Preserve nature reserve in Mandai as buffer zone

Today Online 6 Dec 16;

Within the parameters of being tasked with running revenue-earning attractions, Mandai Park Holdings has tried to give some consideration to the nature reserve adjacent to its new wildlife parks (“Mandai project: More measures to lessen impact on environment”; Oct 11).

However, the position of the Nature Society (Singapore) is that such facilities should not be located next to the nature reserve.

Our proposed extension of the nature reserve into the two plots in question would link two patches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve that are now separated.

Already, the regenerating forest on the former farmland site allocated for the Rainforest Park North harbours a diversity of wildlife, with many nationally- and globally-threatened species, as evident in the Environmental Impact Assessment records.

Much of the existing nature reserve used to be farming areas; for example, the Lower Peirce forests. Being former farmland does not disqualify an area from becoming a nature reserve.

Over the past 20 years, the Government has utilised former farming areas to buffer weak flanks of forested nature reserves.

Such laudable remedial actions include the Hindhede and Dairy Farm areas bordering the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and, more recently, the creation of the Chestnut, Windsor and Thomson nature parks along the Central Catchment Nature Reserve’s boundaries.

Sadly, at Mandai, the gap in the nature reserve is not receiving similar consideration. The Jurong Bird Park and the misnamed Rainforest Park, effectively another zoo, will be sited there instead, destroying flora and fauna in their making.

Our suggestion of nature-based adventure centres on these sites adds to the impetus to greater environmental sustainability for Singapore.

Mandai Park Holdings could still pursue its proposals inside its existing boundaries, such as Rainforest Park South, to expand its revenue-earning and conservation work.

Jurong Bird Park could retain its name and enhance ongoing developments if re-sited within the Jurong Lake District — a win-win situation for Mandai Park Holdings, for Jurong, for Singapore’s biodiversity and for future generations of students.

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Vietnam: Phu Quoc islanders lament ‘sand drain’ to Singapore


A huge amount of sand from a dredging project off the southern Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc is being sold to Singapore, while local constructions are forced to use sand bought from the mainland, a paradox angering residents of the popular tourist destination.

Phu Quoc is a district administered by the southern province of Kien Giang, and where the Naval Zone 5, a Vietnamese Navy command unit, has its headquarters and naval port.

The Naval Zone 5 has two private firms carry out the sand dredging project to open the access channel to the port, with the dredged sand exported to Singapore.

Many Phu Quoc islanders have complained that the sand should be used in local construction projects rather than being exported, while others expressed concern that the continuous dredging would eventually cause land subsidence, affecting the safety of islanders.

Dredging throughout the night

The sale of sand to Singapore emerged in late 2015 but quickly ceased following protests from local residents.

However, in early November, barges began returning to the waters off Phu Quoc Island for dredging, before carrying the sand to ships waiting to transport the material to Singapore.

At first light on November 30, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters arrived at the naval port to observe the sale of sand, with two major ships docked around 1km from the port, waiting for the dredged sand to be loaded.

At the time, the ship Turicum was fully loaded with sand and was pending procedures to sail back to Singapore.

Anchored a few hundred meters away from Turicum was the Yuan Shun Hai, operated by Cosco Shipping, which was loading sand from several barges.

Ten barges were docked not far away from the two vessels, with four busily pumping sand from the seabed.

On December 1, Tuoi Tre visited the Phu Quoc representative office of the Kien Giang Seaport Authority, while a Turicum representative was completing paperwork for the ship to leave.

It would be the third Phu Quoc-Singapore trip over the last 30 days for Turicum, and the fourth for Yuan Shun Hai. Both vessels are able to carry some 60,000 metric tons of sand per trip.

The Cosco Shipping-operated Yuan Shun Hai ship is seen off Phu Quoc Island.

Phu Quoc islanders have strongly disapproved of the sale of sand dredged off the island to foreign companies.

At a meeting with Kien Giang lawmakers on November 11, Nguyen Van Nam, a resident of the island’s An Thoi Town, questioned why Vietnam continues to export sand to Singapore while many other countries stopped doing so long ago.

