Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jan 17

Oil spill near Pulau Ubin, 4 Jan 2017
wild shores of singapore

Birdwatching in Ubin - Black Hornbill ( Jan 2, 2017)
Rojak Librarian

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Oil spill affects fish farms near Pulau Ubin

Two vessels collide, causing 300 tonnes of oil spillage; one farm reports losing between 100kg and 200kg of fish
Carolyn Khew Straits Times 5 Jan 17;

An oil spill that occurred off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor on Tuesday night has affected three coastal fish farms near Pulau Ubin and left nature enthusiasts concerned about the potential impact on wildlife in the area.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told The Straits Times yesterday that one farm had reported losing between 100kg and 200kg of fish.

"We have issued oil-absorbent pads and canvases to 11 farmers closest to the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock," said the spokesman.

On Tuesday night, a Singapore- registered container vessel, the Wan Hai 301, collided with the APL Denver, a Gibraltar-registered container vessel, off the Johor port.

Traces of oil in water off Pulau Ubin after container vessels collide near Johor

The incident occurred close to midnight and left 300 tonnes of oil spillage as a result of damage to one of the APL Denver's bunker tanks.

Oil patches were also found along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

"The two oil patches are mainly contained and no new sightings of oil have been reported," added the MPA yesterday.

Coastal fish farmers in the East Johor Strait were alerted, said the AVA spokesman. Farmers were advised to stop feeding their fish and to use canvas skirting to prevent oil from contaminating fish stocks.

Yesterday, remnants of oil could still be seen in the waters off Pulau Ubin. Fish farmers told The Straits Times it had got into their fish nets.

One of the farmers, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ho, said he was worried that the fish would be affected as he had fed them earlier in the day. To eat, the fish would have gone up to the surface, which was contaminated by oil.

"Let's just hope the fish won't die. We have been harmed by the red tide in the last few years, and now we have an oil spill," said the 55-year-old, referring to the algae blooms that had plagued the area.

As a precautionary measure, fish samples have been collected from the farms for food safety tests.

There are about 60 farms located in the East Johor Strait, most of which provide fish for Singaporeans' consumption.

Dr Huang Danwei from the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences said oil spills can be devastating for marine life, not just in how widely they spread, but also in the amount of time they take to be cleaned up.

"On the water, oil floats and can coat anything that moves through it. Sea otters and seabirds, for example, are large animals that are most affected because their fur and feathers lose their functions upon contact with oil," said Dr Huang.

He added that the Asian small- clawed otter, which is rare in Singapore, is known to live in the mangroves of Pulau Ubin.

The National Parks Board said yesterday that the spillage had been contained off the northern and western parts of Pulau Ubin.

As the tide was expected to move eastwards yesterday night, oil-absorbent booms were set up to protect the mangroves and mudflats along the north-eastern coast of Pulau Ubin, including the Chek Jawa Wetlands. Booms to contain the oil spill have also been set up to protect the mangroves at Coney Island Park and Pasir Ris Park.

Since 2012, there have been six Singapore-registered vessels involved in collisions that caused casualties or oil spills, including the latest incident.

The MPA and its contractors deployed nine vessels to respond to the oil patches at OBS Jetty and Nenas Channel. The cause of the collision is under investigation.

Singapore's last major oil spill happened in May 2010, when a collision caused 2,500 tonnes of crude oil to be leaked into the Singapore Strait.

According to the New Straits Times, the incident on Tuesday reportedly occurred when the vessel, Wan Hai, suffered a power failure, causing it to become uncontrollable before it hit the APL Denver.

Slick floating towards Singapore after cargo vessel crashes into stationary ship

JOHOR BARU: Some 300 tonnes of fuel oil could have spilt into the Johor Straits following a collision between two container ships at the Johor Port in Pasir Gudang.

No one was injured in the incident, but a large oil slick is heading towards Singapore, carried by the current after the collision at about 11pm on Tuesday.

