Best of our wild blogs: 26 Feb 17

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul
Singapore Bird Group

Short Walk At Punggol Park (22 Feb 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

NSS Kids’ Fun with Nature and Culture at Jalan Kubor Cemetery
Fun with Nature

First Naked walk at Chek Jawa in 2017
wild shores of singapore

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‘Turn the tide on plastic’ urges UN, as microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy

UNEP 23 Feb 17;

23 February 2017 – Launching an unprecedented global campaign, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is urging everyone to eliminate the use of microplastics and stop the excessive, wasteful use of single-use plastic, to save the world’s seas and oceans from irreversible damage before it’s too late.

“Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables,” Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP, said in a news release announcing the campaign.

“We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop,” he added.

Through its Clean Seas campaign, the agency has urged countries and businesses to take ambitious measures to eliminate microplastics from personal-care products, ban or tax single-use plastic bags, and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items by 2022.

Ten countries have already joined the initiative with far-reaching pledges: Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year; and Costa Rica will take measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education, according to UNEP.

These initiatives could not come sooner as up to 80 per cent of all litter in the oceans are made of plastic.

According to estimates, by 2050, 99 per cent of earth’s seabirds will have ingested plastic

An illustration of the sheer magnitude of the problem is that as much as 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – litter the seas.

Each year, more than eight million metric tonnes of plastic end up in oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and cost at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. According to estimates, by 2050, oceans will have more plastic than fish if present trends are not arrested.

According to UNEP actions to stem the growing tide of maritime litter could include reducing the use of single-use plastics at the individual level such as by using reusable shopping bags and water bottles, choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging, and not using straws to drink.

“Whether we choose to use plastic bags at the grocery store or sip through a plastic straw, our seemingly small daily decisions to use plastics are having a dramatic effect on our oceans,” said film actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, Adrian Grenier.

Similarly, on larger and commercial scale, supply chains can be modified.

One such example is the technology company DELL Computers: which has announced that it will use recovered ocean plastic in its product packaging.

“DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean,” said its Vice President for Global Operations, Piyush Bhargava. “Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP’s vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused.”

According to UNEP, major announcements are also expected at the upcoming conference on The Ocean at the UN Headquarters in New York (5-9 June), and UN the Environment Assembly to be held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in December.

“The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year,” expressed Peter Thomson, the President of the UN General Assembly, highlighting the upcoming conference and urging for ambitious pledges to reduce single-use plastic.

“Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country [can] do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the Ocean.”

UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic
UN Environment launches major global #CleanSeas campaign to end marine litter
Ten countries are already on board, as well as DELL Computers, singer Jack Johnson, actor Adrian Grenier and media personality Nadya Hutagalung
More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute
UNEP 23 Feb 17;

23 February 2017 – UN Environment launched today an unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter: microplastics in cosmetics and the excessive, wasteful usage of single-use plastic by the year 2022.

Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic reduction policies; targeting industry to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products; and calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits – before irreversible damage is done to our seas.

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said, "It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop."

Throughout the year, the #CleanSeas campaign will be announcing ambitious measures by countries and businesses to eliminate microplastics from personal care products, ban or tax single-use bags, and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items.

Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide. Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year and Costa Rica will take measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

Each year, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Up to 80 per cent of all litter in our oceans is made of plastic.

According to some estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

Media personality Nadya Hutagalung supports #CleanSeas by calling on the cosmetics industry to stop adding microplastics to their products. As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife.

Singer-songwriter and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Jack Johnson pledged to engage with fans and encourage venues for his 2017 Summer Tour to reduce single-use plastics. Johnson is also promoting a new documentary The Smog of the Sea, which highlights the issue of microplastics permeating the world’s oceans.

"I support the Clean Seas campaign because I believe there are better alternatives to single-use disposable plastics, and that we as consumers can encourage innovation and ask businesses to take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they produce," said Jack Johnson.

