, because the prolonged season of dryness allowed fires to burn uncontrollably and in a very widespread way,” Mr Masagos had said.

“Companies practising unsustainable production that affect us with haze must know that their actions will not lead to profitability and that they will have to face the consequences sooner or later,” he said.

Dr Nurbaya told that Singapore needs to do its own part in combating the haze.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” she was quoted as saying.

She said the Indonesian government has taken action against companies – especially those headquartered in Singapore – found to be negligent in handling land and forest fires that occur on their concessions.

“This is just one example of how we are not shirking our responsibilities and are doing what is expected of us,” she said.

“We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbours and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out.”

- CNA/cy

Read more!

Climate change study can be data-intensive work, says scientist

SIAU MING EN Today Online 18 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE — When he was working on the national climate change research project, it was not uncommon to see senior research scientist Raizan Rahmat poring over local temperature, rainfall and wind data that dated as far back as 30 years.

The 36-year-old would also be behind the computer, punching numbers into various algorithms to calculate wind flow and temperature changes, for instance.

Together with his team at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), he spent two years simulating 100 years of temperature, rainfall, wind and sea-level projections for Singapore and the region under the first phase of the Second National Climate Change Study.

Climate change research can be data-intensive work, but Mr Raizan was not put off by that.

“My main interest is actually in finding patterns in huge amounts of data,” said the father-of-three, an engineer by training.

This particular study by the CCRS was also important because much of the global climate models today are unable to provide high-resolution projections for a small country like Singapore, said Mr Raizan.

For instance, low-resolution models might not accurately represent Singapore’s topography — which could affect wind simulations here — and may not capture its intense but small-scale weather systems, he added.

Mr Raizan was singled out by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli last Tuesday as a “MEWR kaki” (Malay for buddy) for his work on the study.

During the debate on his ministry’s budget, Mr Masagos noted that climate science was a complex subject that Singaporeans needed to understand more deeply to prepare better for climate change.

“We cannot overbuild, as this will incur costs, nor under-build (because) this will spell disaster,” he said. In particular, he highlighted how the extreme weather patterns from climate change pose new challenges to Singapore’s water sustainability.

Findings from the study’s first phase, which were released in April last year, showed that the unusually warm temperatures that Singapore encounters occasionally could become a norm from 2070. The island can also expect more intense and frequent heavy rainfall by then.

By the last few decades of the century, sea levels are projected to rise by between 0.25 and 0.76 metres, and temperatures could increase by 1.4 to 4.6 degree Celsius.

These projections are being used in the second phase of the study to examine the impact of climate change on areas such as water resources and drainage, biodiversity and greenery, as well as network and building infrastructure.

But the challenge of climate change research is often the amount of uncertainty that comes with climate projections, said Mr Raizan.

“Because of these uncertainties, you get a range of climate scenarios in the future. We have to ensure that when we look at these projections, we analyse them in a robust manner and based on the latest available science,” he said.

Talking to end users about the uncertainty, how it should be assessed and taken into consideration to avoid misinterpretations is another challenge, he added.

Climate change research draws on a range of disciplines. Weather is affected by wind flow, movement of air and moisture and convection, among other things, which are “mathematics in nature” and involve physics, Mr Raizan noted.

Such an area of study also involves climate science, which looks at the effects of the carbon cycle, sea surface temperatures and the amount of ice in the polar region, for example, over a longer period of time.

The climate change study was one of the CCRS’ top priorities when it was set up in 2013, in addition to its studies on tropical climate systems, which are poorly understood.

The centre supports Singapore’s efforts in climate resilience by producing robust long-term climate projections, which are essential to climate impact and adaptation.

Ongoing and future work at the centre include understanding how the atmosphere interacts with the oceans under global warming conditions, as well as urbanisation’s influence on the local climate, said a Meteorological Service Singapore spokesperson.

Read more!

Stalls selling raw-fish dishes still reeling

Carolyn Khew, Rebecca Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Apr 16;

The Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria outbreak may have died down, but stalls which used to sell ready-to-eat raw-fish dishes are still reeling from the effects of the scare.

Food stall owners interviewed by The Sunday Times said they have seen their takings drop drastically. Mr Kiang Choon Tong, 68, stallholder of Soon Heng Pork and Fish Porridge at Amoy Street Food Centre, said business has fallen 60 per cent compared to November last year. His stall now sells only pork porridge.

