Embracing new technology crucial for fish farm sustainability: Koh Poh Koon

Angela Lim Channel NewsAsia 15 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Embracing new technologies is crucial to ensuring the continued sustainability of fish farms in Singapore, said Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Speaking at Republic Polytechnic's Aquaculture Industry Engagement Day on Thursday (Sep 15), he said this is so especially in light of new challenges brought about by climate change and declining wild fish stocks around the world.

He cited the example of algae blooms and how local fish farmers have been embracing new technologies like closed containment aquaculture systems and land-based systems used by local fish farms to control water conditions.

Algae blooms wiped out 500 tonnes of fish stocks in 77 fish farms last year, with farmers citing losses of more than S$1 million.

To tackle this, Dr Koh said coastal farms like Apollo Aquarium are going indoors with a land-based aquaculture system which maintains the water at an optimum condition, allowing the company to grow more fish while reducing water consumption by up to 90 per cent.

About 200 aquaculture experts, industry professionals and students were gathered at Republic Polytechnic on Thursday to discuss global trends, emerging technologies and sustainable practices for future industry needs.

Some experts say land-based farming, that has been successful in countries like Israel, could be a viable option for Singapore, along with contained sea-based farming.

"Moving on land is one area we can seriously explore,” said Chan Wei Loong, Programme Chair for the Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture at Republic Polytechnic. “With technology, for example, you stack them up almost like a 'condominium' for fishes. You stack them up high-rise and you're able to increase their volume in a box-sized area."

To keep the industry sustainable and competitive, Dr Koh stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation between research institutions and fish farms, encouraging farmers to open their minds to new technologies, as well as attracting young talent to the aquaculture industry.

"Without young fish farmers to take over, the industry will inevitably decline,” he said. “To attract today's young, we must change not just the image of the aquaculture sector, but also the nature of the work in the sector.”

- CNA/ek

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Typhoon Malakas could bring slight haze: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 15 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Singapore could see slightly hazy conditions in the coming days, with a typhoon off the Philippines expected to bring a shift in prevailing winds in the region, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday (Sep 15).

In a statement, the NEA noted that Typhoon Malakas, currently located east of northern Philippines, is forecast to move northwestward in the next few days, and this is expected to bring a shift in the prevailing winds in the surrounding region to blow from the southwest or west.

Dry weather conditions are expected over parts of central and southern Sumatra, said NEA, and there is a possibility that Singapore could experience slightly hazy conditions if hotspot activities increase in central Sumatra.

The agency said it is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates when necessary.

NEA added that no hotspots were detected in central Sumatra on Thursday, and the prevailing winds on Friday are forecast to blow from the southwest or west-southwest, with thundery showers expected in Singapore in the late morning and early afternoon.

Singapore's 1-hour PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is expected to stay in Band I (Normal). Overall, the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the Moderate range.

- CNA/dt

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Zika update: 14 new cases confirmed, bringing total to 355

Today Online 15 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — There were 14 new Zika cases confirmed as at 3pm on Thursday (Sept 15), according to an update posted on the National Environment Agency’s Zika webpage.

This brings the total number of cases to 355.

The number of clusters stays at seven: Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive/Paya Lebar Way/Kallang Way/Circuit Road/Geylang East Central/Geylang East Avenue 1; Bedok North Avenue 2/ Bedok North Avenue 3/ Bedok North Street 3; Joo Seng Road; Bishan Street 12; Elite Terrace; Ubi Crescent; and Jalan Raya/Circuit Road.

As before, the bulk of the cases are in the Aljunied cluster, with 279 cases as of Thursday. The second biggest clusters is the Elite Terrace cluster, with 10 cases, of which 8 emerged in the last two weeks.

The authorities did not provide information on whether any of the new cases involved pregnant women. To date, the reported number of pregnant women infected with Zika is eight.

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Aedes mozzies can't be wiped out, say experts

Rachel Oh, Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Sep 16;

With new Zika infection cases in Singapore emerging every day, the public and experts are debating whether Aedes aegypti - the mosquito responsible for the spread of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever - can be wiped out for good.

The answer is no, say scientists, and there are a number of reasons that have allowed the insect to thrive and evolve to become the world's deadliest animal.

