Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jan 17

Survey of oil spill spill impact on Ubin and mainland Singapore
wild shores of singapore

11 Jan: Screening of Before the Flood & panel discussion
Green Drinks Singapore

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800m stretch of Changi Beach temporarily closed due to oil spill in Johor

Today Online 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — An 800m stretch of Changi Beach has been closed until further notice due to the oil spill following the collision of two container ships in Johor waters on Tuesday (Jan 3), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday.

The closure is to help facilitate the clean-up of the affected area, NEA said, and advised the public to avoid the area.

Some 300 tonnes of oil had gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

The spill affected three coastal fish farms in the Eastern Johor Straits, with one farm reporting some fish deaths of about 100 to 200kg, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Malaysian authorities expect that the clean up in Johor waters will take about a week, depending on weather and water currents.

Among the affected shores in Singapore include Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, Punggol beach and Pasir Ris beach.

Cleaning operations are currently ongoing at a 100m stretch at Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, while cleaning operations at Pasir Ris beach and Punggol beach have been completed as of Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday evening, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that a total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed for the clean-up operations. "Progress of the clean-up is being made along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel," the MPA said in a statement.

"Some patches of oil were spotted off CAFHI Jetty and also along the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Changi Sailing Club and Changi Beach in the early hours of the morning. Contractors were deployed to clean up the affected shorelines. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters and skimmers have also been deployed at the affected areas," the MPA added, saying that port operations remain unaffected.

A National Parks Board (NParks) spokesperson said on Wednesday that the agency had to set up oil-absorbent booms to protect the mangroves and mudflats along the north-eastern coasts of Pulau Ubin, including Chek Jawa Wetland, as the tide was expected to move east.

In addition, booms have also been set up to protect the mangroves at Coney Island Park and Pasir Ris Park, the NParks spokesperson said.

The AVA has alerted coastal fish farmers in the area of the spill and advised them to stop feeding their fish and to deploy canvas skirting to prevent oil from contaminating fish stocks. NEA said it is closely monitoring the quality of the seawater in the affected areas and has also advised the public to exercise caution when visiting beaches, including those that have already been cleaned up.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in the waters or coastline of Singapore can contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488/9.

The MPA will continue to monitor the situation.

Part of Changi Beach temporarily closed due to oil spill
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: An 800m stretch of Changi Beach is closed to the public until further notice, after an oil spill from Tuesday's collision between two container vessels off Johor reached its shores.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) confirmed on Thursday (Jan 5) that clean-up at the beach is underway, adding that efforts are also ongoing at a 100m stretch of Noordin Beach at Pulau Ubin.

Pasir Ris Beach and Punggol Beach were also affected but cleaning operations there have been completed, said NEA.

A total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed to contain the oil spill, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in an update on Thursday. It added that progress has been made in cleaning up the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin and Nenas Channel.

When Channel NewsAsia visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, there was an unmistakable smell of oil in the air. Plastic bags containing oily black sand were seen lining the beach, stretching all the way to the banks of Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Some patches of oil were also spotted off Changi Sailing Club and CAFHI Jetty, said MPA.

At least a hundred workers were involved in the clean-up along Changi Beach, scooping sand into the plastic bags. A supervisor said his workers started cleaning the beach before sunrise and they were into the second round of cleaning.

Another source, who declined to be identified, said workers will clean the stretch of the beach for a third time when the tide is low and has receded, leaving more oil on the beach. He said the clean-up is expected to take "a few days" but that the worst is over.

Workers were seen putting up signs along the beach to warn members of the public that the water is contaminated and that the beach is closed.

At Bistro@Changi restaurant, business has dropped by about 30 per cent since last night and during lunch service on Thursday, according to service staff Mr Hadyul Adzim who also complained of a headache after arriving this morning.

"The thick smell of oil was worse last night and customers who wanted to have dinner requested to switch tables farther from the beach area," he said.

Channel NewsAsia also understands that authorities are combing places such as Pulau Ubin and Coney Island, using aerial search methods to check for oil patches.

At Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where ferries depart for Pulau Ubin, workers had placed oil booms and oil absorbent pads into the water. The oil boom collects the oil and prevents it from contaminating the other side. Oil absorbent pads that look like cotton patches absorb and allow the oil to coagulate in one area, making it easier for workers to collect the oil from the water.

In a statement, NEA said: "Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting these beaches and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are still ongoing. NEA is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater."

So far, three coastal fish farms in the Eastern Johor Straits have been affected by the oil spill, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). One farm reported a loss of about 100 to 200kg of fish.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore was notified of the collision involving a Singapore-registered container vessel and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel, at about 11.50pm on Tuesday. The authority is investigating the cause of the collision, which resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil spilled in the surrounding waters. Port operations remain unaffected.

Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, anticipate that it would take a week to clean up the spill in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port.

In a statement on Thursday, the Johor Port Authority said how quickly the clean-up job could be done is dependent on the weather and water currents. It added that swift action by Malaysia and Singapore authorities prevented the spill from spreading to a wider area.

- CNA/dl

Major clean-up after oil spill spreads to Singapore beaches
Part of Changi Beach closed after Singapore is hit by worst oil spill since 2010
Kimberly Lim The New Paper 6 Jan 17;

The oil spill in the Johor Strait on Tuesday night has sparked a massive clean-up after the tar-like slick reached the north-eastern coast of Singapore.

