Best of our wild blogs: 16 Mar 17

Birding in just one tree
Singapore Bird Group

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All fish farms affected by Johor oil spill can fully resume sales: AVA

Channel NewsAsia 15 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: The 12 fish farms that were affected by the massive oil spill in January have had their sales suspension fully lifted, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Wednesday (Mar 15).

"Fish, crustaceans and molluscs available in our market are safe for consumption," said AVA in an update on the matter.

Fish samples from the affected farms earlier passed the food safety evaluation, about two weeks after the oil spill which was caused by a collision on Jan 3 between two container vessels off Johor. It took longer, however, for the sales suspension to be lifted for molluscs as well as crustaceans like lobsters and crabs.

AVA said that since the oil spill, it has supported farmers in their clean-up efforts and regularly assessed the situation at coastal fish farms in the East Johor Strait. Samples of fish, crustaceans and molluscs were also taken from farms which were not directly affected by the spill, it added.

"The samples undergo a combination of sensory and chemical analyses to determine if the farmed aquaculture is safe for consumption," AVA said. It explained that samples are tested for the presence of petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of chemicals that can be found in crude or industry oil.

Tiberias Harvest was one of first farms to have their sales suspension for fish lifted. It had expressed concern over a prolonged interruption in supply in the lead-up to Chinese New Year but was able to resume business on Jan 13.

"We are grateful for AVA’s responsiveness to farmers’ feedback and needs, and also for the guidance and materials provided for protection and clean-up measures," said Raymond Sng, the owner of Tiberias Harvest.

The oil spill also affected an 800m stretch of Changi Beach, which had to be temporarily closed to the public, as well as Pasir Ris Beach and Punggol Beach.

- CNA/gs

Clean-up following January oil spill wraps up; sales suspension on 12 fish farms lifted

Today Online 15 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — All the 12 coastal fish farms hit by an oil spill in early January are now able to sell fish, crustaceans and mollusc again, after the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) lifted its suspension order on them.

In a statement on Wednesday (March 15), the AVA said that the farms along the East Johor Strait have completed cleanup operations, and it had worked closely with the farmers since the oil spill to ensure the food safety of the “farmed aquaculture”.

“Fish, crustaceans and molluscs available in our market are safe for consumption,” the authority said, adding that it regularly assessed the status of the oil spill at the farms and took samples of sea creatures from them for food-safety tests, including those not directly affected by the oil spill.

The samples undergo a combination of sensory and chemical analyses to determine if they are safe for consumption, the AVA said.

The sensory analysis determines if the sample is tainted with petroleum, while the chemical analysis determines if the sample is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — a group of chemicals that can be found in crude or industry oil.

Mr Raymond Sng, owner of Tiberias Harvest Farm, one of those affected by the oil spill, said that he had been “very concerned” when the AVA suspended fish sales. While he supported the suspension order as a safety measure, he said that “a prolonged interruption in supply would badly affect restaurant customers and online consumers”.

“The AVA acted on our feedback and was able to help a number of farms, including ours, continue with sales earlier. This was based on the food-safety tests on our products, the extent of the oil spill impact and cleanup on our farm,” he said. “We are grateful for the AVA’s responsiveness to farmers’ feedback and needs, and also for the guidance and materials provided for protection and cleanup measures.”

The oil spill on Jan 3 was caused by a collision between two container vessels off Pasir Gudang port in Johor. Some 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore, causing fish deaths and sparking a series of measures to protect nearby mangroves and reservoirs from contamination.

Oil-absorbent pads and canvas were given to 25 farmers near the oil-spill site to help protect their fish stock, and some farms reported that about 250kg of fish died.

The cleanup operations also took place at various places such as the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, while a stretch of Changi Beach was closed.

AVA fully lifts sales ban on 12 fish farms
Zhaki Abdullah and Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Mar 17;

All 12 fish farms in Singapore that were affected in January by an oil spill from Johor can now resume sale of their seafood, including fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said yesterday that clean-up operations at the farms along the East Johor Strait have been completed.

The AVA had earlier partially lifted the sales suspension for just fish but, by Tuesday, it gave the all-clear - two months after the oil spill first clogged Singapore's shores.

On Jan 3, two vessels collided in Johor waters and caused 300 tonnes of oil to spill into the East Johor Strait where the fish farms are.

AVA asked the farms to stop sales until food-safety evaluations were completed.

AVA took samples from fish farms there, including those not directly affected by the oil spill.

The samples underwent a combination of sensory and chemical analyses, to determine if the seafood was tainted with petroleum or if they were contaminated with chemicals that can be found in crude or industry oil.

Mr Timothy Ng, operations manager of 2 Jays, one of the affected farms, estimated that the sales suspension cost his farm $10,000. But he said he was glad that AVA helped with clean-up operations. "As for the stoppage of sales, I think it's okay, because I don't want to sell seafood that may be contaminated," he told The Straits Times.

Mr Raymond Sng, owner of another of the affected farms, Tiberias Harvest Farm, agreed. He said a prolonged interruption in supply could have badly affected restaurant customers, and online home consumers who pre-ordered fish for Chinese New Year.

But AVA acted on such feedback and a number of farms, including his, were allowed to resume operations earlier.

"We are grateful for AVA's responsiveness to farmers' feedback and needs, and also for the guidance and materials provided for protection and clean-up measures," said Mr Sng.

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Clearing the air on tailpipe emissions

Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Mar 17;

The Government announced a number of measures last week to tighten vehicular emission regulations.

The new Vehicular Emissions Scheme, for instance, spells out limits on tailpipe pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Stricter vehicle inspection standards will also be rolled out.

Why is Singapore adopting these measures, and what implications will there be for consumers and the industry?

Senior Transport Correspondent Christopher Tan presents a Q&A to address these questions, and more.

Q: By January next year, all new cars, vans, trucks and buses will have to meet the most stringent Euro 6 emission standard. Why is there a need for additional measures such as the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES)?

A: Euro 6 sets out the minimum standards which a vehicle has to meet before it can be registered here.

The VES nudges consumers towards buying even cleaner models, and retailers towards importing such models.

Q: Then why is the VES not extended to commercial vehicles and motorcycles?

A: Yes, it should be. Having a VES for all vehicles would contribute more effectively to cleaner air.