For one thing, evolution has made the insect highly adaptable to the urban environment, enabling it to breed in any small accumulation of stagnant water, explained Assistant Professor Roman Carrasco from the National University of Singapore's biological sciences department. Most of its breeding habitats, such as gutters and crevices, are small and difficult to locate.

"It is able to breed very fast, with females laying 100 to 200 eggs per batch and five batches in a lifetime," explained Prof Carrasco.

As it cannot do without human blood, it makes sense for the mosquito to live around people.

The Aedes aegypti has evolved to feed exclusively on humans, said Professor Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at the Duke- NUS Medical School.

According to Dr Hwang Wei Song of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, the mosquito's natural ability to adapt to changes in the environment is what makes it such a difficult target.

Total eradication of mosquitoes in Singapore is not a feasible course of action, he pointed out. "We simply don't have the tools now to eradicate all mosquitoes without seriously damaging the natural and human environment," he said.

Prof Ooi also said eradicating Aedes aegypti is not the "best path to go down" under present circumstances as it is not sustainable and will be very costly.

"When you say you would need to spend millions to combat dengue and Zika, no one would bat an eyelid when there are lots of cases.

"But after eradication, you still will need to spend millions to sustain the mosquito control programme to prevent reintroduction and re-emergence of dengue and other Aedes-borne diseases... We have only finite resources," he said.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli pointed out in Parliament on Tuesday that while fogging is helpful in killing adult mosquitoes with the dengue or Zika virus, it "would not be wise to conduct fogging indiscriminately" outside clusters.

"I know everyone likes fogging because it's very optical - everyone can see it and everyone feels better. But it does not solve the problem," he said.

The news is not all bleak though.

Trials are already ongoing to evaluate the potential of genetically modified mosquitoes and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria to control the Aedes aegypti population.

Wolbachia is a bacterium which can be found in many insects, and when Wolbachia-carrying male mosquitoes mate with wild females, the females produce eggs which do not hatch.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said these new methods could play a "significant role" in long-term dengue prevention.

After a six-month study of the technique here, it could be rolled out to high-risk areas by 2020. Further down the road, it may be possible to selectively remove the Aedes aegypti mosquito from the urban ecosystem at a low cost and without damaging the environment.

Prof Carrasco highlighted the Sterile Insect Technique as a species-specific method of biological insect control, whereby large amounts of sterile insects are released into the environment.

"It is used a lot against agricultural pests with remarkable large area eradication success histories," he said. "It is certainly more affordable than current control methods."

The technique, however, has yet to be fine-tuned to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito population.

"When this happens, we will have our most powerful mosquito control technique ever ready," said Prof Carrasco.

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Keeping Changi's bumboat afloat

Marcus Tan, Straits Times Asia One 15 Sep 16;

Washed in Ubin's mangroves and drying in the sun are wooden bumboats from the Changi Ferry Terminal. They are brought here at least three times a year to get barnacles scraped off their bodies and for a fresh coat of paint.

Running this quaint repair boatyard is 72-year-old Choo Seng Sim, who has been in the business for more than 20 years.

The former cruise service operator started repairing boats in Punggol in 1994.

He moved to Pulau Ubin in 1998, operating from a shack on the beach next to the island's jetty. But it was not long before he moved inland, after stalls complained that the strong smell of paint used for repair works was affecting their businesses.

Now settled along Sungei Jelutong, located in the south of Pulau Ubin, Mr Choo's boatyard has been issued a temporary occupation licence. A new licence is issued on a yearly basis and he will be able to operate at the site until an alternative space is provided elsewhere on the island in a few years' time.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced in June that the National Parks Board (NParks) will take over as the central managing agency for Pulau Ubin. Previously, Pulau Ubin was managed by 12 agencies with technical and land ownership responsibilities. The handover is being conducted in phases and is expected to be completed by mid-2017.

The boatyard offers the local bumboat operators a convenient and cheaper alternative for boat repair, as "it is a hassle to travel to Tuas", Mr Yang Soon Tong, a ferry operator in Changi explained. The 45- year-old, who took over his father's boat 15 years ago as a ferry operator, added: "The maintenance fee for the boats is not cheap and we don't earn much."

