Best of our wild blogs: 19 Apr 18

St John’s Island Trail and Marine Park Centre closed until further notice
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Cyrene surprised in the morning
wild shores of singapore

6 May (Sun): Mangrove cleanup at Pulau Ubin
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Do your part to clean up marine trash? Remember YOUR SAFETY first!
Mei Lin NEO

Fri 27 Apr 2018: 7.00pm, Lepak SG presents a panel on “Treasures of our shores”
Otterman speaks

Show love for our forests on International Day of Forests
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Pathways to sustainability for small holders
People's Movement to Stop Haze

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Tenders for Lim Chu Kang food fish farms awarded, more agricultural land to be launched in June

Tiffany Fumiko Tay Straits Times 18 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Three land parcels for food fish farming in Lim Chu Kang have been sold to two companies: Blue Aqua International and Apollo Aquarium.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), in announcing the award of the tender on Wednesday (April 18), said their proposals included such features as productive and innovative farming systems like multi-storey facilities with automated fish pumps and advanced water treatment processes.

The tender, which was launched on Oct 31 last year and closed on Jan 9, is the second tranche of AVA's tenders for new agriculture land.

In the first tranche, the tenders for 10 of the 12 parcels were awarded. The two unsold plots will be included in an upcoming tranche.

The latest sites for food fish farming, or the farming of fish for human consumption, were awarded under a fixed-price tender system.

This means that instead of competing on price, the tenders were evaluated on such factors as production capacity, track record and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production.

The two plots going to Blue Aqua and Apollo Aquarium, each about 15,575 sq m, were sold at the fixed sale price of $378,000. The third plot of 23,961 sq m was sold to Apollo Aquarium for $587,000. The prices exclude the goods and services tax.

AVA's food supply resilience group director Melvin Chow said the farming technologies proposed by the three companies have the potential to raise the productivity of the agricultural sector and rely less on labour.

"Over time, this will strengthen our local farming eco-system and spur transformation to bolster Singapore's food security," he added.

Last year, the AVA said it will tender out 36 new plots of farmland on 20-year leases in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah. They add up to 60ha of land.

They will help fill the gap when the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang run out by end-2021 and the land is given over to military use.

The new plots will not totally fill the gap but the authorities hope they will encourage the use of high-technology farming to boost productivity and yield.

Two more tranches of new agricultural land for food and non-food farming will be launched in June, the AVA said in its statement.

In one tranche, three plots for general agriculture food farms, such as frog and cattle farms, will be tendered using concept and price. In the other, two quail egg plots and five vegetable plots will be tendered using the fixed price method.

More details on the tenders will be available on AVA's website when they are launched, it added.

High-tech fish farms coming up in Lim Chu Kang

Multi-storey facilities, automated processes in the works following land tender award
Tiffany Fumiko Tay Straits Times 19 Apr 18;

Fish farmer Eric Ng will have to give up his two farms in Seletar and Lim Chu Kang when their leases expire in the next three years.

But, yesterday, he heaved a sigh of relief when news reached him that his company, Apollo Aquarium, had been awarded the tender for two sites that are nearly double the size of his existing farms.

"We were very anxious, and as a precaution, we took up a plot in Brunei in case we had to move out of Singapore," Mr Ng, 45, told The Straits Times.

Apollo Aquarium, along with Blue Aqua International, has been sold land in Lim Chu Kang for the farming of fish for human consumption, in a move to boost yield from the shrinking supply of farmland in Singapore.

Last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it would put out to tender 36 plots of farmland on 20-year leases in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah.

They will help fill the gap when the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang run out by end-2021 and the land is given over to military use.

While the new plots, which add up to 60ha of land, will not close the gap completely, the authorities hope the use of high-technology farming will boost productivity and yield.

The AVA, in announcing the award of the tender for three land parcels yesterday, said the two companies' proposals included productive and innovative farming systems such as multi-storey facilities with automated fish pumps and advanced water treatment processes.

The tender, which was launched on Oct 31 last year and closed on Jan 9, is the second tranche of AVA's tenders for new agriculture land.

The new sites for food fish farming were awarded under a fixed-price tender system.

This means that instead of competing on price, the tenders were evaluated on such factors as production capacity, track record and whether the companies can harness innovation to improve and sustain production.