"We can all start today by making personal commitments to reduce plastic waste by carrying reusable shoppings bags and water bottles, saying no to straws and choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging. We can also support the efforts of the emerging youth leaders around the world working for healthy and plastic free oceans."

Globally recognized brands are also joining the fight. DELL Computers unveiled today a commercial-scale supply chain using plastic which has been fished out of the sea near Haiti. The computer giant will use the recovered ocean plastic in its product packaging.

"DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean," said Dell's Vice President for Global Operations Piyush Bhargava. "Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UN Environment's vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially re used."

All these actions will be crucial to stemming the tide of marine litter. Today, we are producing twenty times more plastic than in the 1960s. Around one third of all plastic is used for packaging. By 2050 our plastic production will have to grow three to four times to satisfy our demand. A large portion will end up in oceans where it will remain for centuries.

Actor Adrian Grenier, known for his role in hit TV show and film Entourage, and founder of Lonely Whale Foundation has joined the #CleanSeas campaign, asking people to re-think their daily choices.

"Whether we choose to use plastic bags at the grocery store or sip through a plastic straw, our seemingly small daily decisions to use plastics are having a dramatic effect on our oceans," said Adrian Grenier. "We have the power to effect change.

"Today I take this public pledge to do my part to refuse single use plastics, starting with the plastic straw, and also reaffirm my commitment to work with leaders such as Dell to reduce plastic packaging. If we start with one small change and hold each another accountable, I believe that together we can inspire global action for the health of our oceans."

Major announcements are expected during The Ocean Conference in New York at the UN Headquarters 5 – 9 June, and the December UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Five on Friday: 5 unusual natural world sightings in Singapore

In our regular light-hearted look at what has been making the headlines, Ramesh William recalls some other rare sightings apart from the "fire rainbow" that set tongues wagging this week.
Ramesh William Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: Folks on this sunny isle did not know what to make of a swirl of colours which emerged from behind some innocuous-looking clouds on Monday (Feb 20).

Was it a UFO? A sign from the heavens, perhaps?

Most people, however, just marvelled at a unique optical phenomenon known as a circumhorizontal arc, or - to the layman - a “fire rainbow”.

Looking suspiciously like a Tycho album cover (it would have been nice had it appeared during Laneway), people gave it all sorts of names from Paddle Pop rainbow to the Southern Lights.

Oh, the wit.

Speaking of optical phenomena, here are examples of the opposite: Sightings that are becoming familiar mainstays in various parts of the island to the point of boredom.

Rats (Bukit Batok), wild boars (Punggol), otters (Bishan, Marina Bay) and monitor lizards (no fixed abode) hardly elicit a second glance these days.

With that in mind, we thought we would go to the other end of the spectrum and showcase five rare natural world sightings that got us all in a tizzy.


Two for the price of one. It is a bargain few Singaporeans can resist. Which is why when a double rainbow appeared last September, many whipped out their phones and set social media alight.

The science: A double rainbow occurs when the light is reflected twice in a raindrop - leading to two different reflections, coming from different angles.

Believed by some cultures to be a sign of good fortune, double rainbows are not altogether once-in-a-blue-moon rare.

There was one in July 2015 and also during the auspicious Chinese New Year period this year. But still, rare enough to cause a stir.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on his Facebook fans to share their pics of the unique event during Chinese New Year festivities.


“If that’s a wild boar, why is it wearing diapers?” the driver asked, squinting.

“Erm, I dunno dear … maybe it has a weak bladder,” said her husband. “Taking precautions I guess. It’s so hard to find a loo around here.”

We will never know for sure if such a conversation took place along Changi Coastal Road on a balmy June night last year.

But one imagines it cannot be far from the incredulous chatter that would have occurred upon the sighting of a Malayan tapir - one that looked as if it was on a late-night mosey after a particularly heavy supper. Hey, we have all been there!