More than 370 fishermen in the area are worried that the spill will affect their livelihood.

Port authorities were tight-lipped over the incident and declined to provide details on clean-up efforts.

A boat ferrying journalists to the affected area was detained by the authorities.

A power outage reportedly caused a Singapore-registered cargo vessel, which was coming in to dock, to crash into a stationary container ship.

Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the captain of Wan Hai 301 had reported a power outage and blackout on board just before the incident.

The impact caused a bunker tank on the Gibraltar-registered APL Denver to rupture and spill its contents.

Ayub said teams from the Department of Environment and Johor Port immediately started clean-up work and were trying to contain the oil slick, adding that an investigation into the collision had started.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (southern region) First Admiral Adon Shalan said the APL Denver bunker tank has a capacity of 300 tonnes, “but we are not sure how much has spilled out”.

“A lot has floated to the waters near Pulau Ubin, off Singapore.”

Johor South Fishermen’s Asso­ciation chairman Azli Mohd Aziz said he was worried about the livelihood of the fishermen at the six villages.

“They are hesitant to go out to sea now because the oil can damage our nets and other gear.

“We are afraid that a change in the tides will shift the oil slick back into our waters,” he said.

Fish farms reeling from impact of oil spill off Johor
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: At a fish farm north of Pulau Ubin, workers panicked on Wednesday (Jan 4) when they saw what was meant to be their Chinese New Year harvest turn belly-up in the water.

The farm, owned by Gills N Claws, told Channel NewsAsia it lost about 1,000 fish, after a nearby vessel collision the day before saw about 300 tonnes of oil spill into the sea. Gills N Claws said the oil seeped into its nets containing fish such as red snappers, pearl groupers and the silver pomfret.

"Our workers scrambled to put up canvasses outside the floating platforms provided by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)," said Gills N Claws' head of operations, Winston Siv Raj. "But 70 per cent of the fish meant to be sold in time for Chinese New Year have died."

The farm also breeds crabs and lobsters. These too were found coated in engine oil, as were the green mussels grown as food for the lobsters. Farm manager Steven Wong lifted ropes on which the mussels were growing, only to find them caked with oily sludge.

When Channel NewsAsia arrived at the farm, staff from AVA and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) were on the scene, with AVA officials packing a red snapper and some mussels for tests at their laboratory.

Mr Raj said estimates the damage could run up to S$700,000, as the company also needs to change all its fish nets and floats, as well as supporting anchor points and connecting ropes that were ruined by the oil..

"This does not include the fish and lobsters that survived. The figures could change drastically if the AVA finds that the lobsters and fish taken for lab tests are unfit for consumption," he said.

Other fish farms are still trying to assess their losses. At a farm owned by 2 Jays, the surface of the water surrounded by netting was coated with a thick layer of black oil and the air smelled of diesel.

Workers were throwing large cloth pads into the water in bid to soak up the oil, but beyond that, they were unable to do much.

Its operations manager Timothy Ng said his workers could not check their fish stocks without lifting the nets. However if they did, they would risk killing more fish, as the surviving fish could choke on the oil floating on top if they came near the surface, he said. To prevent fish from suffocating in this fashion, workers were also instructed not to feed them.

The co-owner of Farm 85 Aquaculture, Andrew Sim, meantime, was at a loss for words, gazing out at his oil-coated fish pens. “I don’t know what to do … It's too much already."


AVA had said on Wednesday that two farms saw fish deaths due to the oil spill and that up to 200kg of fish had died.

On Thursday, it said more farms were found to have tainted nets and structures, compared to the day before due to tidal movement. It has issued oil absorbent pads and canvas to 22 farmers closest to the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock.

Aside from the two farms however, "most of the farms in the same area did not report fish mortality,” said Dr Leong Hon Keong, group director of AVA’s Technology and Industry Development Group."There is minimal impact to supply. Nevertheless, AVA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the fish farmers, including assisting in clean-up efforts."

