Best of our wild blogs: 20 Jul 16

Dead fishes at Lim Chu Kang, 19 Jul 2016
wild shores of singapore

Day trip to Chek Jawa with the Crabs
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

A wonderful weekend at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

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Malaysia: Shark hunting will not stop without law against practice -- Masidi

The Star 19 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: It is not possible to stop the killing of sharks for their fins as there is no law prohibiting hunting of the marine creature here, says Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said because of this, photographs of sharks supposedly being hunted and finned in Sabah's east coast would continue to surface.

He said this after photographs of nearly a dozen finned sharks were spread on Facebook and WhatsApp, supposedly taken on July 16 at a village on Mabul Island, near Semporna.

Asked if state authorities were aware of killing of sharks at the island, Masidi said; "What difference does it make when there is no law against it – the Fisheries Act?"

This was not the first time photographs of shark finning at Mabul Island have surfaced.

The Sabah government has been unsuccessful in getting the Federal Government to amend the Fisheries Act to include a ban on shark hunting – even in state waters.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had said that the Sabah government's request for a ban on shark hunting and finning in Sabah was unnecessary.

The state subsequently said it would designate marine parks around the state as shark sanctuaries, where hunting of such marine creatures was banned.

The Sabah Shark Protection Association here said a law banning shark hunting was just as important as having sanctuaries.

Its chairman Aderick Chong said without such laws, shark hunting would continue. Malaysia is currently the world's ninth largest shark producer.

Conservation organisation Traffic reported that more than 231 tonnes of sharks were caught in Malaysia between from 2002 to 2011, accounting for 2.9% of the total globally-reported shark catch.

He said fisheries statistics also showed a decreasing amount of sharks being caught each year since 2003, indicating a decline in its population.

Sabah govt’s hands tied over slaughter of sharks as cruel practice is not banned

KOTA KINABALU: Horrific photographs of sharks being hunted and finned in Sabah’s dive paradise will continue to crop up on social media unless there are laws banning the practice.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said without such laws the slaughter would continue.

He said this when asked about the photographs of nearly a dozen finned sharks posted on Facebook and WhatsApp, said to have been taken at a village in the diving haven of Pulau Mabul near Semporna on July 16.

The pictures showed carcasses of sharks floating in the bloodied sea.

Asked if state authorities were aware of the killing, Masidi said: “What difference does it make when there is no law against it?”

Pressed further if anything could be done to curb such activities, which were viewed in horror by environmentalists and tourists, he said: “What do you suggest in the absence of laws against it?”

Yesterday was not the first time such photographs at Mabul, which is next to the world-class diving spot Pulau Sipadan, have been highlighted.

The Sabah government has been unsuccessful in getting the Federal Government to amend the Fisheries Act to include a ban against shark hunting – at least in waters off the state.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had said that the Sabah government’s request for a ban was unnecessary.

The state subsequently said it would designate marine parks in Sabah as shark sanctuaries where hunting was banned.

However, the Sabah Shark Protection Association said such a law was just as important as the setting up of these sanctuaries.

Its chairman Aderick Chong said without such laws, sharks would continue to be hunted in Malaysian waters, making the country the world’s ninth largest producer of shark products.

Conservation group Traffic had reported that over 231 tonnes of sharks were caught in Malaysia between 2002 and 2011, accounting for 2.9% of the total global catch.

He said fishery statistics also showed a decreasing number of sharks being caught each year since 2003, which might indicate a decline in the population.

Sanctuaries 'last resort' to save sharks, says Masidi
BERNAMA New Straits Times 20 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government’s move to declare three marine parks as shark sanctuaries is the ‘last resort’ to prevent further decline of the species.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the government and authorities could not do much to curb shark hunting and finning in Sabah unless and until the Fisheries Act was amended.

“Unless laws are enforced and the state is given more powers to deal with the issue, we will only see unnecessary killing of sharks.

“We can do the next best thing to protect our sharks, by declaring marine parks as shark sanctuaries to make it illegal to catch sharks in these parks,” he told reporters at his ministry’s Raya open house.

The function held on Tuesday night at the Sabah National Culture and Arts Department grounds was attended by the ministry’s workforce and their families.

Yesterday, pictures showing dead sharks with their fins severed believed to be taken from Mabul Island off Semporna were found circulating on the internet.

“The photos we see [on the internet] are what we have been opposing and talking about in the last few years...shark hunting and finning simply cannot continue.

“The state earns around RM300 million from the diving industry every year; most divers come here to observe the sharks,” he said.

According to Masidi, the mechanics of establishing shark sanctuaries in marine parks and implementing relevant laws banning shark hunting were being studied.

“We will be making an announcement about our progress in the near future,” he said.

Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park here, Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna and Tun Mustapha marine park in Kudat would be formally declared as shark sanctuaries this Sunday. -- Bernama

Laws against shark-hunting and finning necessary, says Masidi
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 19 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Laws prohibiting shark-hunting and finning are crucial towards the protection of endangered sharks in Sabah, said State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Masidi was responding on the circulation of pictures of shark-killing at Mabul island, shared in Facebook.

