Best of our wild blogs: 6 Sep 16

Quite A Bit Of Fauna In The MacRitchie Sauna
Winging It

Job Opportunity: Scientific Officer (Publications)
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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‘Low’ odds of haze in Singapore over next few days: NEA

Today Online 5 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — The likelihood of Singapore being affected by transboundary haze is low over the next few days, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Monday (Sept 5).

This is because prevailing light winds are expected to continue blowing from the south-west or west, while showers are forecast over parts of Sumatra and the surrounding region.

Just one hotspot was detected in Sumatra on Monday, and there was no visible smoke plume or haze observed, said the NEA. However, the low hotspot count was due to a partial satellite pass and cloud cover, the NEA added.

As of 5pm on Monday, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Reading (PSI) reading was 63-78, in the moderate range, and the 1-hour PM2.5 concentration was 5-17µg/m3 in the normal band.

The PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the moderate range, said the NEA, with the 1-hour PM2.5 concentration expected to stay in the normal band over the same time period.

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16 new Zika cases confirmed on Monday, bringing total to 258

Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: 16 new cases of locally transmitted Zika were confirmed on Monday (Sep 5), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint statement. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Singapore to 258.

Of these, 11 cases are linked to the cluster spanning Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way. One case is linked to the Joo Seng Road cluster. The other four cases have no known links to any existing cluster.o

NEA added that it has been continuing with vector control operations and outreach efforts in Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way, as well as expanded operations and outreach efforts at the periphery of this cluster at Circuit Road, Geylang East Central and Geylang East Avenue 1.

The agency said that as of Sep 4, 63 breeding habitats – comprising 37 in homes and 26 in common areas or other premises – have been detected and destroyed.

NEA added that it is continuing with vector control operations and outreach efforts in Bedok North Avenue. As of Sep 4, 52 breeding habitats – comprising 42 in homes and 10 in common areas or other premises – have been detected and destroyed, it said.

It added that vector control operations and outreach efforts at Joo Seng Road are ongoing and no breeding habitats have been detected thus far.

Earlier on Monday, MOH announced that it would extend subsidies for Zika testing to all Singaporeans with symptoms of the infection, not just those who live, work or study in the affected areas. Suspected Zika cases will also no longer be isolated pending test results.

- CNA/dt

Subsidised Zika testing extended to all Singaporeans: MOH
Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) will extend subsidies for Zika testing to all Singaporeans with symptoms of the infection, not just those who live, work or study in the affected areas. Suspected Zika cases will also no longer be isolated pending test results.

In a media statement on Monday (Sep 5), MOH said: "As more cases are found in other parts of Singapore, testing will no longer be focused on the clusters only, and we will provide a subsidy for the test by the public sector laboratories". It gave details as follows:

- Subsidised patients at public healthcare institutions will pay a subsidised rate of $60 if they have Zika symptoms regardless of where they live, work or study. Patients who need the test but cannot afford it can approach medical social workers for assistance, such as from Medifund.
- Private patients at public healthcare institutions, as well as patients at private clinics and private hospitals will pay the full cost of S$150 for the Zika test.
- Doctors will continue to make the clinical judgment on whether it is necessary to test individuals for Zika.

The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects like microcephaly, and MOH added that pregnant women will remain a special group to whom it will make Zika tests more affordable and accessible.

MOH said doctors will continue to make the clinical judgment whether testing of Zika is necessary. For those who have Zika symptoms or whose male partner is Zika-positive, public sector laboratories will continue to extend free Zika tests to patients at the public healthcare institutions, as well as those at private hospitals and clinics, it said.

The Health Ministry added that for those who are not pregnant, confirming a Zika infection generally does not have an impact on the clinical management, which is currently focused on relieving symptoms. However, confirmation is useful in directing vector control efforts, it added.

- CNA/dt

Subsidised Zika testing extended to cover more

SINGAPORE — As more Zika cases emerge outside the current three geographical clusters, the Ministry of Health (MOH) tweaked its battle plan on Monday (Sept 5) by announcing subsidised tests for the virus for all Singaporeans and permanent residents, regardless of where one lives, works or studies.

Sixteen new cases were found as of noon yesterday — bringing the number of locally-transmitted cases to 258 — with four of these not linked to the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive/Kallang Way/Paya Lebar Way, Bedok North Avenue 3 and Joo Seng Road clusters.

From Wednesday, subsidised patients need only pay S$60 for Zika tests at public healthcare institutions. This is provided they have fever, rash, and one other symptom of joint pain, muscle pain, red eyes or headache. Private patients or those who visit private clinics or hospitals will pay the full S$150.

Pregnant women with symptoms or those with male partners who are Zika-positive will continue to get free tests everywhere. Mothers-to-be who wish to be tested regardless will pay a subsidised rate of S$60 at public healthcare institutions.

Doctors will continue to make the call for patients, pregnant or not, on whether testing for Zika is necessary, said the MOH. Patients who need the test but cannot afford it can approach their medical social worker for assistance, such as from Medifund, it added.

In a statement, the MOH said its considerations for testing hitherto were based on the assumption that most cases came from the affected areas. Hence, the free tests for those who live, work or study in these locations, while others pay the full charges. “However, as more cases are found in other parts of Singapore, testing will no longer be focused on the clusters only, and we will provide a subsidy for the test by the public sector laboratories,” it said.

From Tuesday, the MOH will also no longer require suspected Zika cases to be isolated while waiting for test results. Confirmed patients will also not be required to be hospitalised unless medically necessary. They can return home to await their test results.

“As more cases emerge, there is evidence that there is transmission in the community with the presence of infected mosquitoes. Furthermore, most of the patients do not display symptoms. Therefore isolation of patients with symptoms will have limited effect,” said the MOH.

Elaborating on the change in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said when the Zika cluster was first discovered, the MOH was not certain of the extent and whether there was already large-scale transmission. Therefore, it was important for them to isolate patients then to prevent further spread even as investigations were carried out, he said.