As a precautionary measure, AVA has collected fish samples for food safety tests and will continue to do so, it said. The authority also issued orders to three farms to suspend sales of fish until food safety evaluations are complete.

A total of 17 vessels and more than 220 personnel have been mobilised for a massive clean-up in the wake of the oil spill, MPA said. Changi Beach was also partially closed on Wednesday as a safety precaution.

Additional reporting by Vanessa Lim.

- CNA/mo

Johor oil spill clean-up in high gear as fishermen rue losses
BERNAMA New Straits Times 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Fishermen at six villages near the Pasir Gudang Port might suffer losses amounting to RM130,000 due to an oil spill following the collision of two container vessels on Tuesday.

Southern Johor Fishermen Association chairman Azli Mohd Aziz said the 137 fishermen are from Kampung Pasir Gudang Baru, Kampung Pasir Putih, Kampung Kuala Masai, Kampung Asli Kuala Masai, Kampung Asli Pasir Putih and Kampung Asli Teluk Kabung.

"When I visited the area, work to clean the oil spills was in progress... but there were still traces of oil on the sea surface which could have adverse effects on fishing equipment.

"So, I'm not sure whether they (fishermen) can go out to sea or not," he told reporters after checking a 10-kilometre stretch affected by the oil spill here yesterday.

Azli said the association is now waiting for a full report from its affected members before any action, including demanding compensation, is taken.

Meanwhile, a Johor Environment Department spokesperson said the cleaning up operation using vacuum suction of the oil spill has begun.

"This operation is carried out carefully... if it's done in a hurry, it may break up the oil patches and (for that,) we cannot clean it up thoroughly. We also cannot tell how much longer the operation will take," said the spokesperson when contacted by Bernama here.

It is learnt that the spilled oil was identified as Marine Fuel Oil (MFO) 500 CST, which is used in the shipping industry.

Meanwhile, Johor Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Ismail Mohamed said the state government will wait for a full report over the incident before helping affected fishermen.

He said the assessment report will be issued by the Malaysian Fisheries Development Board (LKIM) to determine the exact amount of losses incurred by the fishermen.

Meanwhile, an LKIM spokesperson said the affected fishermen could submit a memorandum containing their names, which would be sent to the relevant parties for insurance claims.

"The amount of losses incurred will be assessed by the parties involved and if there are no problems, the payment will be made directly to the affected fishermen," said the spokesperson.

In the 11.01pm incident, a Singapore-registered vessel, Wan Hai 301, was entering the port at about 11pm when it rammed the bunker tank of an anchored Gibraltar-registered APL Denver vessel.

Wan Hai 301 is believed to have suffered a technical failure before the collision.

It was reported that some oil patches were spotted off the western side of Pulau Ubin in Singapore. - Bernama

Johor Port confirms generator failure caused ships to collide
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor Port Authority (JPA) confirmed that failure of the generator set on a Singapore-registered vessel caused it to collide into another vessel on Tuesday.

JPA said in a statement that Wan Hai 301 experienced generator failure, causing it to lose control and crash into APL Denver, a Gibraltar-registered ship, that was docked at Johor Port in Pasir Gudang at around 11.05pm.

It also confirmed that some 300 tonnes of marine fuel oil had leaked from APL Denver and the Singapore authorities were alerted to contain the oil slicks that had shifted into Singapore waters.

"In an immediate response, Johor Port Bhd with the help of other agencies and the Pasir Gudang Oil Spill Task Force, contained the oil spill in a way as to prevent patches from spreading to other areas," the statement said.

JPA added that the port was now operating as usual but anchoring schedule at the container terminal might be delayed for a few days due to ongoing cleaning up works.

It was reported that large portions of the fuel had floated to Singapore's Pulau Ubin.

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Living City: At work in a kayak through the mangroves of Pulau Ubin

Basil Edward Teo, The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE - Twice a week, kayaking leader Malvin Foo spends three hours on public transport, going from his home in Clementi to his job in Pulau Ubin.

