Best of our wild blogs: 3 Apr 18

"Waves of Change" Poster Design Competition for kids and youths: Closing date 6 July
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

A Morning Birding at Bulim Grasslands
Singapore Bird Group

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Cock-eyed squid, athletic sea cucumbers uncovered by S'pore and Indonesian researchers off Java

Today Online 2 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE — Despite some choppy waters and initial sea-sickness, researchers from Singapore and Indonesia on a 14-day expedition off western and southern Java have unearthed an array of deep-sea creatures including giant sea cucumbers, peculiar scallops and a new category of sea stars.

The fourth day of the expedition was a bonanza for the team, which trawled to depths of almost 1,600m in waters between the Sunda Strait and Indian Ocean, it reported in an update posted on the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s website on Monday (April 2).

The 30 researchers and support crew had set off on March 23 from Jakarta on the Indonesian research vessel Baruna Jaya VIII. The South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 is the first such expedition that Singapore and Indonesia are organising together. It is also the first time the researchers are taking advantage of Wi-Fi on the vessel to post updates on social media almost daily.

“The collections so far have uncovered a large number of scientifically important species, including many new records for Indonesia and the region,” said Professor Peter Ng, Singapore’s chief scientist for the expedition.

Added Prof Ng, a crab expert: “It has been singularly exciting. I am particularly happy of course with my crabs and my cool ‘Darth Vader’ isopod!”

The Giant Sea isopod is a crustacean and the team has found at least two species, one of which was almost 30cm long. They are important deep-sea scavengers and have, thus far, not been officially recorded from Indonesia.

Indonesian expedition leader Dr Dwi Listyo Rahayu, a senior research scientist at the Research Centre for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said the discoveries have been “overwhelming and exciting”. She looked forward to finding more animals including deep-water hermit crabs, her research specialty.

Other creatures hauled up include a swimming sea cucumber, a cock-eyed squid and sea daisies (a category of sea stars).

The latter, measuring about 1cm in diameter and belonging to the Xyloplacidae family, is potentially new to science and one of the team’s most exciting finds so far. The scientists said the sea daisies live on sunken wood and were previously only known from New Zealand, Bahamas and the North Pacific.

And unlike the common perception of sea cucumbers as sluggish bottom-dwelling animals, the scientists said those in the deep sea are actually very athletic. One of those that they found was 10 to 15cm long and swims from one place to another using huge papillae (protrusions) on the back of its mouth.

The cock-eyed squid, about 8cm long, has one eye much larger than the other. It apparently swims with the larger eye looking downwards for food while the other peers upwards, presumably on the lookout for predators.

Sampling in unexplored areas has not been easy, the scientists said. Maps are not always reliable and the terrain can be rugged, causing some trawls and cores (to retrieve sediment samples) to fail completely.

But many of the scientists on board have never handled deep-sea animals before and were extremely excited each time a catch came up.

The team, which is expected to return to land on Thursday (April 5), said it will share more details of its discoveries soon.

Related links
Get daily updates!
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page
Their microsite

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Malaysia: Sabah villagers try to rescue stranded baby whale

stephanie lee The Star 2 Apr 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A baby whale has been found stranded on the shores off Kg Indarason Laut in Sabah's northern Kudat district early Monday.

The whale, measuring about 6m, is said to be slightly injured and weak.

Pictures of the whale have gone viral in Facebook.

It is learnt that wildlife officials have arrived at the scene to try and check on the whale's condition before attempting to guide it back to the open seas.

Beached whale makes appearance at Kampung Indarason, Kudat
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 2 Apr 18;

KUDAT: A whale, suspected to be a juvenile Bryde's whale, has been found beached at a coastal village here early this morning.

Kampung Indarason folks have alerted the authorities, including Tun Mustapha Park officials, around 6.30am on their discovery.

The 14.8-foot long whale is alive but appears to be weak. It also had some injuries and cuts on its body.

"The whale was earlier washed ashore but when the high tide hit, it is partially in the waters.

"However it did not make any attempts to return to sea and our people and the authorities are here to keep tabs on the animal while we wait for the Wildlife Rescue Unit to arrive," said Sabah Parks assistant director in charge of Tun Mustapha Park, Fazrullah Rizally Abdul Razak, who was at the scene, when contacted.

The discovery of the whale went viral in the Facebook social media this morning.

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Shipping faces demands to cut CO2

Roger Harrabin BBC 31 Mar 18;

A battle is under way to force the global shipping industry to play its part in tackling climate change.

A meeting of the International Maritime Organisation in London next week will face demands for shipping to radically reduce its CO2 emissions.

If shipping doesn't clean up, it could contribute almost a fifth of the global total of CO2 by 2050.

A group of nations led by Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India, Panama and Argentina is resisting CO2 targets for shipping.

Their submission to the meeting says capping ships' overall emissions would restrict world trade. It might also force goods on to less efficient forms of transport.

This argument is dismissed by other countries which believe shipping could actually benefit from a shift towards cleaner technology.

The UK's Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani told BBC News: "As other sectors take action on climate change, international shipping could be left behind.

"We are urging other members of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to help set an ambitious strategy to cut emissions from ships."

Trade and prosperity

The UK is supported by other European nations in a proposal to shrink shipping emissions by 70%-100% of their 2008 levels by 2050.

Guy Platten from the UK Chamber of Shipping said: "We call on the global shipping industry to get behind these proposals - not just because it is in their interests to do so, but because it is the right thing to do.

"The public expects us all to take action, they understand that international trade brings prosperity, but they rightly demand it is conducted in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. We must listen to those demands, and the time for action is now."

The problem has developed over many years. As the shipping industry is international, it evades the carbon-cutting influence of the annual UN talks on climate change, which are conducted on a national basis.