The ministry was also not sure whether the Zika cases in Singapore were likely to have very severe symptoms that will cause medical issues, so it decided to hospitalise them first, he added. Given that isolated cases have emerged in other parts of Singapore, Mr Gan said his ministry has to work on the basis that local transmission has spread outside the affected areas.

“Also bearing in mind that there are 80 per cent of our infected patients do not have symptoms and therefore they are not treated by our doctors. Just isolating 20 per cent of our symptomatic patients has very limited effect,” he added. “Therefore, isolation will no longer be very effective.”

Commenting on the move, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said: “We have lost the opportunity to control the virus. In that case, why waste resources on isolation when we can actually (use) the resources to kill the mosquitoes?”

He added that a person may have the Zika virus in his/her blood for seven to 10 days before the onset of the fever, “so isolating after the onset of fever doesn’t make a lot of sense”.

Dr Wong Sin Yew, an infectious diseases physician at Gleneagles Hospital said patients with a Zika infection usually have the virus circulating in their blood for three to five days. “This is the period that they may be infectious when a mosquito bites them,” he said.

The need for isolation depends on risk assessment and isolating such cases will have limited effects, he added. “The patients should continue to rest at home, preferably in an air-conditioned room while awaiting for the results of their tests,” he added.

Challenge is to stop mosquito breeding in homes: MPs
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 6 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Despite stepping up public education since the Zika outbreak and more stringent enforcement, getting all residents to stem mosquito breeding at home remains a challenge, said Members of Parliament, acknowledging that the message has not sunk in fully.

Although a large proportion of mosquito breeding habitats that have been detected are in homes, not all residents are taking the necessary precautions seriously or need to be reminded to do so consistently, they added. While they have ramped up house visits, the MPs noted that up to 60 per cent of households are away during these walkabouts.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said that many residents were unaware that their homes could be potential breeding sites, and there was a need for “sharper” messaging.

“The messaging today is not very explicit (in) saying that most of it (mosquito breeding) is in the homes — people don’t seem to get it,” he said. “The impression is always that it always comes (from) outside, it’s never from my home.”

Although the majority of their residents take precautions, including practising the Five-Step Mozzie Wipeout, some do so intermittently or overlook some spots, said MPs.

“There will be a handful who either don’t see the news, or don’t see the need to take action in their own homes,” said Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC). “Some people might clear stagnant water after an outbreak, but it’s human nature to forget it after a while.”

Mr Zaqy added that those who followed the steps cannot rid their homes of breeding sites “100 per cent”.

For instance, some breeding sites are found in obscure spots, such as wet patches behind toilet bowls, which are not part of the wipeout, and they may “get blindsided”.

For others, it was a matter of carelessness. Sometimes, said Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), residents may have left something but forgot to check on it, which can be dangerous.

“We need to keep repeating the message often,” she said.

Over the past few weeks, experts and government leaders have warned that Zika was here to stay and vector control was the most effective defence.

On Sunday, Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor said Zika cases — like dengue, both of which are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito — would continue surfacing over time. As of Sunday, 63 mosquito breeding habitats were found and eradicated in the Aljunied-Sims Drive cluster — 37 of them in homes and 26 in common areas or other premises.

At Bedok North Avenue 3, another Zika cluster, 52 breeding habitats — 42 of which in homes and 10 in common areas or other premises — were detected and removed. No breeding habitats have been detected in the Joo Seng Road cluster so far.

Residents from Aljunied Crescent said that the authorities were doing enough to combat Zika, and acknowledged that they were more focused on avoiding being bitten than on eliminating breeding spots.

Housewife Joyce Tan, 56, said: “Some people might think that since they are living their lives normally, (the outbreak) is purely due to external factors and may not be bothered to check their homes ... just as long as they take necessary precautions such as spraying and using patches, they think they will be fine.”

Given that the area has more elderly residents, retiree George Lee, 66, said family members need to chip in to spread the message about the seriousness of the Zika virus.

Another resident, 47-year-old drafter Ooi Tai Siong, added that elderly residents may need to be told directly, and in dialect, what needed to be done, since they may not understand the content in the flyers distributed. KENNETH CHENG AND ILIYAS JUANDA

Singapore should brace for long-term battle with Zika - experts
Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Wealthy Singapore has the funds and expertise to fight Zika, but its warm, wet climate and one of the world's most densely packed populations mean the mosquito-borne virus may be controlled but not eradicated, at least for years, infectious disease experts say.

The tropical city-state, a major global financial and transit hub, is the only known place in Asia with active Zika transmission, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease and Prevention.

So far, the virus has been detected in 189 people since the first locally transmitted infection was reported six days ago, and the areas from where they have been reported are spreading.

In his first public remarks on the outbreak, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday: "We must assume that Zika is elsewhere in Singapore."

Zika can cause serious birth defects when pregnant women are infected, a link discovered last year with the virus's arrival in Brazil, where its impact has been greatest so far. It is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which also carries dengue, a potentially fatal virus that Singapore authorities have been battling for decades.

Hundreds of specialist workers conduct island-wide inspections for mosquito breeding grounds, spray insecticide and clear stagnant water. Residents of homes where water is allowed to stagnate in flowerpots or elsewhere can be penalised.

Entomologists and infectious disease specialists say Singapore's experience with dengue has primed authorities to contain Zika. A healthcare system ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as among the top 10 in the world is also in Singapore's favour.

Singapore, with a "very technologically advanced health system", was able to identify the disease "very early", David Heymann, chairman of the WHO's emergency committee on Zika, said on Friday. "But in other countries where it might enter at some time, that might not be the case."

But almost daily downpours, average temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), large green areas and a population of more than five million people packed in a city that is half the size of Los Angeles, which has a population of 4 million, make Singapore a hospitable area for mosquitoes.

"As demonstrated by the inability to eradicate dengue, the same can be said for Zika virus," Cameron Webb, a medical entomologist at the University of Sydney, told Reuters.

"This is a mosquito that is not found in the swamps, it's found in the cities. Mosquito-borne disease is something that we are going to have to manage for many years to come."