Despite the long travel time, he enjoys every trip to the island.

"To me, going back to Ubin to kayak is like recharging. I don't feel like it's a form of work," said the 32-year-old.

As a kayaking leader for outdoor adventure company Asian Detours, Mr Foo leads an average of 10 participants at a time into the mangroves of Pulau Ubin.

"Once you enter the mangrove on your kayak, the mood and air changes. There's a drop in energy, and you can see it on the faces of my participants," he said.

The basic mangrove kayaking programme takes participants on a 2½-hour journey through mangroves in the western part of Ubin.

Another programme is the longer "bisect kayaking" trip that takes enthusiasts on a four-hour journey cutting through from the north of the island to the south.

Through the guided tours, Mr Foo hopes to raise awareness of the importance of Pulau Ubin's mangroves to Singapore's ecosystem.

"You take a short bumboat ride over, walk for five minutes, grab a kayak and then you start," he said, on the convenience of experiencing the natural beauty of the mangroves.

In this episode of Living City, which explores Singapore's little-known spaces and places, The Straits Times Video visits the mangroves of Pulau Ubin.

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Malaysia: Negri dam levels declining despite heavy rain

SARBAN SINGH The Star 4 Jan 17;

SEREMBAN: Water levels at two major dams here are going down despite heavy showers in many parts of Negri Sembilan.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said both the Sg Terip and Kelinchi dams, which supply water to tens of thousands of consumers in Seremban and other districts had about 70 days of supply left, when it should be more than double.

"For some strange reason, we have not been getting rain in the upstream areas.

"It is my hope that consumers will use water prudently and not be mistaken that the dams are full because of rain in downstream areas," he told reporters after chairing the exco meeting Wednesday.

Mohamad said consumers should not waste water simply because tariffs were low.

"I know that Negri Sembilan has the lowest water tariff in the country for households, but that does not mean one should be wasteful,"

However, he noted that the state's five other dams were full.

Mohamad said he had directed state water concessionaire Syarikat Air Negri Sembilan to find way to fill up the two affected dams.

"We need to do some kind of back pumping and fill up the dams as we will be experiencing the dry season in two to three months.

"The other option is to carry out cloud seeding in the upstream areas and get the dams filled up before it comes," he said.

N. Sembilan faces water crisis as two major dams dry up
BERNAMA New Straits Times 5 Jan 17;

SEREMBAN: Despite the rainy season, there's a looming water crisis in the state as water levels at the Sungai Terip and Sungai Kelinchi dams have dropped.

Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the current water level at the two dams is expected to reach a critical stage in 72 days.

"The water level in dams is supposed to increase during the rainy season - but it's (been) just the opposite. I am a little worried, for during the rainy season, we should have a capacity sustaining for up to 200 days.

"Usually, (at) a critical level, water levels in the two dams would be able to last for more than 150 days, instead of 72 days, as what is happening now," he said after chairing an exco meeting here today. Mohamad said he has directed Syarikat Air Negri Sembilan (SAINS) to think of ways to increase water levels in the dams, including cloud seeding in certain areas.

However, he said the situation at five more dams, namely Talang, Pedas, Gemencheh, Ulu Sepri and Teriang, is not a concern, because water levels there are at the maximum level. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Sabah to gazette forest as protected area for orang utan population

The Star 5 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Forestry Department is moving to gazette a forest in central Sabah, rich in orang utan population, as a fully protected area.

The move comes in the wake of a sudden change in the ownership of the 101,000ha Forest Management Unit 5 (FMU 5), which also contains 13,000ha of flora and fauna.

Sabah Forests chief conservator Datuk Sam Mannan said the area was being classified as a first-class reserve and would become part of the Trusmadi Forest Reserve.

FMU 5, owned by logging and reforestation company Anika Desiran, was bought over by a local wood products manufacturing company, Priceworth International, for RM260mil in October last year.