A collision between two container vessels near Pasir Gudang Port in Johor had damaged one of their bunker tanks and caused the spillage of 300 tonnes of oil.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement yesterday that 17 vessels and 222 personnel had been deployed for the clean-up.

Patches of oil could be seen off Cafhi Jetty and the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Punggol Beach and Changi Beach, which seemed to be the worst hit.

The offshore islands of Pulau Ubin and Coney Island were also affected.

Cleaning along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin and Nenas Channel is in progress.

Yesterday morning, National Environment Agency (NEA) contractors were seen bringing up oil absorbents stained with oil onto a vessel, while workers packed oil-stained sand into trash bags, The Straits Times reported online.

Equipment to skim oil from the water surface and prevent it from spreading was also deployed at the affected areas.

Workers were seen putting up sign boards advising people to stay away from the contaminated waters and that the beach was closed.

NEA said that an affected 800m stretch of Changi Beach had been closed to beachgoers until further notice.

A 100m stretch at Noordin Beach at Pulau Ubin is also being cleaned. Cleaning at Punggol Beach and Pasir Ris Beach was completed yesterday afternoon.

"Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting these beaches and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are still ongoing," said NEA.

Among those affected was Mr Colin Koh, 53, director at Asian Detours, an outdoor adventure company that is usually bustling with kayakers on weekends.

He told The New Paper: "The weekend is usually our peak period and we can have up to six groups, totalling 20 to 40 people. But we have postponed all the tours for the remainder of this week."

After Mr Koh checked the spill yesterday to find out the extent of the damage, he described it as one of the worst spills he had seen in his 31 years.

"I had never seen a spill this bad. There was a strong chemical stench that made me feel dizzy," he said.

Worried about how long the clean-up would take, Mr Koh said that even a 10 per cent drop in business would be a huge blow because Asian Detours is not a big company.

"I usually lead kayaking expeditions three times a week. It is my passion, lifeblood and my rice bowl," he said.

"It is the same for my employees and all the expedition leaders out there."

This is the first major oil spill to affect Singapore since 2010, when 2,500 tonnes of crude oil leaked into the Singapore Strait south of the mainland, after a ship collision.

Authorities embark on clean-up along Singapore coastlines after oil spill
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 6 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — A day after two ships collided in Johor waters, oil patches were found along coastlines in the north-eastern part of Singapore, while an 800m stretch of Changi Beach was closed on Thursday (Jan 5) to clean up the oil spill.

A second fish farm in the affected area also reported fish deaths from the spill, although the authorities said most farms were spared and impact on supply was “minimal”. Nonetheless, some farms have been told to suspend sales, until food safety tests are completed.

Apart from Changi Beach, oil patches were also found along the shorelines of Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, and the beaches at Punggol and Pasir Ris, said the National Environmental Agency (NEA). They were also found off the Cafhi jetty, also at Changi Beach and along the shorelines of Changi Point Ferry Terminal, as well as Changi Sailing Club, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday evening.

About 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

When TODAY visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, cleaners were seen clearing up oil-coated sand near Changi jetty, and placing oil-absorbent pads into the water. They had been working there since morning.

There was a distinct stench of oil in the air and a handful of beachgoers could be seen in the area.

Not far from the jetty, bag after bag of sand coated with oil was heaped along the seashore.

The NEA has advised the public to exercise caution when visiting the affected beaches and to avoid the stretches where cleaning work is being carried out.

Clean-up work aside, the authorities on Thursday also stepped up their efforts to contain the oil spill. The MPA increased the number of vessels deployed to clear up the oil patches to 17, from nine the previous day. Its spokesperson said 222 personnel were involved in the clean-up efforts.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which deployed oil-absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin’s north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect mudflats and mangrove areas, said “the booms have kept the oil out of the biodiversity sensitive sites”.

“We will continue to monitor the impact of the oil spill on marine life and share more details when this is ready,” it added.

Meanwhile, fish farmers were on Thursday counting the cost of the damage arising from the oil spill, while the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said more farms in the East Johor Strait have found oil on their nets and premises, due to tide movement.

Two farms have reported fish deaths, amounting to 100 to 250kg across both farms. The AVA said it has issued notices to suspend sales to three farms, and more will be issued if more farms become affected.

When TODAY visited Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays Pte Ltd at his farm off the north-western coast of Pulau Ubin, cleaning personnel could be seen working to remove swathes of black oil.

This was “the largest such incident” to hit his 12-year-old farm, which is among those hit with a suspension. A visibly-disappointed Mr Ng said he could not do much with his fish stock now, except to put aerators into the fish cages to pump in fresh air.

“We cannot feed any fish now, since the food will be contaminated, so for now, we will just have to wait and see,” said Mr Ng, adding that “no more than 10kg” of fish had already died due to the oil spill.

His farm has around 10 tonnes of fish and seafood, and four employees.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said his entire 3ha farm was covered with oil and cleaning-up works were in progress.

He said in Mandarin: “I’m worried if my fish would die from a lack of fresh air (due to the thick layer of oil). I’m worried also because we cannot feed them,” he said, adding that the AVA had taken a few of his fish for tests.

Big cleanup of N-E coast after oil spill
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jan 17;

More than 200 personnel have been involved in a major cleanup of Singapore's north-eastern coast, where the authorities found beaches covered with a black, tar-like substance after an oil spill in Johor.