Policymakers, however, are always mindful of business cost implications and how higher costs would trickle down to consumers.

Q: Why do the new measures seem targeted at diesel cars?

A: Despite decades of trying, Singapore fails to meet World Health Organisation guidelines on the amount of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and ground-level ozone in the air.

These pollutants aggravate many serious health problems, including respiratory and heart diseases, strokes and even cancer. Industry and diesel vehicles are two main contributors to these pollutant levels.

That said, petrol cars will be similarly judged based on their worst-performing pollutant level out of the five stipulated.

Q: But why diesel cars? There are a lot more diesel commercial vehicles here, and they clock far greater distances than cars.

A: The population of diesel passenger cars here has grown by nearly 30 times from 2011 to last year - a span of just five years.

As at Jan 31 this year, their population stands at 10,888, having overtaken petrol-electric hybrids, which have been here for two decades.

Even in Europe, policymakers are questioning diesel-friendly policies.

A number of cities aim now to ban diesel cars by 2030.

But they face a daunting task as diesel cars make up as much as 60 per cent of new car sales there.

In 2015, Volkswagen was caught for cheating on emissions standards by programming diesel engines to activate certain controls only during laboratory testing.

With that scandal as a catalyst, Singapore is nipping the problem in the bud.

Q: If diesel is so bad, why did Europe promote it?

A: Carbon dioxide has long been flagged as one of the main contributors to global warming.

Diesel engines produce less CO2 than their petrol equivalents.

Legislators saw diesel as a good way of reducing vehicular CO2 emission by as much as 30 per cent instantly.

They were also convinced that newer technologies would render diesel engines almost as clean as petrol equivalents.

Other countries, including Singapore, were less convinced.

Q: So, is carbon dioxide no longer a concern?

A: It still is. The VES, for instance, is designed to encourage small and efficient powertrains, including alternatives such as electric motors.

And these engines are on a par with diesel engines - which tend to be bigger - when it comes to CO2 emission.

Q: What is the Government doing about other polluters, such as commercial vehicles, oil refineries, ships and construction sites?

A: The Government says steps are being taken to curb emissions from non-automotive polluters too.

The planned carbon tax, to be rolled out from 2019, is one such step.

Q: Why are the VES standards so stringent? Which models will qualify for rebate?

A: Singapore has generally been good at rolling out new regulations in a gradual manner.

The Carbon-based Emissions Vehicle Scheme - the VES' predecessor - was rather generous when it was introduced in 2013.

About two-thirds of cars sold then fell within its neutral band.

It was made stricter in 2015, before evolving into its latest form.

Singapore is not alone in raising such standards.

Japan announced plans recently to make it harder for cars to qualify for tax breaks.

Cars there would soon have to be able to cover at least 20km a litre to qualify - up from 17km now.

In Singapore, only electric cars are likely to qualify for the $20,000 rebate now, and small hybrids qualify for $10,000.

Manufacturers, however, are likely to come up with cleaner variants by January next year.

Q: The new standards may be stringent for new cars, but what is Singapore doing about its current vehicle population?

A: Regulations are seldom retrospective here, so the new VES will not affect cars that are already on the road today.

But the Government is taking steps to ensure that these vehicles do not pollute more.

Stricter vehicle inspection standards will affect petrol cars and motorbikes from April next year.

Last month, a 10-cent duty was introduced at diesel pumps to encourage more responsible use.

And from August, a scheme to encourage owners to replace old, pollutive diesel commercial vehicles with Euro 6 versions will be enhanced.

Q: Will parallel-imported cars be granted a 0.92 factor that, in effect, gives them a discount on their emissions?

A: The so-called evolution coefficient factor applies only to CO2 - not the other four pollutants.

So, it is unlikely to influence the banding of parallel imported cars when the VES kicks in next year.

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More giving time, money directly to causes they support: Survey

SIAU MING EN Today Online 16 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — More people are now giving their time and money to directly support causes that resonate with them or to start their own campaigns, rather than doing so through organisations.

This was one of the findings from the latest Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

Speaking to the media yesterday, Mr Jeffrey Tan, director for knowledge and advocacy at NVPC, said that the centre has observed a “giving revolution” based on its biennial study. The last survey was done in 2014.

“There is a very strong ground-up resurgence happening right now, where people are volunteering and donating informally, directly with beneficiaries, without going through the formal routes (such as charity organisations),” he added.

Of the 389 people surveyed from last December to January this year, almost three in four have volunteered or donated informally. The survey questioned respondents’ about their giving behaviour over a 12-month period from December 2015 to last November.

Volunteering informally — as defined by the NVPC — could involve, say, people coming together to help stray dogs on the street instead of doing so via an animal welfare group.

About half (51 per cent) of the respondents had volunteered directly with beneficiaries, up from the 25 per cent in the 2014 survey.

Likewise, 41 per cent of the respondents donated money through informal means, a three-fold increase from the 13 per cent in 2014.

Asked which were the top sectors to which they gave their time and money, more respondents replied that they gave directly to causes and beneficiaries they chose to support.

Religious organisations, education, health and the social services sectors were the next most popular sectors.

Stand Up for Our SG is one example of the social movements and causes supported by donors. Founded in 2012, it managed to raise S$32,000 for hawkers who lost their stalls and livelihoods during the fire in Jurong West last year, for example.

Its founder, Wally Tham, said that the group does not have a fixed pool of volunteers, and encourages people to step forward each time there is a new project.

“Usually, the people who come to us don’t regularly volunteer,” he added.

The “resurgence” of informal volunteerism could also have contributed to an overall increase in volunteerism, the survey found — 35 per cent of the respondents volunteered last year, compared with 18 per cent in 2014.

However, on average, a volunteer served fewer hours a year — a drop from 93 hours in 2014 to 84 hours last year.

Findings from the survey also showed that people were turning more towards niche and “under-served” causes. These include green efforts such as environmental protection. More people also volunteered their time in the arts and heritage sectors, and in animal care.

In all, people are also giving more money: S$2.18 billion was donated to organisations last year, almost double the S$1.25 billion in 2014.

On average, an individual donated S$910 to organisations last year, which is more than double the S$379 in 2014.

When the survey results were broken down by age groups, there were higher volunteerism drop-out rates for those aged between 25 and 34, as well as those aged between 55 and 64.