Huynh Quang Hung, deputy chairman of Phu Quoc District, also opposed the decision of the Naval Zone 5 to export the locally dredged sand.

“The sand must have been used for construction projects on Phu Quoc, given the current demand for site leveling on the island,” Hung said at the same meeting.

Hung underlined that continuous sand dredging may cause land subsidence near the port, adding that the district’s administration will continue to petition higher authorities to have the dredging stopped.

“Many infrastructure and tourism projects on Phu Quoc are in need of a huge amount of sand for site leveling, but have to buy from the mainland at inflated prices because the on-island supply falls short,” he said.

As Tuoi Tre returned to the scene on Sunday, a new vessel, Hong Kong’s Jin Gang, was seen waiting to receive sand off Phu Quoc Island.

The Jin Gang ship is seen off Phu Quoc Island.

‘In line with procedures’

Phung Quoc Binh, deputy director of the Kien Giang environment department, confirmed that sand is being dredged and sold to Singapore off Phu Quoc Island, but the activity is in line with all procedures, paperwork and regulations.

On November 30, a Naval Zone 5 high-ranking official also asserted to Tuoi Tre that the dredging is in line with procedure and under proper supervision by the environment department.

The naval official refused to comment further, asking Tuoi Tre to work with the environment department.

On December 1, Vo Thi Van, another deputy director of the Kien Giang environment department, gave Tuoi Tre a departmental inspection report on the sand dredging project in waters near the Naval Zone 5 port.

According to the document, the project is backed by the Ministry of Defense, with all necessary papers completed and approved.

The developer, the Naval Zone 5, has also been authorized to contract two private firms, Hai Viet Co. and Duc Long Co., to carry out the dredging to save investment cost.

Van added that the amount of sand to be dredged had also been approved by the Ministry of Construction.
Under the construction ministry’s license, the two companies are allowed to exploit seven million cubic meters of sand, with one million cubic meters eligible for export.

The inspection report was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on July 19.

At that time, the companies had dredged 296,868 cubic meters of sand and exported more than 100,000 cubic meters.

The firms had paid more than VD1.11 billion (US$49,554) in export taxes, but were yet to pay the natural resources and dredging taxes.

Van told Tuoi Tre on December 1 that her department would re-inspect the dredging activity and report to both Kien Giang’s and Phu Quoc’s administrations as soon as possible.

“The report will also be made public to all islanders, allowing them to directly oversee the dredging project,” she pressed.

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New campaign serves up sustainable seafood options

Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 16;

By early February, a popular nasi lemak stall at Changi Village will pair its coconut rice with a new type of fish, in a move that could help save a fish species from extinction.

Mizzy's Corner will introduce the Indian mackerel as an alternative to the more endangered ikan kuning. Its owner Mizrea Abu Nazir, 44, said: "It tastes the same as the ikan kuning so I'm not worried that customers won't like it."

Her new fish dish will appear in a video campaign aimed at getting consumers to switch to sustainable seafood.

It will be launched on Thursday by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF-Singapore), which in October warned that three out of four popular seafood species eaten here faced extinction, unless consumers turn to sustainable sources .

In the videos, chefs from local eateries such as nasi padang restaurant Hjh Maimunah and Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant CandleNut will teach viewers how to cook popular dishes using responsibly caught seafood.

Hjh Maimunah will present a dish of sambal prawns made with vannamei prawns, instead of the less sustainable tiger prawns.

Its business development and marketing manager Ismail Didih, 31, noted however that using sustainable alternatives would not do for some traditional dishes.

He cited the eatery's assam padas, a sour and spicy stew dish which uses stingrays - a species WWF-Singapore has flagged as mostly over-exploited in the wild or unsustainably farmed. "It would be weird to replace it with the cod or salmon," he said.

In October, WWF-Singapore also launched a guide that assesses the environmental sustainability of 41 popular seafood species here.

The ikan kuning was identified as a fish that consumers should avoid. The Indian mackerel, while not free from the threat of extinction, is less at risk.

Silver pomfret and the Indian threadfin - also known as ngoh hur and used in fish porridge - were also listed as fish to avoid.