The beaches at Changi, Punggol and Pasir Ris were all affected by the oil spill, which was caused by the collision of two vessels near Pasir Gudang Port. Pulau Ubin and Coney Island - two of Singapore's offshore islands - were also hit.

A mother with her two children picking up seashells yesterday on Changi beach, which was lined with bags filled with oil-stained sand.Photo: The Straits Times
Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended sales from three affected fish farms, and will do so for newly affected farms.

The suspension will be in place until food safety evaluations are complete, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said last night.

Cleanups at Pasir Ris and Punggol beaches were completed by yesterday afternoon. Changi seemed to be the worst hit, with an 800m stretch there closed temporarily to expedite operations, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Read also: Part of Changi Beach closed for clean-up operation following oil spill

When The Straits Times team visited the area at about 10am yesterday, there was a strong smell of petroleum. The sand was stained with a black substance, and the water had an oily sheen.

NEA contractors were seen bringing up oil absorbents - which look like large swathes of cotton wool - stained with oil onto a vessel, while workers packed oil-stained sand into trash bags. Workers were also seen putting up signboards advising people to stay away from the contaminated water.

An NEA spokesman said it is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater.

On Pulau Ubin, cleanup operations were also carried out on a 100m stretch of Noordin beach, which has been closed to the public since 2013 for work to restore the shoreline.

Read also: Oil patches spotted off Pulau Ubin after 2 container vessels collide near Johor

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which is coordinating the containment and cleanup efforts, deployed 17 vessels to clean up the surrounding waters.

Equipment to skim oil from the surface of the water and prevent further spread was also deployed at the affected areas.

The collision between the two container vessels - Wan Hai 301 and APL Denver - occurred in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port on Tuesday night. The 50km-long Johor Strait separates Singapore from Malaysia, and is only 2km wide at its broadest.

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

This is the most recent major oil spill to affect Singapore since 2010, when a collision caused 2,500 tonnes of crude oil to leak into the Singapore Strait, south of the mainland.

The current oil spill, especially since it happened so close to the Chinese New Year on Jan 28, is worrying fish farmers.

There are about 60 farms located in the East Johor Strait area, most of which supply fish to Singapore. Two farms have reported fish deaths, which amounted to about 150kg to 250kg across both farms, according to the AVA .

However, as most of the farms did not report fish mortality, "there is minimal impact to supply", it said.

Mr Timothy Ng, operations manager of 2 Jays fish farm in the area, said this was the first time it had been hit by an oil spill this severe.

He has not yet seen any dead fish floating up to the surface, but he said the AVA yesterday asked his farm to stop sales while tests are ongoing. "We also have to see if our equipment, such as cages, can be reused after the oil spill," he added.

Marine biologist Toh Tai Chong said oil spills can tip the ecological balance if a large enough wild fish population is affected.

"For instance, if herbivorous fish are killed, there will be less grazing of algae in these habitats.

"Without effective control of the algae population, marine algae can proliferate quickly and dominate these habitats," added Dr Toh. In the long run, this could reduce the fish population in those habitats.

Affected areas rich in biodiversity

There may be no colourful coral reefs fringing Singapore's northern coast, but it still thrives with underwater life.

Sea turtles and otters, for example, have been spotted at Changi beach and Pulau Ubin - areas affected by an oil spill that the authorities were working to clean up yesterday.

Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s marine conservation group, told The Straits Times that such incidents devastate the marine environment.

"Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur- bearing mammals like our otters, and the water repellency of birds... Spilt oil also affects the eyes, skin and lungs of sea turtles and dolphins, but they are more vulnerable to chemical exposure from what they eat in their contaminated habitat," he said.

Besides animals, oil spills also affect trees. Mangroves, in particular, breathe through pores in their trunks and stilt roots, which can get clogged by oil.

Pulau Ubin - an island off the north-eastern coast of mainland Singapore - is home to 20 per cent of all mangroves that can be found in the country.

These habitats, with their iconic stilt-root trees, have also been affected.

At Pulau Ubin yesterday, The Straits Times found some leaves, saplings and roots of mangroves covered in the black, tar-like substance.

In response to queries, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it had deployed oil- absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin's north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect the mudflats and mangrove areas.

"Our observation is that the booms have kept the oil out of biodiversity-sensitive sites. NParks is working with the relevant agencies on cleanup efforts," said an NParks spokesman, adding that the board is monitoring the impact of the oil spill on marine life.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the nature website, said: "I am glad NParks took swift action to place booms to protect some areas rich in biodiversity."

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 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 a 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

Oil spill clean-up in Johor expected to take a week
The Star 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Authorities expect it will take a week to clean up the oil that spilled following Tuesday's collision of two container vessels in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port.

The Johor Port Authority (LPJ), in a statement Thursday, said how quickly the clean-up could be done was dependent on the weather and the water currents.

It said the oil spill did not affect the people in the area, including fishermen.

"The spill also has not affected private jetties as well as the Sultan Iskandar Power Station," it added.

LPJ said the port was operating as usual but vessels could experience delay when berthing at the Container Terminal due to work to control the oil spill.

Singapore-registered MT Wan Hai 301 collided into Gilbraltar-registered MT APL Denver, which was anchored at the port at about 11pm on Tuesday.