Lye Bo at Alexandra Village Food Centre has switched to selling noodles instead of porridge. "People still cannot get over it (the GBS outbreak). It is not just going to the hospital a few days, but having to amputate your limbs," said Madam Lee Wai Ping, 41, one of its stallholders.

Mr Tan Whee Boon, 51, a former technician, had his hands and feet amputated last August after he suffered food poisoning from eating a raw-fish dish.

In December last year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) banned food outlets from using freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw-fish dishes. This was after about 150 GBS cases were linked to the consumption of raw freshwater fish toman (snakehead) and song fish (Asian bighead carp), which are typically eaten with porridge .

In response to ST queries, NEA, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the ban on using freshwater fish in raw-fish dishes will remain until further notice.

After the ban, some stalls obtained approval to use saltwater salmon in their raw-fish dishes instead, but this has not helped them win back their customers.

Ah Chiang Porridge in Tiong Poh Road, for instance, got the approval to sell ready-to-eat raw salmon in January but its stall supervisor Cher Kee Chiang, 69, said business has plummeted. "Before the incident, we sold about 250 plates of ready-to-eat raw fish every weekday, now we sell at most 35 plates.

"People don't really like the Norwegian salmon we sell, because it is too soft. It does not suit Singaporeans' taste."

As of March 31, 30 food stalls were approved by NEA to resume the sale of ready-to-eat raw-fish, or mainly salmon, dishes. They include those in hotels and hawker centres. GBS bacteria are commonly found in the gut and urinary tract in about 15 to 30 per cent of adults without causing any disease, but they may sometimes cause infections of the skin, joints, heart and brain. There were more than 350 GBS infection cases last year, with two fatalities.

In their reply dated April 4, the authorities said that there have been fewer than five GBS cases a week so far this year, similar to the usual "baseline" figures. This compares with nine to 10 cases per week for the first six months of last year.

"We are unable to establish any link between the baseline GBS cases and consumption of raw fish," said MOH, NEA and AVA.

Mr Cher hopes there will be some clear answers soon about last year's GBS outbreak.

"We want to know the origins of the problem, whether it was due to problems with the fish, or improper handling practices. We don't know the clear reason why we cannot sell raw fish," he added.

Not all customers, however, remain wary of eating raw fish.

Sales manager Jerryl Ling, 24, is glad that stalls are now selling raw salmon with porridge. "I enjoy sashimi, and I love Chinese yu sheng. I was quite devastated when GBS broke out and I couldn't eat the song fish," he said.

Read more!

A day with local otter watchers

Lydia Lam, My Paper AsiaOne 18 Apr 16;

IT IS 6.30am and I approach - as quietly as I can - a family of 10 otters frolicking on the grass by the Helix bridge in Marina Bay.

Beside them sit otter watchers Nick Soo, better known by his online moniker Fast Snail, and Yane Kang, whose photos of a pup injured by a fishing hook hit the news early in April.

Mr Soo, a 34-year-old engineer, is taking videos of the family, known as the Bishan 10 as the parent otters were first sighted in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park.

It is a Saturday and My Paper has taken up an invite to join an informal group of about 10 to 20 otter watchers.

"Bring a bicycle, or wear running shoes," Mr Soo reminds me in a text message the night before.

I learn how valuable a bicycle is after walking with Ms Kang for half an hour from the Singapore Flyer to Gardens by the Bay, hoping to catch sight of the creatures.

We are foiled when Mr Soo tells us that the otters have turned tail and swum back to the other side of the Flyer.

Throughout the morning, we are joined by others, some of whom are notified of the otter locations shared in a WhatsApp chat group.

The group is as motley as they come, including an IT engineer, a university lecturer, an environmental engineer and one who works in financial services.

Their ages range from 30 to 60.

Asked about the diversity of people, Jeffery Teo, 44, who has followed otters for about four years, laughs and says: "Background doesn't matter. In the eyes of the otters, we are all equal."

We watch them catch and eat fish, play, sunbathe and clean themselves on leaves.

They come out to catch fish in the morning from 7am to 9am and in the evening from 5pm to 7pm, returning to their holts, or nests, to sleep when the sun is high, says Ms Kang.