Mr Tan said that this could be because younger workers are hesitant to take the lead in volunteer work, for fear of being seen as “goody two-shoes”.

As for the older group, they might want to use their retirement years to relax.

NVPC chief executive officer Melissa Kwee added that this older group might also feel that they have lost a sense of identity upon retirement.

“From a sense-of-self-worth perspective, the involvement in the community addresses those particular issues, (where) you can use your skills and experience to contribute back (to society) … (People) really value somebody with more skills and experience as opposed to seeing you as being a useless old person,” she added.

More Singaporeans helping others, while those giving are digging deeper
Audrey Tan, THE NEW PAPER AsiaOne 16 Mar 17;

Fewer people are donating to charity, but those who do, are giving more generously.

When it comes to volunteering, the reverse is true.

More people are giving their time, although in shorter periods.

But these developments over the last two years, driven by what experts believe is a resurgence of the kampung spirit, still mean a win-win for charities, according to a biennial study commissioned by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

Donations went up from $1.25 billion in 2014 to $2.18 billion last year - a rise of nearly 75 per cent. This was despite 76 per cent of last year's respondents saying they had donated money, compared to 83 per cent in 2014.

The time put in by volunteers went up more dramatically. In 2014, when the last survey was done, they clocked 66 million hours. Last year, the figure nearly doubled to 121 million hours - despite the number of hours put in by each volunteer falling from 93 to 84 hours.

The ninth edition of the study, called the Individual Giving Survey and which polled 389 respondents living and working in Singapore, also showed a rise in informal volunteerism.

Almost three in four volunteered or donated through such informal channels.

These are ground-up efforts in which, instead of working with or donating to an organisation, people helped others on their own, including banding with neighbours to form community networks to look out for seniors.

Or, instead of donating to animal welfare groups, people rescue injured stray dogs and cats on their own.

About half of volunteers gave their time to such efforts last year, compared to a quarter in 2014.

"This reflects a positive trend for civic participation in Singapore, as more people are starting ground-up efforts or volunteering directly," NVPC said.

"It shows that the kampung spirit is coming back," said NVPC director for knowledge and advocacy Jeffrey Tan.

Dr Kang Soon-Hock, head of the social science core at SIM University, said the rise in informal volunteerism could be due to the awareness created by social media for certain social causes.

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Malaysia: Kedah reclamation ruining mangroves and livelihood


ALOR SETAR: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has urged the Kedah Department of Environment to stop a reclamation project taking place in Kampung Tepi Laut near Kuala Kedah here.

SAM president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the project had contravened environmental regulations and destroyed the area’s mangroves, adding that this would threaten the coastal fishermen’s source of income.

“We are alarmed that the state government and local authority allowed the project to take place although the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project has yet to be approved.

“The EIA report is now being exhibited for public review from now until March 25,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Mohamed Idris said a survey conducted found that a distance of about 1km out to sea had been reclaimed and nearly 10ha of mangroves along the coast had been affected.

“This will threaten the marine life and affect the income of some 500 local fishermen’s families who make a living in the area.

“They have told us that since the project began, their daily catch of fish, prawns, crabs, cockles, mussels and clams have dwindled between 20% and 30%,” he said.

Mohamed Idris said that previously, these fishermen were able to earn up to RM100 a day but now, they could earn only between RM40 and RM80.

“The situation is expected to worsen if the project proceeds and as more coastal mangroves are destroyed.

“The fishermen had objected to the project much earlier but this fell on deaf ears, and the state instead endorsed the project,” he said.

The reclamation when completed is for six 27-storey luxury condominium blocks with a starting price of RM238,000 per unit.

It is also to enable shoplots costing between RM499,000 and RM550,000 each to be built.

A check by The Star yesterday showed that no signboards were put up at the project site while reclamation works were actively carried out.

Attempts to get comments from state representatives were unsuccessful.

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Malaysia: Birds smuggled on express bus

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 16 Mar 17;

JOHOR BARU: An international wildlife smuggling syndicate has been using express buses to transport endangered animals to neighbouring countries.

This new modus operandi was uncovered by the Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) after it seized 247 protected white-rumped shama birds, known as burung murai batu and worth about RM200,000, in an express bus near the Kulai rest area.

Johor Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said this is the newest tactic used by poachers to smuggle endangered species out of the country.

“We received information about the smuggling activity and launched an operation to rescue the birds,” he said in a press conference here.

Jamalun Nasir added Perhilitan enforcement officers found the express bus parked at the Kulai rest area at KM32.8 along the North-South Expressway at around 6.10am on Tuesday.

He added a Proton Wira car was parked beside the bus that was heading south from Ipoh, Perak.

“Three men were in the midst of transferring 17 cages filled with the birds from the baggage compartment in the bus into the car.

“The two Indonesians and the local bus driver, all in their 40s, were detained,” he said, adding there were 13 passengers inside the bus at the time.

Jamalun Nasir said the suspects were believed to be part of a syndicate that had been active for more than two years.

He added that the department has identified the mastermind behind the group and said in previous cases, Perhilitan managed to stop smuggling activities at ferry terminals here and in Pasir Gudang.

“We will also be working closely with other enforcement agencies including the Land Public Transport Authority (SPAD) to stop the smuggling of endangered animals.

“The department rescued 247 birds including females and hatchlings,” he said, adding the birds were caught in Ipoh.

Jamalun Nasir added the birds could fetch between RM300 and RM1,500 each in the black market.

He added that Perhilitan had seized the bus and car while the three suspects are being remanded to assist in investigations under Section 60 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716).

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Indonesia: Mitigation program reduces forest fires - The Fire Free Alliance

The Jakarta Post 15 Mar 17;

The Fire Free Alliance (FFA), a group consisting of forestry and agriculture companies and civil society groups, said on Wednesday that it has successfully reduced fire incidents by 50 to 90 percent in the 2015-2016 period.

Established in February last year, FFA has focused on fire prevention through community engagement. The members of the group include APRIL, Asian Agri and Musim Mas.

Wilmar, a group member, said it has educated communities in 61 villages in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan and trained 15 fire fighters in each village and equipped them with a fire truck.

“We are definitely better prepared now,” said Wilmar plantations head Gurcharan Singh during an event to review the program.