LPJ said quick action by Johor Port Bhd, with the cooperation of agencies in the Pasir Gudang Oil Spill Task Force as well as LPJ, Department of Environment, South Region Marine Department and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, managed to prevent the spill from spreading over a wide area.

It said Singapore authorities also took swift action to check the spill in the republic's waters.

"The collision caused oil to spill from MT APL Denver, which had the capacity to carry 300 tonnes of marine fuel oil," it said.

No one was injured in the incident. - Bernama

UPDATE at 1700 hrs: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA media release 5 Jan 17;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) continues to coordinate the containment and clean-up efforts of the oil spillage in Singapore’s waters following the collision of container vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER. As of 5 January 2016, a total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed. Progress of the clean-up is being made along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel.

Some patches of oil were spotted off CAFHI Jetty and also along the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Changi Sailing Club and Changi Beach in the early hours of the morning. Contractors were deployed to clean up the affected shorelines. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters and skimmers have also been deployed at the affected areas.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in our waters or coastline can contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488/9.

Port operations remain unaffected and MPA will continue to monitor the situation.

For media queries, please email or call 83662293.

UPDATE 1952hrs: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA Media Release 5 Jan 17;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)’s aerial surveillance had earlier spotted two patches of oil concentrated along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel. At the time of this update, no new sightings of oil has been reported.

MPA and its contractors have deployed a total of nine vessels to respond to the oil patches at OBS Jetty and Nenas Channel. Two Skimmers and booms have been placed off OBS Jetty and Nenas Channel to contain the oil patches.

Since the time of the collision, MPA has been working closely with NParks and AVA to manage the incident.

MPA as a flag State will investigate the cause of the collision between Singapore-registered container vessel WAN HAI 301 and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL DENVER off Pasir Gudang Port, Johor Malaysia.

Both APL DENVER and WAN HAI 301 are currently berthed at Pasir Gudang Port and are in stable condition.

Read more!

Owners of ships to foot spill clean-up bill

The Star 6 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: It will cost about RM5mil to clean up the oil slicks in Pasir Gudang waters and owners of the two container ships involved in the spill will have to foot the bill.

Johor Port Authority (JPA) gene­ral manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad said about 100 personnel from 10 agencies were involved in the operation.

The clean-up started on Wednesday, a day after the two vessels collided at Johor Port in Pasir Gudang.

“Based on our observations, the spilled oil is unlikely to spread from where it is floating now,” Razif told a press conference at the Johor Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters yesterday.

On Tuesday night, a Singapore-registered vessel Wan Hai 301 crashed into the Gibraltar-registered APL Denver docked at Johor Port after suffering generator failure.

Some 300 tonnes of fuel oil leaked from the APL Denver and spread along the shoreline of Kampung Pasir Putih, Kampung Teluk Kabung and Kampung Perigi Aceh.

Razif said the owners of the ships would have to bear the cost of cleaning the sea and shoreline areas.

Also present at the press conference were Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat and state DOE director Datuk Dr Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh.

Ayub said the vessels were detained under Section 38 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the owners must come up with a RM1mil bond each as insurance that the ships will not leave port.

Should they fail to raise the bonds, they can be charged in court, said Ayub.

He also said that state authorities would assist some 350 fishermen in the Pasir Gudang area affected by the oil spill to claim compensation from the owners of the ships.

The oil spill, though not as severe compared to spilled crude oil, should be cleaned up quickly to minimise environmental harm, Assoc Prof Dr Johan Suhaili at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said.

If left unattended, he said the oil patches would harden over time and form tar balls which would be detrimental to the environment and marine life, he said in an interview yesterday.

He said the incident was minor compared to the time a United Kingdom-registered vessel spilled 5,495 tonnes of heavy fuel oil in Tanjung Piai waters last year.

Ship owners ordered to post RM1mil bond each over oil spill
The Star 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The owners of the two vessels which collided at Pasir Gudang Port on Tuesday night have been ordered to post a security bond of RM1mil each to the state government.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the bond was to guarantee that the owners would take responsibility for the clean-up operation following the oil spill in the area.

"The Department of Environment has also issued an order to detain the two ships to get them to immediately pay up RM1mil each to the state government or face legal action.

"If they fail to pay, the state government will hold onto their ships in accordance with Section 38 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974," he told reporters at the state Environment Department Office here Thursday.

Ayub said action would also be taken under Section 27 of the Act for court action to seize the ships.

"However, the security deposit will be returned if the state government is satisfied with the clean-up but we will calculate total cost for cleaning which will be claimed from the ship owners," he said.

According to Ayub, an order under Section 31 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 was also issued to allow Johor Port Bhd to remove the ships' cargoes to facilitate cleaning operation.

At the same time, he said it was the responsibility of the ship owners to compensate some 350 fishermen who were affected by the incident.

"We have asked the Fisheries Department to collate and file on losses suffered by the fishermen," said Ayub.

Fish and mussel breeding areas in Kampung Pasir Putih, Kampung Asli Teluk Kabung and Kampung Asli Kuala Masai have been identified as areas affected by the oil spill.

South Johor Fishermen's Association chairman Azli Mohd Aziz said a survey at the breeding areas found traces of oil stuck to the farm nets causing fish to die.

He added that the fish farmers were now trying to clean the nets with water jets to get rid of the trapped oil.

