Best of our wild blogs: 9 Feb 18

NGOs to Singapore banks: Act on climate change and stop funding coal

Demand for sand leads to global ecological crisis

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Some local F&B outlets to take shark's fin off their menu

Jan Lee The New Paper 9 Feb 18;

About 89 Singapore establishments in food and hospitality industry have decided to take shark's fin soup and other shark products off their menus over the course of this year, heeding the World Wide Fund of Nature's (WWF) call to action last year.

The decision was announced by the WWF yesterday. It is the largest collective pledge by the local industry to date.

Shark's fin, often served in a soup, is a traditional delicacy and mainstay of Chinese weddings and banquets.

The establishments can phase out shark's fin in three ways - remove it from menus, stop serving it for a trial period or remove it from menus and serve it only upon request.

The 89 establishments took either the first or third option.

Hotel group Pan Pacific, which has 34 properties and seven restaurants globally, opted for a clean break. Since Jan 1, shark's fin and other shark products have been taken off menus.

Its vice-president of food and beverage, Mr Golden Whitehead, added: "Neither will shark's fin be available upon request, as Pan Pacific Hotels Group will not sell, display or purchase shark's fin or shark products any more.

"But we will honour wedding packages with shark's fin if these were signed before Jan 1."

Local Chinese restaurant group Crystal Jade will be taking shark's fin soup off this year's Chinese New Year menu.

Shark's fin will be phased out of its main menus by July 31 and served only upon request.

Mr Douglas DeBoer, chief executive officer (CEO) of Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts, is not worried that business will take a hit.


He said: "We feel that many younger and environmentally conscious customers will appreciate and support that we have taken this big step forward."

Food delivery platform Foodpanda is also taking the plunge.

Currently, 93 of some 3,800 merchants on its platform offer shark's fin or shark products. But come next month, the items will be completely phased out of the platform's menu.

Miss Laura Kantor, Foodpanda Singapore's head of marketing and sustainability lead, said: "This is not a decision we took lightly, because we still want to work with our merchants to offer our customers choice. But we felt this was an important initiative for us to join."

Ms Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF Singapore, said: "By the time WWF reached out to them for the pledge over the past year, many of the businesses were already primed to have this discussion with us."

According to a report last year by WWF and Traffic, a wildlife-trade monitoring network, Singapore is the world's second largest shark's fin trader by value after Hong Kong, with imports standing at $65 million and exports at $50.4 million.

Some restaurants are still serving the dish.

A spokesman for Jumbo Group said: "We believe in providing customers various food options that cater to different preferences. As such, we also offer alternatives, such as fish maw soup with crab meat, to replace shark's fin soup."

More food and hospitality companies removing shark’s fin from menus
SIAU MING EN Today Online 9 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE — About 90 establishments based here will completely remove shark's fin from their menus or serve them only upon request, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Friday (Feb 9).

Those that have signed such commitments with the non-profit conservation organisation for the year ahead include food delivery firm Foodpanda, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding and AccorHotels.

"This move signals a collective effort by the food and beverage industry to address the serious threat that shark fishing poses," the WWF said in its press release.

Based on figures from global environmental network the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a quarter of sharks and rays are facing extinction. A separate study in 2013 estimated that about 100 million sharks are killed each year globally, driven by the demand for shark's fins and meat.

Yet, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan remain top importers of shark's fin. Singapore alone imported 14,134 tonnes and exported 11,535 tonnes of shark's fin between 2005 and 2013, based on a report released by wildlife monitoring network Traffic and WWF last year.

WWF chief executive officer Elaine Tan said that sharks help maintain balance in ocean ecosystems and keep fish populations healthy. The collapse of shark populations will eventually affect access to seafood, a crucial source of protein for people in Singapore.

Referring to its Singapore Shark Fin Consumer Survey in 2016, which found that eight out of 10 Singaporeans have stopped ordering shark's fin, Ms Tan said that the move by the F&B sector will further shut down that demand.

"This commitment by F&B establishments is crucial to saving sharks and the ecosystems that depend on them. As sustainable options do not exist for sharks, halting consumer demand is the only solution today," she added.

To clamp down on the sale of shark's fin this year, the establishments may choose to completely remove shark's fin from their menus and set a policy against serving this food item — which was what 44 out of the 89 establishments committed themselves to doing.