In January, it was reported that a group of tourists and divers had witnessed sharks being finned at the island.

Sabah had last year asked the Federal government to amend the Fisheries Act, specifically on shark protection in Sabah.

The request however was rejected as it was deemed unnecessary.

“With the absence of any law prohibiting shark-finning, what difference does it make?,” Masidi replied in WhatsApp message.

He added that an announcement would be made on the setting up of shark sanctuaries at marine parks soon.

In February, during the ‘My Fin My Life’ campaign here, Masidi said the shark sanctuaries would be set up at more than two million hectares of marine parks including the newly-gazetted Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat, Tunku Abdul Rahman park in Kota Kinabalu, and the Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna.

Shark species are vital to the diving industry as nature enthusiasts generate revenue of about RM380 million every year.

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Malaysia: Northern floods -- Evacuees in Kedah now at 409

EMBUN MAJID New Straits Times 19 Jul 16;

ALOR STAR: The number of flood evacuees in Kedah increased to 409 people as at noon today, with five new relief centres opened this morning.

The number of evacuees in Yan district dropped to 148 people at three relief centres, after one centre was closed.

As for Kuala Muda, a total of 261 people were evacuated to four relief centres.

The four relief centres in Kuala Muda are Dewan Keda and Surau Kampung Tepi Sungai in Kota Kuala Muda, Surau Kampung Batu 15 at Jalan Jeniang, Surau Kampung Sungai Rotan and Surai Kampung Guar Stesen.

The affected areas in Yan are Kampung Titi Teras, Kampung Paya Mengkuang, Kampung Guar Stesen and also Yan town area.

The Kedah Disaster Management Department secretariat, in a statement, said 18 people staying at Surau Kampung Lubuk Boi were allowed to return home at 8am today.

Meanwhile, Yan district officer Mohd Yusri Md Daud when contacted said the office is still evaluating the damage due to flooding in the district.

He said so far the district office has received reports of road damage at Kampung Raga and also of fallen trees.

“We are still checking on a claim that part of the road leading to the top of Gunung Jerai has been closed off due to a landslide."

Over 200 flood victims in Kedah evacuated to relief centres
G.C. TAN The Star 19 Jul 16;

ALOR SETAR: Flash floods in Yan forced over 200 villagers to be evacuated to relief centres.

State Fire & Rescue Station public relations officer Nor Hafizah Mohammad Lukman said the Yan fire station received a distress call at about 5.48pm, Monday from villagers at Kampung Titi Teras, Guar Chempedak.

“Operations Commander Mohd Firdaus Isa with 10 firemen reached the village to carry out rescue and evacuations at 6.07pm.

“The villagers were evacuated to the temporary flood relief centre at Masjid Titi Teras in Guar Chempedak,” he said.

Yan District Police Chief Deputy Superintendent Police Muhd Halim said as at 8pm, Monday the number of people at the four flood relief centres were 18 at Surau Kg Lubuk Boi, 10 at Surau Nurul Huda Batu 18 1/2, 100 at Surau Teroi Bukit and 38 people at Masjid Titi Teras.

No casualties have been reported.

JKR says it is wary now after heavy rain drenched the state
The Star 20 Jul 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The sun was shining again but after being hit with 250mm of rainfall within hours, state authorities know that the monsoon was here in full swing.

State Public Works Department (JKR) Salleh Awang said it was wary now after heavy rain drenched the state from Monday to yesterday morning.

Over 20 JKR officers were on the field since yesterday afternoon, he said, checking on the integrity of slopes and roads.

Some boulders crashed down from uphill at dawn in Jalan Tun Sardon, the road to Balik Pulau town, and the department was paying attention to that slope.

“We had many calls and tweets from locals and we reacted quickly,” he said, adding that Penangites can call JKR at 04-2898888 or look up its Twitter account, JKRPulau Pinang.

The Meteorological Depart­ment’s latest forecast only shows isolated thunderstorms for Penang with clear skies for tomorrow and next Monday.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng visited the evacuation centre in Teluk Bahang to give flood relief contributions. Ten families of about 30 people were taken to the evacuation centre. All returned home by 3pm yesterday.

Statewide, 65 people from 26 families were evacuated and by 4.50pm, only the Teluk Kumbar flood relief centre remained open.

It was also a miserable time for about 600 dogs at the Penang Animal Welfare Society when floodwaters were waist-high at the sanctuary in Teluk Bahang.

The kennels were submerged and the dogs were quickly placed in the shelter’s buildings.

The storm winds of over 50km an hour forced pilots to circle Penang airport for over an hour while waiting for the gales to abate on Monday.

Many passengers pulled out the airsick bags and Star Media Group regional operations general manager (north) Simone Liong, who was on such a flight, said the plane shook as it circled round the island.

