Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jul 18

Semakau East with stressed corals (17072018)
Psychedelic Nature

Professor Richard Thompson's talk on Marine Litter - Plastics aren't the enemy. It is how we choose to use plastics
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Launch of New Pages in WUJ!
Wan's Ubin Journal

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New stat board to oversee food safety and security; AVA to be disbanded

Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: A new statutory board, to be called the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), will be formed in April next year under the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) to oversee food safety and security, it was announced on Thursday (26 Jul).

The agency will bring together food-related functions currently carried out by three other agencies - the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), said MEWR and the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a joint news release.

Formed in response to challenges posed by the global food landscape and climate change, SFA will manage food safety, hygiene regulations and address issues of food supply.

SFA aims to “enhance regulatory oversight from farm to fork”, the release added.

A National Centre for Food Science will also be established under SFA, consolidating the food laboratory capabilities of the three agencies.

“Safeguarding Singapore’s food supply is increasingly challenging due to the complexities of global food supply chains as well as the impacts of climate change,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in the press release.

“We are already seeing the effects of climate change, such as plankton blooms from warmer sea waters and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns. The formation of the SFA is timely as Singapore aims to turn our food challenges into strategic advantages.”

“The SFA will work closely with industry and R&D partners to develop new solutions and products, and seize global opportunities in the food industry,” added Mr Masagos.

“Doing this will help make our food supply future-ready and provide good jobs for Singaporeans in the food industry.”

The SFA will also aim to streamline licensing standards for food businesses, including farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers and food service operators.

Mr Lim Kok Thai, chief executive officer of AVA, will be concurrently appointed as the chief executive officer (designate) of SFA.


In addition, under the government’s reorganisation of its food, plant health and animal management functions, all non-food plant and animal-related functions of the AVA will be transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks).

This will allow NParks to provide a one-stop service on animal management and welfare issues, manage “human-animal interactions”, and improve the detection and response to animal diseases which can be transmitted to humans, said the press release.

“With NParks as the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health, we will work more closely with stakeholders to develop a science-based management approach, with holistic strategies and more effective responses,” said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

A new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) will be created under NParks and take on the AVA’s role as first responder for animal-related feedback, as well as maintaining standards in animal welfare and health.

When the changes take effect on Apr 1, 2019, AVA, which was formed in 2000, will be dissolved.

The reorganisation will see about 1,150 staff redeployed from the AVA, NEA and HSA. About 850 staff from the three agencies will be transferred to SFA. Another 300 will be transferred from AVA to NParks.

New food agency will better support entrepreneurship, boost efficiency: Industry players
Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: The formation of the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has been welcomed by the industry, which said that the new statutory board would better support the local food sector and help boost its efficiency.

The SFA, which will oversee food safety and security, will be set up under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) in April next year. It will bring together food-related functions currently carried out by three other agencies - the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

Speaking to reporters on the sideline of a visit to The Soup Spoon on Thursday (Jul 26), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said the SFA would better "integrate" the food industry.

"This will bring together various parts of these agencies to look at food from farm to fork and this will integrate the industry and as well as support them in order to take advantages that's available to our food industry."

George Huang, chairman of the recently formed Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation (SAFEF), said the formation of SFA would better facilitate the process of farmers applying for various licenses.

"From the farmers' point of view, I think it is a very good move," said Mr Huang. "Now we have an organisational body that covers the whole supply chain ... It will be much more efficient and support entrepreneurship much more."

"For example, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) (currently) takes care of farm licenses, but if for example a fish farm wants to sell fish on the farm premises, it falls under retail, which is under the NEA."

"The issue is not getting the license - Singapore is quite efficient and so is the NEA. The thing is that the rules might not be totally aligned," added Mr Huang. "One deals with farming and the other with retailing. There might be some grey areas or gaps in between."

Jocelyn Chng, chief executive officer of JR Group Holdings, which operates restaurants and hot-food vending machines among others, agreed that the formation of the SFA would streamline the process of applying for the relevant licences.

Currently, food retail businesses are licensed by the National Environment Agency (NEA), but those who wish to run a central kitchen require a different licence from the AVA.

"It will be more efficient, because we don't need to go to two authorities or agencies to get clearance and approval," she added. "With this one single agency, in terms of the regulations, the officers or the agency will be very clear in what they are offering.

"There's also more clarity. We know where to go and which agency to approach. Thirdly, we will also get better support, assuming there are licensing officers who know our businesses well, they will be able to support us better."

The hope is that these changes would also lead to greater savings for companies such as JR Group, Ms Chng said.

"That will be a win-win for everyone," she added.

While Mr Shannon Lim, who operates a fish farm off Lorong Halus, welcomed the announcement, he also hoped that SFA would be able to better allocate resources, including manpower to help local farmers.

"(It's a) good idea," said Mr Lim, explaining that the AVA was "always stretched too thin".

Mr Lim said that he has yet to receive a mandatory fish culture farm worker identification card for one of his employees, despite getting it approved in February.

"We tried to collect (it) at their office in June. They said it wasn’t ready yet," he added. "A more focused agency should be able to allocate resources better."

But apart from resource management, Mr Huang hopes that the SFA would help farmers in the export of their produce.

"We have to increase Singapore's capabilities, such that our products are of international standards, that it is exportable - that's where you get a higher value of Singapore branding."

Source: CNA/mt(ms)

New S'pore Food Agency to oversee food safety regulations and related matters from next April
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 26 Jul 18;

AVA will cease to exist; NParks to become lead agency for animal and wildlife management

SINGAPORE — A new statutory board called the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will oversee food safety and security from April next year, following a reorganisation of three existing agencies under one roof.