The Malayan tapir's biggest claim to fame in Singapore is that it is among the first animals you will see upon entering the zoo in Mandai (on the left, after the gift shop). And as for a sighting in the wild? Well, you would have to go back all the way to 1986 - on Pulau Ubin.

Forget the double rainbow, or even unicorns - this is a rare sighting. Goodness only knows when the last wild Malayan tapir made it to our mainland. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has said there are anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 left in Malaysia.

And then after a fleeting glimpse, the Changi Malayan tapir vanished. Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said it most likely swam back to Malaysia.

Well, till next time then. Jumpa lagi.


Do not be fooled by its innocent sounding name. Waterspouts can do some real damage and the video above can attest to its might.

Thankfully not much mayhem (apart from getting people all uber-excited) was caused when a larger-than-usual version turned up off East Coast Park in August 2016.

According to the National Environment Agency, there is an average of three waterspout occurrences reported over Singapore waters every year.

Singapore’s thunderstorm-prone climate makes it all the more susceptible to waterspouts, but one as massive as this is extremely rare.

Still, if you are hanging about Bedok Jetty chasing fish and you see something similar heading your way, you best be on your skates sharpish.


An Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin spotted off St John's Island in August 2015.

Dolphins in captivity have been in the spotlight in recent years in Singapore, with questions asked about their living conditions.

So when footage or photos appear of dolphins freewheeling with joy off Singapore’s shores, it definitely calls for beers all round.

The Wild Singapore site has, over the years, blogged about dolphin sightings in the vicinity of the Southern Islands. Wild dolphins were sighted off Raffles Lighthouse in 2006, and off St John’s Island and off Sisters Island in 2007. Dolphins were also seen near Singapore’s landfill island Pulau Semakau in 2009.

The most recent sighting of wild dolphins was in August 2015 when four Indo-Pacific humpback pink dolphins were seen off St John’s Island. Joseph Chng, who spotted the dolphins while out at sea, said he had to perform an emergency stop to prevent his boat from running down the cute things.


Nov 14, 2016: A date that will live long in infamy. That was when the moon was at its closest to Earth in nearly 70 years.

Why infamy? Well, because the supermoon was a damp squib for many of us. Although the moon was 35,400km closer, cloud cover that night meant there was very little big lunar action to be had.

Yet, from photos that did emerge, we know that there were plenty who lucked out and managed to snag photos of the swollen moon - except that it was early the next morning.

Most of us were still in bed. I was quite exhausted after spending most of the previous evening like a demented maniac, opening my bedroom window, peering out and then shutting it again every 10 minutes or so.

Skygazers will not be able to see the moon this big again until Nov 25, 2034. At least there is some breathing space before we are all left disappointed again.

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Chestnut Nature Park, Singapore's largest, fully opens

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The northern portion of Chestnut Nature Park was opened on Saturday (Feb 25) - marking the completion of Singapore's largest nature park.

Together with the southern portion opened last year, the park now totals 81 hectares – nearly the size of the 82-ha Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Located near the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the park is the first in Singapore to have separate hiking and mountain biking trails. With the opening of the northern portion, the park’s biking trail has been extended from 1.6km to 8.2km, while the hiking trail has been extended from 2.1km to 5.6km.

Hikers can trek directly from Chestnut Nature Park to Dairy Farm Nature Park, while mountain bikers have access to trails with different levels of difficulties, ranging from moderately difficult to extremely difficult. The park also has a pump track where cyclists can attempt stunts.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee officiated the opening of the park’s northern portion on Saturday morning and accompanied about 200 residents and volunteers on the hiking trail.

Mr Lee also announced that another two parks will be opened over the next two years. Windsor Nature Park, located near Upper Thomson Road, will open later this year, while Thomson Nature Park will open by end of next year.

"Nature parks are special and they play a unique role in our ‘City in a Garden’," said Mr Lee, adding that the parks provide opportunities for Singaporeans to experience biodiversity, and act as green buffers to protect the reserves from the impact of urbanisation.