Her 8.55pm flight from Subang was delayed until 10.40pm.

“We circled for maybe 10 times. During the landing, everyone was tense,” she said, adding that the plane only touched down at 1am yesterday.

When contacted, an airline representative gave an assurance that all pilots were well trained to face storms.

“Every plane has enough fuel to reach the next airport in an emergency. For Penang, it will be Langkawi. When there is only enough fuel to reach Langkawi, the pilot will head there, refuel, and return to Penang,” he said.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Penang head Kenneth Tan called on Penang airport to compensate airlines or refund airport charges to passengers after the flooding on Monday.

In Kedah, 420 victims were taken to 10 flood relief centres in Baling, Kuala Muda and Yan.

Water was almost a metre high and Yan victims said it was their worst in 10 years.

More people evacuated in Kedah due to floods
The Star 21 Jul 16;

ALOR SETAR: The number of flood victims at flood relief centres in four districts in Kedah increased to 476 people as of 8am Thursday, from 385 Wednesday with six centres still open and 11 were closed.

State Disaster Management Committee Secretariat Major (PA) Imran Azemi said the flood victims comprised 132 families in Yan, Kuala Muda, Baling and Pendang districts.

The victims in the Yan district are given temporary shelter at Surau Kampung Batu 22 (79 people), Surau Kampung Teroi Bukit (117), Surau Kampung Sungai Lintang (62), Kampung Sungai Malai (44) and Dewan Shukor Yan (67), while the evacuation centres at Masjid Titi Teras, Surau Nurul Huda Batu 18 1/2, Surau Kampung Lubuk Boi and Surau Kampung Setar had been closed.

In Pendang, only the centre at Dewan Cenderawasih remained open with 107 people, from 31 families.

The other evacuation centres that had been closed are three in the Baling district, at Surau Kampung Seputeh, Surau Kampung Tawar and Dewan Orang Ramai Macang Bubuk, and four in Kuala Muda district (Dewan Keda and Surau Kampung Tepi Sungai, Surau Kampung Batu 5, Surau Kampung Sungai Rotan and Surau Kampung Guar Stesen) which were closed at noon yesterday. –


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Indonesia: Riau Police drops probe into 11 firms linked to forest fires

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 20 Jul 16;

Riau Police reportedly have dropped investigations into 11 companies allegedly involved in forest fires in 2015, underlining the poor law enforcement of last year’s catastrophe that claimed five lives.

The 11 companies were among 18 accused of having been involved in the fires. While two other companies have seen their cases brought to court, six other companies are still being investigated.

Following the termination of the 11 investigations, the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari) environmental group has called for the dismissal of the Riau Police chief.

Jikalahari coordinator Woro Supartinah said a termination of investigation ( SP3 ) on the cases was issued in January. But, it was only unveiled recently when some environmental activists visited Riau Police headquarters seeking an update on the cases.

“It turned out that only two cases have been brought to court and six others are being investigated by Riau Police,” Woro told the media on Tuesday.

The 11 companies that saw their investigations terminated operate industrial plantation forests (HTI) and oil palm plantations. The industrial forest companies are PT Bumi Daya Laksana, PT Siak Raya Timber, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Hutani Sola Lestari, PT Bukit Raya Pelalawan and KUD Bina Jaya Langgam.

The five oil palm plantation companies are PT Pan United, PT Riau Jaya Utama, PT Alam Lestari, PT Parawira and PT Hibrindo Inti Langgam.

Meanwhile, the six companies that are being investigated include PT Ruas Utama Jaya, PT Decter Timber Perkasa Industry, PT Suntara Gajapati, PT Rimba Lazuardi, PT Sumatera Riang Lestari and PT Wana Subur Sawit Indah. The first five companies are involved in HTI while the last one is engaged in the oil palm sector.

“Only the cases involving PT Langgam Into Hibrindo and PT Palm Lestari Makmur have been brought to court, however, the defendants are individuals and not corporate players. The court verdicts were also quite disappointing as two of the four defendants were acquitted,” Woro said.

She recalled millions of Riau residents, who were exposed to severe haze from the September 2015 forest fires, were excited by the prospect of Riau Police undertaking investigations into the alleged involvement of 18 companies in the fires.

The public also appreciated the work of the Riau Police for successfully handling forest fire cases in 2013 and proving the involvement of PT Adei Plantation and Industry and PT National Sago Prima.

“Terminating the investigations into the 11 companies has really disappointed the Riau people. It did not at all align with their sense of justice, especially after five residents died from the [fires’ resulting] air pollution and millions of others suffered respiratory problems,” Woro said.

She demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to evaluate the performance of Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto.

Woro claimed the Riau Police chief went against the President’s instructions, who in January ordered the National Police to take stern action against forest fire perpetrators.

However, “the SP3’s issuance to the companies indicates a lack of willingness by the Riau Police chief in enforcing the law on forest fire cases, which clearly contributes to environmental degradation in Riau,” added Woro.