The guide caused an uproar online, with several food-loving Singaporeans asking WWF-Singapore to "mind their own business".

"People were incredulous," said its conservation resource manager Karen Sim, who added that the debate at least showed the movement was gaining interest.

She added: "We understand consumers can be very attached to their favourite seafood. We ask that they consider diversifying the types of seafood they eat to the more sustainable ones."

WWF-Singapore is also developing an app where consumers can take a photo of a whole fish at say, a wet market, and get information on whether its species is environmentally sustainable.

For now, consumers can look out for products that bear the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council labels, which indicate that the seafood was responsibly caught or farmed.

More retailers and hotels have got on board the sustainability drive.

Supermarket chain FairPrice has over the past two years doubled its range of sustainable seafood to more than 50 products, including prawns, scallops and pink salmon.

Sheng Siong carries certified-sustainable fresh rainbow trout and fresh salmon, both from Norway. It intends to grow the range.

Several hotels - Grand Hyatt Singapore, Hilton Singapore and Marina Bay Sands - have also put in place sustainable practices, from reducing the number of seafood products to tracing sources of seafood used in the kitchens.


These are some fish to avoid, according to WWF-Singapore's seafood guide:

- Yellow-tailed scad (selar)

- Milkfish

- Yellow-banded scad (kuning)

- Asian seabass (siakap putih)

- Indian threadfin (ngoh hur or ikan kurau)

- Golden, silver and black pomfret

- Barramundi cod (ikan kerapu)

- All rays

- All sharks

- All bluefin tuna

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Malaysia: Tanjung Aru reclamation works to begin in April 2017

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 5 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Tanjung Aru beach will be closed off in March 2017 when reclamation works begin, said Kota Kinabalu mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai.

He added that the beach is expected to be shut down next March as the multi-billion ringgit redevelopment project takes off, and said that the city's iconic beach and park would be gazetted for the public.

“We will make sure that the public will still get the opportunity to enjoy the beach and the park for free, like what they are enjoying now,” said Yeo.

He said they would also try their best to retain the existing trees and plants wherever possible.

The redevelopment which will be done over the next three years will cover some 340ha, and it will double the historic park's size to about 30ha and transform part of it into a rainforest.

It will also revitalize the 1.35km Tanjung Aru beach as well as rejuvenate Prince Philip Park.

Yeo said that the project is now available for public viewing and added that the public can send in their feedback until Feb 10 next year.

“Tanjung Aru Eco Development Sdn Bhd has submitted their master plan to be considered under the Town and Country Planning Ordinance as a Scheme and the reports have been submitted to City Hall,” Yeo said.

He added that the reports can be viewed at Meeting Room 2 of the City Hall.

Previously, local NGOs had objected to the project and urged the government to maintain the beach and park areas.

The Tanjung Aru Eco Development project would include a promenade, walking and cycling tracks and an ecology centre, with completion expected in 2019.

A 133ha golf retreat, featuring a Greg Norman-designed course, seven hotels with 1,800 rooms in total and about 5,000 apartment and condominium units would also be built.

A key feature would be a 6km-long and 42m-wide canal fronting the residential lots.

There will also be a 26ha retail and food and beverage area called Prince Philip Wharf, and a marina to berth up to 200 vessels.

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Malaysia: Floods recede as wet weather eases

IVAN LOH and JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 6 Dec 16;

PETALING JAYA: A sunny break in inclement weather saw floods in most parts of the country subsiding and evacuees allowed to return home.

However, the Meteorological Department has warned Malaysians to expect more rainfall and thunderstorms in the coming week.

In Ipoh, all 38 people affected by flash floods in Kampung Pengkalan Ara, Hilir Perak, have returned home. Hilir Perak district officer Shahru­naim Radzali said the last of the villagers at the shelter, consisting of nine families, left at 1.30pm yesterday.

“We have now closed the temporary shelter at SK Pengkalan Ara. The relocation efforts were assisted by the Civil Defence Department and Rela,” he said.

The villagers have been staying at the shelter since Saturday.However, at Kampung Padang Serai in Pantai Remis, Manjung, some 71 people from 17 families are still being housed at the temporary shelter, which opened on Friday when the water level rose to 1.4m.