Many of the ferry operators in Changi are unwilling to go to other boatyards to repair their vessels. It is a five to six-hour boat ride to the ones in Jurong. According to Mr Choo, it would also cost them double what he charges, which is approximately $500 per repair. "Unless we are forced to a point where we have no choice, we will not go to Jurong," said Mr Yang.

The services offered at Mr Choo'sboatyard include scraping barnacles off the boats and painting and repairing holes caused by collisions. The boatyard is operated by two local workers and a caretaker. A repair job takes about a day to complete, and ferry operators have to book the services a month in advance.

Changi ferry operators worry that Mr Choo will have to stop working some day. He has no successor. Married with five children, he does not see any of them taking over his business, although his younger brother, aged 60, occasionally helps him manage the boatyard.

The ferry operators hope someone will take over when Mr Choo retires.

"If there are people willing to wash the boats, we can still survive," said Mr Yang. Mr Choo said that he would continue working for as long as he could. "I can't retire unless I die," he joked.

The future of Mr Choo's boatyard is uncertain, but ferry operators hope that such a traditional, artisanal business can be preserved for the bumboat community in Changi. "For the sake of this ferry terminal, a space on Ubin should be left for bumboat repairs," said Mr Kit Kau Chye, 68, who has had more than 50 years of experience out at sea.

They might be cheered by this assurance from the authorities. "(NParks) will work with the relevant agencies to help Mr Choo continue his boat repair operations," said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation.

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Malaysia: Danum Valley survey uncovers wildlife treasure trove

Borneo Post 16 Sep 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Yayasan Sabah director Datuk Sapawi Bin Haji Ahmad said the recently concluded Danum Valley Wildlife and Resource Survey marks another meaningful milestone for the Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA).

He said a total of 130 flora and fauna researchers comprising relevant personnel from several government departments and agencies, educational institutions and NGOs participated in this survey which was carried out for two weeks beginning August 15, 2016.

“The team of researchers and wildlife ‘surveyors’ returned after spending 12 days starting from searching the pristine forest of Danum Valley and its surrounding to record its inhabitants and beauty as part of the DVCA Wildlife and Resources Survey 2016,” he said.

“Most of the team members were spotted showing numerous signs of sandflies and leaches bites on their faces, arms and legs. From the outcomes of the survey, however, these certainly did not deter them from doing their work,” added Sapawi.

“The survey required the members to set up camera traps at strategic locations within their assigned area of more than 3.5 square km radius, even going as far as 4 to 6 km from their base camp, conduct recce walks day and night to observe nocturnal wildlife and set up mist nets to trap birds, which were released as soon as they were identified and recorded,” he explained.

Trekking involved traversing over rough and unforgiving terrains, such as those in Mt Tribulation and Mt Nocola. These areas have never been explored before.

According to Sapawi, Mt Tribulation, so named because of its rugged and rough terrain in south west of DVCA and Mt Nicola in north of DVCA are two survey locations that have never been explored.

One of the participants, Alim Biun of Sabah Parks, leader of the team assigned to Mt Tribulation was ecstatic being the first person to explore the area.

“The view of the surrounding pristine forest from the top of Mt Tribulation is amazing!” said Alim.

Dr Reuben Nilus of Sabah Forestry Department, and five team members can boast of being the first persons to explore Mt Nicola. They were extremely excited especially with the notable vegetation transition from lowland to heath and finally ultramafic forest ecosystem at Mt Nicola.

Also captured on video was a hair-raising, nail biting rarely seen fight to the death between a Sumatran pit viper and reticulated python.

“It was unreal, unbelievable,” said Eddie Ahmad of HUTAN-KOCP, who was the team leader for Survey Camp 1 located at Kuala Langom, northeast of DVCA.

In the short time during the survey, several iconic and rare wildlife species were spotted, photographed or caught on camera traps. Mammals – Pygmy elephants, Clouded leopard, Orang utan, Sun bear, Flat-headed cat; Birds – Hornbills, Bornean bristlehead, Pittas, Great Argus, Bulwer’s pheasant; some flora species may be new to science and/or new record for DVCA, however these have yet to be ascertained by experts. Several scenic sites were also recorded as potential ecotourism products.