Jikalahari deputy coordinator Made Ali said the Riau Police’s attempt to cover up the investigation terminations raised questions, particularly after the police also issued SP3s to 14 companies suspected to be involved in illegal logging in 2006.

Made suspected the cover-up attempt of the cases was the work of a cabal inside the force.

“The new police chief should pay special attention to this issue to prove his determination in eradicating the ‘mafia’s’ infiltration in law enforcement agencies,” said Made.

Separately, Riau Police chief spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo acknowledged that Riau Police had terminated investigations into the 11 companies. “The cases were discontinued because of insufficient evidence,” Guntur told The Jakarta Post.

Govt to Evaluate Evidence in Forest Fires Cases After Police Drop Investigations
Novi Setuningsih & Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government will evaluate the data or evidence on land burning cases after the Riau Police called off investigations against 15 of the 18 companies allegedly involved in the 2015 forest fires.

According to Kalla, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry – which initially reported the cases – will respect the law.

"It is legal matter. The government will follow the law, but we also appreciate the law by evaluating what had happened. [We will see] whether the data and evidence submitted is like that [not strong enough]," Kalla said in Riau on Friday (22/07).

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya earlier also called for an evaluation of the data, and she instructed the ministry's law enforcement directorate general to study the issue.

She said there was an agreement between the ministry and the Riau Police chief. The ministry can impose administrative sanctions, while the police have the authority to launch a criminal prosecution.

Riau Police economic and special crimes director Sr. Comr. Rivai Sinambela explained that the decision to drop the investigation against the 15 companies was made for lack of evidence, whereas the land is still part of a dispute.

"As it did not fulfill any elements of intent or negligence, we have decided to stop the case," Rivai said recently.

Of the 18 companies, 11 are conducting their businesses in the industrial plantations sector, while four others are involved in palm plantations.

Three other companies that have been taken to court are Langgam Inti Hibrindo, Palm Lestari Makmur and Wahana Subur Sawit. However, the court decided not to proceed with the cases.

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Indonesia: Communities in Riau, Indonesia now more aware of impact of open burning

HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN New Straits Times 20 Jul 16;

RIAU, INDONESIA: A major part of the communities here are now aware of the downside of open burning and its impact, which affects not only Indonesia but also neighbouring countries.

This was made possible with an awareness programme dubbed 'Desa Makmur Peduli Api' (DMPA) launched by one of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

APP, with the help of its sister company, Sinarmas Forestry, had focused on educating the villagers near Pekan Baru, Riau, on the correct ways to farm and ways to manage and restore peatland instead of burning it.

Sinarmas Forestry head of social and security team Jeffri Nurhalim said the villages near Pekan Baru and Riau had been chosen due to its air quality recorded during the recent El-Nino season.

The programme prioritised villages with higher reports of illegal loggings and open burning before moving to less critical areas.

The air quality recorded was the worst in the Asean region due to uncontrollable open burning which led to prolonged haze, affecting neighbouring countries especially Malaysia and Singapore.

The programme aims to benefit 500 villages near the forestry in the next five years. The programme is deemed crucial towards conserving national forests and to prevent fire in the future.

"There are 799 villages near our concession; DMPA aims to benefit 500 villages in the next five years.

"Six main activities in DMPA include identifying the community's strength to plant, introduction to eco-friendly farming technology, including the public in preserving forests as well as preventing conflicts among small business and community," he said.

This year, the programme aims to launch 80 DMPA near Riau, Jambi, Kalbar, Kaltim and Sumsel.

The number is expected to increase to 120 villages by the end of 2017.

Other than educating the farmers not to commit open burning at the plantations or nearby forests especially during the drought season, DMPA helped to increase their income and number of crops.

Jeffri said the clearing of new land to allow farming activities helped in reducing the impact of open burning especially in forest areas.

"Indirectly, when the farmers plant their crops such as vegetables and paddy, it will minimise open burning as the areas are looked after and monitored," he said after visiting the area.

A farmer, Rosmiati Mohammad Sahrik, 44 when met said she was grateful to be taught on the proper way to plant and on the impact of open burning globally.

"Previously, we burnt the land to clear it but now that we know the proper way, the trees are chopped and placed at a corner to allow it to decompose.

"With the fertilisers and seeds given by Sinarmas, the paddy planted is also different from the previous batch. It is better and it looks like it will produce more paddy," she said when met in Sungai Mandaub.

She said the previous haze had affected her health, and hoped that open burning will not be practised again, now that they have been taught the proper ways.

Under the programme, selected villagers were given a hectare of land, seeds and fertilisers to work with.

The villagers were also given a two-day training session at the Sinarmas Forestry Training and Development Centre.

To date, there are up to 400 acres of palm oil, 200 acres of paddy field compared to 20 acres of land opened in 2007.

Pekan Baru, Riau declared an emergency last year when the province recorded up to 1,000 API readings due to the forest fires.