Likewise, they may remove shark's fin from their menus and serve it only when requested or on a case-by-case basis, which was what the remaining 45 establishments pledged to do.

Establishments may also choose to stop serving shark's fin for a trial period of time.


Since WWF's efforts to get Singapore's food and hospitality industries to take action to phase out shark products a year ago, this number has grown from 16 to 89 establishments in the past year.

This is WWF's largest collective pledge by the industries here to date, though the list is non-exhaustive.

Ms Tan said that customer demand has been the primary reason why these establishments have taken the pledge. From WWF's discussions with chefs, sales teams and upper management of these businesses, these pledges reflect the strong public support here for the removal of shark products, she added.

Environmental issues related to consumption of shark meat and fins are not new among consumers in Singapore and abroad. About 18,000 hotels worldwide have removed and banned shark's fin from their menus, she said.

"As (this) movement picks up across the world, we see a greater willingness by businesses to take action on this important issue," she added.

Starting March 5, Foodpanda will remove shark-based dishes from the menus of the restaurants listed on its platforms.

Its head of marketing and sustainability lead Laura Kantor said that 93 out of 3,800 restaurants on the platform serve shark's fin and less than 1 per cent of total orders include shark's fin.

"While the number may seem insignificant, due to the large volume of orders Foodpanda receives, this is a sizable number," she added.


Since the start of the year, the 34 properties and seven restaurants around the world under the Pan Pacific Hotels Group — which is based here — have stopped serving shark's fin. They will not be available upon request and the group will not sell, display or buy shark's fin or shark products anymore.

Previously, shark's fin was served at the group's Chinese restaurants and was available on wedding menus. The group will, however, continue to honour wedding packages with shark's fin if these were signed before Jan 1.

Its vice-president of food and beverage Golden Whitehead said that guests have been generally open and are not insistent on being served shark's fin. The restaurants would also offer alternatives to those who do ask for shark's fin, such as bird's nest soup and sea cucumber.

Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding will remove shark's fin dishes from its Chinese New Year set menus. From Jul 31, it will also remove shark's fin from the menus of its 28 restaurants.

The group's chief executive Douglas DeBoer said that the commitment is part of its corporate initiative to become a more socially and environmentally responsible business.

The company is confident that the move will improve customers' perceptions and lead them to patronise its restaurants more often. In addition, many younger and environmentally conscious customers will appreciate and be supportive that it has taken this big step forward, he added.

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AVA removes crows, nests in Toa Payoh after attacks on residents

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 8 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - The authorities have stepped in to manage the crow population in Toa Payoh this week after attacks on residents.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told The Straits Times on Thursday (Feb 8) that it had received two reports of crow attacks near Block 205, Toa Payoh North, since Monday.

"To ensure public safety, AVA took prompt follow up action to manage the crow population by removing crows and crow nests," the authority said.

A 55-year-old hairdresser, who gave her name as Xu Jinli, told Chinese-language newspaper Shin Min Daily News on Thursday that crows are often seen in the area.

However, groups of them have recently become aggressive and repeatedly harassed residents, she said.

Ms Xu said at least 30 passers-by were attacked by crows within two hours on Thursday afternoon.

Several were bitten on their heads.

While there is a sign displayed in the estate to warn residents against feeding the crows, Ms Xu said that she has noticed that some people giving them bread and other food items.

The AVA said crows are particularly protective of their young and may attack when the fledglings are in the nest or when they sense that the fledglings are being threatened.

The AVA advised the public to "avoid picking up crow fledglings that may have fallen from the nests, as they might be mistaken for predators".

In addition, the public should ensure proper food waste disposal and not feed the birds.

"Easily available food sources will encourage birds to congregate and result in an increase in their numbers," the AVA said.

Crow-related issues can be reported to the AVA on 1800 476 1600.

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Malaysia: Dredging danger threatens turtle landing site

ivan loh The Star 8 Feb 18;

SAND dredging is destroying a known turtle landing site in Pasir Panjang, Segari, Manjung, say environmental bodies

The activity, near the estuary of Sungai Puyu, was spotted bylocal fishermen who then informed several environmental non-governmental organisations.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the organisation is concerned with the activity as the area is one of the main turtle landing sites in Perak.