“The government encourages the private sector to participate in preventing forest fires,” said Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, an official from the Coordinating Economic Ministry.

Prabianto also mentioned that land and forest fires have become annual man-made disasters for the last 18 years and occurred in the same locations, which are in seven provinces covering 731 villages.

The fire season of 2015 saw one of the nation’s worst ever haze crisis. After a concerted effort by the central government and private sector, land and forest fires significantly decreased last year, with the total land area burned reduced to 438,360 ha. The number of hot spots also decreased by up to 82.1 percent according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites. (hol/wit)

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Indonesia: BKSDA seize protected wildlife from foiled smuggling attempts

Djemi Amnifu The Jakarta Post 15 Mar 17;

The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has foiled 37 wildlife smuggling attempts through El Tari Airport in Kupang in the first two months of this year.

“From the figure we can say that NTT is in an emergency status in regards to the trade of protected animals and plants. The figure shows that public awareness around protected wildlife is still very minimal,” NTT BKSDA chief Tamen Sitorus told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He explained the smugglers tried many different methods in their attempts to avoid the authorities. For example, the smugglers placed wildlife, both alive and dead, inside pipe cylinders, plastic bags or cardboard boxes and then stuffed them inside luggage.

Aviation security officers at El Tari Airport detected the items through X-ray check-ups at passenger gates and at cargo terminals, Tamen added.

(Read also: 2 orangutans confiscated, handed over to conservation agency in West Kalimantan)

From the 37 foiled attempts, the BKSDA office seized three orange-sided trush (zoothera peronei), eight deer antlers, 15 logs of Santigi (pemphis acidula), 12 logs of gaharu (aquilaria mallaccensis), three chambered nautilus, Nautilus pompilius and nine bracelets made from elephant tusks.

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Indonesia: Caledonian Sky shipwreck brings huge loss to Raja Ampat

Otniel Tamindael Antara 16 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The British-owned cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground onto a coral reef off Raja Ampat District in West Papua on March 4, 2017, has brought a huge loss to the district.

Raja Ampat District Government stated that the shipwreck of Caledonian Sky, which was carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members, was due to the negligence of the captain of the cruise ship.

The 4,290-tonne ship, which was on a 16-night journey from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, damaged approximately 1.3 hectares of coral at a diving site known as Crossover Reef in Raja Ampat.

The accident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystems structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora, and stylophora.

Raja Ampat Tourism Office Chief Yusdi Lamatenggo remarked in West Papua provincial city of Sorong on Wednesday that the 90-meter ship, owned by tour operator Noble Caledonia, came to the island of Gan for bird-watching but was unnoticed by the local government.

Lamatenggo noted that Raja Ampat District Government learned of the ship after reports that it ran aground and inflicted significant damage to one of the worlds most bio-diverse reefs, which have been voted among the best diving spots in the world.

The results of field investigations conducted by the local government indicated that the vessel entered Gam island through the proper channels, but followed the wrong path and ran aground after the bird-watching activity.

Hence, he remarked that the government considered the incident to be caused by the negligence of the captain of the sophisticated ship, which had highly sophisticated detection tools.

An official evaluation team revealed that the Caledonian Sky cruise ship had been caught in low tide despite being equipped with GPS and radar instruments.

Therefore, the Government of Indonesia will immediately summon the ship and file a lawsuit related to the case of the damage to coral reefs in the waters of Raja Ampat.

"The lawsuit will soon be made. The Caledonian Sky is now in the Philippines, and we will make a warrant for summoning and examination," the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry Director General for Sea Space Management, Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi, remarked in a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Further, Lamatenggo, the Raja Ampat Tourism Office chief, said that the central government has formed an integrated team to deal with the damage of coral reefs caused by the ship.

According to him, the team was formed by Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs with the involvement of Maritime and Fisheries Ministry, Environment and Forestry Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and the police.

The integrated team will seek accountability on the part of the cruise ship for the damage of coral reefs.

"In addition, Raja Ampat District Government has also formed an assessment team to conduct studies as well as calculate the losses incurred due to the damage of the coral reefs," he revealed.

In the meantime, Ricardo F Tapilatu, the head of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua, has said on separate occasion that the assessment team will recommend the company pay compensation of US$800-$1,200 per square meter.

Tapilatu noted that if the ships owner disagrees with the claim, then the government will take it to court. If the company and government can reach an agreement, it will likely take a year or two for the district administration to receive the cash.

He said the money would be used to revive the reef, a process which could take a decade; set more mooring buoys across the area to prevent ships from sailing into shallow zones; and to map out sailing tracks.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), tour operator Noble Caledonia, which owns the Caledonian Sky, said in a statement that it supported the investigation and vowed to cooperate.

"Noble Caledonia is firmly committed to the protection of the environment, which is why it is imperative that the incident must be fully investigated, understood, and any lessons learned incorporated in operating procedures," it said.

There has been an outrage in the local tourism industry, which relies on Raja Ampats natural wonders for its survival.

Environmental group Conservation International said that the Bahamas-flagged ship had gone into an area that it should not have entered due to the unique coral reefs.

Known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat is an ideal destination for both local and foreign tourists to relax and unwind.

The visitors have the opportunity to witness a multitude of marine habitats and coral reefs in one glance without having to swim a stroke.(*)

Regeneration of Raja Ampat coral reefs to take years: Ministry
Antara 16 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The regeneration of coral reefs in Raja Ampat, West Papua, which suffered serious damage after a cruise ship MV Caledonia Sky ran aground in shallow waters in the area, would take years.

"The coral reefs would grow five centimeters per year, depending on the environmental conditions," Director General of Marine Space Management at the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi stated here, Wednesday.

A preliminary investigation revealed that various species of coral spread in an area of some 1.6 thousand square meters were damaged.

Poerwadi noted that the authority will undertake measures to restore the damaged coral reefs.

Meanwhile, Head of the ministrys research and human resources department Zulficar Muchtar remarked that it was the first incident involving such a huge ship and had caused extensive damage to the coral reefs.

The 4.2 thousand-ton cruise ship from the UK slammed into the reefs at low tide in Raja Ampat on Mar 4, after taking the tourists aboard on a bird-watching expedition.