Anika Desiran was apparently working with conservationists, including WWF Malaysia, during the past two to three years.

The goal was to create a model example of a conservation economy and the sudden sale of the pro­perty took the conservationists by surprise.

Mannan said the forest region had been logged a few times since the 1980s and that the Forestry Department allowed it to be parcelled out under the FMU programme in 1997 because it did not expect orang utan to inhabit such highland areas.

“I don’t know why the former owner sold it. But it has nothing to do with us,” he said.

He said that a WWF study found orang utan in FMU 5 so the high-conservation area within it would be turned into a first-class reserve.

Once done, the new owner will have to provide a development masterplan which must be approved before any kind of work can take place on the land.

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Malaysia: Customs Dept seizes RM7.2mil worth of ivory at KLIA

NOORSILA ABD MAJID New Straits Times 4 Jan 17;

SEPANG: The Royal Malaysian Customs Department at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) has seized 254 units of ivory worth RM7.2mil, believed to have been smuggled in from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Displaying the large seizure at a press conference in the Kompleks Kastam Kargo KLIA, Datuk Hamzah Sundang, the director of KLIA Customs, said the department acted on a tip-off from an informer.

“We processed the information that we’ve received and sent our officers to investigate.

“To our surprise, we discovered the ivory, packed in 17 boxes from DR Congo in the air cargo warehouse of the free-trade zone in KLIA. They were delivered via MAS Cargo,” said Hamzah.

According to him, the cargo was flown in via Turkish Airline and Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport was the transit point.

The smuggled goods weighing 846.2kg were labelled as “wood samples” on the boxes. They were supposed to be delivered to an unidentified recipient at a home address in Cheras, Selangor.

Hamzah revealed that the smugglers have used forged documents and that the address in Cheras did not exist but Malaysia is definitely their final destination.

The department has pledged a handsome cash reward for those with valuable information on this case.

In Malaysia, the import of ivory requires a special permit from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Under Section 135 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967, and those found guilty of illegally importing ivory into the country can be fined a maximum of 20 times the value of the smuggled items, or face three yearsimprisonment, or both.

As of December 2016, Malaysia has recorded nine cases of smuggled ivory, totalling to RM10.9mil. Hamzah stated that the figures have gone up by RM8.6mil, or three more cases, as compared to 2015.

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Natural disaster damage hits 4-year high: Report

Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Natural disasters including storms and earthquakes caused US$175 billion of damage in 2016, German reinsurance giant Munich Re said Wednesday (Jan 4), the highest level since 2012.

While the year saw a two-thirds increase in the financial impact of catastrophes around the world, casualties from natural disasters were far lower in 2016 than the previous year, at 8,700 deaths compared with 25,400.

Munich Re pointed to two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April and floods in China in June and July as the most devastating natural events, inflicting costs of US$31 billion in Japan and US$20 billion in China.

North America suffered its largest number of disasters since 1980, at 160 events.

October's Hurricane Matthew was the worst in the region, causing 550 deaths in Haiti alone as well as US$10.2 billion of damage.

Meanwhile Canada battled wildfires in May after spring heatwaves and droughts, costing around US$4 billion, while summer brought serious flooding in the southern US to the tune of US$10 billion.

And a series of storms across Europe in late May and early June brought flood damage costing a total of US$6 billion, with flooding hitting Germany especially badly as well as the French capital Paris.

Overall, floods accounted for 34 per cent of losses - an "exceptional" figure compared with the average of 21 per cent in the last 10 years, Munich Re pointed out.

"A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change," said Peter Hoeppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research Unit. But he noted that "individual events themselves can never be attributed directly to climate change."

Around 70 per cent of the losses recorded by Munich Re were uninsured.

In China, 98 per cent of the financial damage inflicted by the summer floods was uninsured, while the figure in the USA was 75 per cent and in Europe 47 per cent.

- AFP/ek

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