“We are concerned that it will adversely affect the main turtle landing area here.

“Based on the Second National Physical Plan, all turtle landing areas in Peninsular Malaysia are classified as Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rank 1 and no development or land-use change is permitted except for low-impact nature tourism, research and education,” Mohamed Idris said, adding that the coastal area from the Pasir Panjang Recreational Forest to Pasir Pandak Beach, Tanjung Hantu, is a frequent turtle landing area.

“Turtle-egg collectors appointed by the Fisheries Department have often discover nests here,” he said.

“In fact, the coastal area and sandbanks near the estuary of the Puyu River are where most turtle nesting areas are found,” Mohamed Idris added.

He said the dredging is very likely to frighten away the animals and destroy the physical structure of the coastal area, rendering the area unsuitable for turtles arriving to lay eggs.

“It will alter the shape of the estuary and river bed, aside from disrupting the tidal currents and natural hydrological processes.

“We are also concerned that sand dredging at night with lights and noise may cause disturbances that keep turtles from coming to shore,” he said.

“Another possible impact is coastal erosion,” he added.

Other organisations and experts joining SAM in voicing concern over the matter are Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia, Pertubuhan Alam Sekitar Sejahtera Malaysia, Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam, Turtle Conservation Society Malaysia, Persatuan Rekreasi Alam Sekitar Perak, and water quality expert Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

Mohamed Idris said the long-term impact of the dredging will not only effect the turtle landing area, but also impact the area’s ecosystem and endanger the habitat of other animals in the area.

“We hope the state will consider stopping and not permitting any activity and land-use conversion that will impact an area that, under the government’s own definition, is an environmentally sensitive area.

“We also hope that the state or the relevant agencies would comply with and adopt physical plans, especially the National Physical Plan and other related policies, to protect the environment,” he said.

According to SAM field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman, apart from an excavator, a barge and pipes have been in the area for at least a week.

He said the beach was a landing site for the endangered Green and Olive Ridley turtles.

The turtles land and lay their eggs in the area between March and June.

Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam assistant secretary Noor Ismady Ahmad Radzuan said he had checked with the Drainage and Irrigation Department and was told that the dredging activity was to alleviate flooding issues in Segari.

“Let it be known that the affected area is mostly oil palm plantations and there are no people staying nearby.

“We find it really suspicious as to why the river os being deepened there,” he said, adding that there is also a signboard stating the area is being dredged for sand.

“We are also suspicious as to where the sand that is being removed is going,” he added.

Noor Ismady said he is saddened by the activity in the area.

“We have been doing so much conservation work to ensure the environment here is looked after.

“ Just last year, we found several turtle nest here with eggs, at the very spot the dredging is being conducted,” he said

“We have already lodged a report to the Manjung District Office and hope the DID will also look into what is actually going on in the area,” he added.

When contacted, a State Land and Mines Department spokesman said they the matter is being investigated.

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Malaysia: Rampaging elephants destroy Kluang farmers' crops, terrorise villagers

ADNAN IBRAHIM New Straits Times 8 Feb 18;

KLUANG: Residents of Kampung Seri Lukut here are living in fear of a herd of elephants which has been regularly rampaging through their village since last week, and have destroyed swathes of their oil palm plantations.

Villagers estimate that they have suffered thousands of ringgit worth of losses due to destroyed crops – but their worry now extends to their properties and lives, as they say some of the elephants have even “attacked” their homes.

The incursion has residents now questioning the effectiveness of an 18-kilometre fence along the village’s border which was built specifically to prevent infiltrations by wild elephants.

"Based on information from other villagers, the attacks… involve around 18 to 20 elephants which have appeared every night throughout this week.

“(Up to) 75 small farmers cultivating palm oil, banana, rubber, areca, sugar cane and coconut have had to bear thousands of ringgit in losses.

"This has forced the villagers to form a safety team, as they also worry about the safety of their families.

“This situation has also raised questions about the effectiveness of the 18-kilometre fence, as well as numerous efforts taken to prevent these wild elephants’ invasion,”

said Kampung Seri Lukut village head, Hasbullah Muhamad.

He said the elephants’ rampage tends to occur between 6pm and 7am.