The survey participants were all amazed by the sheer immensity of the trees and the incredible amount of different types of vegetation which are truly an amazing display by Nature. The survey discovered the strongest candidates for new species – Begonia.

Sapawi thanked all survey participants for their assistance and support.

“The survey findings certainly strengthened our efforts to conserve this truly unique rainforest. If we lose the species, we will be losing untold riches,” he said.

The survey, organised by Yayasan Sabah Group was spearheaded by the Sabah Wildlife Department and funded through the Danum Valley Management Committee (DVMC) which is responsible in overseeing the activities at DVCA.

Members of the survey comprised institutions from Yayasan Sabah Group, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department, University College Sabah Foundation, Sabah Parks, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Sabah Biodiversity Centre, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Malaysia), Hutan KOCP, WWF-Malaysia, Sabah Environmental Trust, Johor National Parks, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Terengganu, South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), and Institute for Development Studies (Sabah).

DVCA is managed by Yayasan Sabah Group under the aegis of the DVMC which included the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and several other State and Federal Government departments/ag

New species found in Danum
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 17 Sep 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A team of researchers carrying out a two-week survey at the never-explored areas of Danum Valley has found some rare and new species of flora and fauna.

The team spotted and photographed or caught on camera traps several iconic and rare wildlife species like the pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, orang utan, sun bear, flat-headed cat, hornbill, Bornean bristlehead, pitta, great Argus, and bulwer’s pheasant.

But the Danum Valley Wildlife and Resource Survey involving several government departments and agencies, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations is still verifying the facts on the potentially new species.

Yayasan Sabah director Datuk Sapawi Ahmad said the survey, which started on Aug 15, covered Mt Tribulation and Mt Nicola located in the southwest and north of the Danum Valley conservation area (DVCA).

“Some flora species such as the Begonia may be new to science or new to the record for the DVCA, but these have yet to be ascertained by experts,” Sapawi said.

Among those exploring these new areas were Alim Biun of Sabah Parks, who was also the leader assigned to Mt Tribulation.

Dr Reuben Nilus of Sabah Forestry Department and five team members were the first to explore Mt Nicola.

They were extremely excited with the notable vegetation transition from lowland to heath and finally ultramafic forest ecosystem at Mt Nicola.

The survey required the members to set up camera traps at strategic locations within their assigned areas of more than 3.5sq km radius, where they conducted reconnaissance walks day and night to observe nocturnal wildlife and set up mist nets to trap birds, which were released as soon as they were identified and recorded.

In thanking the survey participants for their assistance and support, Sapawi said the findings would strengthen efforts to conserve the rainforest.

“If we lose the species, we will be losing untold riches,” he said.

The Danum Valley Field centre is a leading world-renowned field research station in the tropics.

Classified as a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve by the state government in 1995, DVCA is a playground for wildlife and is one of the few locations in Sabah where visitors are guaranteed of sighting wildlife.

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Indonesia: Govt, palm oil association empower locals to fight fires

The Jakarta Post 15 Sep 16;

A number of government institutions and the Indonesian Palm Oil Entrepreneurs Association (Gapki) have teamed up to empower local people living near forests to prevent and fight forest fires, an association official has said.

The program involves 527 villages located near concession areas owned by members of the association, Gapki secretary general Togar Sitanggang said in a statement, adding that in dealing with forest fires, local people would cooperate with the police, the military and Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) branches.

“As a result, there are fewer fires in company concession areas, while fires outside of concession areas can also be controlled. This shows that the involvement of local people in preventing forest fires has been effective,” Togar added.

Based on monitoring carried out by Global Forest Watch from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, according to the association, 68 percent of hotspots occurred in areas owned by individuals, 18 percent in areas owned by Industrial Forest Concession (HTI) holders, 9 percent in areas owned by palm oil plantation companies and 5 percent in logging areas.

Each plantation company is cooperating with residents living near its concession area in a number of provinces such as Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan, Togar added. (bbn)

ASEAN, EU to unite in fighting haze
Jakarta Post 15 Sep 16;

ASEAN and the EU have agreed to cooperate in managing peatlands and combating cross-boundary haze pollution in order to prevent a recurrence of last year’s disastrous forest fires that ended up severely affecting the wider region.