Formed from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the SFA will oversee food safety regulations across the entire chain. It will sit under the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

With this, the AVA will be dissolved, and its functions distributed to the SFA and the National Parks Board (NParks), which will be beefed up to take on all non-food plant and animal related functions of AVA. About 300 AVA staff will be transferred to NParks.

NEA and HSA will continue to carry out their existing functions, without their food hygiene arm and food safety lab respectively.

Announcing the move on Thursday (July 26), MEWR and the Ministry of National Development (MND) said the reorganisation will involve about 1,150 staff. No one will be retrenched.

The newly formed SFA will comprise about 850 staff — 600 from AVA, 220 from NEA and 30 from HSA. It will be helmed by AVA's current chief executive officer, Mr Lim Kok Thai.

The move will benefit consumers and businesses alike, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the sidelines of a visit to The Soup Spoon's central kitchen at Jurong.

Having a dedicated agency will mean more efficient responses in the event of food-borne disease outbreaks and better coordination when products have to be traced and recalled.

The SFA will also be able to address lapses more quickly and streamline responses to various stakeholders like businesses, media and also public.


The new agency will also mean more business-friendly regulations, as existing licences for food businesses will be approved by a single authority. For example, businesses which had to apply for multiple operating licenses from the NEA and AVA previously will now need to deal with only one agency.

Among those who welcomed this consolidation, which would reduce manpower and administrative costs for businesses, was managing director and co-founder of homegrown food brand The Soup Spoon, Mr Andrew Chan.

Mr Chan, whose company operates two central kitchens and more than 25 restaurants islandwide in various shopping malls such as NEX and Bugis Junction, said the process of applying for licences can be cumbersome and time-consuming.

Citing the example of how they had to get a licence from AVA to run a central kitchen, and another from NEA to cater food, Mr Chan said: “If you want to operate a business that’s doing both (like ours), you need two separate facilities that do exactly the same thing, and they can’t be in the same address because (each) licence is tagged to one address.”

With licence applications being consolidated under the SFA, Mr Chan said multiple facilities can be done away with. This would mean a “great reduction in rental and set up-cost, (running) anywhere up to tens of thousands of dollars”, added Mr Chan.

Besides business operations, the SFA will also oversee the Republic’s overall food safety and security. To that end, a National Centre for Food Science (NCFS) set up under its auspices will consolidate the food laboratory capabilities of the three agencies. It will run food diagnostics, and conduct research and development in food safety to ensure that food continues to be safe for consumption and standards are benchmarked internationally.

Mr Masagos said: "The formation of the SFA is timely as Singapore aims to turn our food challenges into opportunities. The SFA will work closely with industry partners to develop new solutions and products... (such as) climate resilient farming solutions and advanced food manufacturing techniques.”

Agreeing that a single agency can have a “more holistic picture of food supply and security”, Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation chairman George Huang said: “Currently, there isn’t one agency that is entirely aware of the various sources and destination of food in the supply and demand chain … AVA is aware of what food comes in, the sources, and NEA is aware of what is on the shelf.”

He added: “It’s just so much easier, even for the man on the street, because anything to do with food, you’ll just have to go to one agency.”


Under the reorganisation, NParks, which sits under MND, will become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, on top of its previous responsibility of overseeing wildlife conservation, ecology and horticultural science.

A new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) will be formed under NParks, and it will be the main touch-point for animal related issues for pet owners and businesses, and animal welfare groups.

It will also take on AVA's current role as the first responder for animal-related feedback and deal with issues in animal welfare and safety.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore deputy chief executive Cheng Wen Haur said that the restructure is logical, given that the current segregation of animal issues by geography — within and outside of nature reserves — is a result of different skill sets being situated in different agencies, for example veterinarians in one and wildlife officers in another.

“The new structure will consolidate all relevant skills and competencies in one department to focus on serving and managing wildlife, eliminating ambiguities and improving efficiency”, he added.

Ahead of the set-up of SFA, however, several laws will have to be amended or repealed as part of the process. Some examples include the National Parks Board Act, Wild Animals and Birds Act, Animals and Birds Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Control of Plants Act, while other food-related acts may be affected as well.

From now till April 2019, AVA, NEA, HSA and NParks will continue to carry out their existing functions.

New stat board Singapore Food Agency to be formed in April 2019; AVA will cease to exist
Derek Wong Straits Times 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - A new government agency will be formed on April 1 next year to oversee food safety and security, the Government announced on Thursday morning (July 26).

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA), a statutory board, will come under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (Mewr) and will be taking over food-related work currently being done by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

The AVA will cease to exist from next April and its animal-related functions, such as animal welfare, will be transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks) under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

The reorganisation will involve about 1,150 staff, said an MND spokesman. The new food agency will have about 850 staff, 600 of whom will come from the AVA, 220 from NEA and 30 from HSA. About 300 AVA staff will move to NParks.

The SFA aims to deal with global food supply challenges caused by climate change but will also look to seize global opportunities in the food industry, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, citing plankton blooms as an example of the effect of climate change. Plankton bloom threatens fish stocks as the micro-organisms suck oxygen from the water.

"The SFA will work closely with industry and research and development partners to develop new solutions and products," Mr Masagos said, adding that these include climate-resilient farming solutions and advanced food manufacturing techniques.

The agency also intends to improve food safety. Three agencies - AVA, NEA and HSA - currently regulate this across the food supply chain, and Singapore Food Agency will be the sole organisation doing so from next April.

"This enables the SFA to address lapses more quickly and more holistically, and streamline public feedback to one point of contact," Mewr and MND said in a joint statement.