- CNA/cy

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How do MRT train stations reduce the risk of flooding?

Underground MRT stations are built with entrances (or exits) that are raised to safeguard them from flooding. Tenders for flood barriers to be built at MRT stations were called in 2012.
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Feb 17;

Like all underground structures here, MRT stations are built with entrances (or exits) that are raised. You will notice you need to climb a few steps before going down into a station. The same goes for road tunnels and underground carparks - a ramp is built just before the entrance and exit. This construction design safeguards the underground facility from flooding.

But in recent years, the weather has become more extreme. For example, on the afternoon of Dec 23, 2011, about 150mm of rain fell over Orchard Road - an amount usually received in a whole month. The incident damaged property along the shopping belt, including about 40 cars parked in underground carparks which became submerged.

In February 2012, the Land Transport Authority called tenders for flood barriers to be built at six MRT stations in town. In July 2012, tenders were called to fit similar barriers at 11 more stations deemed to be at risk. The barriers can withstand floodwaters of up to 1.5m high.

Today, flood barriers at 35 underground MRT stations have been completed across the network.

"With the completion of these works, all current and future MRT projects, including those on Downtown Line and Thomson-East Coast Line, will meet the requirements for flood protection as specified in PUB's Code of Practice for surface water drainage," the LTA said in a statement yesterday.

The attention to flood mitigation is a stark contrast to earlier pronouncements that Singapore was safe from the climate change effects.

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Indonesia targeting to reduce plastic waste by 70 percent

Antara 24 Feb 17;

Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government aims to reduce 70 percent of the approximately nine million tons of the total plastic waste a year, as a contribution to protecting the environment.

"We have set such a target in our medium-term plan," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya stated during a campaign against plastic waste as one of the side events of the "World Ocean Summit" in Samuh Beach, Nusa Dua, on Thursday.

Taking into the account the fact that 14 percent of the total 65 million tons of waste in Indonesia is plastic and has detrimental effects on the environment, Nurbaya has encouraged greater synergy between the central and local governments to uphold the same commitment of reducing plastic waste.

According to the minister, communities that work for environmental protection and preservation cannot do their duty optimally if there is no support and commitment from the government.

At the same time, the ministry is still discussing and evaluating the plan to continue imposing the tariff trial on using plastic bags, which was earlier implemented in shopping centers and modern shops.

Nurbaya pointed out that such a policy has indeed helped to significantly reduce plastic waste. However, the government should also take into account the aspirations and interests of the merchants, retailers, and producers of plastics.

At a discussion with some related stakeholders, the use of biodegradable plastic emerged as one of the best solutions.

While the businessmen are taking some time to carry out the packaging process, if the policy to reduce plastic is implemented, they can also seek another opportunity by recycling the plastic waste.

The total ban on the use of plastic bags will also have an effect on the social outlook, mainly because plastic bags can still be used in traditional markets.

"Hence, the government must be able to negotiate by discussing with several stakeholders," Nurbaya added.

Reported by Dewa Wiguna

Indonesia to reduce plastic wastes by 70 percent

Antara 23 Feb 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government is committed to reducing plastic wastes by 70 percent by the end of 2025, initiated with the launch of a national action plan for tackling plastic wastes in oceans.

Indonesia, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has launched a campaign to remove plastic wastes in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday.

"By the end of 2025, we will reduce 70 percent of the plastic wastes. Indonesia has launched a national action plan for tackling marine plastic wastes," Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan stated in a press release received by ANTARA here, Thursday.

The national action plan contains concrete strategies and measures to handle plastic wastes on land, in coastal areas, and in the sea.

"The government will provide funding of up to US$1 billion per year to implement the strategy," he noted.

According to Panjaitan, the financial support will significantly contribute to implementing the national program to make Indonesia free of wastes.

He said that marine plastic wastes pose a threat to the existence of fish, mammals, sea birds, and coral reefs in the world.