As at 4pm yesterday, the weather at Hilir Perak and Manjung was cloudy again although conditions elsewhere in the state remained fair.

In Kota Baru, Bernama reported that as at noon, the state’s official flood website at put the number of flood evacuees in Kelantan at 55.

The evacuees are being housed in flood relief centres at SK Wakaf Raja, Pasir Puteh (26 evacuees) and SK Tiong, Kota Baru (29).

The relief centre at SMK Beris Panchor, Bachok, was closed at noon after the 12 evacuees returned to their homes, it said.

The Drainage and Irrigation Department also recorded the river level at Sungai Golok, Rantau Panjang, as having fallen to 7.14m from 7.34m previously. This is still above the alert level at 7m.

For the coming week, rainfall is forecast in the mornings for east coast states in Peninsular Malaysia while other states will experience thunderstorms in the evenings and at night.

Sarawak will see rain along its coast as well as in the central and western regions. Rain is also expected in the mornings for the western and eastern regions of Sabah with thunderstorms in several areas, especially Labuan.

More affected by disasters
NABILA AHMAD The Star 6 Dec 16;

JOHOR BARU: More people were affected by disasters such as flash floods, freak storms and fires in Johor.

Johor Civil Defence Department director Kol Mat Zin Bujang said there were 247 victims statewide this year compared to only 169 people last year.

“Because of the increase, more aid was channelled from Kumpulan Wang Amanah Bantuan Bencana Negara with RM123,500 distributed so far this year while last year, RM84,500 was disbursed.”

He added that last year, the department recorded a total of 10,160 cases while 8,880 have been recorded so far this year comprising mostly sightings of snakes, flash floods, freak storms, fires, road accidents and others.

“We are on high alert now because of the monsoon season,” he said in his speech during the handing over of cash aid to 153 freak storm victims at SK Kangkar Tebrau.

The victims from Kampung Kangkar Tebrau, Kampung Bunga Ros, Kampung Seri Purnama, Kampung Ulu Pandan, Taman Bunga Ros and Taman Delima received RM500 each.

Kol Mat Zin added that the department had identified some hotspots for flash floods including Kangkar Tebrau, Cahaya Baru, Kuala Masai and Gelang Patah.

“Our Community Emergency Response Team has 50 members in Johor Baru, 207 in Pontian, 144 in Kluang and 98 in Kota Tinggi,” he said.

Earlier, one of the recipients Ismail Abu Bakar, 86, said that he was home alone when the freak storm occurred at around 3.45pm.

“It was scary as I saw zinc roofs flying in the air,” said the retiree, adding that he has stayed in the area for over 70 years.

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Malaysia: Farmers suffer losses after blight destroys crops

ALLISON LAI and ADRIAN CHAN The Star 6 Dec 16;

SABAK BERNAM: A bacterial infection has destroyed the padi fields here, leaving farmers with heavy losses.

It is learned that some 4,440ha of padi fields in Sabak Bernam have been infected with the bacterial leaf blight (BLB) disease, which dries up the leaves and kills the plants.

The BLB infection this time is more serious than the previous one, which occurred during the second harvest season in 2013, said state infrastructure, public amenities, agricultural modernisation and agro-based industries exco Zaidy Abdul Talib.

The state will discuss the problem in the coming state Exco meeting tomorrow and also the Selangor Economic Action Council (MTES)meeting on Thursday.

“We will find ways to overcome this problem, either with chemical or organic treatment,” he said yesterday.

Zaidy visited some of the affected rice fields with Sekinchan assemblyman Ng Suee Lim and representatives from other agencies yesterday.

He said the Agriculture Department has been collecting data on the affected seedlings, fields and also the operators following the infection.

Ng said that the infection was the worst in 30 years in Sekinchan.

The crops were slashed between 50% to 70% following the infection, with more than 90% of the 1,296ha of padi fields here affected.

The loss is estimated to be more than RM5mil, he said, adding that most of the affected farmers planted the latest MR284 seedlings this year.