SFA will take charge of managing food-borne disease outbreaks and coordinate product tracing and recall.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said a joint statement by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Mr Lim Kok Thai, chief executive of AVA, will be concurrently appointed chief executive (designate) of SFA before the changes take place next April.

The changes will also see NParks become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health.

"The transfer of AVA's plant- and animal-related functions will allow NParks to provide one-stop service to Singaporeans and stakeholders on animal management and animal welfare issues, manage human-animal interactions, and improve the detection of and response to zoonotic diseases," said the statement. Zoonotic diseases refer to diseases that spread from animals to humans.

NParks will also have a new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) that will be in touch with pet owners and businesses as well as animal welfare groups.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who, like Mr Masagos, was quoted in the joint statement, said: "With NParks as the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health, we will work more closely with stakeholders to develop a science-based management approach, with holistic strategies and more effective responses."


SFA will help food businesses streamline licensing processes and assist individuals in contacting the relevant authorities for their needs.

Currently, food retailers who wish to expand their operations in the food supply chain - for instance, to run a central kitchen - require different licences from the NEA and AVA.

From next April, the licences can be obtained from a single source - the SFA - reducing the need for operators to deal with different agencies.

"By harmonising licensing standards and combining existing licences for food businesses, including farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers and food service operators, businesses will be able to adapt and transform their business models seamlessly and look at new ways to grow their operations," Mewr and MND said.

In cases pertaining to food safety, all public feedback will be channelled to the SFA from next April. Currently, NEA, AVA and HSA regulate food safety across the food supply chain, which may cause confusion in the feedback process.

Increased expertise, more holistic overview of flora and fauna for NParks
Derek Wong Straits Times 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - The transfer of animal-related functions from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to the National Parks Board (NParks) aims to create a more holistic understanding of flora and fauna and better manage human-animal interactions.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said a joint statement by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: "While we have done well to balance urban development and conservation of our natural heritage, there are opportunities to achieve greater synergy by bringing together the plant and animal roles."

This comes as the Government announced that a new government agency, the Singapore Food Agency, will be formed on April 1, 2019, and take over the work of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Having a single lead agency in wildlife management will also help reduce the time needed to coordinate different agencies in certain cases.

For example, under the old structure, if there is public feedback about wild boars roaming in a public place, NParks will handle the case if the animals are spotted in a park or nature reserve. If the boars appear in urban areas, the case will be referred to the AVA.

Under the new structure, the case will be handled by just NParks.

However, vector control, which is the management of disease-carrying pests such as rodents, cockroaches and mosquitoes, will still be carried out by the National Environment Agency.

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AVA investigating alleged mishandling of snake by handlers in Boon Lay

Rei Kurohi Straits Times 27 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - A large snake was spotted in a Book Lay park and removed by handlers from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Tuesday (July 24).

In a video posted on Facebook by All Singapore Stuff, two men can be seen attempting to recapture the snake after it flees into a drain.

The men manage to pull the snake out of the drain using snake tongs. One of them then grabs the snake's tail while the other grabs its head. They then take photos of the snake with a smartphone before placing it into a sack.

AVA said that it had received feedback of a snake sighting near Block 187 Boon Lay Drive. The snake was removed and placed in the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

In response to queries, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) said that it did not handle the snake.

Mr Kalai Balakrishnan, deputy chief executive of Acres, said that both AVA handlers seemed inexperienced and did not seem to know what they were doing.

He identified the snake as a reticulated python and estimated that it was between 2m and 2.5m in length.

"The person holding the head of the snake shows little or no care for the animal he's holding, aggressively jerking the head when the python's teeth got stuck in the sack," he said, adding that the snake might have lost some teeth in the process.

Mr Kalai added: "We can only hope the snake did not get injured in the process and I urge the authorities to look into this case to reprimand the company involved in catching the snake. Handling animals requires patience and passion."

In response to media queries, AVA said that it is investigating the alleged inappropriate handling of the snake.

Members of the public who spot a wild animal in distress can call the Acres hotline on 9783-7782.

AVA advised the public not to approach, disturb, feed or try to catch any wildlife, including snakes. Members of the public should keep a safe distance from the animals and avoid confronting or cornering them.

The public should also avoid interacting with the animals, and ensure that young children and pets are kept away from them. They can refer to the advisory on snakes on AVA's website, and contact AVA on 1800-476-1600 to provide feedback or request for assistance.

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Malaysia: Mass tourism hurts mangroves

DR A. ALDRIE AMIR New Straits Times 26 Jul 18;

TODAY is the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.

This is the third year it is being celebrated after it was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) at its 38th General Conference in Paris on Nov 6, 2015.

Mangroves are established mainly on sheltered tropical and subtropical coastlines.

Although mangroves cover one per cent of the earth’s land mass, they play important roles and contribute significantly to global sustainability.

Maintaining water, nutrient and climatic cycles are just some of their prominent functions.

Scientists have recognised mangroves as the most efficient ecosystem to sequester atmospheric carbon, a natural process which becomes one of the best mechanisms — our best weapon — to counter global warming and climate change. This is the central role performed by mangroves.

The importance of mangroves is globally recognised and there are international efforts in place to push for their protection and conservation.

One of these efforts is through the Ramsar Convention.

Malaysia is a proud party to the convention with seven designated sites, of which six are mangrove forest sites.

They are Pulau Kukup, Tanjung Piai and Sungai Pulai National Parks in Johor, Kuching Wetlands National Park in Sarawak, and Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands and Kota Kinabalu Wetlands in Sabah.