“I hope the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) will take immediate action to solve this ongoing issue,” he added.

Farmer Mohd Yusuf Ibrahim said that rampaging elephants is not a new phenomenon, but that this episode is the worst he has ever seen, with two hectares of his oil palm plantation destroyed.

"Many efforts have been made to prevent this problem, but they have been unsuccessful.

"The question now is whether the fences are still working. There is no inspection or maintenance work being done by the parties responsible," he added.

When contacted, Johor Perhilitan deputy director, Shazwan Faiz Mohd Rozi, confirmed that he had received a report of the incident and that an investigation is being conducted.

He said that they will monitor the situation to ensure that the animals cease destroying the villagers’ crops or attack their houses.

"(Concerns) that the elephant fence is not working will be investigated, because regular maintenance should be done by the appointed party," he added.

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Thailand: Snorkellers slammed for damaging coral for photos

Bangkok Post 8 Feb 18;

Marine scientists have criticised snorkellers who allegedly sat on undersea coral for photographs in a southern bay declared off-limits to allow for coral rehabilitation.

Jirapong Jeewarongkakul, former marine scientist at WWF Thailand, wrote on his Facebook page early Thursday that a group of tourists defied an entry ban in Ao Mae Yai bay of Surin Islands in Phangnga province.

The area is closed to allow for the rehabilitation of bleached coral. A tourist sat on coral to pose for photos, and ignored requests that she leave the area - even arguing that she was merely sitting on a rock, Mr Jirapong wrote.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine academic at Kasetsart University, wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation was informed of the matter and its National Parks Office was launching an investigation.

He said Ao Mae Yai had been one of the densest coral colonies in the country, and has been closed since 1995 due to coral bleaching. The closure would allow the regeneration of marine life that lived on coral, he said.

"On a big coral reef, there is no 'rock' - only dead coral that provides a habitat for creatures so tiny they can't be seen with the naked eye. Stepping on, sitting on or touching the coral in any way disturbs that process.

"There are many places on earth you can pose for pictures without breaking rules or harming our little undersea friends," Mr Thon said.

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Indonesia: Deforestation threatens orangutan population

Otniel Tamindael Antara 8 Feb 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Environmental crimes such as illegal logging and conversion of rain forests into oil palm plantations are putting high pressure on ecosystems and the population of Bornean Orangutan, "Pongo pygmaeus morio".

Illegal logging, land-clearing and conversion activities are considered to be the greatest threats to the "Heart of Borneo". Of particular concern is the conversion of natural forests to oil palm and timber plantations.

As in many tropical areas around the world, Kalimantan rain forests are being cut and degraded for timber, palm oil, pulp, rubber and minerals, and as a result, the orangutan population continues to decline to near extinction.

The results of a recent survey by the orangutan conservation agency, the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, noted that the orangutan population in the Lesan River Protected Forest (HLSL) continues to decline year by year.

COP is a non-governmental organization that focuses on orangutan preservation and protection in Indonesia, including those in East Kalimantan.

With an area of 13,565 hectares, the Lesan River Protected Forest is an important habitat for orangutans and a variety of rare and legally protected wildlife such as sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), according to COP Habitat Protection Program Manager Ramadhani.

However, conservation efforts are sabotaged by palm oil companies, so the forested areas that should be the connecting corridors between HLSL and other orangutan habitats are running out.

Hence, Ramadhani asserted that very serious efforts must be taken to maintain the remaining population of Bornean Orangutan.

Local residents has found a male orangutan, aged between five and seven years, in critical condition in Teluk Pandan Village of East Kutai District, but the animal then died on Tuesday after being treated by Kutai National Park in Bontang.

The body of the orangutan was moved from the national park on Sunday to the city of Bontang for an autopsy.

During the autopsy conducted at the Pupuk Kaltim Hospital in Bontang city on Wednesday, the authority removed 48 bullets from the body of a dead orangutan.

Ramadhani noted in a statement that an x-ray showed the presence of some 130 bullets in the body of the dead orangutan, but the autopsy team managed to remove only some of them.

"The autopsy has run for four hours, and 48 bullets were removed from the body," Ramadhani remarked.

The autopsy was conducted by the Bontang police and local officials of the Forestry and Environment Ministry.