Blue Aqua and Apollo Aquarium were each sold a plot of 15,575 sq m at the fixed sale price of $378,000. Apollo Aquarium's second plot of 23,961 sq m was sold for $587,000.

Mr Ng said that while his existing food fish farm in Lim Chu Kang is stacked three tanks high, the new farm is set to have an eight-tier system that, at full capacity, would raise his current annual yield of 110 tonnes to about 2,000 tonnes.

"It will be fully automated... we can monitor the entire farming system remotely. Before, we relied on experience, but now we depend more on technology," he said.

Dr Farshad Shishehchian, chief executive of Blue Aqua International group, which has 14 companies around the world, said the new farm, its first fish farm in Singapore, will rear tilapia, pompano and garoupa.

Using its patented intensive farming system, the company, which also has a shrimp farm in Lim Chu Kang, hopes to produce about 500 tonnes of fish and 200 tonnes of shrimp a year.

AVA's food supply resilience group director Melvin Chow said the farming technologies proposed by the companies have the potential to raise the agricultural sector's productivity and reduce its reliance on labour.

"Over time, this will strengthen our local farming ecosystem and spur transformation to bolster Singapore's food security," he added.

Local farms produce about 10 per cent of Singapore's fish supply, and the AVA aims to raise this to 15 per cent, with new technologies increasing the productivity of fish farming systems by at least three times, said its spokesman.

The AVA will launch two more tranches of new agricultural land for food and non-food farming in June, the spokesman added.

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Malaysia: Terengganu man killed in accidental shooting during wild elephant operation

NURUL FATIHAH SULAINI New Straits Times 18 Apr 18;

PERMAISURI: Opting for futsal training instead of accompanying his father to drive away wild elephants probably saved a young man’s life.

Muhammad Imran Khasimi Kamarul Zaman, 22, said his father, Kamarul Zaman Mat Ali, 58, had asked him to accompany him at 9.08pm yesterday, as he was preparing to go after elephants which were located about 20km from their house.

“But, I declined as I had futsal training. That was the last time I spoke to my father,” he said.

Kamarul was in a Toyota Hilux 4v4 with four officers from the Terengganu Wildlife Department and National Parks Department in Besut when a shotgun belonging to one of the rangers went off accidentally and hit him in the chest, killing him.

“My father had been taking part in wild elephant operations with the officers for 30 years,” said Imran at Setiu Hospital.

“My father was bent on taking part in the operation as the elephants had damaged crops on at least 10 occasions this year, even though an electric fence was erected.”

Imran’s eldest brother Shaiful Lizam Kamarul Zaman, 36, said their father was supposed to attend a feast in the village last night.

“At 12.30am, my younger brother told my mother, Ummi Kalthum Yaacob, and I that my father was killed,” he said.

Setiu police chief Deputy Superintendent Zulkifli Mat Deris said: “He was shot as they were pursuing an elephant which they had shot with a tranquilliser dart.

“A Beretta auto-load rifle belonging to one of the officers went off when their vehicle jerked forward.

“The bullet hit Kamarul Zaman, who was in the rear seat, in his chest.”

Kamarul died on the way to Setiu Hospital at 11.55pm.

The officers, aged between 30 and 40, have been detained to facilitate investigations under Section 304A of the Penal Code for causing death due to negligence.

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Indonesia: Destroying the world's natural heritage - 'Komodo is reaching a tipping point'

The Indonesian national park boasts some of the world’s best dive sites and spectacular marine life, but illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism is threatening its Unesco status
Kate Lamb The Guardian 18 Apr 18;

It was the unusual thrashing on the water that caught their attention. As those onboard the dive boat in Indonesia’s Komodo national park drew closer, it became clear it was a green turtle entangled in rubbish and thick fishing net.

The divers managed to lift it out of the water, cut the blue bind from its shell and then set the turtle free, but dive operator Ed Statham says it is just one of the increasing and alarming signs the Unesco heritage site is fast being destroyed.

Each day Statham and his team spot boats illegally fishing inside the protected Coral Triangle area, atop some of the best dive sites in the world.

“It is not just fishing with lines and little boats, it is net fishing, anchoring on dive sites, obvious carcasses lying around, shark finning. And it is happening on a bigger scale than it used to,” explains Statham over the phone from Labuan Bajo.