Singapore health ministry officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their outlook for Zika.

More than 11,000 cases of dengue have been reported in Singapore so far this year, with the authorities warning the number could exceed 30,000 by year-end, a record high. In 2013, about 22,000 cases of dengue were reported.

Wong Sin Yew, an infectious disease physician at Gleneagles Medical Centre in Singapore, said it was unclear for now whether Zika would become as widespread as dengue. "If we keep having more and more cases, and more and more areas affected, then unfortunately it would indicate the infection has become established," he said.


The pace at which the infection numbers have risen in Singapore highlights how fast Zika can spread but equally, it also shows the government's ability to detect the virus.

Such efforts, along with scientific research into possible vaccines and methods to eradicate mosquitoes, could help Singapore contain the disease, experts say.

Singapore already has strict "no breeding" regulations for outdoor areas. The health ministry, in a statement on Friday, said it will be introducing several measures to "enhance the surveillance of the disease and protection of Singaporeans". It did not give details.

"We also urge all Singaporeans to take the appropriate precautions to prevent mosquito breeding as vector control is critical in preventing transmission and reducing the risk of the virus from taking root in Singapore," the ministry added.

Even if Singapore could contain the spread of Zika, its status as an international trade and transit hub puts it at risk of further infections. More than 55 million people pass through the airport each year and tourism arrivals topped 8 million in the first half of this year.

"Even if this outbreak of Zika virus was to stop tomorrow, there is no reason why an infected traveller may not bring Zika virus back to Singapore," said entomologist Webb.

However, there are some indications that these risks could ease in the next few years.

A study published by British scientists in July said the Zika virus infecting countries in Latin America could burn itself out in two to three years, as people develop "herd immunity", which occurs when a high percentage of a population has become immune to an infection either through developing natural immunity or through vaccinations.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

- Reuters

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Number of dengue cases continue on upward trend, with 311 new cases

Channel NewsAsia 6 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of new dengue cases rose to 311 in the week ending Sep 3, up from 274 the previous week, according to figures released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Sep 6).

Another 31 cases were reported between Sunday and 3pm on Monday.

A total of 11,312 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year. Seven people have died of the disease so far, with the latest fatality a 79-year-old man who lived in Eastwood Drive near Upper East Coast Road. There were four dengue fatalities in the whole of 2015.

There are now 59 active dengue clusters in Singapore – up from 58 the previous week – including 13 classified as high-risk. The biggest cluster is in the area near Bedok Rise, where 50 cases have been reported, including 10 in the past fortnight.

A dengue cluster near Bedok Rise, as of Sep 5, 2016. (Image: NEA)

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

Singapore also reported its first case of locally transmitted Zika late last month. It has since confirmed a total of 258 cases, and authorities have warned of more likely positive cases.

- CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Water samples from Johor rivers show high levels of chemical waste, says rep

NABILA AHMAD The Star 5 Sep 16;

JOHOR BARU: Several rivers including Sungai Skudai, Sungai Sayong in Kulai, Sungai Tebrau and Sungai Pandan have been found to have high levels of chemical waste.

Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau said there were high levels of ammonia, phosphorus, nitrate, iron and other substances in the rivers,

He said a water sample from Sg Skudai showed that it contains high levels of ammonia (3.11mg/ l) with water quality at class III under the National Water Quality Standards (NWQS).

He said a water sample from Sungai Sayong also showed the river was polluted and contains dangerous chemicals.

“Despite the plan introduced by the state government to clean Sungai Skudai, the water is still contaminated with industrial and farming waste as well as rubbish,” he said.

Dr Boo added he had submitted a letter to the Johor Mentri Besar’s office suggesting ways to resolve this issue.

“The quality of water in the rivers should be at Class IIA.

“I hope action would be taken against those responsible,” he said in a press conference at Southern Chinese Press Club.

When contacted, Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat said that the state government had already issued warnings to factory operators.

“Keeping the river clean is something everyone should be responsible for,” he said.

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Malaysia: Mandatory for developers to install mosquito traps

SIRA HABIBU The Star 6 Sep 16;

PETALING JAYA: It is now mandatory for developers to install mosquito traps in housing projects in a move to control Zika and dengue outbreaks.

Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said developers who failed to abide by the new condition risked losing their licences.

“We have to take stern action to over­come mosquito-borne di­seases,” Noh said.

The ministry directed all local authorities to impose the new condition when approving housing projects, effective immediately.

He said they were invoking Sec­tion 11 of the Destruction of Disease-bearing Insects Act that required ap­­proval for operations likely to pro­­pagate or harbour di­sease-bearing insects.

“We will work with the Health Ministry to compel developers to abide by Section 11 of the Act,” Noh said, adding that developers should absorb the additional cost.

He said this yesterday after an­nouncing a RM1mil allocation for a special NBOS (National Blue Ocean Strategy) committee, comprising resident representatives as well as officers from relevant go­­vernment agencies and departments, to help Taman Medan Cahaya residents overcome their long-standing woes, including faulty lifts, leaky pipes and lack of amenities.

Noh also announced that mosquito traps would be included in landscaping projects that were under the purview of the ministry.

The ministry had also made it mandatory for contractors building PPR (Program Perumahan Rakyat) homes to install mosquito traps.

Noh also took a swipe at the Se­­langor government for refusing to accept Act 672 that would enable the fede­ral authorities to take charge of solid waste disposal in the state.

Selangor, which has recorded the highest number of dengue cases, also risked becoming a Zika hotspot if the garbage collection issue remained unresolved, he said.

Real Estate and Housing Deve­lopers Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri Michael Yam said installing mosquito traps in new housing estates would add to the rising cost of development.

But Yam said they were willing to regard the new mandatory condition positively in view of public health implications.

“But installing mosquito traps would not help contain the outbreak if the threat was not tackled holistically,” he said.

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Malaysia: Pledge to extend conservation efforts on Selangor's peat swamp forests

The Star 6 Sep 16;

THE Selangor government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Global Environment Centre (GEC) to work together in managing and conserving the state’s peat swamp forests.