The ship, with 102 passengers and 79 crew members aboard and led by captain Keith Michael Taylor, ran aground on the reefs and had to be refloated using a tugboat before continuing on its journey.

Earlier on Tuesday, the government said, it would calculate the losses due to the incident.

"We are calculating the losses. This is not just a matter of (seeking) compensation, but it would take years for them to regrow," Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan pointed out.

Pandjaitan affirmed that the Montara incident in Timor Sea would not be allowed to recur and damage Indonesias marine ecosystem.

A legislator of Commission IV Rahmad Handoyo stated that the authority should investigate the incident thoroughly.

"We should investigate why this cruise ship got trapped in shallow waters," he emphasized.

He deplored the incident and called on the government to intensify the protection of coral reefs.

(Reported by Muhammad Razi Rahman/Uu.S022/INE/KR-BSR/O001)

Indonesia wants compensation for damage in rare ridge of rock
Antara 16 Mar 17;

Purwakarta, West Java (ANTARA News) - The government of Indonesia might demand compensation for the damage of rare ridges of rock by tourist boat MV Caledonian Sky from Britain destroying 1,600 square meters of ridges of rock in Radja Ampat earlier this month.

"We just talked about the law of the sea. The opportunity is open for us to demand compensation (for the damage)," Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said when on a visit here on Wednesday.

Luhut said he had formed a team in charge of the incident and the team would be sent to see the extent of damage caused by the tourist boat .

"The question is not the extent of the area being damaged but the ridge is very rare," he said.

The incident took place when the 4,200 GT MV tourist boat captained by Keith Michael Taylor with 79 other crewmen and 102 passengers, visited Raja Ampat on March 3, 2017.

After walking round one of the islands in Raja Ampat, enjoying the natural beauty, in one of tourist destinations rated best in the world, the tourists boarded the ship in midday on March 4.

The boat then proceeded the journey to Bitung in northern Sulawesi, at 12.41 local time . On its way to Bitung , MV Caledonian Sky stranded and trapped on ridges of rock .

In a bid to get out of the trap the captain first relying on the directions given by its GPS and radar failed .

A tug boat TB Audreyrob Tanjung Priok then arrived in the location to drag MV Caledonian Sky away , but also failed as the tourist boat was too heavy.

Finally , the captain succeeded in moving his ship and continued the journey at 23.15 local time on March 4, 2017.(*)

Government forms team to handle coral damage in Raja Ampat
Antara 16 Mar 17;

Sorong, West Papua (ANTARA News) - The central government has formed an integrated team to handle the coral damage in Raja Ampat District, West Papua Province, according to Raja Ampat Tourism Office Chief Yusdi Lamatenggo.

According to Lamatenggo, the coral reefs in Raja Ampat were severely damaged by MV Caledonian Sky, a British-owned cruise liner, which ran aground on March 4, 2017, at low tide.

The cruise ship rammed into the coral reefs and damaged approximately 1.3 hectares of them at a diving site known as the Crossover Reef in Raja Ampat.

Lamatenggo remarked here on Wednesday that the team was formed by the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs with the involvement of the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry, Environment and Forestry Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and the Police.

The integrated team will seek accountability from the owners of the cruise ship for the damage caused to the coral reefs in Raja Ampat as a result of the incident.

"In addition, the Raja Ampat district government has formed an assessment team to conduct studies and to calculate the amount of losses incurred due to the damage caused to the coral reefs," he added.(*)

Parties call for penal action in Raja Ampat reef case
Antara 16 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Some parties have highlighted the need to take penal action against those found guilty of inflicting damage to Raja Ampats reefs, West Papua, several days ago, due to the MV Caledonian Sky cruise ship incident.

"Penal action should be taken against Captain Keith Michael Tailor following his negligence in performing the duties of a ship leader, such as miscalculating the waves, currents, and natural conditions," Herman Khaeron, a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, stated in Jakarta on Thursday.

According to the politician from the Democrat Party, penal action is required, as the captain had violated Law Number 32 of 2009 on environment conservation and Law Number 1 of 2014 on the management of seaside and small islands areas.

He added that the government should also continue to supervise and monitor the conservation area, which has become an asset of Indonesias natural wealth.

Head of Marine Management of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) Brahman Satyamurti Poerwadi stated that Law Number 32 of 2009 on Natural Conservation and Law Number 31 of 2004 on fisheries were violated.

He remarked that the KKPs review indicated that the damage caused to the reefs is considered a penal crime, and at least the ships captain should be held responsible for it.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry should be tasked with conducting the investigation since it holds the detailed data, according to Poerwadi.

The government will also conduct a survey along with SPICA Service Indonesia, the boat insurance service agency in Indonesia, on Friday, Mar 17, to assess the losses due to the damage to the reefs.

Deputy of Maritime Sovereignty Coordination Arif Havas Oegroseno noted that the government had contacted the agency that owns MV Caledonian Sky and SPICA to discuss the responsibility claim for the damage caused to the coral reefs in Raja Ampat on Mar 4.

"Does the insurance cover the compensation for the reef damage and other related losses or only covers the penal action against the captain?" he questioned.

Dony, the branch manager of SPICA Services Indonesia who represented the ships owner, said his side will offer compensation for the claim submitted by the third party, with a requirement of a survey and on-site data verification.

However, since the government has already deployed the survey team, which will return to Jakarta this Saturday, they will renew the deal and will hold a joint survey of the site involving the Indonesian and SPICA teams.

According to SPICA Services Indonesia, the identification and verification processes by the government and insurance agency could be accelerated by conducting a joint survey.

"The point is that we will not ignore this problem and will continue to coordinate with the government," Dony stated, adding that his side will sent an independent surveyor who is a reef expert from an Indonesian university.(*)

Indonesia vows action after UK cruise ship ruins coral reef
Awa Mulalinda, AFP Yahoo News 15 Mar 17;

Sorong (Indonesia) (AFP) - Indonesia on Wednesday vowed to take action after a British-owned cruise ship smashed into pristine coral reefs and caused extensive damage, as residents of the popular tourist site lamented "paradise" had been ruined.

The vice president demanded that the Caledonian Sky's operator pay compensation as authorities said a criminal act could have been committed and they may seek the extradition of the ship's captain.

Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse marine habitats on Earth, and attracts intrepid travellers and divers to its palm-fringed islands surrounded by coral and fish.