Franck Viault, the head of cooperation at the delegation of the EU to Indonesia, said on Wednesday that about €24 million (US$26.9 million) in funds had been set aside to finance the Regional Peatlands program. The EU will provide €20 million while co-financier Germany will provide the rest of the money.

“It [the program] is to be implemented next year. It is to be implemented in all ASEAN member states, but with specific focus in Indonesia and Malaysia because you have the majority of peatland areas,” Viault told The Jakarta Post, adding that most of the haze also emanated from these two countries, and “first and foremost from Indonesia.”

Viault said the program was designed to “financially and technically” help the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). The German International Cooperation Enterprise (GIZ) is going to work with the local government. “For instance, the regency in South Sumatra,” Viault said.

GIZ, according to the EU’s action document for Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN, is strengthening regional governance to implement the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy 2006-2020 through capacity building and tangible demonstrations of activities on the ground.

The activities include “strengthening regional cooperation through the provision of technical and material support to regional institutions on sustainable peatland management.”

Communication with plantation companies, NGOs, local communities and civil society will also be conducted in order to encourage them participate in efforts to combat forest fires.

“So this should be a program helping Indonesian institutions because you know that a lot of the haze is generated from Indonesia,” Viault said.

According to Antara news agency, the Terra and Aqua satellites from NASA detected 37 hot spots in five provinces across Sumatra on Sunday.

Slamet Riyadi, a spokesman of the Pekanbaru meteorology station, said the number of hot spots had increased significantly from only three on Saturday. Of the 37 hot spots, 25 were found in Bangka Belitung, six in South Sumatra, three in Lampung, two in Bengkulu and one in Riau.

The worst forest and peatland fires in Indonesian history took place in 2015 with thousands of hot spots covering Sumatra and Kalimantan. At least 19 people died and thousands, mostly children, were hospitalized because of severe respiratory illnesses caused by the haze.

Viault was speaking at the launch of the EU’s first annual Report on Development Cooperation With ASEAN, the so called Blue Book.

EU funding for ASEAN regional development cooperation programs for 2014 to 2020 amount to €196 million, the Blue Book shows. Some €170 million exclusively earmarked for ASEAN covers support in three focal areas: connectivity through sustainable and inclusive economic integration and trade, amounting to €85 million; climate change and disaster management, amounting to €63.7 million, and improving communication.

The ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) program is also among the programs funded. With a budget of €7 million, the program trains some 700 agriculture ministry officials and over 15,000 farming households across the region.

One of the beneficiaries, Cambodian farmer Sun Song, said his crop yields had increased after receiving lessons in the ASEAN SAS program.

“I used to apply chemical pesticides to control diseases. But now, I use an organic fertilizer and pesticide for my cucumbers and string beans. The yield is higher and the vegetables are of better quality,” Song said as quoted by the Blue Book. (vny)

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Indonesia: Paying for Plastic Bags Not Good Enough in Balikpapan

B1.COM Jakarta Globe 15 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Balikpapan's environmental agency in East Kalimantan said the "pay for plastic bag" policy initiated by the local government has failed to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the area.

"Plastic waste still makes up close to six percent of total waste per day, though not all of them are plastic shopping bags," agency chief Suryanto said on Wednesday (14/09).

According to the agency, the residents of Balikpapan produce up to 600 tons of waste per day, of which 36 tons are plastic waste.

The high proportion of plastic waste is attributed to the puny charge for a plastic bag at many shops — not nearly expensive enough to force people to get used to bringing their own shopping bags.

Suryanto said stores in Balikpapan generally charge Rp 200 (less than a cent) per plastic bag, including supermarkets, with only a few charging more, up to Rp 1,500 per bag.

"According to the Mayor’s instruction, stores should charge at least Rp 1,500 per plastic bag," Suryanto said.

Suryanto said the Balikpapan municipal government is still waiting for the central government to decide whether or not the pay-for-plastic-bag policy will continue. Currently, the policy is not being evaluated at the central level.

"The central government has promised to issue a regulation on the pay-for-plastic-bag policy by the end of the year — we'll wait for that," he said.

According to Suryanto himself, the government should continue with the policy to reduce the alarming amount of plastic waste produced all across the country.