Other global mangrove conservation efforts are linked to Unesco programmes, including the Man and the Biosphere, Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, International Hydrological Programme, World Heritage Convention and Global Geoparks Network.

The only Unesco conservation site involving mangroves in Malaysia is at the Langkawi Global Geopark.

On top of these international efforts, mangroves in Malaysia are being protected and conserved through the gazettement of forest reserves under the National Forestry Act or the National Parks Act.

Other mangrove sites are being protected together with the delineation of marine parks under the National Fisheries Act and state laws such as Sabah’s Parks Enactment.

Being recognised as a site of international importance is an extraordinary privilege.

It opens up tremendous opportunities for an area to be protected and preserved with strict regulations and guidelines without compromising the cultural use by local communities.

The recognition of a site by international conventions usually demands that comprehensive plans and resource management be undertaken by local authorities, with the participation of local communities for the maintenance and protection of the site’s distinctive property.

The recognition also brings multiple benefits and provides outstanding prospects. It is a remarkable identity that can draw international attention, a brand name with a huge global fan base.

The branding triggers the birth and development of a massive tourism industry and all other complementary industries which contribute to the country’s socio-economic development.

However, without a comprehensive governance framework and careful management and control, development would grow at the expense of the environment.

Marco d’Eramo, in his 2014 article entitled “Unescocide” published in the New Left Review, described this phenomenon, particularly the destructive tourism industries and communities surrounding the establishment of Unesco World Cultural Heritage sites.

A steady increase in the number of tourists has taken its toll on the environmental integrity of the mangroves in Malaysia.

Catalysed by tourism activities, anthropogenic impacts are affecting the health and resilience of the ecosystems in our mangrove ecotourism sites.

One identified anthropogenic impact is the tour and cruise boats that frequent the mangrove sites.

These boats, depending on the speed they travel, produce waves that can cause erosion of the river banks.

The heavy scouring of sediment will eventually result in the uprooting and loss of mangrove trees.

Consequently, the channels become wider and the water becomes shallower, altering the hydrology and the morphology of the rivers and estuaries.

Changes in the physical characteristics of the mangrove forests will negatively affect the ecosystem, including protection from coastal and climatic hazards.

More environmental issues associated with mass tourism are expected to occur, ranging from waste and litter to run-offs and leachate, which may pollute the estuarine waters and affect the health of marine life.

Careful consideration must be given when carrying out tourism and development activities near mangrove areas.

It is crucial to be equipped with integrated and effective measures to mitigate these risks, especially mangrove conservation sites designated as Unesco sites.

As the third largest country with mangrove forest cover, Malaysia’s mangroves play a significant role on the global stage.

Each mangrove tree is the main actor in the climate change drama. As a stakeholder and global citizen, Malaysia must invest in conservation efforts to protect its mangroves and natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations.


Senior Lecturer/Research Fellow, Institute for Environment and Development at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and Coordinator at The Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network

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Malaysia: Major oil spill heading towards Perak

r. sekaran The Star 27 Jul 18;

GEORGE TOWN: Up to six tonnes of diesel and hundreds of litres of engine oil floated from Penang seas towards Perak when a ship sank, threatening fish and shrimp farms and the coastal environment along several kilometres of northern Perak’s coast.

The vessel’s fuel and engine oil began spewing out about seven hours after it hit the remains of a shipwreck nicknamed Kapal Simen, 4km from Penang island’s southern coast yesterday morning.

The Star’s assistant chief photographer Zainudin Ahad hired a fisherman’s boat to reach the half-sunken ship and on arriving, he said he was nauseated by the reek of diesel.

“The smell of diesel was overpowering and it looked like a thin rainbow sheen. I also saw blotches of red engine oil floating southeast towards the mainland.

With the spill floating freely, marine biologist Datuk Prof Dr Aileen Tan bemoaned the damage to the coastal environment when it eventually reaches land.

She believed the fuel and oil would eventually reach Perak shores because the rapidly falling tide was heading in a southeasterly direction yesterday.

From about noon yesterday, the tide fell from a high of 2.4m to 0.85m by 7pm.

“The tide was strong and we can only hope that the current and wind will spread the diesel thinly so that when it lands, it is not concentrated enough to do immediate short-term damage in any one area,” she said.

About 20km from the spill is Tanjung Piandang, Perak, where dozens of shrimp and fish farms in dugout ponds are near the shore.

Dr Aileen said the farms must be told not to pump in seawater to avoid sucking the diesel into their ponds, especially if their intake pipes are close to the water surface.

“Coastal fisherman must not put out their floating nets or the diesel will contaminate their catch,” she said, adding that the diesel and oil could be at sea for a few days before it hits land.

Meanwhile, Perak Mentri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said the state was on high alert.

By yesterday evening, he said the spill had not reached Perak shores and the state Marine Department had teams deployed along possible shorelines, ready to clean up.

“Our focus now is to prevent the spill from harming open-sea fish farms and our coastal fishermen,” he said in a statement.

The 43.6m vessel from Hong Kong, Xin Yi Yi, hit Kapal Simen at about 5.30am yesterday.

The captain of the vessel, Shing Wei, 61, in his police report, said he had just arrived from Hong Kong to collect live farmed fish from the Batu Maung fisheries jetty.

He reported that it was a misty morning and he did not see the warning light on the buoy that marked Kapal Simen until it was too late. He estimated his loss to be around RM3.5mil. Shing Wei, who could only speak Cantonese, declined to talk to the press.

Shing Wei and his crew of four were saved by local fishermen after Xin Yi Yi sank.

The Penang shipping agent of the vessel, S. Elumalai, said it was a routine trip for the ship, which could take about 30 tonnes of live fish back to Hong Kong.