The watchers usually find the otters based on where they were last spotted the previous night, often by fellow watchers.

It is best to spot an otter by 6am, which is about the time it wakes up, says Mr Soo. If you miss the creatures at their last-sighted spot, chances are, it will be very difficult to find them again.

Three otter watchers tell me that they manage to find the otters six out of 10 times that they try.

Some, like Ms Kang, seek the mammals daily before work, while others do so only on weekends.

Most go on foot but Mr Soo cycles from his home in Bishan, which was where he spotted his first otters in May last year.

Asked why they choose to follow the otters, most of the watchers laugh and say "because they are cute".

The mammals are very entertaining, chittering to one another, occasionally squabbling over a catch of fish.

Whenever they come on land, joggers and cyclists pause and whip out their smartphones to take a photo or video.

Dragon boaters and kayakers on the Kallang river also take five to admire the creatures playing in the water.

At 10am, a tour boat stops its engine for tourists to watch the otters, which swim up to the boat curiously.

The Bishan 10 are the friendliest of the bunch, the otter enthusiasts tell me.

There are at least 50 otters in Singapore, with families scattered in places such as Marina Bay, Changi, Kallang and Pasir Ris.

With the increasing spotlight on the otters, plans must be made to study how to better co-exist with wildlife, says National University of Singapore anthropology lecturer Lai Ah Eng, 60, who has followed the otters for about a year.

Throughout the morning, we spot two illegal anglers who have their rods in the water near the otters. The otter watchers tell me that the Marina Bay area already has fewer of such anglers.

"We can co-exist with more wildlife if we think out of the usual frame," says Dr Lai.

"We are privileged that we live in a small city state but have this wildlife. We could do a lot more in terms of public awareness, conservation and protection, whether it's wild pigs or monkeys or, now, otters."

Read more!

Malaysia: Drought and lack of manpower driving up fruit prices

The Star 18 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Drought and an acute manpower shortage are driving up prices of local fruit but the worst is yet to come, warns the Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association.

Its president Hong Jok Hon said consumers would have to pay even more for their favourite local fruit, including papaya, banana, guava and jackfruit, in the months ahead.

Hong, whose fruit farms are in Johor, said there had been three periods of drought between 2014 and 2015, apart from the one they were facing now.

He said the streams and rivers used by farmers to irrigate their farms were drying up due to the effects of the hot weather.

“I’ve been a fruit farmer for 50 years. It’s never been this bad before,” said the 70-year-old who supplies guava and starfruit to local wholesalers, night markets, supermarkets and Singapore.

Speaking after the annual general meeting of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Fruit Farmers Association and launch of the Fruit Farmers’ Cooperative, Hong said local fruit production was down by at least 40% this season.

He also pointed out that more, and not fewer, workers were needed to tend to fruit trees during drought but the Government’s ban on the intake of new foreign workers was making the situation much worse.

His farms need a minimum of 150 workers but he is down to just 100 and more are expected to leave when their permits expire in June.

“All my workers are Indonesian and some will be applying to go on leave in May for Hari Raya,” he said.

Struggling to cope, Hong has had to abandon parts of his fruit farms in Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Pulai.

Lim Boon Hean, from the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Fruit Farmers Association, said papaya, which used to cost RM2 per kg, now cost up to RM3.50 while a 400g packet of jackfruit was being sold for RM9.90, compared to RM6 previously.

He added that guava, formerly RM4.50 per kg, was now RM6, while watermelon went up from RM2.50 to RM4 per kg.

Read more!

Malaysia: Beris Dam in Kedah at critical level

The Star 18 Apr 16;

ALOR SETAR: The water capacity at Beris Dam, Kedah is now at the critical level and can only last for 30 days.

As for the Muda dam, it has reached the alert level and can last for 50 days.

Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah said the water level at two other dams, namely Pedu and Ahning, was still high at 68.9% and 75.4% respectively and considered safe.

As such, he said, the state government had no plan to carry out water rationing at the moment as there was still enough water supply for domestic consumption as well as for agriculture purposes.

“There is no need yet for water rationing in Kedah but we advise the public not to waste water as we are afraid that in the long run, we may face the same (water) problem, like what has happened in other states,” he told a press conference after presenting aid to 150 recipients from Kampung Tok Batin here yesterday.