The bullets were fired all across the orangutan`s body, and 74 bullets were found in the head. The rest hit his arms, legs, and chest.

In addition, the team also found several wounds and some 19 new injuries allegedly caused by sharp objects.

Ramahdani said the orangutan allegedly died of inflammation from his old and new injuries.

In May 2016, a similar case had occurred not far from the current location, but the case remained unsolved until now.

Therefore, the Center for Orangutan Protection will work in coordination with the police and environment ministry to solve this case.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has said the government would not hesitate to crack down on the perpetrators of the massacre of orangutans.

"We are legally pushing for cases to be processed by law," Nurbaya said to respond to the a carcass of a headless Bornean orangutan found floating in Kalahien River in South Barito, Central Kalimantan on January 15, 2018.

The environment and forestry minister affirmed that the massacre of protected animals, including the Bornean orangutan, is not justified for any reason, so the offender must be prosecuted and punished according to the rules.

Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) has expressed its regret over the discovery of the Bornean orangutan carcass, which was full of wounds from sharp objects, in the Kalahien River.

From the scars all over the bodies of the orangutan, it was evident that the protected animal had died from conflict with humans, according to Nyaru Menteng BOSF Public Relations official, Monterado Friedman, in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.

Further, Friedman remarked that the Nyaru Menteng BOSF strongly condemned the human actions that resulted in the death of the Bornean orangutan.

The orangutan is the only great ape that exists outside Africa and has been listed as an endangered species. Three other species of apes, namely the gorilla; the chimpanzee, or Pan Troglodytes; and the Bonobo, or Pan Panicus; are all found only in Africa.

Two types of orangutans are found living in Indonesia. These have been identified as the Bornean orangutan, or the Pongo pygmaeus, and the Sumatran orangutan, or the Pongo Abelii, but they have been classified as critically endangered.

According to a recent study, around 70 percent of orangutan habitats are in an extremely vulnerable state, because they are located outside conservation areas, a fact that can threaten the primate`s preservation.

In its efforts to save the protected species from extinction, the BOSF is keen to release as many Bornean orangutans as possible into their natural habitat.

In cooperation with the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), the BOSF last year had released 12 orangutans into the Bukit Baka National Park in Katingan District.

Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Australia: Climate change threatens its natural wonders and tourism industry - Study

David Fogarty Straits Times 8 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Many of Australia's iconic natural attractions, such as beaches, reefs and national parks, are under growing threat from climate change, putting the nation's tourism industry and species diversity at risk, a study released on Thursday (Feb 8) says.

Heatwaves, storms, rising sea levels and coastal erosion are increasing risks to the nation's A$40 billion ($41.5 billion) tourism industry - the country's second largest export earner after iron ore, the report by environmental advocacy group the Climate Council said. The sector employs nearly 600,000 people, or about 5 per cent of the nation's workforce.

The Council said Australia's tourism industry is extremely vulnerable, mainly due to its reliance on nature-based attractions that are already feeling the impact of rising sea levelsand increasing extreme weather events.

It said the top five attractions for international visitors were beaches, wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef, wilderness areas and national parks and that some destinations could become "no-go" zones during peak season, for example, due to ever increasing temperatures.

That would likely mean international tourists choosing other destinations. Currently the top five nations for international visitors are New Zealand, China, Britain, the United States and Singapore.

The climate impacts would be widespread, especially in the northern half of the country, the report said.

For example, the Great Barrier Reef, Australia's most valuable tourist icon, suffered catastrophic coral bleaching caused by record hot ocean temperatures in 2016-17. Large areas of the reef in the north and central sections are now a ghostly white. Extreme coral bleaching could be the "new normal" by the 2030s, the report said, meaning a significant drop in fish abundance and coral diversity.

The reef also faces the risk of damage from more intense cyclones.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory and other tourist destinations in inland Australia also face increasing extreme heat and water scarcity.

By 2030, the Red Centre could experience more than 100 days above 35 degrees Celsius every year (19 days more than the current average), with that number rising over subsequent decades.

"Tourists succumbing to heat is bad for business," said Dr Liz Hanna, of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra.

"The extra heat from global warming will further reduce the tourist season and make some enterprises unviable," she said in comments to the Australian Science Media Centre.