Besides, they also planted other varieties such as MR220, MR219 and MR263. But all of them, including MR284, are not resilient varieties, especially against BLB.

Sekinchan’s farm operators unit chairman Sam Fai hoped the authorities will take their plight into consideration and help reduce wet paddy deduction from 22% to 17%.

Wet paddy is deducted for its water content before being sold to Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas).

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Indonesia: Degraded, polluted reefs, mangroves threaten nation's coasts

The Jakarta Post 5 Dec 16;

Indonesia's coastal areas and seas are threatened by the exploitation of natural resources and environmental pressures, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Monday.

Siti said out of 2.5 million hectares of coral reefs in Indonesia, or 18 percent of total coral reefs in the world, 30.45 percent of them were in poor condition. From 2.9 million hectares of mangrove forests, or 25 percent of such forests in the world, 40 percent suffered degradation.

Furthermore, an estimated 0.48 million to 1.29 million metric tons of plastic garbage is littered, eventually crowding the nation's coasts, which has placed Indonesia second only to China in terms of the amount of plastic garbage found in the sea.

Siti said as quoted by Antara news agency her office had worked on reducing and managing garbage. The ministry recorded 3,533 units of community trash banks across Indonesia.

The ministry also replanted mangroves and helped build wastewater treatment plants in several fishermen villages across the country. (evi)

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Indonesia: 71 years later, govt begins counting small islands

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Suherdjoko The Jakarta Post 6 Dec 16;

The government, overseeing more than 13,000 islands within Indonesian territory, has only recently decided to make an inventory of the small islands and discern their ownership.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry said it would allow no one to own 100 percent of an island because according to Indonesian law, approximately 30 percent should go to the state.

The island inventory has become a struggle for local administrations as the ban on sales, usually done privately, is not only applicable for local people but also foreigners.

“We will immediately launch a program to ascertain the status of the islands,” Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said on Saturday while accepting an honorary doctorate from Diponegoro University in Semarang, West Java.

“The government should know the value of the state’s assets [in the islands], the dimensions of the islands and their potential. That will be included in our program,” Susi added.

So far, the country, which celebrated its 71st anniversary last Aug. 17, has no specific calculation or inventory regarding the dimensions and natural resource potential of the small islands in Indonesia, all of which are supposed to be state assets.

However, it is widely known that many islands have been occupied by locals and foreigners, who have turned them into private and commercial resorts.

Not all of the privately owned islands are located far from the government’s reach.

In the Thousands Islands, the archipelagic regency in the northern part of Jakarta, at least 66 out of 110 islets are owned privately, according to Jakarta Police data.

Earlier this year, the government reprimanded a Singapore-based developer, Funtasy Island Development (FID) Pte Ltd., for denoting Manis Island near Batam, Riau Islands, as Singaporean territory on a promotional map.

The ministry’s marine space management director general, Brahmantya Satyamurti Poeadi, said on Sunday that private ownership of the islands was prohibited under the Constitution.

Article 33 Point 3 of the Constitution mandates that the nation’s earth, natural resources and water are controlled by the state and should be utilized for the sake of people’s welfare, meaning that, according to Brahmantya, all islands in the country are owned by the state, thus selling or buying islands privately should not be allowed.

In addition, the 2007 Law on the management of coastal areas and small islands prohibits exclusive ownership of an island, particularly ownership by foreigners.

“That’s why we should record the islands, including their dimensions, ownership and potential. We will set sanctions for those [who are found violating the law],” Brahmantya said.

He added that the ministry was still preparing the details of the program, which was set to be completed by the end of the month.

The Indonesian Center for Environment Law (ICEL) praised the plan, calling it one step ahead of the ministry but warned that it should coordinate with other government institutions and the public.

ICEL deputy director Reynaldi Sembiring said it was hard to get specific data on island ownership because the owners could avoid scrutiny from non-government entities.

“Individuals and corporations have interests in the islands. Implementing the inventory program won’t be easy for the government,” Reynaldi said.

He added that private islands had a high probability of environmental damage because most of the owners built up tourism areas and resorts.