The main objective of this MoU is to enhance conservation of peat swamp forests and reduce the risk of peatland fires and haze.

It will facilitate collaboration among multi-stakeholders involving the state government, private sector and local communities to manage nearly 100,000ha of peat swamp forests in Selangor.

The state government, through the Selangor Forestry Department has been working with GEC to continuously protect and rehabilitate peat swamp forests in Selangor since signing their first MoU in 2010.

It has agreed to expand its collaboration with GEC after a review of the achievements.

Selangor Tourism, Consumer Affairs, and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said the state government intended to strengthen cooperation with GEC to enhance community participation in forest conservation programmes in Selangor, particularly for peat swamp forests.

Selangor Forestry Department director Dr Mohd Puat Dahalan said the MoU would facilitate cooperation with GEC until 2023.

“With the MoU in place, the department can step up implementation of the Integrated Management Plan (2014-2023) for The North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest, as well as expand actions to other sites in Selangor.

“This MoU also allows the state Forestry Department to work closely with GEC to sustainably conserve and rehabilitate our peat swamp forests in the long term,” said Dr Mohd Puat.

GEC director Faizal Parish said the NGO intended to continue the strong collaboration with Selangor Forestry Department.

Canal blocking to restore peat swamp’s high water table is part of efforts to preserve the unique forests.
Canal blocking to restore peat swamp’s high water table is part of efforts to preserve the unique forests.
“We have been working closely with the department since 2008 in the conservation of peat swamp forests in Selangor.

“It is critical to conserve these unique forests in order to preserve our heritage as well as reduce coastal flooding and enhance water supply for agriculture. It will also prevent peatland fires and haze.

“In the future, we will expand our work to support peatland management and rehabilitation in all parts of Selangor.

“We hope that we can enhance our collaboration with local communities and the private sector, to support the protection and rehabilitation of peatlands,” Faizal added.

GEC was established in 1998 to work on environmental issues of global importance. The centre is registered in Malaysia as a non-profit organisation but works regionally and internationally both directly and through many partners.

It supports information exchange and capacity building as well as undertakes strategic projects particularly in developing countries. It works in partnership with other like-minded agencies worldwide.

GEC has been appointed by Asean member states as a technical and operational support partner of the Asean Peatland Management Strategy 2006-2020 and has been working on peatland management and rehabilitation in Malaysia since 1998.

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Malaysia: New Bill to safeguard our natural resources in the works

NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 6 Sep 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The rich natural resources in Malaysia will soon be safeguarded through a new Bill aim­­ed to protect its access and be­­nefit sharing.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the new Bill, if passed, would provide a re­gulation that monitors the access to biological resources and traditional knowledge, tackling biopiracy and ensuring the benefits were shared fairly.

“Malaysia is one of the 12 richest countries in biological resources. The new law would not only protect our resources from being stolen but it also empowers the states that own it,” he said at a press confe­rence after launching the National Conference on Access and Benefit Sharing at a hotel here yesterday.

The drafting of the Bill is in line with the obligation under the Con­ven­­tion on Biological Diversity, which Malaysia is part of since 1992.

The convention acknowledges that biological resources is the absolute right of a country and it has the right to benefit from the use of the resource.

The conference was attended by 120 representatives from fede­ral and state governments, non-govern­mental organisations, acade­mic and research institutions and private sector institutions.

Dr Wan Junaidi said only Sabah and Sarawak had state laws on their biological resources. The state laws, however, could not be enforced outside of their states as international laws only recognise the country’s national laws.

“We had a case where a resear­cher took samples of a natural resource in Kuala Lumpur, studied it and had it patented abroad.

“This new law will put a stop to that theft. It would also benefit the local and indigenous community where the biological resource is located when the resource is commercialised,” he said, adding that state governments would be empo­wered under the proposed federal law.

The Bill is under consultation with the Attorney-General’s Cham­bers and is expected to be tabled in Parliament next year.

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Malaysia: Getting tough on turtle egg smugglers

The Star 6 Sep 16;

SANDAKAN: Firm enforcement against turtle egg smugglers by security forces in east coast Sabah would help in conserving the animals.

Friends Of Sea Turtle Education and Research (Foster) vice-chairman James Leong said moves to prevent turtle eggs from being smuggled into Sabah from southern Philippines was necessary to ensure the survival of the species.

“The success of Sabah Marine Police will help ensure the effectiveness of conservation efforts carried out by the state government through the state Wildlife Department and NGOs,” Leong said in a statement.

Late last week, marine police confiscated 9,900 turtle eggs estimated to be worth RM20,500 and arrested 10 illegal immigrants during a two-day special operation in waters off Sandakan.

This came following an earlier success on July 16 this year when marine police seized 19,000 turtle eggs worth RM30,400 and arrested 11 foreigners in Sandakan waters.

Meanwhile, Leong said that the Taman Hadiah Hatchery on Pulau Libaran has been set up following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Trekkers Lodge Sdn Bhd managing director Alexander Yee with the Sabah Wildlife Department in 2013.

The MOU was aimed at creating awareness among locals and visitors on conserving sea turtles, undertaking research projects with the goal of better understanding the life cycle of sea turtles surrounding Libaran Island and to make available research programmes on sea turtles for international and local students.

Foster was set up by Yee, who is also its president.

Turtle landings on the island have seen a marked increase and from November 2011 till January 2015, 25,939 baby turtles have been released into the ocean from Taman Hadiah, of which 16,406 were Green Turtles and 9,533, Hawskbill Turtles, said Leong.

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Indonesia environment team threatened with death investigating haze

Bernadette Christina Munthe Reuters 5 Sep 16;

Dozens of Indonesian men, suspected of being hired by an oil palm plantation company, threatened to kill environmental investigators checking on fires on Sumatra island, the environment ministry said.

The incident illustrates the difficulties Indonesia faces tackling the illegal burning of vegetation to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations that causes clouds of smoke every dry season, which at times blanket the region, raising fears for public health and air travel.