The study said Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin, Fremantle and Adelaide are all projected to have at least a one hundred-fold increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events with a 0.5m sea level rise.

Higher temperatures and changed rainfall patterns in northern Australia also increase the chances of mosquito-borne diseases spreading.

Warmer seas are driving some species further south, such as the deadly irukandji jellyfish, which is already spreading south along the Queensland coast towards the Gold Coast.

Major sporting events could also be affected by hotter summers, while bushfires are also a growing threat from warmer, drier weather. The study pointed to recent climate modelling that shows cities such as Melbourne and Sydney could reach extreme summer temperatures of 50 deg C.

The study pointed to a growing number of eco-tourism projects that were a draw for visitors but said that globally the world needed to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels to limit the damage to the environment.

The authors said the federal and state governments had underplayed or ignored climate change risks to tourism and that many jobs were now at risk.

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Plastic waste 'building up' in Arctic

Roger Harrabin BBC 8 Feb 18;

Plastic waste is building up in the supposedly pristine wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic, scientists say.

Researchers are particularly concerned about huge concentrations of microplastic fragments in sea ice.

They say they've found plastic litter almost everywhere in the Arctic they have looked.

Norwegian fishermen are worried that their fish stocks may lose their reputation for being untouched by pollution.

Most of the large plastic waste there comes from discarded fishing gear.

And boat owners admit it will take hundreds of years to overcome a few reckless decades of using the sea as a dump.

Norway's environment minister says politicians in the past haven't fully registered the extent of the problem.

A synthesis report from the Norwegian Polar Institute to the recent Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø says there's a great need for more research into the extent of possible harm from plastic.

It says effects have been monitored so far on zooplankton, invertebrates, fish, seabirds, and mammals.

Research shows that up to 234 particles have been found concentrated into just one litre of melted Arctic sea ice. That's much higher than in the open ocean.

Researchers explain that sea ice forms from the top. By unfortunate coincidence, plastic particles also float at the surface, so they get bonded into the ice as it freezes.

They are not yet sure how much of a threat this presents.

But they are worried about the impact on Arctic wildlife if the particles are released as sea ice continues to shrink.

Geir Wing Gabrielsen, one of the paper's authors, told BBC News: "We are finding more and more plastic waste in Svalbard, where I work. "The northern fulmar breeds in Svalbard.

"At the end of the 1970s we found very few plastic in their stomachs. In 2013 when we last investigated, some had more than 200 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

"Other creatures are getting entangled in nets washed up on beaches - like reindeer. Some die because they can't release their antlers - we find them every year."

He said in southern Norway pollution was dominated by plastics from the home - but in Svalbard 80% of it comes from fishing activities, local and distant.

Surveys suggest that fishing crews are increasingly aware of their responsibilities now.

Jan Roger Lerbukt, manager of Hermes Fishing in Tromsø told me: "In the past 20 years I've seen a change in awareness in everyone towards protecting the environment.

"Fishing has been in our soul for thousands of years. If there's any environmental threat to the fish it's also a threat to our livelihood and that's a big concern.

"We have a reputation for a pure product and we don't want that damaged."

He agreed that trawler crews used to throw tangled nets overboard, but says they now they return them to harbour.

He says they also salvage plastic litter they catch, under a scheme called Fishing for Litter.

More and more crews are using paper packaging and moving away from plastic tape, he said.

But on a short walk along a plastic-strewn beach in Skulsfjord near Tromsø, I found clear evidence of fishing ropes still being deliberately cut.

And in the open water, "ghost nets" are easy to find.

Bo Eide, an environment consultant for Tromsø Council, conducts litter-picking on the beaches.

"People see the pictures in brochures of the pristine Arctic and they book their holidays to come here," he tells me.

"They're sometimes rather shocked to find that the Arctic in close-up is no longer how it looks in the brochures."

Norway's environment Minister Ola Elvestuen told BBC News: "It's disturbing - there's nowhere on Earth that's so far away that its not affected by plastics.

"This should be a call for action. It's been known about for years, but the magnitude of it hasn't been taken in as it should have been. We must stop the plastic pollution."

Researchers say there's been no systematic microplastics survey of all parts of the Arctic. They hope to compile an inventory, potentially with the help of "citizen scientists".

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