Azli said representatives from the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) were monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, the Johor branch of Malaysian Nature Society has expressed concern over destruction of marine habitat.

Its adviser Vincent Chow said the area was ideal for fish and mussel breeding.

"The Strait of Johor is not an open sea ... we are worried the oil pollution will spread when the high tide comes in.

"With the monsoon season, we fear strong winds will push the oil spills further harming the mangrove trees in the area," he said when contacted here.

However, Chow was optimistic that the Johor Port Bhd in collaboration with agencies in the area have found the best solution to prevent the pollution from worsening.

In the incident, a container ship suffered a power outage due to a generator failure causing loss in navigational control and subsequently ramming into a berthed container ship.

The impact tore a hole in the other ship's hull, causing it to leak about 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the Johor Strait. - Bernama

Read more!

Singapore Could Face Legal Action Over Sand Importation

BEN PAVIOUR Cambodia Daily 5 Jan 17;

Environmental NGO Mother Nature has hired a Singaporean law firm to investigate alleged irregularities in the country’s importation of Cambodian sand, the organization’s founder said on Wednesday.

The firm is “looking into the relevant laws that might have been broken there, in relation to the social and ecological destruction the mining has caused, or in relation to the government importing Cambodian sand which is tainted by issues of corruption, smuggling, tax-evasion, etc.,” Mother Nature founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson said on Wednesday in a Facebook message.

He identified the potential targets as the statutory boards that fall under the purview of several government ministries involved in the import of Cambodian sand.

“Our goal is…that the mining and export of coastal sand from Cambodia is eventually regarded as too toxic by the Singapore government and that they are forced to stop getting involved,” he said.

Authorities from Singapore’s JTC Corporation, which oversees the state’s sand-heavy reclamation projects, and the National Development Ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The government, in past statements, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Eugene Thuraisingam acknowledged that his eponymous firm, which specializes in criminal and commercial law, was looking into the case, but declined to elaborate.

The government has provided divergent numbers for its exports to Singapore from 2007 to last year, all of which are radically lower than the 73.6 million tons of imported sand counted by the island and reported to the U.N. Commodity Trade Statistics Database, known as Comtrade.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy recorded 16.2 million tons of sand exports during the period, while statistics from the Finance Ministry’s general department of customs and excise show roughly 2.7 million tons leaving for the city-state, which is more than 1,000 km from Cambodia by sea.

Indian customs data obtained by Mother Nature show a similar gap, registering 108,000 tons of Cambodian sand imports compared to none recorded by Cambodia’s Finance Ministry.

A 2014 report from the U.N. Environment Program said the global sand business “is having a major impact on rivers, deltas and coastal and marine ecosystems,” although the trade “remains largely unknown by the general public.”

The report singled out Singapore as the world’s largest importer and noted that it used sand to extend its territory, which has grown by 20 percent, or 130 square km, over the past 40 years.

As Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam successively banned dredging or sand exports to Singapore, Comtrade records show that Cambodia has picked up the slack and become the country’s top supplier, even as those same records show that just 4 percent of the island’s imported sand was officially measured as it left supplying countries over the past decade.

The city-state’s government is piloting a new reclamation technique using dikes to get around its reliance on sand, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters in November.

“Even reclamation has its limits, because sand is not always easy to come by,” he said.

Cambodian Sand Could Build a Foundation for Legal Action in Singapore
Radio Free Asia 5 Jan 17;

An environmental non-governmental agency is searching for legal grounds for a lawsuit that could uncover the truth about what happened to millions of dollars in sand that disappeared from Cambodia over the past decade.

Mother Nature Cambodia founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson told RFA’s Khmer Service on Thursday that a Singaporean law firm, Eugene Thuraisingam, had agreed to collect information on Singaporean sand purchases for a possible lawsuit against the city-state.

Gonzalez-Davidson told RFA that they were looking at a pair of legal tracks that they could follow if they decide to sue.

“The first is to file a lawsuit in relation to sand dredging in Koh Kong province that has caused serious impacts on the livelihood of local residents,” he said. “On the second, we know that the sand has been exported illegally from Cambodia without paying tax, so it involved in high-profile corruption cases.”

U.N. data shows that Cambodia exported $752 million in sand to Singapore over the past eight years, but Phnom Penh only reported that about $5 million worth of sand was exported to the island nation that is the world’s top destination for the building material.

Driven by the growing demand for sand, either for concrete for construction, or in Singapore’s case for expanding its territory, the demand for sand has been outstripping the supply.

According to information in the World Atlas, the United States is the biggest exporter of sand, with Cambodia coming in at number seven. The Observatory of Economic Complexity reports that 97 percent of Cambodia’s sand goes to Singapore.

Cambodia’s position as a top sand exporter sits at odds with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s policies.

Sand bans

In 2013 Hun Sen imposed a ban on dredging along the Mekong and Ton Le Sap, and in 2015 the Cambodian government put a hold on new applications for licenses to conduct sand-dredging operations in the country's rivers and lakes in order to study the environmental and social impact, but it is unclear if those moves had any effect, as sand mining appears to be continuing.

In a 2016 report, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) found the Cambodian government had continued to supply licenses to sand miners despite the bans.

In April the government decided to auction four two-year sand dredging licenses along the Mekong River, under the auspices of “restoring navigation of the waterway.”