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Indonesia: Bring back our orangutans, activists plead

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 5 Dec 16;

Activists are demanding the government bring back orangutans originating from Indonesia that have been smuggled abroad, saying they have sent letters to embassies in the hope of securing the return of the critically endangered animals.

The activists, under the non-governmental Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, had written to the Indonesian Embassy in Kuwait to help return a baby orangutan to Indonesia, director Gunung Gea said. The group sent the same letter to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, asking for help in accommodating the process.

“We asked the government to bring back the baby orangutan to be rehabilitated and released into its natural habitat in Indonesia,” Gunung told The Jakarta Post over the weekend, adding that the one-and-a-half year old baby orangutan may be from Kalimantan.

The animal’s presence in Kuwait was revealed when the owner was arrested by local police over a traffic accident. The police seized the baby orangutan from its owner and are housing it temporarily in a zoo.

“We were informed that the Kuwaiti government has since July this year been in contact with the Indonesian government through the embassy there to take the baby orangutan,” Gunung said.

The case is one example of rare Indonesian animals being taken abroad via illegal smuggling. Protected animals could easily be smuggled abroad because of the involvement of rogue personnel in the process, Gunung claimed.

“Recently we worked with the Jakarta Police, uncovering [cases of the] rare animal trade involving civil servants working for Soekarno-Hatta International Airport’s quarantine center,” Gunung said.

Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) founding director Panut Hadisiswoyo said orangutan trafficking was a bitter truth. It occurred amid high demand for certain animals abroad, either to become pets or for illegal safari parks and zoos in Southeast Asia and China, he added.

In November this year, Panut said he found four Indonesian orangutans in a mini zoo in a department store in Bangkok.

“The four most likely were Bornean orangutans,” Panut said, showing pictures of the orangutans at the facility.

He also once spotted 26 Indonesian orangutans at the Pintung Rescue Centre in Taiwan, which so far have yet to be returned to Indonesia. Panut said he believed many Indonesian orangutans still remained abroad.

“The government has to take them back soon,” he said.

Between 1990 and 2000, 283 orangutans were smuggled to Taiwan. However, so far none of them have been returned to Indonesia, according to Panut.

One orangutan from Kuwait and 14 others seized from entertainment centers in Bangkok were brought back to Indonesia last year, Panut said.

In 2007, 48 orangutans were seized in Thailand, along with six others the following year. All of them have been returned to Indonesia.

Unfortunately, he said, the orangutans were sent to safari parks, not rehabilitation centers.

“We want all the orangutans saved abroad to be rehabilitated in their natural habitats, not in safari parks or zoos,” Panut added.

The protected animals, which only live in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian section of Borneo island, still face rampant illegal trading. The North Sumatra Police uncovered syndicates illegally trading orangutans from Mount Leuser National Park in July, following the seizure of five orangutans ready to be sold in Jakarta and Medan.

Orangutans sold directly from their habitat in Aceh and Kalimantan are priced at between Rp 10 million (US$743) and Rp 15 million. In Java, however, the price could be between Rp 50 million and Rp 100 million, Daniek Hendarto, coordinator of the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP), said previously.

Java provided a market for the protected animals because, apart from the high number of consumers, it is also a transit point for orangutans smuggled to countries like Thailand and Malaysia.

The COP said that as a result of the rampant trade, orangutans are critically endangered, with the population continuing to decrease to 5,000 orangutans in Sumatra and 7,000 in Kalimantan at present.

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New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions

UN media release 5 Dec 16;

5 December 2016 – Marine debris is negatively affecting more than 800 animal species and causing serious losses to many countries' economies, according to a United Nations report launched today.

The report, Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity found that the number of species affected by marine debris has increased from 663 to 817 since 2012. It also warned that this type of waste, which is mostly made of plastic, is an increasing threat to human health and well-being, and is costing countries billions of dollars each year.

“I hope that this report will provide governments and other stakeholders with the information needed to take urgent actions to address marine debris, one of the most prominent threats to marine ecosystems, and support healthy and resilient oceans as a critical aspect of achieving sustainable development,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The report was launched in Cancun, Mexico, on the sidelines of the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention, known as 'COP13,' where governments and private sector delegations have been gathered since 2 December to discuss, among others, how to integrate biodiversity into policies relevant to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors. The meeting wraps up on 17 December.