The ministry said a group of up to 100 men detained seven investigators for about 12 hours on the weekend and threatened to burn them alive and dump their bodies in a river at an oil palm plantation in Rokan Hulu, Riau province.

The team was following up on satellite images showing "hot spots", or suspected fires, in a concession of PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) oil palm plantation company.

There were "strong indications" the mob was deployed by the company, the ministry said in a statement.

"With this incident, the investigation of PT APSL will become our top priority," Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said in the statement, referring to both suspected forest encroachment by the company and the detention of the team.

"The environment ministry will investigate this and take strict action in accordance with the law," she said.

A company official, contacted by Reuters on Monday, declined to comment.

The team was released only after lengthy negotiations involving police and after they agreed to delete photographic evidence and to leave behind two vehicles and equipment. The equipment and vehicles were recovered the next day.

The investigators, however, managed to retrieve video footage shot by a drone showing thousands of hectares of forest had been burned illegally in and around the APSL concession.

"As far as the eye can see, an area that was once peatland has been converted into oil palm plantation," Nurbaya said.

Plantation companies drain swampy peatland before planting their crops and the dried-out peat is particularly flammable and often catches fire when companies set fires to clear vegetation.

More than 450 individuals have been arrested in connection with land and forest fires this year.

Under Indonesian law, companies found guilty of clearing land by burning can be fined up to 10 billion rupiah ($735,000), and the management faces up to 10 years in jail. Companies that fail to control fires started elsewhere but which spread into their concession land also face punishment.

Smoke from fires in Riau often drifts over nearby Singapore and Malaysia. Air pollution in Singapore rose to "unhealthy" levels late last month after a spike in fires in the area.

(Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Palm oil firm takes officials hostage, resists law
Jakarta Post 5 Sep 16;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has lashed out against a palm oil firm’s attempt to stop a forest fire investigation by taking hostage seven ministry officials in Rokan Hulu, Riau.

The officials, who were investigating the alleged involvement of PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) in a massive forest fire in the area, were held hostage by individuals dispatched by the firm, ministry spokesperson Novrizal Tahar said.

The ministry dispatched the officials early last week to investigate a report that suggested deliberate burning had taken place in a Rokan Hulu forest. They subsequently found evidence that the firm had illegally taken over land and planned to use it for expansion.

APSL allegedly cleared around 3,000 hectares of land by burning, which prompted investigators to seal the area. The action evidently angered a group of at least 50 people who forced the officials to delete images and video footage that provided proof of irregularities found during the land concession investigation.

During the incident, which occurred on Friday, the group of people, who claimed to be local farmers, reportedly made death threats against the officials if they failed to submit to the demands.

On Sunday, the ministry’s law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, told The Jakarta Post that images taken by a surveillance drone had been secured as evidence. He added that the seven officials had been released.

Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the crime was extraordinary not only because the farmers blatantly resisted law enforcement efforts but also because of the significant environmental damage caused.

“We strongly suspect that the action was mobilized by the company, which pretends to speak on behalf of farmer groups,” Siti said in a statement on Sunday.

Siti said the ministry would soon take action against the firm as there was sufficient evidence to do so.

“There is evidence that thousands of hectares of forests were burned. In other words, the land has been occupied illegally,” she said.

The government recently imposed a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for oil palm plantations and mining operations.

Siti said the ministry would thoroughly screen companies before granting permit extensions to confirm whether they had committed violations.

“This incident has even encouraged us to do more to fight against forest fire perpetrators,” Siti said.

Greenpeace activist Kiki Taufik said the incident occurred because of weak law enforcement in the forestry sector.

“It shows that companies have a low level of respect for the government. This could indicate that not complying with the law is a common practice,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Kiki said PT ASPL was a relatively small company compared to other players in the industry. “If they dare to commit such crimes, imagine what big players could do. They could have done worse,” said Kiki.

In January, the Riau Police dropped investigations into 11 companies allegedly involved in forest fires last year. Related haze problems have killed at least five people who suffered from respiratory issues.

Kiki said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should take drastic measures against illegal burning to show that the government was taking the problem seriously.

He also called on relevant law enforcement agencies to back the environment ministry in prosecuting companies responsible for burning.

“Complaints about forest fires and other forestry-related cases often fall on deaf ears. Don’t let the public lose their trust because of the government’s reluctance in solving this problem,” he said. (fac)

Environment Minister Condemns Hostage Situation Involving Palm Oil Company
Edo Karensa Jakarta Globe 4 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has condemned the hostage situation in Rokan Hulu district, Riau province, which saw employees of her ministry abducted by local residents during an investigation of last year's forest fires.

Seven members of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry's public order and law enforcement directorate were taken hostage on Friday (02/09) by a group of local residents, allegedly deployed by palm oil plantation company Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL).

Initial investigations by the ministry team showed that a 2,000-hectare area had been burnt by APSL workers, who pretended to be local farmers.

"Most likely, these illegal activities were supported by the company, who employed local farmer groups," Minister Siti said in a statement on Sunday.

The investigators were confronted by a group of more than 100 local residents, who prevented them from leaving the forest area. The group made several demands, including the erasure of all pictures and video footage captured during the investigation.

After series of communications with the ministry's public order and law enforcement director general, the team agreed to erase the files from their digital camera. However, the files taken by a drone camera were not deleted.

The group also demanded that the minister travels to the area before they would release the officials. They did not give any reasons for demanding the minister's presence.

The group even threatened to set fire to their captives and throw their bodies into the river.

At around midnight, local police arrived on the scene to negotiate the officials' release. At around 2.30 a.m. on Saturday, following lengthy discussions, the local residents finally agreed to release the officials, but without their equipment.

Police returned to the scene at Sunday morning to collect the team's equipment.

"Following this incident, the investigations against ASPL will be our priority. We have three important things to address with this company," Siti said. "First, forest area encroachment. Second, forest burning. Third, the hostage situation. The ministry will investigate and take firm action in cooperation with the relevant authorities."