The accident happened this month when the 4,200-ton ship smashed into the reefs at low tide around Kri, one of hundreds of small islands in Raja Ampat, after taking tourists on a bird-watching expedition.

The boat, which was carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew, became grounded on the reefs and only refloated later on a high tide. Numerous attempts to free it using a tug boat failed, and only caused further damage to the corals.

Residents of Raja Ampat, located in the remote eastern region of Papua, have expressed anger at the impact on tourism and livelihoods of fishermen, while the government has reacted with fury.

"The boat has insurance -- they have to pay," Vice President Jusuf Kalla said, referring to the ship's operator.

- 'Devastated' local community -

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that the devastation of the reef "will not be tolerated".

"The government is very concerned and very worried about this incident and certainly all steps will be taken to ensure accountability."

He added one step the government could take was to seek the extradition of the ship's captain back to Indonesia. Authorities say destruction of coral reef is against the law, and someone found guilty of deliberately carrying out such an act could be jailed for up to 10 years.

After Indonesia, the vessel sailed on to the Philippines and officials have expressed anger the captain did not stay in the country while the damage was still being assessed.

Martin Makusi, a local tourist guide and owner of a homestay in Raja Ampat, said he was "devastated" by the destruction of the reefs.

"This incident makes me sad, disappointed and angry because the coral reefs in Raja Ampat are like paradise for us," he told AFP.

Ricardo Tapilatu, a marine researcher from the University of Papua who headed a team assessing the impact, has said the March 4 accident damaged an estimated 13,500 square metres (145,000 square feet) of coral reef which could cost up to $16.2 million to restore.

Noble Caledonia, the British-based tour company that operates the Caledonian Sky, said they were "very upset" by the damage, were working to reach a settlement with the government and had set up a fund to help repair the reef.

"We value our relationships around the world with local people and we are sorry to have impacted the local community," the company said in a statement.

Environment Ministry to Take Over Raja Ampat Investigation
Jakarta Globe 17 Mar 17;

Jakarta. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has taken over an investigation into the destroyed coral reefs off the shores of the Raja Ampat islands in West Papua after a British cruise ship ran aground earlier this month.

The Minister of Maritime Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti, who had previously headed the investigation, handed the case over to the Environment Ministry on Thursday (16/03).

"The case will be handled by the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the Coordinating Maritime Ministry. We channeled our initial findings over to those ministries,” Susi said.

Meanwhile, the chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy, Adm. Ade Supandi, has ordered the main naval base near Raja Ampat to assist in providing security to the affected area.

Security monitoring will cover nearly 1,600 square meters of damaged coral reef beds caused by the British cruise ship Caledonian Sky.

Ade has also instructed Navy personnel to assist any related officials conducting investigations in the area.

"Even though it was not its intent, the cruise ship caused significant damage. I have instructed the nearby naval base to evaluate how the incident occurred," Ade said on Thursday.

"But it is clear that a state ministry will take charge. Whether they will decide to press charges or [apply] other measures, we will be provide any assistance needed," he added.

A preliminary investigation estimated that the cruise ship damaged nearly 1,600 square meters of coral reef at a diving site known as Crossover Reef, as the ship ran aground in shallow waters during low tide on March 4.

Experts involved in the investigation estimated that it will take years before the coral reefs begin to recover.

The central government will seek compensation of up to $1.92 million, according to the environmental science and conservation news and information website, Mongabay.

Local government to check sailing permit of MV Caledonian Sky
Antara 16 Mar 17;

Manokwari, West Papua (ANTARA News) - The West Papua provincial government will review the sailing permit of the British-owned cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky to enter into the waters of Raja Ampat, according to the local government spokesman Nataniel D. Mandacan.

"Any ship entering the territorial waters of West Papua should carry a permit, including if it entered into the Raja Ampat waters," Mandacan remarked here on Friday.

According to Mandacan, ships sailing into any territorial waters are required to carry a license, including the Bahamma-flagged Caledonian Sky, which entered the waters of Raja Ampat and crashed into a coral reef on March 4, 2017.

The chairman of the drafting team of the conservation of West Papua noted that he will immediately urge the local Department of Transportation to check if the cruise ship has a sailing permit, including for its trip in the waters of Raja Ampat.

Mandacan said the Caledonian Sky should have taken the right route by taking into account the conditions and depth of the sea.

"The ship must pay for the damage and (the government should) review if it has violated other rules that should have been followed," he said.

He added that the Caledonian Sky, which ran aground in the waters of Raja Ampat and caused extensive damage to the coral reefs in the area, was a serious concern for the West Papua provincial government, and that the central government, through the relevant ministry, has taken steps to resolve the case.

Investigations are still ongoing and the investigators, along with Indonesias conservation team, will reassess the damage caused by the Caledonian Sky.

According to the local police chief, the initial inquiry revealed that the direct impact of the incident was the destruction of 1,600 square meters of coral reefs in the territorial waters of West Weigeo in Raja Ampat.(*)

MV Caledonia Sky is owned by Swedish company: British ambassador
Antara 18 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The MV Caledonia Sky cruise ship that damaged the coral reefs in Raja Ampat, West Papua, was owned and operated by a Swedish company.

"A cruise ship MV Caledonia Sky is owned and operated by a Swedish company and not a British firm," British Ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik stated after a meeting with Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan here on Friday.

During the meeting, Ambassador Malik discussed and exchanged views with Senior Minister Panjaitan on the destruction of coral reefs in Raja Ampat, West Papua.

The ambassador expressed concern over the damage caused to the coral reefs in the region. The ambassador offered continued support to the Indonesian governments efforts to conduct investigations for dealing with the destruction to the coral reefs.

"The investigation is expected to be completed soon," the ambassador stated.

Meanwhile, Minister Panjaitan noted that the status of Captain Keith Michael Taylor was complicated.

"The captain is a British passport holder but lives in Florida, the US. A Swedish company operates the ship, but MV Caledonia Sky was bearing the flag of the Bahamas," the minister pointed out.

Hence, he will invite and contact representatives of these countries in an attempt to solve the problem.

He affirmed that the government will undertake all necessary efforts to file a lawsuit related to the case.

The MV Caledonian Sky cruise ship, which ran aground onto a coral reef off Raja Ampat District in West Papua on March 4, 2017, had resulted in a huge loss to the district.