Marine debris is usually defined as any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. Three-quarters of all marine debris is plastic, a persistent and potentially hazardous pollutant, which fragments into microplastics that can be taken up by a wide range of marine organisms.

The most common types of marine debris are: food wrappers, bottle caps, straws, grocery bags, beverage bottles and cigarette butts. Five of these items are made of plastic.

Marine and coastal species – fish, seabirds, marine mammals and reptiles – are affected by marine debris mostly through ingestion or entanglement. According to the report, 40 per cent of cetaceans, and 44 per cent of seabird species are affected by marine debris ingestion. The effect of ingestion is not always understood, as many ingest microplastics – little pieces or fragments that are less than five millimetres in diameter.

The problem with plastic

Plastic is a very common material in our daily lives – eight per cent of global oil production is used to make plastic items. However, it is hard to dispose of and many times is discarded after a single use – think of plastic bags to carry groceries, wrapping for packages, among many others.

Annual plastic production has substantially increased over the last 60 years, from 1.5 million tonnes in the 1950s to 288 million tonnes in 2012, with approximately two-thirds of production occurring in East Asia, Europe and North America. Current global estimates for plastic waste indicate that 192 coastal countries generated 275 million tonnes of waste in 2010, of which between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes (1.8 - 4.6 per cent) entered the marine environment.

The economic cost

Marine debris has an adverse effect in the commercial fishing, shipping and tourism industries. The report also notes that previous research places the cost of pollution caused by marine debris at $13 billion.

Some of the cost includes repairing vessel damage, clean-up, and decrease in tourism revenues due to polluted beaches. There are also social impacts such as direct, short-term human health issues (injuries, entanglement and navigational hazards) and long-term impacts on quality of life.

The report makes recommendations for governments and citizens to reduce marine debris. Some of them include: reducing plastic packaging, introducing fees for single-use items, banning items like plastic bags and microbeads, and supporting innovation for new materials that are fully biodegradable. In addition, governments should increase awareness of the impacts of marine debris among their citizens, and facilitate recycling and reusing options, among other measures.

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Corporate growth still driving deforestation, Carbon Disclosure Project shows

The removal of the world's tree cover remains a concern but deforestation rates are slowing, according to the United Nations
Mark Kinver BBC News 5 Dec 16;

Although progress is being made, up to US $906bn of company turnover is still tied to global deforestation, an assessment has concluded.

A study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) suggests almost a quarter of company revenues depend on deforestation-linked commodities.

These commodities are cattle products, soy, palm oil and timber products.

The findings are based on disclosures from 365 investors worth US $22 trillion (£17 trillion).

"We found this year that a substantial share of corporate income depends upon commodities that are linked to deforestation risk," explained Katie McCoy, CDP's head of forests.

"When we carried out our analysis, we found that - on average - about a quarter of companies' revenue are dependent on commodities that have been linked to deforestation."

She said there was a clear message for companies to take the issue of deforestation in their supply chain very seriously.

"It is having an impact on their potential to generate revenue."

Deforestation concerns

Ms McCoy added: "Another key message that is coming though is that while companies are confident that they have a secure and sustainable supply of these commodities, our analysis suggests that companies are overlooking how deforestation impacts are going to affect their growth.

"In this era of increased scrutiny, we are asking companies in order to capitalise on opportunity and minimise risk, they really need to engage more meaningfully with their supply chain and, in some cases, move deforestation risk into the boardroom."

She said that taking "deforestation into the boardroom" would help shift the paradigm into a long-term issue, making it more sustainable."

At present, a third of companies that responded to CDP's request for information said that the issue of deforestation was not being discussed at boardroom level.

"[It] affects the way risk assessments in the company are conducted, making sure that this issue is part of the mix."

She added that that by increasing levels of transparency and disclosure from their suppliers would be beneficial.

"This means recognising that the biggest risks and opportunities are to be found in the supply chain, and we would ask companies to disclose the relevant information, and also to collaborate with those suppliers to implement change," she told BBC News.