Northern Region Marine Department director Capt Abdul Samad Shaik Osman said the ship had about six tonnes of fuel on board on reaching Penang and gave assurance that it was not severe.

Perak MB: State Marine Dept monitoring oil spill from Penang waters
manjit kaur The Star 27 Jul 18;

IPOH: Perak Mentri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said at the moment there is no risk of diesel and engine oil reaching Perak shores after a ship sank at the Penang coast.

He said the state Marine Department has been monitoring the situation, and would inform the state government on the risk, if the spill reached towards Tanjung Piandang.

"So for now, there is nothing to worry and that people should get the correct information from the authorities concerned.

"Until this morning, the situation is all clear and I wish to thank all the personnel and officers from the agencies involved for controlling the situation," he told reporters after chairing the Perak Water Board meeting here.

The Star reported Thursday (July 26) that up to six tonnes of diesel and hundreds of litres of engine oil floated from Penang seas towards Perak when a ship sank, threatening fish and shrimp farms and the coastal environment along several kilometres of northern Perak's coast.

The vessel's fuel and engine oil began spewing out about seven hours after it hit the remains of a shipwreck nicknamed Kapal Simen, 4km from Penang island's southern coast.

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Indonesia: How a volunteer group in Bali is fighting back against sea turtle smugglers

If the animals end up in the hands of smugglers, they are often butchered alive, but one Balinese society is trying to stop them – and succeeding
Richard C Paddock The Independent 27 Jul 18;

The people of Bali have long been of two minds about endangered sea turtles. Some want to save them. Some want to eat them.

But increasingly, the desire to save the turtle is winning out, especially among younger Balinese.

By day, Legian Beach is crowded with tourists from around the world who come for the sand and surf. By night, when the beach is dark and nearly deserted, it becomes a critical habitat for turtles.

Alex Unwakoly, a volunteer from the Bali Sea Turtle Society, was patrolling a beach across from a five star hotel one recent night when he spotted an olive ridley turtle that had crawled up on the sand to lay its eggs.

So began a rapid operation to save the turtle’s offspring.

He and a colleague kept a handful of tourists at a discreet distance while the turtle – classified as a member of a vulnerable species – laid its eggs. Other rescuers arrived. And as the turtle crawled back to the Indian Ocean, they dug up the 136 eggs, each about the size of a ping-pong ball, then put them in a bucket and took them away to hatch in a safer spot.

“Every time she lays eggs, she will come back to this place, the place she was born,” Unwakoly says. That can be several times a year.

The largely volunteer campaign to save Bali’s sea turtles is a rare success story on this popular tourist island, which struggles with environmental challenges, including shoreline litter, eroding beaches and soul-sapping traffic jams.

Turtle eggs left to hatch on their own, as nature intended, face many threats. They can be crushed by beachgoers, swept away at high tide, dug up by wild dogs or stolen by poachers. Turtles laying their eggs on the beach face the risk of being carried off and becoming dinner.

“The most important thing about conservation is how to educate the humans,” says I Wayan Wiradnyana, founder of the Bali Sea Turtle Society. “The sea turtle belongs to everyone, so everyone should take responsibility.”

Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle inhabit Indonesia’s waters, and all of them are classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

The group’s primary success has been with the olive ridley, which appears to be less affected by the rubbish, noise and bright lights of modern Bali.

The turtle is also said to have a fishy taste, unlike the green sea turtle that Balinese consider the most delicious.

The plight of sea turtles has improved considerably since 2001, when I came here to investigate the trade. Catching, possessing or eating the animals was banned in 1999, but even so tens of thousands of turtles were being killed.

Turtles awaiting slaughter were kept in plain sight in bamboo pens on the beach. Turtle meat was served openly at small restaurants and at Hindu ceremonies. Smugglers operated with impunity, at one point burning down a police post in protest at the ban.

The turtles were butchered alive to keep the meat from sticking to the shell. One butcher described the gruesome, 10 minute process to me: he first cut off the flippers, then separated the meat from the shell, and at the end removed the still-beating heart.

The authorities on the predominantly Hindu island began to crack down rather than risk a backlash from foreign tourists.

Hindu priests helped protect the turtle by declaring that sacrificing them was not a religious practice.

Today, turtle trade has been driven underground. Some smugglers and vendors remain in business, though, and last year Indonesia’s marine police in Bali seized more than 1,540lb of turtle meat, including more than 400lb packed in ice and sent by bus from the nearby island of Lombok.

During the two years before that, police arrested three smugglers and seized more than 120 live turtles, records show.

In a predawn raid in March on a restaurant in Jimbaran, a popular tourist area in Bali, police arrested a cook in the act of cutting turtle meat. If they had arrived much later, it would have been chopped so finely it would have been indistinguishable from other meat.

“When we got there, the flippers were already chopped up,” says Budi Prasetyo, a marine police officer. “We had to put the puzzle back together.”

In April, local police arrested a man near Kuta Beach suspected of stealing a woman’s purse. They searched his motorbike and found 97 newly dug up turtle eggs, Wiradnyana says. Police handed them over to the hatchery. Two were broken.

Wiradnyana and I Gusti Ngurah Tresna, known as Agung, began trying to save sea turtles in 2001. They recovered the eggs from a single nest, hatched them and released the babies.

The following year, they recovered eggs from two nests.

Gradually, campaigners raised awareness in the community, attracted volunteers and built a network of lookouts, such as taxi drivers and hotel security guards, who report sightings of turtles on the beach.

Last year the society retrieved eggs from a record 761 nests and released some 70,000 hatchlings. This year, they are on track to rescue and release even more.