“If things continue as they are now, Komodo is going to reach a tipping point in the next few years and we are not going to be able to recover.”

Located at the confluence of two oceans, Komodo national park is a series of dramatic hilly islands, home to the famous Komodo dragon, but also a spectacular and diverse marine life, including pelagic fish, manta rays and turtles.

In recent years local dive operators say illegal fishing has become rampant, and while daily park entrance fees were raised almost 500% in 2015 to 175,000 rupiah (£9) – it is now more expensive to dive in Komodo than the Galapagos – the number of marine patrols has only decreased.

On top of that, as word about Komodo spreads, tourism has grown rapidly.

Destructive and illegal fishing combined with unsustainable tourism are putting huge pressure on Komodo’s precious ecosystem. But what happens when a Unesco site is getting destoyed?

Dr Fanny Douvere, coordinator of Unesco’s world heritage marine programme, says there are numerous steps the heritage body can take to help preserve these areas.

Once a site is inscribed as Unesco-heritage listed, it immediately becomes part of a regular evaluation system. If serious problems are detected they are addressed by the world heritage committee, which can include putting a site on its “in danger” list.

The danger listing often helps generate the attention and funding required to rescue a site in critical condition.

There are 29 Unesco marine sites around the world and several are on the danger list, including the Belize Barrier Reef.

In collaboration with Unesco, the government of Belize has adopted new environmental management laws and a protection plan, and introduced a moratorium on offshore drilling.

“Once it is on the danger list there are strict indicators to get off,” explains Douvere.

In rare but worst-case scenarios, sites can be also be “delisted” by Unesco, as was the case in 2009 with Germany’s Dresden Elbe valley, after the government approved the construction of a four-lane bridge through the unique landscape, or Oman’s Arabian oryx sanctuary in 2007.

But there are success stories too. In July last year the Unesco site of Tubbataha reef in the Philippines was designated as a “particularly sensitive sea area”, meaning that large vessels are now required to avoid the area, reducing noise, pollution and future ship groundings.

Meanwhile in Kiribati, its Unesco listing led to a ban on commercial foreign fisheries operating around its Phoenix Islands.

When it comes to Komodo, Unesco says recent concerns are being taken seriously.

“Komodo has not been submitted to the world heritage committee,” says Douvere. “But as people do write to us and that becomes a serious problem, then that’s definitely our official path forward.”

Aware that Komodo lacks a plan on how to manage its marine environment, the international heritage body sent a team of experts to Komodo last December to start working with local authorities.

Back in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the national park from the island of Flores, Statham is pushing for urgent action.

He says that when he first arrived in the area as a dive master more than five years ago, the diversity of Komodo “blew his mind” and he is keen to make sure it stays that way.

Thanks to Komodo’s location at the meeting point of two oceans, it is unique in that it does not face the same warming of the seas, and harrowing coral bleaching that many reefs around the world are facing, he says.

“We should be ahead of the game, but we’re not,” says Statham, “It’s not mother nature that’s destroying Komodo, it’s us.”

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Great Barrier Reef: 30% of coral died in 'catastrophic' 2016 heatwave

Report chronicles ‘mass mortality’, the extent and severity of which has shocked scientists
Ben Smee The Guardian 18 Apr 18;

Scientists have chronicled the “mass mortality” of corals on the Great Barrier Reef, in a new report that says 30% of the reef’s corals died in a catastrophic nine-month marine heatwave.

The study, published in Nature and led by Prof Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, examined the link between the level of heat exposure, subsequent coral bleaching and ultimately coral death.

The extent and severity of the coral die-off recorded in the Great Barrier Reef surprised even the researchers. Hughes told Guardian Australia the 2016 marine heatwave had been far more harmful than historical bleaching events, where an estimated 5% to 10% of corals died.

“When corals bleach from a heatwave, they can either survive and regain their colour slowly as the temperature drops, or they can die,” Hughes said. “Averaged across the whole Great Barrier Reef, we lost 30% of the corals in the nine-month period between March and November 2016.”

The scientists set out to map the impact of the 2016 marine heatwave on coral along the 2,300km length of the Great Barrier Reef. They established a close link between the coral die-off and areas where heat exposure was most extreme. The northern third of the reef was the most severely affected.