The damage caused by Caledonian Sky, carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members aboard, was due to the negligence of the its captain, according to the Raja Ampat district government.

The 4,290-tonne ship, which was on a 16-night journey from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, damaged approximately 1.3 hectares of coral at a diving site known as the Crossover Reef in Raja Ampat.

The accident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystems structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora, and stylophora.

Raja Ampat Tourism Office Chief Yusdi Lamatenggo remarked in the West Papua provincial city of Sorong on Wednesday that the 90-meter-long ship, owned by tour operator Noble Caledonia, sailed to the island of Gan for bird-watching but went unnoticed by the local government.

Lamatenggo noted that the Raja Ampat district government came to know of the ship after receiving reports that it had run aground and inflicted significant damage to one of the worlds most biodiverse reefs, which have been voted among the best diving spots in the world.

The results of field investigations conducted by the local government indicated that the vessel entered Gam Island through proper channels but followed the wrong route and ran aground after the bird-watching activity.

Hence, he remarked that the government believes the incident was caused due to the negligence of the captain of the sophisticated ship, which had advanced detection tools.(*)

Caledonian Sky’s captain made similar mistake in Medan: Minister
The Jakarta Post 17 Mar 17;
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has said the captain of UK cruise vessel MV Caledonian Sky, which recently ran aground in Raja Ampat, West Papua, had previously made a similar mistake, in which his vessel entered shallow waters in Medan, North Sumatra, destroying sea biota in the area.

“We have data on the ship captain’s mistake in Medan,” said Luhut on Thursday. Therefore, the minister said, he very much regretted the decision of local authorities to release and let the Caledonian Sky vessel’s captain to leave Raja Ampat waters after it damaged coral reefs in the area.

Luhut said his ministry would investigate the parties that had permitted MV Caledonian Sky to continue its travel after the incident. The vessel should have not been permitted to leave the area.

“We will look into it first. There might have been improper procedures [applied by our authorities]," he said as quoted by in Jakarta on Thursday.

The government has dispatched an integrated team, which involves the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister and the Transportation Ministry.

Luhut said the government would also take legal action over the incident. “Within the next two or three days, an official statement from the government will be released."

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said MV Caledonian Sky’s captain and owner could face both criminal and civil lawsuits. In terms of criminal prosecution, the vessel’s captain could be charged with violating Law No.32/2009 on environmental protection and management.

The cruise ship ran aground in shallow waters in Raja Ampat and destroyed coral reefs in the area on March 4 when it carried 102 tourists who wanted to enjoy bird-watching in Waigeo. (hol/ebf)

Raja Ampat indigenous communities saddened by damaged coral reefs
The Jakarta Post 18 Mar 17;

Indigenous communities from Yembuba village in Raja Ampat regency, West Papua, were saddened by the damage to the coral reefs after British cruise vessel MV Caledonian Sky ran aground in shallow waters in the area last week.

“For decades, we have been preserving the coral reefs, which were even protected by our ancestors. But within hours, a cruise ship destroyed the 1.3-hectare area,” Yembuba village head Habel Sawiyai said as quoted by Antara in Sorong, on Friday.

He further said waters in Yembuba village were protected by a customary law local people called sasi. Sasi, which had been passed down generations, prohibited people from catching fish illegally and destroying coral reefs in the area.

The customary law also supported local administrations to conserve sea ecosystems for the development of tourism in Raja Ampat, he explained.

“Frankly, we, as traditional communities, feel sad to see damage to the coral reefs. Moreover, we have not been included by the government in the process to claim compensation for the damage,” said Habel.

Meanwhile, Raja Ampat Customary Council head Kristian Thebu said separately that the council fully entrusted the governmental process to claim compensation for the damaged coral reefs.

However, it would be ideal if the government could involve the residents of Yembuba village, who had lived in the area for generations watching over the conserved coral reefs that were destroyed by the cruise ship.

“Local people must be involved in the settlement of tourism problems in Raja Ampat,” said Kristian. (mrc/ebf)

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Stopping global warming is only way to save Great Barrier Reef, scientists warn

Improvements to water quality or fishing controls don’t prevent underwater heatwaves damaging coral, studies of mass bleaching events reveal
Joshua Robertson The Guardian 15 Mar 17;

The survival of the Great Barrier Reef hinges on urgent moves to cut global warming because nothing else will protect coral from the coming cycle of mass bleaching events, new research has found.

The study of three mass bleaching events on Australian reefs in 1998, 2002 and 2016 found coral was damaged by underwater heatwaves regardless of any local improvements to water quality or fishing controls.

The research, authored by 46 scientists and published in Nature, raises serious questions about Australia’s long-term conservation plan for its famous reef, which invests heavily in lifting water quality but is silent on climate-change action.

The researchers said the findings of their paper, Global Warming and Recurrent Mass Bleaching of Corals, applied to coral reefs worldwide.

Its publication comes the same day its lead author, Terry Hughes, is due to embark on an aerial survey to confirm the extent of another mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.

It is the first mass bleaching to occur for a second consecutive year on the reef, which suffered its worst ever damage in 2016 when 22% of coral was killed off in a single hit.

The study, which was unable to take in the effects of the latest event, warned a fourth mass bleaching event “within the next decade or two” gave the badly damaged northern section of the reef a “slim” chance of ever recovering to its former state.

Hughes said the latest event, which was notable for having nothing to do with the warming effect of El NiƱo weather patterns, highlighted how research on mass bleaching, even when fast-tracked, was unable to keep pace with the reef’s current state.

“It broke my heart to see so many corals dying on northern reefs on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016,” Hughes said.

“With rising temperatures due to global warming, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these events. A fourth event after only one year would be a major blow to the reef.”

Hughes said he hoped coming weeks would “cool off quickly and this year’s bleaching won’t be anything like last year”.

“The severity of the 2016 bleaching was off the chart.”

Hughes, the convener of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, said the study clearly showed the need for climate change action in Australia’s reef conservation plan.

He said it also showed the folly of Australian and Queensland government support for one of the world’s largest coalmines, Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine, which will export coal in ships through reef waters.

This was not only because of the carbon emissions from the coal, but also from dredging and marine traffic through the reef.