But nearly all of them are olive ridleys. Wiradnyana points out that the five other species known to inhabit Balinese waters are not making a similar recovery.

And he worries about many long-term threats: hotel development, beach erosion and rising sea levels due to climate change all reduce the turtles’ nesting area. Illegal hunting and floating plastic garbage can kill them at sea.

When rescuers recover eggs they take them to the society’s hatchery at Kuta, one of Bali’s most crowded beaches.

The hatchery, 30ft long, is built in the shape of a giant green sea turtle. The rescuers bury the eggs in sand and wait. The eggs hatch 45 to 60 days later.

Most of the hatchlings are released within 24 hours in an uplifting, circus-style event that draws hundreds of tourists.

At one event, the hatchery is prepared to release more than 400 hatchlings. There is little advance notice, but word spreads down the beach. By 4pm hundreds of people have assembled.

Agung grabs a megaphone and climbs up on a small platform. “It’s time for action for the baby turtle now,” he announces.

He speaks briefly about the challenges the hatchlings would face to reach adulthood in the open ocean.

“For every 1,000 turtles we release on the beach, how many will survive?” he asks.

“One!” call out several people who have done their homework.

As an afterthought, he mentions that the society accepts donations. But there is no hard sell. Participation is free.

About 200 people, almost all foreign tourists, line up, receive a baby turtle in a plastic dish and head down to the beach. As directed, they stand behind a line in the sand facing the ocean. Agung stands near the waterline and issues instructions through his bullhorn.

“Are you ready?” he calls. “Everybody squat down! One, two, three, release your turtles!”

The race is on.

The turtles scramble towards the water but stop short. The tide is out and the distance considerable.

After the hatchlings get the feel of sand under their flippers, Agung directs the crowd to walk forward, pick up a turtle and carry it to the surf. Standing knee-deep in the water, they let them go a second time.

Afterwards, the participants are enthusiastic about helping to save a threatened species.

“It’s amazing,” says Teagan Hercus, 18, a university student from Australia. “It’s the best thing we have done in Bali.”

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Indonesia: Ministry Says It Works Hard to Combat Haze Ahead of Asian Games

Amal Ganesha Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 18;

Jakarta. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has renewed its commitment to combatting forest fires, as the resulting haze could potentially derail next month's Asian Games, co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra.

Raffles Panjaitan, director for land and forest fire control at the ministry, said last week that special teams are dispatched every day to combat haze and urge people to cooperate in preventing it.

One of the 12 significant hot spots on the island assessed on Tuesday (24/07) is located in South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir district, just 72 kilometers from the provincial capital, Palembang.

South Sumatra and Riau are the two provinces on the island most prone to forest fires.

The ministry said in May that air quality in Palembang was good at 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter, compared with the World Health Organization's threshold of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. The reading measures particles in the air that can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease, as well as cancers.

The measurement in Jakarta meanwhile stands at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, though it is deemed acceptable under the law, which sets the maximum at 65 micrograms per cubic meter.

"We at the ministry are cautious over the issue, and thus we are dispatching our teams in the provinces to extinguish fires on a daily basis," ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

The ministry also confirmed that there are around 50 fire-control stations in South Sumatra tasked with eradicating forest and land fires through various means, including water-bombing aircraft.

"Another thing is that the dry season also doesn't help," Djati said.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the dry season on the island is expected to continue until September. The closing ceremony of the Asian Games will take place on Sept. 2.

NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites have reported 1,183 hot spots in Indonesia since January.

"Please note that not all the hot spots are fires and not all the fires are forest fires," Djati said.

Why Forest and Land Fire Management This Year Highly Important, According to Moeldoko
Netral News 26 Jul 18;

JAKARTA, NNC - Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said there are four reasons why the handling of forest and land fires (karhutla) of 2018 is highly important.

According to him, in one month to 2019, Indonesia will face three important events, i.e., the XVIII Asian Games in August, Annual Meeting of World Bank-IMF 2018 in October in Bali, and the democracy fiesta (general election) in April 2019.

On the other hand, neighboring country Malaysia has praised the government's efforts in preventing smoke and forest and land fires in 2017.

The importance of the forest and land fires handling is seen from the attitude of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who did not want to compromise with the forest and land fires this year.

"If in your area there are fires and unhandled, the rules are still the same, still remember? Dismissal!" said Jokowi in a meeting about Forest and Land Fires at the State Palace, Tuesday (2/6/2018).

Therefore, Moeldoko in 2018 Forest and Land Fires Supervision Preparation Meeting on Wednesday (7/25) at Bina Graha, Jakarta asked local government, Environment Ministry (KLHK), Police (Polri), Military (TNI), National State Agency (BIN), Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Ministry of Transportation, and related institutions to work hard to solve this problem.

"I ask that we all mobilize the maximum ability and work together to tackle the forest fire," he said.

It is known the meeting aims to strengthen the synergy and improvement of work processes of each ministry and institution.

In its report, the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya revealed that her ministry conducted direct monitoring in areas often hit by forest and land fires, such as Central Kalimantan, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, and Riau. "From the experience so far, the management of forest and land fire prevention has been more organized," she said.

Meanwhile, the BMKG predicts the peak of this year's dry season will occur in July-September. For weekly periods, BMKG issues daily predictions that apply up to a week ahead.

"There will be seen levels of rainfall, humidity, and wind speed, which can be used to see to what extent the level of hot spots on the ground. If it is already 50 percent, then it is in the category of dangerous and flammable," said Head of BMKG Dwikorita Karnawati.

To prevent the fire spots from spreading, one of the proposed ways is to increase peat moss humidity.