On the situation in Langkawi, which gets 50% of its water supply from Perlis, Ahmad Bashah said Perlis had yet to ration its water supply to Langkawi.

However, Ahmad Bashah said he had asked hotels in Langkawi to control and minimise their water usage.

“For rural areas with low water pressure, we have asked Syarikat Air Darul Aman to supply water to the affected residents,” he added. — Bernama

Folks save water in Johor towns
NABILA AHMAD The Star 18 Apr 16;

JOHOR BARU: A number of residents and businesses in Pasir Gudang have already begun conserving water as they are an­­­xious about a repeat of last year’s scheduled water supply that went on for four months.

Assistant engineer Ainaa Azhar (pic), 23, who works in the Tebrau industrial area, said she had been constantly reminding her colleagues not to waste water, especially during the dry spell.

“It was tough for us last year when there was a limited supply of water from August to Decem­ber.

“We were given water supply only two times a week, where a truck would supply water to our office,” she said.

A resident staying in Taman Rinting, Nur Anis Maressa, 25, has started storing water in containers in anticipation of a repeat of last year’s experience, when her residential area was affected and taps went dry for a certain period.

“We had to store water in a large water contai­ner.

“We are doing it now in case there is no water,” she said, adding that so far she has not faced any water shortages.

Johor Public Com­plaints Centre supervisor Syed Othman Syed Abdullah said no complaints had been received so far “but I am urging people to start saving water as a precaution in case of water rationing”.

SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd corp­orate com­munications head Jamaluddin Jamil said they would try their best to not implement scheduled water supply or water rationing, despite the fact that storage at the Sungai Layang dam had dropped to a critical level.

“The water level in the dam is currently at 19.90m. The critical mark is 23.50m.

“We are monitoring the dam. Water rationing is the last resort,” he said.

He noted that the Sungai Layang dam supplies water to 580,000 consumers, mostly industrial users, in Pasir Gudang and Masai, and several parts of Johor Baru.

Teo: Banggi water situation not as bad as portrayed
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 17 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The state government is monitoring the drought situation in northern Banggi Island but said it is not as bad as being portrayed in social media.

Sabah Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang said water production that was shut down a week ago restarted on Sunday following two days of rain, but the people will continue to receive their supply from the mainland.

He said since the closure of the water plant, the Kudat district office had been sending 40,000 litres of treated water to the island twice daily.

"The people can collect water at a temporary water station near Karakit jetty.

The Kudat district natural disaster management committee will immediately set up several more water stations at strategic locations for the villagers, especially those who do not have their own transport," said Teo during his visit to the island with State Secretary Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman and Banggi assemblyman Datuk Mijul Unaini.

"We went to several villages and talked to the people and community leaders. We found that despite the dry spell at the island due to El Nino, villagers are carrying out their daily activities as usual.

"It is not that as bad as portrayed by social media," he said, adding that the Banggi water treatment plant is now producing 300,000 litres of water a day and with more rain expected, it should be able to meet the two million litres per day needed by the villagers.

The water department was forced to close the plant after the catchment area dried up about a week ago.

"Though the piped water distribution network covers more than half of the Banggi population, well water and gravity water is still quite commonly used," Teo said.

"In some villages, almost every house has its own well, though the water level is lower then usual," he added.

Read more!

Malaysia: Sharks in hot soup!

SUZANNA PILLAY New Straits Times 17 Apr 16;

FROM 2000 to 2011, Malaysians consumed an annual average of 1,384 metric tonnes (mt) of shark fin and imported 1,173mt.

According to the State of the Global Market for Shark Products Report 2015 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Malaysia is the world’s ninth largest producer of shark products and third largest importer in terms of volume.

It is estimated that at least 1.4 million tonnes or 100 million sharks are killed per year, mainly for their fins.

Globally, sharks are facing extinction because of the demand for their fins and other threats, such as by-catch and usage for cosmetics and health supplements.

No data is available on the number of sharks killed through finning in Malaysia.

“Shark fins are the most valuable part of the shark, hence, sharks are targeted for their fins.

“If the trade in sharks continues, the supply of fins will be exhausted. The decline of sharks will cut short the supply of seafood and affect human survival,” says WWF-Malaysia’s marine programme sustainable seafood manager Chitra Devi G.