The haze had impacted Malaysia and Singapore, blanketing several states in Malaysia including Johor, Malacca and Negri Sembilan.

Battling Riau forest fires: APP allocates US$20m to prevent, track and tackle fires
HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN New Straits Times 22 Jul 16;

RIAU, INDONESIA: Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) had allocated US$20 million (RM80 million) to procure and equip its fire management department with the latest technology and equipment to prevent and combat fire in Riau.

The proactive measure was taken by APP, which is a subsidiary of diversified conglomerate Sinar Mas, following the recent El-Nino phenomenon and open burning, that leads to haze blanketing the province and its neighbouring countries including Malaysia and Singapore, as well as affecting the company's operation.

The funding was not only used to procure the latest equipment to track, prevent and combat fire but also used to improve the river system in the province.

Sinar Mas Fire Management corporate chief Steven Sujoto said the improvement was made to ease the process of fire fighting. The river is also used as the main means to transport wood to the factories.

"Coordination centres have also been set up at the villages (within the concession) in an effort to fight forest fires and open burning. Teams are put on standby around the clock to avoid unfortunate events.

"The centres would be equipped with equipment ranging from tankers to helicopters used in water bombing, depending on the needs of the respective areas," he said, adding that the equipment was handed over to more than 500 villages near the concession, which covers about two million hectares, in Indonesia.

The team on duty would conduct patrols three times a day and monitor hotspots in the areas through its current satellite towers.

The company also worked with local firemen and sources expertise from foreign sources such as in Canada to combat forest fires and open burning.

Sinar Mas Head of Fire Management Sujika Lusaka said besides monitoring ground activities, personnel in the situation room in Riau also monitor hotspots round the clock via a website.

"Even if the location has a slight chance of catching fire, personnel will be deployed to the area to prevent it from happening.

"Beside putting out fire at areas in the concession, the teams also will assist local firemen in battling fires up to five kilometres out of the concession because it might endanger our location," he said.

Sujika said the equipment owned by the department exceeded government requirements by 180 per cent.

He said the department is in the midst of testing out thermal cameras and geothermal towers to replace the existing satellite system.

"We detected several weaknesses in the satellite system including giving out false alarms, causing the team to expend a lot of energy on the field when there is actually no fire.

"This is because the satellite system detects anything more than 40 degrees Celsius as a hotspot and we would then have to verify everything," he said, adding that the thermal system is expected to be more effective.

Last year, Pekanbaru declared a state of emergency when the province recorded air quality index readings of 1,000 due to the forest fires.

The haze had impacted its neghbouring countries including Malaysia and Singapore.

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Indonesia: Seagrass Deterioration Threatens Indonesia's Fishing Future

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 19 Jul 16;

Jakarta. Findings of a decade long research project shows the conditions of Indonesia's seagrass meadows is deteriorating at a fast rate, raising concerns about the country's commitment to its maritime future.

Richard Unsworth, the head researcher on the project, said that while Indonesia has a natural abundance of seagrass, research has found a loss over over half a square kilometer of seagrass, triggering alarms about the future of the fishery industry.

“Indonesia has a huge reliance on seafood and seagrass plays an important part of supplying resources for the fishery,” Unsworth told the Jakarta Globe in an interview via Skype on Sunday (17/07).

The research project, launched by Unsworth at the Swansea University in Wales 10 years ago, is a collaborative effort with researchers from Cardiff University and Hasanuddin University, Makassar, monitoring seagrass in sites around Southwest Sulawesi, Wakatboi, Lombok and Jakarta.

The team also conducted studies throughout the waters of Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Seagrass — not to be confused with its algae counterpart seaweed — is a terrestrial plant adapted to live in the sea, produces flowers and seeds and undergoes photosynthesis.

The plant plays an important role in marine life, providing habitats for young fish hiding from predators and as a major food source. The grass stores carbon dioxide in sediment, helping to filter the water.

With a focus on stagnant seagrass development, Unsworth's PhD research in Wakatobia has found seagrass in the area is less healthy and less dense due to coastal development and disruptive fishing.

Wakataboi was designated a biosphere reserve in 2010 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)'s Man and the Biosphere Program.

Unsworth believes that in order to stop the decline, a collaborated effort between local government, fishery agencies and the wider community must be introduced to educate on the importance of seagrass, repair rivers and replanting trees and ending the practise of ships and fishing boats anchoring in seagrass meadows.

While marine conservation primarily focuses on coral reef preservation, Unsworth says the challenge is changing mindsets about seagrass preservation.

“Part of coral reef conservation is protecting the habitats that support coral reefs and seagrass meadows do that as it serves as a nursery for baby coral fish and it provides clean water for coral reefs to sustain,” Unsworth said.

“Seagrass is not as sexy and exciting as coral reefs.”

He said it is difficult to engage large environmental conservation organizations, like the World Wildlife Fund, in the issue as its difficult to sell to the public.