"Those negatively affected by the wastes are the locals, as tourists will not visit places that are full of plastic wastes," he remarked.

Panjaitan pointed out that Indonesia has been successful in its campaign against fish poachers and armed pirates. The government is now ready to face the challenge of tackling marine plastic debris.

"We are more than ready to play an active role in handling marine plastic wastes and be at the forefront of the UN global campaign for cleaning the seas," he emphasized.

The launch event was attended by Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya and UNEP Director Erik Solheim.(*)

Indonesia to Reduce Plastic Waste 70% by 2025
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 24 Feb 17;

Jakarta. The government has set a target to reduce plastic waste by 70 percent to preserve the environment.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said Indonesia's generates up to 65 million tons of waste annually, with 14 percent, or 9 million tons, of it consisting of plastic.

"Therefore, we are pushing for cooperation between local administrations and the national government to commit to the target, and to create awareness of the impact plastic waste has on the environment," Siti said in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday (23/02).

Local governments play a vital role, she added, as the community will not take heed if there are no consistent efforts set as example by governments.

"It's hard to get local governments to work if the central government is inconsistent and provides no guidelines," she added.

The commitment had also been followed by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan, who said the target is set to be accomplished by 2025.

"The government will provide a budget of up to $1 billion annually to execute the strategy," Luhut told to Antara news agency.

The strategy is part of the national action plan for waste management in oceans, in conjunction with the United Nations Environmental Program.

Luhut said plastic waste is threatening fisheries and coral reefs all over the world, and that it also endangers marine tourism in Indonesia.

"The ones who are affected by this are local residents, because tourists won't come back to plastic-contaminated destinations," he said.

Saving ocean requires global effort, cooperation
I Wayan Juniarta The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 17;

The opening panel of the World Ocean Summit on Thursday morning saw three ministers and a senior-ranking European Commission official acknowledge that harnessing the potential of the ocean and protecting it for the future generations are tasks too big and complex for any single country to deal with.

The panel, titled “The ocean economy—A whale of an opportunity?”, featured Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Bangladesh’s Minister of Environment and Forests Anwar Hossain Manju, Portugal’s Minister of Sea Ana Paula Vitorino, and European Commission’s Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella with The Economist’s Asia columnist, Dominic Ziegler, moderating.

Luhut used plastic debris as an example of the complexities of the ocean problem and the necessity to mount a concerted, global response. He pointed out during his visit to the western part of Indonesia he encountered plastic debris originating from Singapore.

“I believe that some of the plastic debris from Indonesia have washed ashore in Australia. So we have to deal with this problem together,” he said.

Read also: Government orders another study into Benoa Bay reclamation project:

Vella summed the shared sentiment among the speakers when he said that “the way forward now is cooperating globally.”

"We are not talking about [a] European environment, Chinese environment, we have one global environment with the global solution and you have to take […] global action,” he said.

The speakers also called all stakeholders to allocate greater resources to educate and promote environmental-friendly entrepreneurship among the younger generation. (yan)

Indonesia pledges $1bn a year to curb ocean waste
Only China dumps more plastic in the ocean than Indonesia. But by 2025, the world’s largest archipelago aims to reduce marine waste by 70%
Johnny Langenheim The Guardian 2 Mar 17;

Indonesia has pledged up to $1bn a year to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic and other waste products polluting its waters. The announcement was made by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs at last week’s 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.

Pandjaitan told delegates at the conference that Indonesia would achieve a 70% reduction in marine waste within eight years. He proposed developing new industries that use biodegradable materials such as cassava and seaweed to produce plastic alternatives. Other measures could include a nationwide tax on plastic bags as well as a sustained public education campaign.

The World Bank estimates that each of Indonesia’s 250 million inhabitants is responsible for between 0.8 and 1kg of plastic waste per annum. Only China dumps more waste in the ocean, according to a 2015 report in the journal Science.