“Shark conservation is a long-term initiative. We need to work with partners for a period of time before we can reverse the situation and see significant results.

“Shark finning has increased over the past decade due to the increasing demand for shark fin soup, which is worrying.

“The Fisheries Department says shark finning, which involves hacking off fins and throwing sharks back in the ocean to die, is prohibited.”

Chitra Devi says the fins of sharks caught in Malaysian waters were typically removed at the landing site.

The rest of the shark is also sold by the fishermen.

“Since most of the shark species that are targeted for their fins are slow to mature and reproduce infrequently, it makes it very difficult for shark populations to recover after extreme depletions.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) says shark fishing and finning should be banned.

“It is a matter of great urgency because sharks in and around Malaysia are fast losing their battle for survival,” says SAM president S.M. Mohd Idris.

“Killing tens of millions of sharks every year means that shark populations will take a long time to recover.

“Whether caught as by-catch or as targeted species, few controls are in place to limit the harvest of sharks in Sabah and Sarawak waters and it is unclear whether the levels of extraction are sustainable
for all or certain shark species.

“Protection is key to the survival of our finned friends. No change will happen without the establishment of a protection law.

“Raising awareness of the inhumane act of shark finning should also be extended to fishermen who need to be taught the importance of shark conservation and protection of the ecological system where sharks are the apex predators,” he says.

Chitra Devi says WWF Malaysia believes that public education was key to reversing the high shark-fin consumption in Malaysia.

This month, a WWF-Malaysia Asian City Shark Fin Consumer Survey 2015 revealed that consumption of shark fin soup is strongly tied to celebrations, with weddings topping the list at 85 per cent.

Another key finding is that consumers are mostly Chinese — 76 per cent in Kuala Lumpur or 91 per cent in Petaling Jaya. On average, shark fin soup was consumed twice last year, mainly in restaurants.
“We believe people consume shark fin soup because it is a status symbol and the belief that it signifies the wealth and prosperity of the host.

“But it is encouraging that 57 per cent of respondents say it is acceptable to replace shark fin soup with alternatives at weddings,” says Chitra Devi.

“We urge Malaysians to voice their opposition to shark fin soup consumption. WWF-Malaysia is organising the My Fin My Life campaign from January to July with campaign partners Shark Savers Malaysia (SSM), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch Marine Group, Reef Check and Sabah Shark Protection Agency.

“This campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of sharks in maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem and keeping our seafood sustainable.

“The goal is to sensitise 20,000 restaurants to phase out shark fin soup, engage a million Malaysians to support the call for ‘no shark fin soup’ and to get 500 businesses to commit to removing shark-fin soup from their menus or when dining.

“The public can support the call for ‘no shark-fin soup’ by breaking the shark fin soup bowl at

“In Malaysia, shark fins are gradually introduced to new market segments and not limited to the Chinese population.

“Therefore, WWF-Malaysia is educating all Malaysians that cutting short sharks’ existence will cut short our own supply of seafood and food security.

“The decline of sharks will also affect human survival in the long run, because seafood is one of our main sources of protein.”

MNS president Henry Goh says the pressure on shark numbers and fisheries, in general, is greater than ever and the ‘My Fin My Life’ campaign is to address the decline of shark populations in Malaysia.

Coordinator of MNS’ Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group Wong Wee Liem says shark education has been part of the branch’s annual marine awareness programme since 2003.

MNS Marine has been featuring articles on sharks in its monthly and quarterly publications, and on social media. It is also organising a shark awareness programme on Pulau Tenggol, Terengganu, in conjunction with World Oceans Day this June with SSI.

MSN marine also supports the My Fin My Life campaign’s aim of collecting a million pledges to abstain from eating shark fin soup.

Wong says shark and shark fin consumption is a Malaysian problem.

“Chinese Muslim restaurants serve shark’s fin. Indian cuisine also includes shark, so the focus is on understanding, so that everyone can play their part, be it bigger players like restaurants, companies and hotels, or individuals.”

SSM president Abner Yap says the results of the WWF Consumer Survey are encouraging as they show a 44 per cent decline in shark fin consumption in the past six months, and 56 per cent expect to lower their consumption in the coming 12 months.