"I suggest an effective artificial rain to be made this week and next week, because there are cloud shipments from the Philippines," she said.

BMKG's proposal becomes important because the observation of the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) in mid-July for two weeks also shows a variation of water surface on peat from < 0.5 m to -1.5 m. The acceptable condition is the water level < 0.5 m. With this condition the peat moisture is still maintained. If the surface > 0.5 to -1.4 m below the peat indicates moisture, she concluded.

"There is no significant problem. I would like to thank all the village officials, village heads, village consultative bodies, as well as the TNI and Police officers who also accompany us all," said the Head of State.

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Indonesia: Jakarta hides foul river with giant net before Asian Games

Authorities install mesh net to hide sight and smell of Sentiong River from athletes
Kate Lamb The Guardian 26 Jul 18;

The Jakarta city government has come under fire for buying a giant nylon net to cover up a polluted and foul-smelling river weeks before the Indonesian capital hosts the 2018 Asian Games.

The Sentiong River, which twists alongside the athletes’ village in Kemayoran in central Jakarta, is so polluted it is known by locals as kali item or the black river.

The administration installed a 600 by 20 metre black mesh net earlier in July to minimise the putrid stench and unsightly view.

An official from the Jakarta water resources agency said the nets were intended to hide the aquatic eyesore.

“Its function is to elevate the beauty [of the river] so that the black water cannot be directly seen by international athletes,” the official, Supriyono, told Kompas.

The cost of the river beautification plan is just over 580m rupiah (£30,000), Jakarta’s deputy governor, Sandiaga Uno, told reporters at city hall on Tuesday.

The move has been criticised and ridiculed, with some saying the city government was more interested in covering up the river than in trying to clean it.

Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, has argued that his administration inherited the chronic problem.

“If the past administrations took notice of this issue, we would not have inherited the black river,” he told Tempo. “But now it has grabbed widespread attention.”

The governor said on a visit to the area that the river had to be covered up because it ran past the athletes’ dining hall.

He also said the government was working to clean the waterway by employing aerators and “nano bubble” technology to help break down organic material.

Water from a dam in Bogor in west Java is being pumped in to help flush the river out, and the city government said it planned to build more wastewater treatment plants.

Wastewater from houses and a nearby tofu factory have contributed to the condition of the Sentiong, one of many polluted rivers that run through Jakarta.

The national development and planning board reported in February that 96% of river water in the Indonesian capital was severely polluted.

The Asian Games begin on 18 August, with 11,000 athletes from 45 countries expected to attend the largest multi-sporting event after the Olympics.

Events will be hosted in Jakarta and Palembang in south Sumatra.

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Huge Flood From Failed Dam In Laos Has Now Spread To Cambodia


Some 25,000 Cambodians raced to find higher ground after floodwaters spread to their province from a failed hydroelectric dam in neighboring Laos, according to state media in Cambodia. In Laos, the government says flooding has killed at least 27 people and destroyed the homes of more than 3,000 residents.

Cambodia's Sekong River hit a water level of nearly 12 meters (almost 40 feet) on Thursday — a height that left 17 villages flooded and forced the local government to rush to find shelter for roughly half the population of the Siem Pang district in Stung Treng province, state news agency AKP reports.

According to AKP, Cambodian water and weather spokesperson H.E. Chan Yutha "said that there was no retreating sign and the water kept increasing about two centimeters per hour."

The flooding could also threaten a nearly 900-foot bridge that was recently completed in Stung Treng, the news agency says.

The disaster started Monday night in Laos' Attapeu Province. That's where a "saddle dam" in a large hydroelectric project failed, causing panic and destruction in low-lying villages downriver. The rush of millions of gallons of water has now caused evacuations more than 40 miles away in Cambodia — and with more rain falling this week, the flooding is expected to continue as the mass of water churns through river systems.

The dam in the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy complex was holding back water from the Xe Namnoy River, which was diverted in April 2015 as part of an ambitious multi-dam hydroelectric plan.

As NPR's Scott Neuman has reported:

"Landlocked Laos is one of Southeast Asia's poorest and most isolated countries, governed by one of the world's few remaining communist governments. In recent years the country has sought to become 'the battery of Southeast Asia' by exploiting its extensive river system to generate and sell hydroelectric power to its neighbors."

In Laos, 131 people remain missing and the military and volunteers have tried to bolster the relief effort, after at least seven villages were flooded. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said on Wednesday that rescue workers have been saving people from rooftops, according to the official KPL news agency.

The tragedy has raised questions about whether residents were adequately warned, particularly after reports emerged that Korean firms involved in the dam project had raised an alert about a structural problem just one day before the collapse. As of Thursday, the umbrella development company has been silent.

"Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Power Company has not made any public and official statements over the incident as yet," Laos' state-run Vientiane Times reports.

But after Laotian Energy Minister Khammany Inthirath said the company cannot deny its responsibility — and that compensation and other costs are to be borne solely by the developer — an official told the newspaper that the company will follow the letter of the law and the agreements it signed.

A number of countries have stepped in to help ease the catastrophe in Laos, including Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and China – all of which are sending equipment and personnel to try to ease the crisis.

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Almost all world’s oceans damaged by human impact, study finds

The remaining wilderness areas, mostly in the remote Pacific and at the poles, need urgent protection from fishing and pollution, scientists say
Damian Carrington The Guardian 26 Jul 18;

Just 13% of the world’s oceans remain untouched by the damaging impacts of humanity, the first systematic analysis has revealed. Outside the remotest areas of the Pacific and the poles, virtually no ocean is left harbouring naturally high levels of marine wildlife.