The world’s second biggest plastic polluter also boasts the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity. Indonesia lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle; its incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems support crucial fisheries, provide food security for millions and are a growing draw for tourists.

Plastic pollution is just one of the threats to these ecosystems services, but it’s a serious one. A recent study suggests that by 2050, there could be more plastic than biomass in the world’s oceans. Plastics have entered the marine food chain and are already reaching our dinner plates.

Indonesia’s commitment is part of the UN’s new Clean Seas campaign, which aims to tackle consumer plastics through a range of actions – from cutting down on single use plastics such as shopping bags and coffee cups to pressuring firms to cut down on plastic packaging. Nine countries have already joined Indonesia in signing up to the campaign, including Uruguay, which will impose a tax on single use plastic bags and Costa Rica, which is promising better waste management and education.

But Indonesia’s target of a 70% reduction by 2025 is ambitious. Across the country’s 17,000 islands there is poor public understanding of the problems created by plastic waste.

Companies produce small scale products such as single use shampoo packets and confectionery that are popular in communities where cash flow pressures and habit prevent more sustainable consumption. Add poor waste management infrastructure and the scale of the challenge comes into sharp focus.

During rainy season, thousands of tonnes of rubbish discarded in rivers and waterways washes up on Indonesia’s shores. Heavy machinery is often brought in to clear the tourist beaches of Bali and local communities and non-profits are constantly organising large scale beach clean ups.

Last year, a tax on single use plastic bags was trialed in 23 cities across Indonesia. While the government reported a big reduction in plastic bag use, there was significant resistance both from consumers and industry, according to Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia’s minister for the environment. This is delaying a bill to impose a nationwide tax of not less than Rp.200 (1p) per plastic bag.

Environmentalists will be hoping that the promised funding effectively channels resources and expertise into public awareness and education programmes, improvements in waste management, pressure on industry and initiatives that encourage alternatives to plastic packaging.

The UN campaign reminds us all, however, that plastic pollution is a problems we can all address with some very simple changes in behaviour.

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Indonesia: $23m for Bird's Head Seascape Conservation

Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe 25 Feb 17;

Jakarta. Global conservation organizations, the Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, and Indonesia government announced on Friday (24/02) that they have raised $23 million for Blue Abadi Fund, a marine conservation trust, to protect the Bird's Head Peninsula in West Papua.

The Blue Abadi Fund aims to provide grants to local communities and agencies that manage 12 protected areas across the peninsula — 3.6 million hectares neighboring with Cenderawasih Bay in in the west and Raja Ampat Islands in the east — to implement sustainable management practices, including ecological and social monitoring and community outreach.

"These protected areas still exist thanks to the support and involvement of the local communities and fishermen," said Rob Walton of the Walton Family Foundation, one of the fund's main supporters, who has been working in the Bird's Head region for more than a decade.

Other donors include the Global Environment Facility, MacArthur Foundation, and USAID.

"Of course, it is not enough to create protected areas, you have to have long-term management and enforcement. That is what the Blue Abadi Fund is all about," Walton said in a statement.

The Bird's Head contains more than 2,500 islands and reefs that are home to 600 species of corals and 1,765 species of fish, 70 of which are endemic to the region.

In 2004, Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund launched a coalition aiming for sustainable management of the Bird's Head.

"The future of our planet depends upon the wisdom of communities," said Peter Seligmann, chairman and chief executive of Conservation International.

"Through the Blue Abadi Fund, the global community joins with local communities to secure the long-term health of the Bird's Head seascape, arguably the most diverse marine region of planet Earth."

Indonesia raises US$23 million to conserve Bird’s Head Seascape
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 17;

Indonesia’s bid to protect its marine areas has gained support in the form of a US$23 million investment in the Blue Abadi Fund, which is on track to be the world’s largest marine conservation trust, designed to conserve the country’s Bird’s Head Seascape.