“The decrease is driven by shark protection gaining more public concern (85 per cent), environmental concerns (65 per cent) and a change in dining culture (55 per cent).

“It is a validation of efforts by NGOs to raise awareness in this area. It shows that the campaign is effective and spurs us to achieve more.”

Hotels remove dish from menus
New Straits Times 17 Apr 16;

SEVERAL leading restaurants and hotel chains have pledged their support for the “No Shark Fins Policy” and do not feature shark fin soup in their menus.

One of them is the Shangri-La chain of hotels. The chain removed shark fin soup from the restaurant menus of all 91 of their hotels in December 2012, says Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s area director of communications Datuk Rosemarie Wee.

“We came up with a few alternatives to shark fin soup, which are very well accepted by our younger generation.

“Most newlyweds now do not want shark fin soup for their wedding dinners.

“However, understanding the need for luxury food at weddings, we offer black chicken soup doubled-boiled with conch and cordyceps, ginseng soup double-boiled with abalone and black chicken.

“More expensive choices include ‘monk jumped over the wall’ and Mandarin duck soup double-boiled with fish maw and matsutake mushrooms. We also follow a sustainable seafood practice at our hotel.”

The Hyatt chain instituted a complete ban on consumption and procurement of shark fins at all Hyatt food and beverage outlets globally in 2012 with full implementation effective in May 2014.

“We strongly believe we have the responsibility to ensure our seafood products are thoughtfully sourced and carefully served,” says Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur executive sous chef Michel Eschmann.

He says Hyatt wants to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising what’s best for the future generation and the hotel is offering alternatives, such as fish maw, sea cucumber, bird’s nest, conch and abalone in-line with Hyatt’s practice in seeking to reduce and eliminate sourcing of highly vulnerable seafood species identified by WWF.

“This is not just a trend, it is a conscious lifestyle that will inevitably inspire change in the way we eat and every seafood choice we make.

“As part of Hyatt’s sustainable seafood effort, we are working towards buying more than 15 per cent of our seafood supply from fisheries or farms that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

“It is important to note that this is the first phase of our long-term seafood sustainability strategy in partnership with WWF.”

Hilton Worldwide banned shark fin in all restaurants and food and beverage facilities operated by its portfolio of 645 owned and managed properties in 2014.

“Hilton Kuala Lumpur is committed to supporting the environment and responsible procurement. Shark fin was removed from all menus a number of years ago and this has been overwhelmingly supported by our guests,” says regional general manager, Malaysia, Hilton Worldwide, Jamie Mead.

Ending the slaughter
New Straits Times 17 Apr 16;

BESIDES the ‘My Fin My Life’ campaign, WWF-Malaysia is also working with state governments on shark protection.

An announcement was made by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun that three marine parks are to be made shark sanctuaries.

They are Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Semporna district, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu and the proposed Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat.

He also announced that the gazetting of Tun Mustapha Park would take place in the middle of this year, when he launched WWF-Malaysia’s My Fin My Life campaign in Kota Kinabalu on Feb 28.

In support of WWF’s conservation efforts, the Penang government has pledged to stop serving shark fin soup at state functions.

Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh favours a multi-pronged approach, including promoting awareness about the role of sharks in the marine ecosystem and how sharks benefit the economy (diving and snorkelling tourism).

“Stopping demand, political will to enact strong legislation, monitoring and enforcement and alternative incomes for coastal communities who depend on shark catching, need to be examined.”

Sahabat Alam Malaysia president S.M. Mohd Idris said introducing the “fins naturally attached rules” adopted by many countries could make a big difference, given the imperiled status of many shark species here.

“Shark conservation is a growing global concern requiring implementable solutions to end the loss of large numbers of sharks.”

He suggested taking the following steps:
SETTING up a shark sanctuary in Semporna and other shark populated areas in Sabah;
EDUCATE the public against consuming shark fin and draw attention to the cruelty of cutting off the fins of sharks and leaving them to sink to the bottom of the sea to die;
THE GOVERNMENT should ban shark fin soup from official receptions and hotels should ban shark fin on festive occasions, wedding banquets and corporate dinners. Supermarket chains should implement a ‘no shark fin’ policy;
AIRLINES can ban shipments of shark fin and stop serving shark fin soup; and,
BAN shark fishing as it is being carried out at an unsustainable level.

Read more!