In an effort to raise awareness, Unsworth and his team conducted a series of events in Wakatobi with the local government, fishery managers, the NGO Forkani and local fishermen focusing on the importance of seagrass and marine preservation.

Workshops with fishermen have been conducted by Unsworth and his peers to teach them about irresponsible anchoring and fishing.

“It’s not about how much seagrass Indonesia has, but it’s about stopping the decline of seagrass population,” Unsworth said.

“The hardest part is that Indonesia is so big and there’s a limited pool of scientists to do this research.”

According to Unsworth, seagrass populations have decreased across the globe. While Europe is on the road to recovery, Indonesia is continuing its decline.

“It’s not always about trying to save the cute fish, it’s about trying to save the fisheries, which is key to Indonesia’s future,” he said.

Preserving Indonesia's seagrass should be a priority for Indonesia, he said, as many popular fish species found in local markets are closely associated with seagrass and are as such at risk of extinction, including the rabbitfish and emperor fish.

In order to stop the decline, Indonesia must adopt long term monitoring strategies and bring in experts form other countries which have dealt with the same environmental issue, such as Japan, Australia or the US, he said.

While he does not agree with Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti's method of fish bombs, he supports her preaching of the country's future being tied to fisheries.

“She’s right to say that managing fisheries is important for the future,” he said.

Seagrass in Indonesia at risk from human activities
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 23 Jul 16;

In peril: A man fishes in a seagrass meadow damaged by sand mining in the Pari Islands, north of Jakarta.(Courtesy of Wawan Kiswara)

Seagrass meadows in the country are turning into muddy wastelands as they are under widespread threat from human activities and are often overlooked in conservation, putting the fisheries industry in peril.

Seagrass helps keep oceans clean, protects sandy beaches and increasingly helps to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Loss of seagrass has been documented in places such as Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, Manado in North Sulawesi, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi and the Pari Islands, north of Jakarta, according to a group of Indonesian and UK scientists.

“Pollution is the biggest problem for seagrass in Indonesia,” Swansea University marine ecologist Richard Unsworth told The Jakarta Post, in reference to the country’s many polluted seas.

“What that means is that there’s no light for seagrass [as a result of pollution] because it’s essentially a plant that has adapted to living in the sea,” Unsworth said.

The second biggest threat for seagrass is coastal development. “So when people build houses on the seafront or claim lands to build ports or new development, this has a big impact upon seagrass,” he said.

In the Pari Islands, for instance, seagrass is being destroyed so that people can construct houses where the seagrass meadow use to be.

The third problem is overfishing, which significantly causes imbalances in the marine ecosystem. All these problems are killing seagrass meadows across the archipelago.

“Seagrass supports biodiversity and traps a lot of CO2 [carbon dioxide] from the ocean. Algae doesn’t do those things. So if the algae becomes dominant, it’s no longer a productive ecosystem,” said Unsworth.

By trapping emissions, he said seagrass meadows were important in mitigating the impacts of climate change because a large meadow of seagrass could trap a lot more CO2 than a forest and could store carbon in sediment, making seagrass more important than many forest types. The country has an estimated total seagrass area of 30,000 square kilometers, which potentially can harness 368.5 million metric tons of CO2.

Besides its benefit to the environment, seagrass meadows are also an important national resource that provides support for fisheries, according to Hasanuddin University researcher Rohani Ambo-Rappe.

“Indonesia is the world’s biggest fish producing nation and seagrass is critically important for supporting fisheries because baby fish live in seagrass and many types of fish spend their early years in seagrass as well. Healthy seagrass means healthy fisheries,” said Rohani.

Realizing that the nation’s seagrass meadows are in peril, a group of seagrass experts led by researchers at Swansea University, Cardiff University and Hasanuddin University recently gathered in Makassar, South Sulawesi, to collect evidence of the current status of seagrass, survey risks and develop conservation solutions.

It was the first time such evidence has ever been collated. The evidence highlights that action is urgently required to minimize damage to seagrass and to make them resilient to rapid and global environmental change.

Conservation management strategies are required to address specific threats to seagrass, which then can be implemented across the archipelago.

For example, seaweed farming can be conducted in deeper waters away from seagrass where water clarity is higher, increasing seaweed growth. Furthermore, coastal development needs to operate in a manner sensitive to the local habitat and illegal sand mining on important beaches needs to be policed.

“The government in Indonesia can start by recognizing the importance of seagrass. It’s not just Indonesia’s problem, it’s a global problem.

“One billion people on the planet live within 50 km from seagrass meadows but most of those people don’t know that,” Unsworth said.

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Indonesia: Police foils attempt to trade 20 endangered eagles in Lampung

Antara 20 Jul 16;

Bandar Lampung, Lampung (ANTARA News) - The Lampung police foiled an attempt to trade 20 black-winged kites, a rare species of eagles, in Bandarlampung.