The support was announced by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the Indonesian government at the World Ocean Summit in Bali on Friday.

The Bird’s Head Seascape is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, encompassing more than 225,000 square kilometers in West Papua, Indonesia, and home to more than 70 species of reef fishes, corals and crustaceans found nowhere else on the planet.

The announcement comes just five months after the fund initiative was introduced. Once the fund is fully capitalized, the seascape will contain Indonesia’s first sustainably financed marine protected area network (MPAs).

The Blue Abadi Fund will help secure the long-term financial sustainability of the Bird’s Head Seascape by providing grants to local communities and agencies so they can sustainably manage their marine resources into the future.

“The future of our planet depends upon the wisdom of communities,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of Conservation International. “Through the Blue Abadi Fund the global community joins with local communities to secure the long-term health of the Bird's Head seascape, arguably the most diverse marine region of Planet Earth.” (ary)

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'Significant event': Coral bleaching returns to the Great Barrier Reef

Peter Hannam Sydney Morning Herald 25 Feb 17;

Parts of the Great Barrier Reef are enduring sustained periods of heat stress worse than at the same time during last year's record-breaking coral bleaching event, raising fears the natural wonder may suffer another hammering.

Some 54 checks by the reef's Marine Park Authority off Mission Beach, about midway between Cairns and Townsville, found 60 per cent of sensitive coral species were already bleaching after 12 months of sustained abnormally warm temperatures.

"There's enough bleaching there to tell us that it is a significant heat-stress event," Russell Reichelt, the authority's chairman, said on Saturday. "There's the risk there of widespread bleaching leading to further mortality."

The World Heritage-listed reef last year suffered its worst bleaching event on record, with northern regions losing as much as 80 per cent of corals.

Many of the big tourist sites were spared the worst of the bleaching or recovered quickly, but this year the heat stress is closer to Cairns and other popular sites, as Fairfax Media reported earlier this month.

"It's the first time we've been getting a big bleaching event two years in a row," said Richard Fitzpatrick, an Emmy Award-winning underwater cameraman, who recently returned from Vlasoff Reef, north-east of Cairns.

The bleaching is evident at places where Mr Fitzpatrick filmed sequences for the Great Barrier Reef series led by David Attenborough, the UK naturalist.

"We've started to see the first mortality," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

If waters stay too warm for too long, corals expel the zooxanthellae algae living in their tissues that provide as much as 90 per cent of the energy they need to grow and reproduce. . The corals then bleach and face increased risks of disease, and those that survive can take years to recover.


Dr Reichelt said the authority would survey other parts of the reef to see how far bleaching has spread.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies is also preparing to repeat aerial surveys of last year to monitor changes, Terry Hughes, the Townsville-based centre's director, said.

"The 2017 bleaching is still building as we approach the summer peak temperature," Professor Hughes said. "Hopefully, it won't be nearly as bad as last year."

"It's alarming that the reef is bleaching so soon again, giving no time for recovery from the huge losses of corals in the northern third of the Reef in 2016," he said. "The scary part is that 2017 is not an El Nino year – and the period between these bleaching events is getting shorter, too short for recovery."

Imogen Zethoven, campaign director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said "we are running out of time" to save the reef, particularly from climate change.

Ms Zethoven singled out on-going support for the Adani-owned Carmichael coal mine that, over a projected 60-year life, would result in 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, adding to global warming.

"There's an imminent risk of another severe bleaching event," she said. "There is no hint from the federal government that they are responding to this as a national emergency."

'Natural wonder'

Josh Frydenberg, the federal energy and environment minister, dismissed the threat to the reef from the Carmichael mine, highlighting its location rather than the emissions burning its output will produce.

"If you're talking about Adani, that's 300 kilometres inland," Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio on Friday. "We are concerned about increased heat stress on the reef, but we are making real progress at a state and a federal level to combine our efforts to improve the health of the reef which is a beautiful natural wonder of the world."