Four other licenses were granted for designated “green zone” areas, where “there is no risk of riverbank collapse” while nearly 70 new sand dredging licenses were issued without holding public auctions or requiring the companies to make publicly available environmental impact assessment results.

In all, CCHR found there were 84 companies holding licenses to dredge sand as of May 2016, despite the government’s bans.

The discrepancy between the government’s words and actions troubles Gonzalez-Davidson.

“I don’t believe, at all, that the government or relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Commerce or Ministry of Mines and Energy have a genuine will to seek a solution,” he said. “They just pretend by acting as if in a theater in order to cheat Cambodian citizens so that they can continue their activities of exporting sand overseas.”

The Khmer-speaking Gonzalez-Davidson was deported from Cambodia back to his native Spain in 2015, after he had long campaigned against the planned Chhay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province. The 108-megawatt dam is backed by ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lawmaker Lao Meng Khin and his wife, who have evicted thousands of families from land around the country.

Sand is big business

The world’s sand mining industry is estimated to be a $70 billion a year industry with illegal trade in the material worth even more, according to a 2016 report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

A 2015 report in Wired detailed the emergence of so-called “sand mafias” that use bribery, intimidation and killings to control the illegal sand trade.

Thanks in a large part to the world’s sand, Singapore is 22 percent larger than it was in the 1950s, according to the Sydney Herald report. The newspaper said the island is pushing ahead with plans to import titanic amounts of sand to artificially expand its territory by 6,200 hectares by 2030.

Singapore is getting larger, but the sand mining that aids its growth often wreaks havoc on rivers, deltas, and marine ecosystems in Cambodia and elsewhere.

Gonzalez-Davidson said they were also looking at filing a similar lawsuit in India. According to a 2013 report in the Cambodia Daily some $1.5 million worth of Cambodian sand turned up in India.

Meng Saktheara, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, told RFA that Cambodia doesn’t export sand to India, and he criticized Mother Nature for exploring a legal action.

“This is not a good solution, as it creates complicated issue,” Meng Saktheara told RFA.

“I request civil society organizations, if possible, to undertake comprehensive studies so as to help the government [in dealing with this issue]. Say, if the findings related to 30 countries, please point out which countries in order that the government asks the customs of those countries to reveal which companies are really involved in this issue.”

Gonzalez-Davidson, disagreed, saying the ministry should carry out their own studies.

“I encourage relevant ministries to carry out [the studies] themselves. And if any ministry does not have the capacity to do it, perhaps the issue can be pushed to other units such as the Anti-Corruption Unit,” he said.

Reported by Chandara Yang for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

Environmental Group Prepares Lawsuit Over Alleged Sand Export Graft
Men Kimseng VOA Khmer 10 Jan 17;

Documents obtained by local environmental campaign group Mother Nature reportedly show that Cambodia exported more than 100,000 tons of sand to India between 2013 and 2015, a period when the country recorded no exports to the sub-continent.

The development came on the heels of a Mother Nature analysis of U.N. trade figures it said showed Cambodia had under-reported its sand exports to Singapore by some 70 million tons between 2007 and 2015.

The group is now preparing a lawsuit based on its findings.

“The documents we have in hand show that the source of the sand is from Cambodia,” Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder off Mother Nature, told VOA Khmer. “We bought documents from Singapore and it doesn’t show any Cambodian sand being re-exported in 2014 and 2015.”

The Spanish environmentalist, who has been banned from entering Cambodia since 2015, said he is working with a law firm in Singapore to possibly file a complaint against companies and government institutions there for importing sand extracted illegally from Cambodia.

“For now there are two possibilities,” he said. “The first one is to file a complaint against companies or government institutions that are involved in importing sand from Cambodia illegally.

“The second one is to file a complaint because this sand dredging has caused severe environmental impacts on Cambodia, especially Koh Kong residents have been impacted severely on their livelihoods.”

Government spokesman Dith Tina told a parliamentary committee after the allegations were raised that the drastic differences in the figures were due to the different reporting requirements of the two states.

“We don’t know what recording system Singapore was using and if you asked us to say whether Singapore or the UN is wrong, we don’t provide such judgment,” he said. “It should be noted that each system is designed to serve its own purpose and with different principles.”

Eugene Thuraisingam LLP said on its Facebook page on Tuesday that it has been instructed by Mother Nature Cambodia to provide advice in relation to the alleged illegal sand-dredging activities in Koh Kong.

“The dredging activities which have been taking place since 2008, have led to severe environmental destruction and the loss of livelihoods of local communities,” wrote the law firm.

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Malaysia: Decision to rehabilitate Johor forests by not issuing new logging permits has been a boon for wildlife

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The state government decision to not issue any new logging permits over the past decade has helped revitalise forests in Johor.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor chairman Vincent Chow said the rehabilitation of forests is vital as they act as a highway for the movement of wildlife.

He rebutted allegations by certain individuals representing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based outside the state on alleged deforestation and illegal logging activities in Johor.

“Check your facts first before making wild allegations that logging activities are rampant in Johor as there are no new logging areas awarded to concessionaires,” said Chow.

He added the ongoing activities only took place at logging concessionaires awarded years earlier to companies.

Chow said Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had also decreed that no new logging areas would be opened in the state.

“The Johor royal family are animal lovers and they want a balanced approach between progress and development in the state,” he added.