"Finally, we are asking companies to work sectorally. This is where the boardroom level and working with the supply chain comes in.

"So they are working with "peer companies" across the sector. We are also asking them to also work with customers, governments and civil society as well, because there needs to be an enabling environment in order for companies to deliver."

The assessment by the CDP found that regulatory signals in landmark agreements such as the Paris Agreement placed decarbonisation of economic and financial activity, and that a sustainable post 2020 economy relied on the shift away from deforestation.

"Companies are moving forward, the manufacturers and retailers that have reported that they are working with their suppliers and that they have far greater levels of traceability and they are more significantly more like to identify supply chain related opportunities,"

Ms McCoy added that she was hopeful that the corporate world was heading in the right direction.

She said: "On a more positive note, we have never seen transparency be more important and have companies actively asking for transparency, and we are pleased that more investors are signing up to our programme.

"Since last year, we have had 20% more investors interested in this issue. I am encouraged about how many companies are seeing the value in being transparent about how they tackle this issue."

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Polar sea ice the size of India vanishes in record heat

Alister Doyle Reuters 5 Dec 16;
* Antarctic, Arctic sea ice at record low for early December
* Antarctica surprises after expansion in recent years
* Greenhouse gases, El Nino, freak heat drive retreat
* 2016 set to be warmest year on record

OSLO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Sea ice off Antarctica and in the Arctic is at record lows for this time of year after declining by twice the size of Alaska in a sign of rising global temperatures, climate scientists say.

Against a trend of global warming and a steady retreat of ice at earth's northern tip, ice floating on the Southern Ocean off Antarctica has tended to expand in recent years.

But now it is shrinking at both ends of the planet, a development alarming scientists and to which a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases, an El Nino weather event that this year unlocked heat from the Pacific Ocean and freak natural swings may all be contributing.

"There are some really crazy things going on," said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, saying temperatures in parts of the Arctic were 20 degrees Celsius (36°F) above normal some days in November.

Worldwide, this year is on track to be the warmest on record.

Combined, the extent of polar sea ice on Dec. 4 was about 3.84 million square kilometers (1.48 million square miles) below the 1981-2010 average, according to NSIDC satellite measurements. That is roughly the size of India, or two Alaskas.

Antarctica's expanding sea ice in many recent years has been a big theme for those who doubt global warming is man-made.

John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey said chilly westerly winds that sweep around the continent, perhaps insulating it from the effects of global warming, were the weakest for November in two decades. That may have let more heat seep south, he said.

A recovery of the high-altitude ozone layer over Antarctica, which led to cooler air over the continent when it was damaged by now-banned industrial chemicals, may also be a factor.

But Turner said it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was happening.

"When we began getting satellite data from 1979 the sea ice started to decrease. Everyone said it was global warming ... but then it started to increase again," he said.


Accepting mainstream scientific findings and responding to increases in floods and heat waves and rising sea levels, almost 200 governments last year agreed to phase out fossil fuels this century and limit the global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to less than two degrees celsius.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has called man-made climate change a hoax, has threatened to pull out of that agreement, reached in Paris in December. Last month he however also said he had an "open mind".

The polar regions are radically different from each other because the Arctic is an ocean ringed by land and Antarctica is a vast land mass surrounded by water.

Ice around Antarctica, retreating with a summer thaw, is the smallest for early December at 11.22 million square kilometers (4.33 million square miles), beating a record from 1982, NSIDC data show.

Arctic sea ice, expanding in winter, is at a record low of 10.25 million square kilometers (3.96 million square miles), below a 2006 record.

Anders Levermann, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said the low polar sea ice pointed to man-made warming. "It's an extraordinary departure from the norm," he said.

Serreze at the NSIDC said the twin record lows might be "blind dumb chance". But the worry was that "Antarctica is the sleeping elephant that is beginning to stir."

Scientists say Antarctica's glaciers could slip more quickly into the ocean, speeding up the pace of sea level rise, if there is less ice floating on the sea to pin them back.

(For a graphic comparing current polar sea ice levels with record lows, click on

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and John Stonestreet)

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