The birds (Elanus caeruleus) were confiscated from Muhammad Rohim (27), a resident of Enggal Village of Central Tanjungkarang Subdistrict of Bandar Lampung, who allegedly used to trade the birds of prey through social media, Director of Special Crime of Lampung Police, Senior Commissioner Dicky Patrianegara, said here on Tuesday.

"The suspect offered these rare animals through a facebook account for Rp200,000 each," Patrianegara disclosed.

Rohim had caught the eagles by himself using a net trap. In the black market, an eaglet may be valued between one million and two million rupiah (one US dollar equals roughly Rp13,000), the officer added.

The Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of Bengkulu was the first to notice the eagle trade on the facebook and reported it to the local authority.

Head of Area III Conservation Section of BKSDA of Bengkulu Teguh Ismail said all the species of eagles in Indonesia are protected by the law and cannot be traded.

"This deed violated the law and was harmful to the efforts to preserve nature. We worked together with the Lampung Police to lure the suspect and then arrested him," Ismail informed.

Black-winged kite, locally known as eagle of mice, as it mainly eats small rodents such as mice, is also considered an endangered species.

It is best known for its habit of hovering over open grasslands in the manner of the much smaller kestrels.

This kite is distinctive, with long-wings, white, grey and black plumage and owl like forward-facing eyes with red irises.

Although mainly seen on the plains, they are sometimes seen on grassy slopes of hills in the higher elevation regions of Asia.

The confiscated black-winged kites would be taken care of by the BKSDA "since most of them are still eaglets and it would be impossible to release them to the nature," Ismail stated.(*)

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Indonesia: Infrastructure development in Raja Ampat

Otniel Tamindael Antara 20 Jul 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Developing the infrastructure, including extending the Marinda airport runway to boost tourism development in Raja Ampat district, is part of President Joko Widodos pledge to focus more attention on the Papua region.

The government of President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, has lunched key infrastructure projects aimed at facilitating visitors' access to Raja Ampat.

President Joko Widodo wants Marinda airports runway in Raja Ampat extended to 2,500 meters in order to serve larger aircraft, according to Raja Ampat District Head, Abdul Faris Umlati.

During his visit to Raja Ampat recently, President Jokowi expressed his hope that the Marinda airport could be expanded like other airports in Indonesia with a 2,500 meters runway.

Umlati explained that the local government has agreed and is ready to support the development of Marinda airport, but most of the land around the airport is a conservation area that requires further study by the relevant ministries.

Marinda airport is currently serving only small planes and has a 1,200 meter runway that is 30 meters wide, but the Transportation Ministry will extend it to 1,600 meters.

This will be done after the airport is handed over by the local government to the Ministry of Transportation which will manage and develop it.

In addition, the people of Raja Ampat also want the airport to be expanded to accommodate wide bodied aircraft because the area is a world tourist destination.

President Jokowi said tourism development in West Papua is being undertaken to develop Raja Ampat.

"This year, we have set our focus on development of Raja Ampat," Jokowi said, adding that the budget has been set only for the development of an airport terminal and to extend the airport runway.

The district administration has been told to prepare land for the project. Construction would start when land will be made available.

According to the president, many things were on the agenda for infrastructure development in West Papua, especially in Raja Ampat district.

With no direct flights to Raja Ampat, visitors heading to the islands have to take a domestic flight to the airport in nearby Sorong city, before taking another two-hour boat ride.

The main airport in Sorong will undergo some work to enable it to accommodate international flights, while improvements are also being made to allow Marinda airport in Raja Ampat to service domestic flights from other Indonesian cities.

There are also plans to build five-star hotels on the main Waigeo island, although the local government did not provide a specific timeline for those plans.

Known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat in West Papua is an ideal destination for both local and foreign tourists to relax and unwind.

The visitors to Raja Ampat have the opportunity to witness a multitude of marine habitats and coral reefs in one glance without having to swim a stroke.

Raja Ampat comprises four large islands and hundreds of dots and specks off the fragmented western corner of the land of Papua, the worlds second-largest island.

Most visitors arrive in Raja Ampat through Sorong, a city on the far west coast of Papua, which has an airport, army barracks, and a karaoke bar called Happy Puppy.

In less than two hours from Sorong, the visitors can reach Raja Ampat, where they can indulge in activities, such as swimming, diving, and snorkeling, or just relax.

Reaching Raja Ampat has now become easier as the Bahari Express fast boat, a public transportation service, is offering rides to foreign tourists from Sorong city to visit the tourist attractions there.

Raja Ampat is home to a multitude of attractions and experiences.

With thousands of people visiting Raja Ampats marine and natural attractions, visitors can skip the crowds and experience it all aboard the Bahari Express fast boat.

"Our ship serves not only the local passengers but also foreign tourists who want to visit Raja Ampat," remarked Erwin, a Bahari Express crew member.

In Raja Ampat, the tourists can enjoy not only the beautiful marine biodiversity but also the scenic beaches and gain local insights into the history of Raja Ampat.