Chow said the main issue in Johor is not illegal logging or deforestation but illegal poaching including within the Endau-Rompin National Park area.

He said the poachers are usually foreigners and on several occasions, MNS members had stumbled upon makeshift tents left by them in the forest.

“Johor forests are categorised as high diversity as all mammals can be found in the area except orang utan,” said Chow.

He added there were Malayan tigers, elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros and seladang (wild buffaloes) roaming the Endau-Rompin National Park.

Chow however, urged the state government to determine the number of wild animals in Johors He added they should rope in scientists, environmentalists and NGOs to obtain a clearer picture on the number of wild animals in the state.

“Financial resources are the main issue faced by NGOs and we hope the state government and private companies will assist us,” Chow added.

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Indonesia: BMKG Predicts More Fire Hotspots in 2017 Despite "Neutral" Weather Conditions

Alin Almanar Jakarta Globe 5 Jan 16;

Jakarta. Indonesia may experience more fire hotspots this year than last year despite predicted "neutral" weather conditions, its state weather agency said.

Indonesia experienced its worst land and forest fires on record in 2015 amid a strong El Niño weather pattern, whereas wildfires in 2016 were less severe due to the La Niña.

Meanwhile, weather conditions in 2017 are expected to stay "neutral," the head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Andi Eka Sakya told the press in Jakarta on Thursday (05/01).

"El Niño was dominant in 2015 before La Niña took over in 2016," Andi said.

"Weather conditions in 2017 should remain neutral. There will be more hotspots than in 2016 but fewer than in 2015."

Wildfires destroyed millions of hectares of forest land in 2015, posing serious health risks for more than half a million people and resulting in billions of dollars of economic losses.

Land and forest fires happen every year on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, which were blanketed in a choking haze in 2015.

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Climate change will lead to annual coral bleaching, UN-supported study predicts

UN Media Release 5 Jan 17;

5 January 2017 – If current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world's coral reefs will suffer severe bleaching – the gravest threat to one of the Earth's most important ecosystems – on annual basis, the United Nations environment agency today reported.

The finding is part of a study funded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, which reviewed new climate change projections to predict which corals will be affected first and at what rate. The report is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports .

Researchers found that the reefs in Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the first to experience annual bleaching, followed by reefs off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia.

Calling the predictions “a treasure trove” for environmentalists, the head of the UN agency, Erik Solheim said the projects allow conservationists and governments to prioritize the protection reef protection.

“The projections show us where we still have time to act before it's too late,” Mr. Solheim said.

On average, the reefs will start to undergo annual bleaching starting in 2014, according to the study. Without the required minimum of five years to regenerate, the annual occurrences will have a deadly effect on the corals and disrupt the ecosystems which they support.

However, if Governments act on emission reduction pledges made in the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the corals would have another 11 years to adapt to the warming seas.

Between 2014 and 2016, the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event recorded. Among the casualties was the Great Barrier Reef, with 90 per cent of it bleached and 20 per cent of the reef's coral killed.

Future of coral reefs under climate change predicted
High-resolution predictions of annual coral bleaching can help prioritize reefs for conservation
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science ScienceDaily 5 Jan 17;

New climate model projections of the world's coral reefs reveal which reefs will be hit first by annual coral bleaching, an event that poses the gravest threat to one of the Earth's most important ecosystems.

The year when coral bleaching becomes an annual phenomenon can vary more than three decades within a single country, as seen here in the central Philippines (under a business-as-usual emissions scenario). Locations projected to face annual bleaching relatively late have more time to acclimatize to warming oceans and are conservation priorities.
Credit: Great barrier reef photo by Paul Marshall Map by van Hooidonk & Maynard
New climate model projections of the world's coral reefs reveal which reefs will be hit first by annual coral bleaching, an event that poses the gravest threat to one of the Earth's most important ecosystems.

These high-resolution projections, based on global climate models, predict when and where annual coral bleaching will occur. The projections show that reefs in Taiwan and around the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the world's first to experience annual bleaching. Other reefs, like those off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia, will be hit decades later, according to research recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"These predictions are a treasure trove for those who are fighting to protect one of the world's most magnificent and important ecosystems from the ravages of climate change," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. "They allow conservationists and governments to prioritize the protection of reefs that may still have time to acclimatize to our warming seas. The projections show us where we still have time to act before it's too late."

If current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then severe bleaching will occur every year on 99 per cent of the world's reefs within the century, according to the study.

The Paris Agreement's aspirational target of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees provides a safer, but not an entirely safe space for coral reefs. Even if emission reductions exceed pledges made by countries to date under the Paris Agreement more than three quarters of the world's coral reefs will bleach every year before 2070.

It takes at least 5 years for a reef to recover from a single bleaching event. "Bleaching that takes place every year will invariably cause major changes in the ecological function of coral reef ecosystems," said study leader Dr. van Hooidonk of NOAA and the University of Miami. "Further, annual bleaching will greatly reduce the capacity of coral reefs to provide goods and services, such as fisheries and coastal protection, to human communities."

The need to act is clear. Between 2014 and 2016, the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event ever recorded, which killed coral on an unprecedented scale. In 2016, bleaching hit 90 per cent of coral on the Great Barrier Reef and killed more than 20 per cent of the reef's coral.