Wildfires have been a recurring problem in Indonesia over the past decade. The 2015 fires, described by observers as the worst on record, have destroyed vegetation on millions of hectares, afflicted more than half a million people with health problems, and resulted in billions of dollars in losses.

Palm oil firm denies ministry accusation, blames hostage-taking on local farmers
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 5 Sep 16;

Palm plantation firm PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) in Riau denied that it defied the Environment and Forestry Ministry and took seven of the ministry's officials hostage, blaming the incident on local farmers who were "offended" by the ministry.

APSL spokesperson Novalina Sirait said the company was being made a scapegoat because of the actions of the company’s partners, the local farmers. She called the company the “stepfather” of the local farmers.

“We are mentioned every time something happens on the local farmers’ lands. We don’t facilitate the local farmers. We are not in the position to defy the ministry,” Novalina said Monday.

“The local farmers had spoken to the media. It was not a hostage situation. It was their own spontaneity because they felt they were not respected,” she said.

“The [ministry] investigators came to a piece of customary land. They should have asked for permission if they want to enter someone’s property,” she said.

Read also: Palm oil firm takes officials hostage, resists law

She denied the accusation that the local farmers were actually people hired from outside the area to control lands by posing as local farmers. “They are really locals, holding customary rights, like the Melayu, Bonai and Domo,” she said.

The incident started when the ministry dispatched the officials early last week to investigate a report that suggested deliberate burning had taken place in a Rokan Hulu forest. They subsequently found evidence that the firm had possibly illegally taken over land and planned to use it for expansion of the palm plantation.

The ministry said they wanted to seal the area, angering about 50 people who forced the officials to delete images and video footage that provided proof of irregularities found during the land concession investigation. (evi)

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Indonesia: Restoration promised for burned peat lands across the country

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 5 Sep 16;

All burned or damaged peat lands belonging to locals, companies and protected areas across Indonesia will be restored to maintain their natural functions, an expert has said.

Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead said 875,000 hectares of peat lands in areas across Indonesia had been burned in 2015 and they must be restored.

“Initially, the restoration was allocated for 2 million hectares of peat lands in seven provinces in Kalimantan, Papua and Sumatra. However, BRG cannot close its eyes to burned peat lands outside the targeted locations,” he said on Monday.

In Riau, said Nazir, citing an example, restoration activities for the first year of BRG’s project were actually allocated to the Meranti Islands regency. The agency later expanded the coverage of its restoration work to Rimbo Panjang in the Kampar regency.

“Our consideration is the fact that peat lands in this area are routinely burned every year and the smoke resulting from the fires affects flights in Pekanbaru,” he said.

“Expanded restorations have also been conducted in several peat lands near airports in Kalimantan. Thus, working locations for peat land restoration in those seven provinces are actually flexible,” he went on.

Nazir said BRG was currently preparing regulations on peat land recovery, which aimed to push all companies to restore damaged peat lands in their concession areas.

He further said the obedience of companies to the regulation to protect and maintain the canal water level at about 30 centimeters below the land surface would be continuously monitored via special censor equipment connected automatically and in real time to servers at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

Nazir said the compliance of companies to carry out restoration would also be continuously monitored. “The state has a right to direct and monitor companies. Any indiscipline will yield sanctions.” (ebf)

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Fighting fires and haze in Indonesia

Chen Chen Lee and Pek Shibao
Jakarta Globe 5 Sep 16;

The recent return of the haze to the region underlines the fact that agribusinesses should take more responsibility in fighting peatland and forest fires in Indonesia. While some industry leaders have stepped up to implement promising methods to tackle fires, many other agribusinesses are not doing enough to address the root causes of the problem.

Following the 2015 haze crisis — the worst in the region’s history — the Indonesian government has significantly ramped up its efforts against fire. It has suspended the further issuing of oil palm plantation licenses and pursued legal cases against companies linked to forest fires, handing down a record S$110 million (US$80.86 million) fine to one such company in August. It has also established a Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) to restore the country’s vast areas of degraded peatlands, which are much more flammable than mineral soil, although how effective the agency’s efforts will be remains to be seen.

Partly as a result of these efforts, the number of hotspots has decreased this year, as compared to the same period last year. But it is also essential for agribusinesses to take serious measures to stamp out fires at their source.

The Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) was in Indonesia’s Riau province last week, near where the fires occurred, to study how agribusinesses tackle fires on the ground. Riau is especially prone to fire as it contains many plantations on drained peatland. We visited the plantations of major agribusinesses and spoke to villagers, farmers and conservationists. The trip highlighted to us some promising approaches against fire that more companies would do well to implement.

First, evidence shows that fires are set not just by companies, but also by small-scale farmers. Many of these small-scale farmers have migrated from overpopulated provinces to hinterland areas such as Sumatra and Kalimantan in search of land and income opportunities. These migrants often illegally encroach upon unmanaged lands, burning existing vegetation to plant crops such as oil palm. Many such cases of encroachment occur near access points, such as roads and rivers.

The distribution of hotspots supports this theory. According to the public forest monitoring platform, Global Forest Watch, the vast majority of hotspots this year has occurred outside plantation boundaries. This implies that these fires were likely started by small-scale farmers, rather than by companies.

To combat encroachment, some agribusinesses employ a “ring approach”, encircling designated conservation forests with plantations. This makes it difficult for small-scale farmers to access the conservation areas and set fires there. Notably, this “ring approach” is being used to protect the Riau Ecosystem Restoration project, a 150,000-hectare conservation forest on Riau’s Kampar peninsula.

Second, rather than putting out fires, it is much more effective to prevent fires from occurring in the first place. This is because once fires start, they can intensify and spread rapidly, to the point where they can only be extinguished by rainfall. This was exactly what occurred during last year’s haze episode, when an inadequate early fire response combined with a lack of rain to allow fires to rage on for months.

Now, leading agribusinesses are increasingly realizing the need to invest more heavily in fire prevention. This includes identifying areas with high fire risk, educating local communities about the negative effects of starting fires, and employing ground patrols to locate and quickly put out fires while they are still small.