The study found that 29% of the 3,863 reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef lost two-thirds or more of their corals.

The loss of coral cover along the Great Barrier Reef in 2016
The loss of coral cover along the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. Photograph: Nature/Hughes et al. 2016
Hughes said researchers were also surprised at how quickly some corals died in the extreme marine temperatures.

“The conventional thinking is that after bleaching corals died slowly of ... starvation. That’s not what we found. We were surprised that about half of the mortality we measured occurred very quickly.”

The study found that “initially, at the peak of temperature extremes in March 2016, many millions of corals died quickly in the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef over a period of only two to three weeks”.

“These widespread losses were not due to the attrition of corals that slowly starved because they failed to regain their symbionts. Rather, temperature-sensitive species of corals began to die almost immediately in locations that were exposed to heat stress.”

The research team observed “markedly divergent responses to heat stress”. Some corals, such as staghorn and tabular corals, suffered a “catastrophic die-off”. Others proved more resilient.

Report co-author Prof Andrew Baird said the coral die-off had caused “radical changes in the mix of coral species on hundreds of individual reefs”.

“Mature and diverse reef communities are being transformed into more degraded systems, with just a few tough species remaining,” he said.

The researchers estimate half of the corals in shallow-water habitats in the northern Great Barrier Reef have been lost.

“But, that still leaves a billion or so corals alive, and on average, they are tougher than the ones that died. We need to focus urgently on protecting the glass that’s still half full, by helping these survivors to recover,” Hughes said.

“The Great Barrier Reef is certainly threatened by climate change, but it is not doomed if we deal very quickly with greenhouse gas emissions. Our study shows that coral reefs are already shifting radically in response to unprecedented heatwaves.”

The scientists said their research underscores the need for further risk assessment into the collapse of reef ecosystems, especially if global action on climate change fails to limit warming to a 1.5C to 2C increase on pre-industrial levels.

They also warn that a failure to curb climate change, resulting in an increase above 2C, will radically alter tropical reef ecosystems and undermine benefits they provide to hundreds of millions of people.

Hughes said that left the reef in “uncharted territory”, its future dependent on how quickly emissions peak and come down.

If the targets in the Paris agreement are met, the reef will survive as “a mixture of heat-tolerant [corals], and the ones that can bounce back”.

“Biodiversity will likely be less, coral cover will likely be less,” Hughes said.

If warming continues apace: “Then it’s game over.”

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Cold water devastates coral reefs off Japan

Laurence CHU AFP Yahoo News 18 Apr 18;

Unusually cold water has devastated some of the world's most northerly coral reefs, which lie off the coast of western Japan, an environment ministry official said Wednesday.

The ministry surveyed the reefs in recent months and found widespread bleaching, with between 90 to 100 percent of each of the six spots surveyed affected.

In four of the surveyed areas, researchers have reported between 85 percent and 95 percent of the bleached areas were now dead, said Yuto Takahashi, a ranger at the regional ministry office that conducted the survey.

The devastation is thought to be the result of unusually cold water temperatures in the area this year, partly produced by the meandering of the Kuroshio current, he told AFP.

"Very strong cold fronts of the winter contributed to the low water temperature," he said.

"The meandering of the Kuroshio current is also known to have lowered water temperatures" off Wakayama and other areas along the Pacific coast, he added.

The Kuroshio is a warm current in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and its unusual movement away from the area brought up cold water from the depths.

Little is known about exactly why the Kuroshio current changes its flows, but scientists have observed the meandering phenomenon six times since 1965, most recently last summer.

The phenomenon results in lower water temperatures, changes the locations of fishing grounds and even affects ship navigation, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Coral bleaching and death is irreversible, but differs from similar events seen in other more southerly reefs.

"This is different from coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef or Okinawa, which is caused by unusual warming of water temperatures," Takahashi said.

"Water in our region is cold, which makes the corals very vulnerable."

Ironically, the warming water that is bleaching corals further south could create a more stable environment for corals in northern areas.

Campaigners have warned that environmental changes including warming water and pollution are causing significant bleaching of corals around the world.

Corals make up less than one percent of Earth's marine environment, but are home to more than 25 percent of marine life.

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