Huge fishing fleets, global shipping and pollution running off the land are combining with climate change to degrade the oceans, the researchers found. Furthermore, just 5% of the remaining ocean wilderness is within existing marine protection areas.

“We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” says Kendall Jones, at the University of Queensland, Australia, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, who led the new research. “The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.”

Jones said the last remnants of wilderness show how vibrant ocean life was before human activity came to dominate the planet. “They act as time machines,” he said. “They are home to unparalleled levels of marine biodiversity and some of the last places on Earth you find large populations of apex predators like sharks.”

Much of the wilderness is in the high seas, beyond the protected areas that nations can create. The scientists said a high seas conservation treaty is urgently needed, with negotiations beginning in September under the UN Law of the Sea convention. They also said the $4bn a year in government subsidies spent on high seas fishing must be cut. “Most fishing on the high seas would actually be unprofitable if it weren’t for big subsidies,” Jones said.

The new work joins recent studies in highlighting the threat to oceans. Scientists warned in January that the oceans are suffocating, with huge dead zones quadrupling since 1950, and in February, new maps revealed half of world’s oceans are now industrially fished. “Oceans are under threat now as never before in human history,” said Sir David Attenborough at the conclusion of the BBC series Blue Planet 2 in December.

The new research, published in the journal Current Biology, classified areas of ocean as wilderness if they were in the lowest 10% of human impacts, either from one source, such as bottom trawling, or a combination of them all.

As most are on the high seas, very few are protected. “This means the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before,” Jones said.

Climate change is causing growing damage and Jones said Arctic wilderness areas protected by ice cover in the 1970s had now been lost after the ice melted and fishing boats were able to access them. It is increasingly a global problem, he said: “In future, as climate change gets worse, I think you can definitely say pretty much everywhere in the ocean is going to come under increasing level of threat.”

There are some bright spots, such as the remote corals in the British Indian Ocean Territory around Diego Garcia, from which islanders were controversially removed in the 1960s. In the Antarctic, major fishing companies now back the creation of the world’s biggest marine sanctuary.

The new study aimed to include the maximum area of likely wilderness, said Ward Appeltans, at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission run by Unesco: “So the claim that only 13% of ocean wilderness remains is all the more striking.” He said the research focused on the ocean floor, and did not include impacts on the water column above it, and backed calls for a global ocean conservation treaty.

Jones said: “Beyond just valuing nature for nature’s sake, having these large intact seascapes that function in a way that they always have done is really important for the Earth. They maintain the ecological processes that are how the climate and Earth system function – [without them] you can start seeing big knock-on effects with drastic and unforeseen consequences.”

Ocean wilderness 'disappearing' globally
Mary Halton BBC 27 Jul 18;

Scientists have mapped marine "wilderness" areas around the world for the first time.

These are regions minimally impacted by human activities such as fishing, pollution and shipping.

The team, led by researchers in Australia, found that just 13.2% of the world's oceans could be classed as wilderness - most in international waters, away from human populations.

Very few coastal areas met the criteria, including coral reefs.

Reefs are some of the most biodiverse habitats in the ocean, as they are home to a great number of different plant and animal species. They are thought to be vital areas for marine life.

What makes a wilderness?

"It's a place where the environment and ecosystem is acting in basically an undisturbed way that's free from human activity," explained lead author Kendall Jones.

"Studies have shown that places free from intense levels of human activity have really high levels of biodiversity and high genetic diversity [but] we didn't have an idea of where across the globe these intact places could still be found," the Wildlife Conservation Society researcher told BBC News.

Jones and other scientists set out to analyse the impact of 15 different human activities or "stressors" on global ocean environments, in order to map these regions. Areas that experienced the least impact - the bottom 10% - were classed as wilderness.

Data from satellites, ship tracking and pollution reports from individual countries were analysed.

Dr Rachel Hale from the University of Southampton, observed that "marine wildernesses are largely overlooked in terms of conservation priorities when compared to terrestrial ones, and it is extremely interesting to see where in the world these lie and what habitats they cover.

"They could be important corridors connecting habitats and species populations," added Dr Hale, who was not involved in the study.

How much is left?
The team found that most of the areas they defined as wilderness fell within the Arctic, Antarctic and around Pacific Island nations, or in the open ocean, where human activity is more limited.

Despite their conservation status, marine protected areas (MPAs) appear to host just 4.9% of global marine wilderness.

Mr Jones also noted that wilderness areas exposed by the decline of sea ice in the Arctic are now potentially vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts.

What can be done?

Although Mr Jones points out that fishing is one of the most significant direct impacts that humans can have on ocean ecosystems, many of the problems being caused originate on land.

Runoff of nutrients from farming fertilisers, chemicals from poorly controlled industrial production, and the influx of plastic pollution from rivers are all disrupting ocean life.

"Plastic pollution is one of the big things that we want to work out a way to get data on," he told the BBC.

"It's so widespread and so hard to manage that we really want to get a good idea of where it is and where is most affected."

The UN are currently considering a legally binding addition to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which would mandate conservation and sustainable use of international waters - currently not protected.

The first of four conferences to determine the details will take place in September 2018.

Mr Jones welcomes this: "It's good that the international community is starting to recognise the need for improved management of international waters."

However Dr Hale points out that the issues could prove more complex, with many problems traversing legal and international boundaries.

"Formal protection of these wilderness areas would not be able to protect them from some stressors such as climate change and invasive species," she told the BBC.

"We should prioritise conservation actions in at-risk and/or biologically important areas, and identifying these areas within the identified marine wilderness areas would be a positive next step."

The findings are published in Current Biology.

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