The new study shows that, on average, the world's reefs will start suffering annual bleaching in 2043. About 5 per cent of them will be hit a decade or more earlier, while about 11 per cent will suffer annual bleaching a decade or more later than this date.

If emission reductions exceed pledges made by countries to date under the Paris Agreement, coral reefs would have another 11 years, on average, to adapt to warming seas before they are hit by annual bleaching. If such emissions reductions become reality, many high and low latitude reefs in Australia, the south Pacific, India, Coral Triangle and the Florida Reef Tract will have at least 25 more years before annual bleaching occurs, buying time for conservation efforts. However, reefs near the equator will experience annual bleaching much sooner, even if emissions reductions pledges become reality.

"It is imperative that we take these predictions seriously and that, at the very minimum, we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. Doing so will buy time for coral reefs and allow us to plan for the future and adapt to the present," said Mr. Solheim.

Predicting when and where annual bleaching occurs will help policymakers and conservationists decide which reefs to prioritize. "Reefs that will suffer annual bleaching later -- known as climate "refugia" -- are top priorities because they have more time to respond positively to efforts that seek to reduce bleaching vulnerability," said Dr. van Hooidonk. Such efforts include reducing land-based pollution, halting overfishing and preventing damage from tourism.

Coral reefs, which are already under threat from overfishing and tourism, are especially vulnerable to climate change because they are easily affected by warm water. When sea temperatures rise, the algae that give coral its bright colours leave their host, causing it to look white, hence the term 'coral bleaching'. The loss of algae, which provide coral with much of its energy, make corals vulnerable to starvation and disease.

Known as the world's underwater cities, coral reefs provide hundreds of millions of people with food, income and coastal protection. They are home to at least one quarter of all marine life and they generate an estimated $375 billion per year from fisheries, tourism and coastal protection.

"We are going to need to be much more innovative and proactive if we want to see coral reefs thrive into the next century," said World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lead marine scientist and study co-author Dr. Gabby Ahmadia. "Conventional conservation is not going to cut it against the impacts of climate change. We need to embrace the new climate reality to guide efforts to save our oceans."

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Ruben van Hooidonk, Jeffrey Maynard, Jerker Tamelander, Jamison Gove, Gabby Ahmadia, Laurie Raymundo, Gareth Williams, Scott F. Heron, Serge Planes. Local-scale projections of coral reef futures and implications of the Paris Agreement. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 39666 DOI: 10.1038/srep39666

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Record-breaking extreme weather in Australia in 2016 devastates ecosystems

Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement cites unprecedented bushfires in regions that don’t usually burn and worst coral bleaching on record
Michael Slezak The Guardian 5 Jan 17;

Australia’s weather was extreme in 2016, driven by humankind’s burning of fossil fuels as well as a strong El Niño, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement.

That extreme weather led to devastated ecosystems both on land and in the sea, with unprecedented bushfires in regions that don’t usually burn, the worst coral bleaching on record, and has been attributed as the cause of damage to vast tracts of crucial kelp forests, oyster farms and salmon stocks across southern Australia.

The statement, released on Thursday, said the country as a whole had its fourth-warmest year on record, but locally, Sydney and Darwin broke records for both their hottest maximum temperatures and hottest minimum temperatures.

Hobart had its warmest night on record in 2016 and both Hobart and Brisbane had records for their hottest annual mean temperature fall as well. The hot and dry start to the year sparked bushfires in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

The fires that swept through the Tasmanian world heritage forests were described as the worst crisis those forests faced in decades. The usually damp alpine forests there had been dried out by earlier dry weather and then a huge number of lightning strikes – which are expected to become more common as temperatures rise – burned through forests, killing trees that were hundreds of years old.

While land burned, the sea around Australia broiled. The bureau’s statement said despite the surface temperature of the seas around Australia being consistently high in recent years, 2016 reached a new record temperature, being 0.73C above the 1961-90 average.

Off the coast of Queensland, those record temperatures led to the worst coral bleaching on record, where an estimated 22% of the coral on the entire 2,300km length of the Great Barrier Reef was lost.

In the northern, most remote and most pristine part of the reef, coral was devastated by the unusually warm water, which scientists say will become the norm in fewer than 20 years.

The bureau’s statement also notes that ocean temperatures were at record highs around Tasmania in 2016. The freakishly hot waters there have been attributed as the cause of damage to oyster, salmon and abalone industries, as well as increased stress to kelp forests, already devastated by warmer waters in recent years.

The record hot waters in Tasmania were caused by a strengthened east Australian current, which drags warm waters from the tropics, along the coast of Australia. “This was associated with the longest and most intense marine heatwave on record for the south-east Australian region,” thestatement said.

It added: “The pattern of above average temperatures over land and in the oceans reflects the background warming trend. The Australian climate in 2016 was influenced by a combination of natural drivers and anthropogenic climate change.”

The hot temperatures around the country were followed up by unusually wet conditions for much of Australia too.

The bureau said Adelaide had its second-wettest year on record and its wettest since 1992. Sydney, Canberra and Hobart had above average rainfall. But the pattern wasn’t uniform, as Perth and Melbourne were close to average and Darwin and Brisbane were significantly drier than average in 2016.

“Widespread, drought-breaking rains led to flooding in multiple states,” said Neil Plummer from the Bureau of Meteorology. “Even northern Australia saw widespread rainfall, during what is usually the dry season, greening regions that had been in drought for several years.”

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