He cited Australia signing up to the Paris climate agreement - with the country pledging to slice 2005-levels of pollution 26-28 per cent by 2030 - the 2020 Renewable Energy Target, and the Reef 2050 Plan.

However, Mark Butler, Labor's climate spokesman, said the government's own data showed Australia's carbon emissions "rising as far as projections go to 2030".

"Nothing short of real strong action, both around the reef and nationally to tackle climate change, will do," he said, noting as many as 70,000 jobs relied on tourism in the region. "That is not what we've seen after over three years of Liberal government."

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Corals May Get Temporary Reprieve from Bleaching

Climate models show the absence of a global atmospheric circulation pattern which bolsters high ocean temperatures key to coral bleaching
Brittany Patterson, E&E News Scientific American 24 Feb 17;

The world's coral reefs, which have been hit hard by an unprecedented bleaching event that began in mid-2014, may see a bit of reprieve this year, according to an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mark Eakin, head of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, said the "longest, most widespread bleaching event ever" has continued into 2017. However, climate models show the absence of a global atmospheric circulation pattern or ENSO — those include El Niños and La Niñas — which would bolster high ocean temperatures key to coral bleaching. Without an ENSO event, fewer corals are expected to die.

"The good news is as far as we can tell, the worst of this global event is over," he said. "The unfortunate part is we're not finished yet."

The world's corals may not be out of the woods yet. Eakin said it also appears ocean conditions may have entered what could be a "new regime" in which persistent coral bleaching — when corals expel the algae that are key to their survival from inside their tissue and turn white — is the new normal.
"The strange part is we finished with the El Niño; we even finished with the La Niña, but now we're continuing to see this bleaching going on even when we're back in neutral ENSO conditions," he said. "And it even looks like for the Pacific, for the coming months, we're going to be showing El Niño-like threats to coral reefs."

Eakin said the "unusual situation" seems to be driven by the fact that the oceans are still full of warm water, which has accumulated over the past years, the warmest on record. That warming is being driven primarily by human-caused climate change.

"We're really entered into a new regime where the waters are just warmer, and we may have hit this threshold for corals to bleach that's just the new baseline," he said. "We may be moving into a new period where bleaching is going to be very different than what we have seen in the past."

All of the coral reefs in the world were stressed by the warm ocean conditions of the last few years. More than 40 percent of reefs worldwide experienced bleaching or death.

In 2014, reefs in Guam, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands were hit. The next year, Hawaii was hit again, and the bleaching spread across the Red Sea, into the central Pacific Ocean and into Australia.

In 2016, Eakin said, the event came to full force. Scientists famously declared wide swaths of the Great Barrier Reef dead, while places like Kiribati saw 80 to 95 percent mortality of their corals.

In addition, 72 percent of coral reefs in the United States experienced bleaching or death.

"We were hoping 2016 would be the end of this event; unfortunately, that's not the case," he said.

Already, Australian officials have reported coral mortality across the central part of the Great Barrier Reef, and the South Pacific island of Niue has experienced a severe bleaching event.

Eakin, speaking yesterday to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, an interagency group that leads efforts to protect U.S. coral reef ecosystems, highlighted that NOAA, in addition to other partners, since 2013 has been developing climate adaptation tools for coral reef managers. In 2015, a nursery in Hawaii went out and collected corals to protect them before a bleaching event hit the region, for example. Other regions are experimenting with coral plantings, shading and other adaptation efforts, with more in the works.

One key to protecting coral reefs is reducing local stressors, such as boat traffic and pollution runoff. Strategies to do that and adapt in the face of climate change are both ongoing efforts, Eakin added. Climate change further complicates the process.

"The real challenge is we have to be dealing with those local stressors that make bleaching events worse and make it harder to recover, and then we have to be dealing with [the] main problem here [which] is [that the] rise of heat-trapping carbon dioxide gases is warming the world," he said.

Reprinted from Climatewire by E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at

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