"We have to raise awareness about reducing plastic waste. Use reusable shopping bags instead, you can buy them everywhere now," Suryanto said.

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Indonesia: Trawlers threaten income of fishermen in N. Sumatra, Riau

Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 15 Sep 16;

Trawlers operating in the waters off Riau and North Sumatra have been blamed for drastically reducing the incomes of local fishermen. Local fisherman are now urging their respective administrations to curb the operations of the trawlers.

In Riau, Bagan Siapiapi chairman Jumadi said some 25 trawlers with a minimum tonnage of 500 GT had been operating in Rokan Hilir waters. They are predicted to have come from North Sumatra.

“The colors of the boats are different from those of local fishermen. The number of trawlers continues to increase day after day,” Jumadi told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the presence of the trawlers was troubling to local fishermen who normally went 19 kilometers out to the sea from Bagan Siapiapi beach. He said that even without their presence, local fishermen had been experiencing hardship.

Jumadi revealed that to go fishing in the Malacca Strait, four crewmembers of a fishing boat needed to have a loan of Rp 7 million (US$523) at a minimum from a skipper.

Of that loan, Rp 2 million is reserved for their respective families to spend on basic household needs. The rest is spent on diesel fuel, food and other necessities for a week-long fishing trip. This excludes spending money on fixing the ship’s machinery and buying ice to keep their catch cool.

“During the peak season, fishermen can bring home Rp 30 million. Thanks to the trawlers, the earning capacity is now only half of that,” said Jumadi, adding that after deducting the loan amount and dividing the rest into four portions, the money left over did not properly reward them for a whole week spent fishing in the middle of the sea.

Jumadi said the trawlers also threatened the sea’s biota. He therefore urged the fishery and marine agencies of the region to intervene to save the remaining biota from further damage.

In North Sumatra, local fishermen have also complained about trawlers. The chairman of the North Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Fishermen Association (HNSI), Syah Afandin, said trawlers mostly operated off the province’s western coast.

He said their numbers kept increasing day after day despite a government ban on their operations as stipulated in a ministerial regulation.

“This is weird. The trawlers cannot be detected by our law enforcement institutions,” Syah said.

He expressed the fear that if law enforcement bodies could not curb these trawlers, local fishermen would take matters into their own hands.

Providing an example, he pointed to the burning of four trawlers by traditional fishermen in Tanjung Balai-Asahan waters last weekend. The said their actions constituted an expression of anger toward the inability of law enforcement bodies to curb the trawlers.

He said such anarchic actions could potentially take place in the Sibolga and Central Tapanuli waters off North Sumatra’s western coast.

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Indonesia and EU announce historic deal on timber trade

Indonesia will become the first country in the world to export wood products to the EU that meet new environmental standards to curb illegal logging
Agence France-Presse The Guardian 15 Sep 16;

Indonesia will in November become the first country in the world to export wood products to the European Union meeting new environmental standards in a move aimed at bolstering transparency and curbing illicit logging.

Officials from both parties unveiled measures on Thursday to ensure timber exports to the trade bloc, valued at roughly $1bn a year, are sustainable and harvested within the law.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest timber exporters but the sector is plagued by criminality and corruption, and vast swaths of tropical rainforests have been felled for sale on the black market.

From mid-November special licences issued by Jakarta will certify the legality of timber products destined for the EU such as pulp, plywood and furniture.

“Indonesia has achieved great progress in bringing its forest sector under control and improving transparency,” Putera Parthama, a senior official from Indonesia’s forestry ministry, said in a statement.

“We have met the high certification standards of the EU.”

This assurance system, developed over years of negotiations, will be independently audited to ensure the timber is legally sourced and meets environmental standards.

Once the agreement takes effect from 15 November, timber exports from Indonesia that do not carry this certification will be prohibited from trade within the EU.

Consumers in Europe can soon purchase wood products knowing they come from audited factories and forests, EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guérend, said in a statement.

Indonesia supplies the EU with one-third of its tropical wood products, with Germany and the Netherlands the largest importers in the bloc.

Jakarta hopes the pact will help it double timber exports to the EU to the tune of $2bn a year.

It is the first country to meet these standards but the EU is negotiating similar agreements with 14 other countries, which together provide the continent with 80% of its timber imports.

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