In terms of historic relevance, in the 15th century, the Raja Ampat Archipelago was part of the reign of Tidore Sultanate, a great kingdom centered in Maluku Islands.

To run its government, the Sultanate of Tidore appointed four local kings to rule the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool, which are the fourth-largest until this day.

The term "Four Kings" who ruled the islands became the basis for the name Raja Ampat, which comprises some 610 islands, with 753 kilometers of coastal line.

Foreign tourists visiting Raja Ampat are enthralled by its beauty, found nowhere else in the world.

Some of the tourist attractions in Raja Ampat are the Kabui Strait, Arborek Islands, Pasir Timbul, the iconic Wayag Islands, and Arborek Island.

Arborek Island is fast developing as a region for marine conservation. The island, which includes the Arborek Village, has gained popularity for its success in developing it into one of the best marine conservation areas.

The success has been recognized both by the local authority and international community.

The island has succeeded in managing its conservation area since several parties, including the national and local governments, non-government organizations, research centers, and the local people have lent their support.

Arborek Island has been simultaneously managed as a conservation area and marine tourism destination.

Tourists visiting the island can experience the beautiful scenery, both on the surface and underwater. They can explore the scenic village on the island and the ocean life.

The visitors can indulge in several activities on Arborek Island, including diving and snorkeling, but they have to carry along their own equipment due to the lack of rental facilities.(*)

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Earth has another record warm month, but the string may be ending (for now)

Andrew Freedman Yahoo News 20 Jul 16;

June 2016 was the warmest June on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Tuesday. Global land and sea temperatures were both record warm for the month.

The June record extends the number of months of consecutive record-shattering warmth the planet has seen to 14. This is due to a combination of an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean and long-term, human-caused global warming, and marks the longest such record warm streak in 137 years of record-keeping, NOAA found.

Using separate methods but similar data, NASA also found that June set a record for its warmth, while the year so far is also barreling toward another record.

Global average surface temperatures for the month of June were 0.90 degrees Celsius, or 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above average. This was tied with March 2015 for the ninth-largest monthly temperature anomaly on record.

A remarkable 14 of the 15 highest monthly temperature departures in the climate record have all occurred since February 2015, NOAA stated in its report.

The last cooler-than-average month on Earth was December of 1984.

The June record also makes it more likely that 2016 will be the planet's warmest year, surpassing the record set just last year. NASA has already said that a record warm 2016 is virtually guaranteed based on the temperatures so far this year.

For the year so far, the average global land and ocean surface temperatures was 1.05 degrees Celsius, or 1.89 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

This ranks as the warmest year-to-date on record, passing the record set last year by 0.20 degrees Celsius, or 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the June record was set by a far smaller margin than the other 13 hottest months were, indicating that the planet's fever is waning slightly, likely due to cooling ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean associated with a developing La Niña.

This likely means that the streak of warmest months will end — for now — in July or August, barring some unforeseen climate event, like a widespread, record-breaking heat wave across a large part of the globe.

Amazingly, June 2016 also marks the 378th straight month with temperatures "at least nominally above the 20th century average," NOAA said.

The last month that had cooler-than-average temperatures compared to the 20th century baseline was December of 1984, when the average global surface temperature was 0.09 degrees Celsius, or 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit, below average.

The last time we had a cooler than average June was even earlier, back in 1976.

"While the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers," said Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a statement.

As for global ocean temperatures, the Earth had yet another record warm month, with June 2016 becoming the 40th-straight June with above average global ocean temperatures. In addition, to give some sense of the magnitude of the climate records being set, the 12 highest monthly global ocean temperature departures have all occurred in the past 12 months.

While monthly records are noteworthy, it is the impacts of climate change and the longer-term climate record that climate scientists are paying closer attention to, given how swiftly global warming is altering landscapes from the Arctic to the African Sahel region.

Unusual warmth has been especially pronounced in the Arctic this year so far, with 2016 ranking as the hottest year-to-date for that fragile region.

Propelled by this warmth, Arctic sea ice hit a record low during June.

This has opened up parts of the far north to shipping traffic and other industrial activities and disrupted native wildlife, such as polar bears and walruses, that depend on the sea ice for food and other purposes.

According to NASA, the extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Across Siberia, the extreme warmth has helped exacerbate the wildfire season, with huge tracts of forests still ablaze.

Much of the globe had milder than average temperatures during June, NOAA found, with the most unusually warm conditions located in north-central and far eastern Russia and northern Australia.

North America had a record warm June, while four other continents had at least a top 5 warmest June. Africa, for example, had the second-warmest June on record there, although climate data is sparse in many parts of the continent.

Record warmth was also found across parts of the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, northeastern and southwestern Africa, the Middle east and Indonesia.

The only area with cooler than average temperatures during June was central to southern South America.

No land areas had a record cold average monthly temperature during June, NOAA found.

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