“In its weakened state, the reef cannot afford the Adani mine,” he said.

The publication of the research comes the same week as Queensland government officials meet with Unesco officials in Paris to appeal for more time to make good on conservation efforts to ward off an “in-danger” listing for the reef. It also coincides with a visit by the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to India to lobby Adani to proceed with its mine plan.

The study found that 91% of coral on the reef had suffered from bleaching over the past two decades.

The researchers concluded that “local management of coral reef fisheries and water quality affords little, if any, resistance to recurrent severe bleaching events: even the most highly protected reefs and near-pristine areas are highly susceptible to severe heat stress.”

“On the remote northern Great Barrier Reef, hundreds of individual reefs were severely bleached in 2016 regardless of whether they were zoned as no-entry, no-fishing, or open to fishing, and irrespective of inshore–offshore differences in water quality.”

Likewise, past exposure to bleaching, or relative resistance among certain corals to minor bleaching, gave no protection in the face of severe heat stress, the study found.

Local protection of fish stocks and improved water quality “may, given enough time, improve the prospects for recovery”.

“However, bolstering resilience will become more challenging and less effective in coming decades because local interventions have had no discernible effect on resistance of corals to extreme heat stress, and, with the increasing frequency of severe bleaching events, the time for recovery is diminishing.

“Securing a future for coral reefs, including intensively managed ones such as the Great Barrier Reef, ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming.”

Bleaching comes when heat stress forces corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, which leaves them stark white.

Prolonged heat stress will kill the corals, but death rates take at least six months to confirm.

The researchers said fast-growing coral took 10-15 years to fully recover while longer-lived corals “necessarily take many decades”.

This kind of “sustained absence of another severe bleaching event (or other significant disturbance) … is no longer realistic while global temperatures continue to rise”, they said.

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Huge plastic waste footprint revealed - single-use soft drink bottles

Roger Harrabin BBC 15 Mar 17;

Soft drinks makers admit more needs to be done to stop people discarding single-use plastic bottles.

Their UK trade body says it will work with government to reduce the number of bottles ending in the sea.

It follows research from Greenpeace suggesting the top six global firms sell plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes a year.

The biggest brand Coca-Cola is under fire for refusing to disclose how much plastic it produces.

A study estimated that more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing more than 250,000 tonnes were afloat at sea, and a recent paper showed that even marine organisms 10km deep had ingested plastic fragments.

Gavin Partington, from the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “We should all be concerned about the problem of marine litter.

“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly.
“However, we recognise more needs to be done to increase recycling and reduce littering.”

The Greenpeace study found the six companies surveyed use a combined average of 6.6% recycled plastic in their bottles, and none have commitments to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles they use.

Louise Edge, from Greenpeace, said UK drinks makers have until recently been resisting efforts to reduce marine litter through bottle recycling schemes.

She said: “It’s clear that if we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic. These companies need to take drastic action now.”

Policy movement

After decades of concern, policy on plastic waste in the UK is starting to move. The plastic bags charge has drastically reduced the purchase of throw-away bags, and plastic bottles are now a target.

Scotland has trialled a scheme in which people are rewarded at stores with cash back or discount vouchers when they return plastic bottles. Coca Cola reversed its previous opposition to the trials.

In Germany a 25-cent refundable charge is imposed on plastic bottles.

In some US states a similar charge on aluminium cans prompts children to scour the streets looking for discarded cans to claim the cash back.

The UK government is devising a new litter policy.

The issues aren't straightforward. Minister are keen not to alienate people who already put their used bottles into their own recycling bin. Under a deposit scheme they would be obliged to return bottles to a special recycling point to get their money back.

But it does seem that public support for a deposit scheme is growing.

Millions of single-use plastic soft drink bottles sold every year, report shows
A survey of five of the six biggest soft drinks firms found just 7% of throwaway plastic bottles are made from recycled materials
Press Association The Guardian 15 Mar 17;

More than two million tonnes of throwaway plastic soft drinks bottles are sold each year, with only a small proportion made from recycled materials, research reveals.

A survey by Greenpeace found five of six global soft drinks firms sold single-use plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes – only 6.6% of which was recycled plastic.

If figures from Coca-Cola, which did not disclose how many tonnes of plastic it sells, were included, the numbers would be much higher, the campaigners said.

Single-use drinks bottles are a visible part of the problem of plastics pollution in the world’s oceans, forming the most common type of plastic packaging found washed up on shorelines globally, Greenpeace said.

Millions of tonnes of plastics are ending up in the ocean every year, harming marine wildlife, taking centuries to break down and spreading toxic chemicals.

Greenpeace wants soft drinks brands to do more to tackle marine plastic pollution, for example by producing more 100% recycled bottles and committing to phasing out the use of throwaway plastic.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We know that plastic bottles are a huge ocean-polluter and in the UK alone we dump 16m of them in our environment every day.

“If we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic.

“Companies need to move away from single-use plastic, embrace reusable packaging and make sure the rest is made from 100% recycled content.”

Companies responding to the survey are taking action including reducing plastic by making bottles thinner or using bioplastics which are not made from oil, and removing “problem plastics” to make them more recyclable.

But Greenpeace said lighter and bioplastic bottles still contributed to marine pollution, and did not compensate for the growth in the total volume being produced.

There was also a move away from refillable bottles, low levels of recycled plastic used in drinks containers and opposition to deposit return schemes which pay people to return empty bottles, according to the green group.

The firms surveyed by Greenpeace were Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr Pepper Snapple and Nestle.

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said: “We should all be concerned about the problem of marine litter.

“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly.

“However, we recognise more needs to be done to increase recycling and reduce littering.

“We want to work with campaigners, central and local government and other companies in the supply chain to support action that achieves these aims.”

A Coca-Cola Great Britain spokeswoman said: “For decades we have actively supported recycling programmes, anti-litter campaigns and ocean clean-up, but it is clear more action is needed.

“That’s why last year we began a review of our sustainable packaging strategy and recently agreed to support the trial of a well-designed deposit return scheme in Scotland to understand whether it will help to improve recycling rates and reduce litter.”

The company has reduced the amount of packaging by 15% since 2007 in Great Britain, and its bottles in the country contain 25% recycled material.

It will also publish new sustainability plans in June.

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