A promising approach is the introduction of “fire-free village” programs, which offer villagers monetary rewards for keeping their areas fire-free. The aim is to create a mindset change over time away from traditional slash-and-burn agricultural methods. Critically, these programs appear to have obtained buy-in from villagers: We observed that one of the villages chose to re-invest its reward into buying additional fire-fighting equipment. There is potential for companies and NGOs to scale up these programs and customize them so that they can be implemented in other provinces with high fire risk.

Lastly, plantations on drained peatland will always be more prone to fire than plantations on mineral soil. The Indonesian government is taking steps to enforce a ban on further peatland plantation development, a move that we applaud. As for existing plantations on peatland, it is critical that agribusinesses tightly manage water levels in the peat soil to keep it moist. Though water management is expensive, it is the only reliable method to reduce fire outbreaks until such time when the peatland plantations can be repurposed or restored to their natural state.

The stakes have gone up for agribusinesses that fail to adequately address the problem of fire. Increased pressure from governments, ASEAN, NGOs, and regulatory bodies will result in greater legal, reputational, and credit risks for those who continue to engage in unsustainable practices. With their large plantation areas and high exposure to fire risk, larger agribusinesses are likely to feel the heat the most.

At the same time, we see limits in what companies can do on their own. Companies lack the resources to prevent fires from occurring on unmanaged lands, yet these fires may also grow and spread into companies’ plantations. Some local villagers resist fire-fighting efforts, as fires clear land that they can then use for cultivation. At the minimum, companies and local governments will need to work together to solve these problems.

At the crux of the problem lie consumer purchasing patterns. Ultimately, demanding only sustainably produced palm oil and paper products is the only long-term method to convince farmers not to burn. If consumers shift their purchasing patterns, we can reinforce efforts from agribusinesses and the Indonesian government to eradicate transboundary haze pollution for good.

Chen Chen Lee and Pek Shibao are, respectively, director (policy programs) and policy research analyst (sustainability) at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

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Indonesia: Rampant wildlife poaching in Leuser

Jakarta Post 5 Sep 16;

Following the arrest of three people from Tenggulun, Aceh Tamiang regency, Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL) on poaching allegations, forest rangers say there is a high number of wildlife poachers operating on the border between Aceh and North Sumatra. TNGL region IV head in Besitang, Octo Manik, said the poaching of endangered wildlife remained rampant in the region despite repeated arrests of poachers by TNGL forest rangers.

Octo added that forest rangers and TNGL security guards arrested three alleged Sumatran tiger poachers in the TNGL area in Langkat regency, North Sumatra, four months ago and another three in Tenggulun on Saturday.

Octo said the three alleged poachers were apprehended at around 7 p.m. local time in Besitang region in the border area between Aceh and North Sumatra. He added that the poachers were caught while hunting in TNGL.

They have been identified as Imron, 28, Mukhlis, 42, and Jaiman, 32, all of Tenggulun village in Aceh Tamiang. Forest rangers seized three long-barreled guns, a box of ammunition and two motorcycles from them.

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Asian typhoons becoming more intense, study finds

Giant storms that wreak havoc across China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines have grown 50% stronger in the past 40 years due to warming seas
Damian Carrington The Guardian 5 Sep 16;

The destructive power of the typhoons that wreak havoc across China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines has intensified by 50% in the past 40 years due to warming seas, a new study has found.

The researchers warn that global warming will lead the giant storms to become even stronger in the future, threatening the large and growing coastal populations of those nations.

“It is a very, very substantial increase,” said Prof Wei Mei, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the new work. “We believe the results are very important for east Asian countries because of the huge populations in these areas. People should be aware of the increase in typhoon intensity because when they make landfall these can cause much more damage.”

Typhoons can have devastating impacts in east Asia. In 2013, typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people and affecting 11 million. Typhoon Nina struck China in 1975, dumping 100cm of rain in a day and leading to 229,000 deaths and 6m destroyed buildings. Last week typhoon Lionrock left 11 people dead in northern Japan and caused power blackouts and property damage, while in July typhoon Nepartak hit Taiwan and China, killing at least nine people and leaving a trail of destruction.

In the new research, published in Nature Geoscience, the scientists took data collected independently by centres in Japan and Hawaii and, after accounting for differences in the way it had been collected, showed that typhoons in the north-west Pacific had intensified by 12–15% on average since 1977. The proportion of the most violent storms - categories 4 and 5 - doubled and even tripled in some regions over that time and the intensification was most marked for those storms which hit land.

The intensity of a typhoon is measured by the maximum sustained wind speed, but the damage caused by its high winds, storm surges, intense rains and floods increases disproportionately, meaning a 15% rise in intensity leads to a 50% rise in destructive power.

The researchers showed that the intensification of typhoons making landfall occurred because warmer coastal seas provided more energy to growing storms, enabling their wind speeds to increase more rapidly.

Scientists are not yet able to determine whether manmade climate change or natural cycles are to blame for the warming seas in the region because 40 years is a relatively short time span for such phenomena. But Wei is clear that the future global warming, as projected by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would heat the oceans in the region and lead to even more intense typhoons.

Mei said: “We want to give the message that typhoon intensity has increased and will increase in the future because of the warming climate.” He said action was needed to both prepare for future typhoons and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to curb warming: “Understanding intensity change is very important for disaster preparation.”

Prof Kerry Emanuel, an expert on tropical cyclones at MIT and not involved in the new research said: “The results leave little doubt that there are more high intensity events affecting south-east Asia and China, and these are also intensifying more rapidly.”

“This is significant for these nations because what matters, in the end, is landfall size and intensity,” he said. “Stronger storms cause higher storm surges, which often cause the most destruction and loss of life.” Previous work by Emanuel showed tropical cyclones are likely to become more frequent and stronger if climate change is not curbed.

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Soaring ocean temperature is 'greatest hidden challenge of our generation'

IUCN report warns that ‘truly staggering’ rate of warming is changing the behaviour of marine species, reducing fishing zones and spreading disease
Oliver Milman The Guardian 5 Sep 16;

The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming.

The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report involving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.