Instead the decisions have been left to the IMO, a body recently criticised for its lack of accountability and transparency.

The IMO did agree a design standard in 2011 ensuring that new ships should be 30% more efficient by 2025. But there is no rule to reduce emissions from the existing fleet.

The Clean Shipping Coalition, a green group focusing on ships, said shipping should conform to agreement made in Paris to stabilise the global temperature increase as close as possible to 1.5C.

Tangible goals

A spokesman said: "The Paris temperature goals are absolute objectives. They are not conditional on whether the global economy thinks they are achievable or not."

So the pressure is on the IMO to produce an ambitious policy. The EU has threatened that if the IMO doesn't move far enough, the EU will take over regulating European shipping. That would see the IMO stripped of some of its authority.

A spokesman for the Panamanian government told BBC News his nation supports the Paris Agreement.

"But", he said, "Panama, as a developing country that depends on the maritime sector for its progress, and aware that the welfare of its population relies on shipping, believes in the necessity of a well though-out and studied strategy that allows sustainable and efficient reduction of emissions.

"To haste into an uncalculated strategy that aims to reduce emissions to zero by the year 2050 does not take into account the current state of technology."

A recent report from the International Transport Forum at the rich nations' think tank the OECD said maximum deployment of currently known technologies could achieve almost complete decarbonisation of maritime shipping by 2035.

A spokesperson for another of the nations resisting targets told BBC News: "My country pushed very hard to get the deal in Paris. But you will notice that many of the countries opposing the restrictions on CO2 are developing countries that are distant from some of their markets."

Campaigners say huge improvements in CO2 emissions from existing ships can be easily be made by obliging them to travel more slowly. They say a carbon pricing system is needed.

International shipping produces about 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 annually - that's more than the entire German economy.

The meeting runs from Tuesday.

Plea for action on shipping emissions
David Shukman BBC 9 Apr 18;

The shipping industry generates more than 2% of global CO2 emissions
Talks on the global shipping industry cutting greenhouse gases have opened with a passionate plea for action.

A minister from the Marshall Islands warned that the future of his low-lying Pacific country was at stake.

The shipping industry generates more than 2% of global CO2 emissions but that's projected to increase rapidly.

More than 100 countries are meeting at the International Maritime Organisation in London to try to agree on a new policy.

Battle lines are drawn between countries determined to see deep cuts in shipping's greenhouse gases and those that fear that rapid limits could damage development.

Shipping was exempted from the Paris Agreement because it involves an international activity and the agreement was based on a system of national targets.

But the industry currently produces a higher level of carbon emissions than Germany and, if it was ranked as a country, it would be the sixth largest emitter on the planet.

CO2 dilemma

Speaking to the gathering of more than 1,000 diplomats and shipping industry executives, David Paul, environment minister of the Marshall Islands, said that shipping was a major source of income for his country which had the second largest number of ships registered.

But he said the economic gains of protecting one sector would be "far outweighed" by the costs of failing to achieve the limits in temperature rise set out in the Paris Agreement.

"There will be nothing more devastating to global trade than the cost of having to try to adapt to a world that is on average two, three or four degrees warmer," Mr Paul told delegates.

And he said that the argument that climate action could undermine economic growth was "completely and utterly false".

A draft proposal for an agreement, negotiated during preliminary negotiations last week, came up with a target of cutting shipping's emissions by 50% by 2050, when compared to 2008 levels.

Mr Paul said that goal represented "significant compromises" for his nation and he warned that he would not endorse any agreement that did not include "an explicit quantified level of ambition".

"I will not go home to my children, and my country's children, endorsing an outcome from the IMO that fails to face up to the greatest threat of the century," he explained.

But a number of countries. including Brazil, Panama and Argentina. are resisting moves to enshrine a detailed target for cutting emissions, fearing that it might jeopardise important sectors of their economies.

Brazil argues against fixing a goal right now because 90% of its international trade is carried by shipping and because its geographic position means it is very distant from major markets so a limit on emissions would be unfair.

The Brazilian ambassador to the IMO, Hermano Telles Ribeiro, told BBC News: "We are very mindful of the fact that no measure should discriminate against exporting countries and no measure should eventually favour other exporting countries because they are close to their markets and their destinations."

There are innovations to make engines cleaner and design ships to run more smoothly through the water or operate at lower speeds to save fuel, with more radical plans to use hi-tech sails or battery power, as is already being used on some ferries in Scotland and Norway.

But Lars Robert Pedersem of BIMCO, a major association of shipping companies, said that while the "very long term goal" was decarbonisation, vessels were typically in service for 20 years so making changes could be a slow process.

He warned that a goal of decarbonising the shipping sector by 2035 or by 2050 was unrealistic, especially given that ship owners were cautious about new technologies.

He told me: "Shipping is a very practical business - there is no need to set a target which we already now know is impossible to fulfill."

The UK government's shipping minister Nusrat Ghani said: "The eyes of the world are upon us in what is a crucial week for the future of the shipping industry and our planet.

"Shipping has always been at the forefront of technological change, and needs a clear signal to invest in a zero emissions future.

"I urge all IMO member states to support the UK in its call for an ambitious and credible strategy that will open new opportunities in green technologies and fuels and ensure shipping plays its full part in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases."

Although shipping was excluded from the Paris Agreement, the IMO has since agreed to establish a road map to decarbonisation and its secretary general, Kitack Lim, said the organisation now stood "at one of the most historic moments" in global efforts to combat climate change.

No doubt aware of the deep divisions in the gathering, he appealed to delegates "to break new ground and to demonstrate the best cooperative spirit…"

The talks are due to end on Friday.

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