The profound changes underway in the oceans are starting to impact people, the report states. “Due to a domino effect, key human sectors are at threat, especially fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risk management, health and coastal tourism.”

Dan Laffoley, IUCN marine adviser and one of the report’s lead authors, said: “What we are seeing now is running well ahead of what we can cope with. The overall outlook is pretty gloomy.

“We perhaps haven’t realised the gross effect we are having on the oceans, we don’t appreciate what they do for us. We are locking ourselves into a future where a lot of the poorer people in the world will miss out.”

The scale of warming in the ocean, which covers around 70% of the planet, is “truly staggering”, the report states. The upper few metres of ocean have warmed by around 0.13C a decade since the start of the 20th century, with a 1-4C increase in global ocean warming by the end of this century.

The ocean has absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat created by human activity. If the same amount of heat that has been buried in the upper 2km of the ocean had gone into the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would have warmed by a devastating 36C, rather than 1C, over the past century.

At some point, the report says, warming waters could unlock billions of tonnes of frozen methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the seabed and cook the surface of the planet. This could occur even if emissions are drastically cut, due to the lag time between emitting greenhouse gases and their visible consequences.

Warming is already causing fish, seabirds, sea turtles, jellyfish and other species to change their behaviour and habitat, it says. Species are fleeing to the cooler poles, away from the equator, at a rate that is up to five times faster than the shifts seen by species on land.

Even in the north Atlantic, fish will move northwards by nearly 30km per decade until 2050 in search of suitable temperatures, with shifts already documented for pilchard, anchovy, mackerel and herring.

The warming is having its greatest impact upon the building blocks of life in the seas, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill. Changes in abundance and reproduction are, in turn, feeding their way up the food chain, with some fish pushed out of their preferred range and others diminished by invasive arrivals.

With more than 550 types of marine fishes and invertebrates already considered threatened, ocean warming will exacerbate the declines of some species, the report also found.

The movement of fish will create winners and losers among the 4.3 billion people in the world who rely heavily upon fish for sustenance. In south-east Asia, harvests from fisheries could drop by nearly a third by 2050 if emissions are not severely curtailed. Global production from capture fisheries has already levelled off at 90m tonnes a year, mainly due to overfishing, at a time when millions more tonnes will need to be caught to feed a human population expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050.

Humans are also set to suffer from the spread of disease as the ocean continues to heat up. The IUCN report found there is growing evidence of vibrio bacterial disease, which can cause cholera, and harmful algal bloom species that can cause food poisoning. People are also being affected by more severe, if not more numerous, hurricanes due to the extra energy in the ocean and atmosphere.

Coral reefs, which support around a quarter of all marine species, are suffering from episodes of bleaching that have included three-fold in the past 30 years. This bleaching occurs when prolonged high temperatures cause coral to expel its symbiotic algae, causing it to whiten and ultimately die, such as the mass mortality that has gripped the Great Barrier Reef.

Ocean acidification, where rising carbon dioxide absorption increases the acidity of the water, is making it harder for animals such as crabs, shrimps and clams to form their calcium carbonate shells.

The IUCN report recommends expanding protected areas of the ocean and, above all, reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases pumped into the atmosphere.

“The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN.

Warming oceans are 'sick,' global scientists warn
Kerry Sheridan Yahoo News 5 Sep 16;

Global warming is making the oceans sicker than ever before, spreading disease among animals and humans and threatening food security across the planet, a major scientific report said on Monday.

The findings, based on peer-reviewed research, were compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, experts said at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.

"We all know that the oceans sustain this planet. We all know that the oceans provide every second breath we take," IUCN Director General Inger Andersen told reporters at the meeting, which has drawn 9,000 leaders and environmentalists to Honolulu.

"And yet we are making the oceans sick."

The report, "Explaining Ocean Warming," is the "most comprehensive, most systematic study we have ever undertaken on the consequence of this warming on the ocean," co-lead author Dan Laffoley said.

The world's waters have absorbed more than 93 percent of the enhanced heating from climate change since the 1970s, curbing the heat felt on land but drastically altering the rhythm of life in the ocean, he said.

"The ocean has been shielding us and the consequences of this are absolutely massive," said Laffoley, marine vice chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas at IUCN.

- Microbes to whales -

The study included every major marine ecosystem, containing everything from microbes to whales, including the deep ocean.

It documents evidence of jellyfish, seabirds and plankton shifting toward the cooler poles by up to 10 degrees latitude.

The movement in the marine environment is "1.5 to five times as fast as anything we are seeing on the ground," Laffoley said. "We are changing the seasons in the ocean."

The higher temperatures will probably change the sex ratio of turtles in the future because females are more likely to be born in warmer temperatures.

The heat also means microbes dominate larger areas of the ocean.

"When you look overall, you see a comprehensive and worrying set of consequences," Laffoley said.

More than 25 percent of the report's information is new, published in peer-reviewed journals since 2014, including studies showing that global warming is affecting weather patterns and making storms more common.

The study includes evidence that ocean warming "is causing increased disease in plant and animal populations," it said.

Pathogens such as cholera-bearing bacteria and toxic algal blooms that can cause neurological illnesses such as ciguatera poisoning spread more easily in warm water, with direct impact on human health.

"We are no longer the casual observers in the room," Laffoley said.

"What we have done is unwittingly put ourselves in the test tube where the experiment is being undertaken."

- Cut greenhouse gases -

Meanwhile, the hotter oceans have killed off coral reefs at an unprecedented rate, reducing fish species by eliminating their habitats.

The loss of reefs cuts down on the abundance of certain fish, with implications for food security.

"In Southeast Asia, harvests from marine fisheries are expected to fall by between 10 percent and 30 percent by 2050 relative to 1970-2000, as the distributions of fish species shift," said the report.

The report highlights the need for swift action on renewable energies, experts said.

"We need to cut greenhouse gases," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar program at IUCN.

"There is no doubt in all our minds that we are the cause of this," he added.

"We know what the solutions are. We need to get on with it."

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