Best of our wild blogs: 31 Oct 18

Our Seas, Our Legacy - a visual storytelling platform for Singapore's shores
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Just In: 10 Threatened Species in Singapore
WWF Singapore Blog

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No more 'hum' in laksa? Why cockles are becoming costlier and harder to find

Pollution, smuggling and overharvesting have stacked the odds against blood cockles bouncing back from the huge fall in supply, although there is a hope – aquaculture. The series For Food’s Sake investigates.
Derrick A Paulo and Gosia Klimowicz Channel NewsAsia 31 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE and MALAYSIA: It has built its reputation on serving see-hum (blood cockles), and the star dish at the Two Chefs Eating House is still its garlic and chilli cockles. The restaurant in Commonwealth Crescent serves over 10 kilogrammes of these cockles daily.

In recent times, however, they have become even more precious to owner Lam Chan Wah. Five years ago, they cost him around S$1.50 to S$2 per kg, but that figure is now around S$4.50 because the supply has been dwindling.

In 2013, Singapore imported 2,720 tonnes of cockles from Malaysia, the source of more than 99 per cent of the Republic’s live cockles. That has now fallen to 1,700 tonnes a year. So what has happened?

With food prices rising by 2.1 per cent a year, on average, over the past five years, the series For Food’s Sake finds out what is behind the hikes in the prices of various foods, from rice to bananas to sugarcane.

It is not only about climate change or inflation caused by labour cost. The reasons are scandalous in some cases, such as chicken (price-fixing) and cockles being ruined by the direct impact of human development on the environment.

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Singapore's water success story to be repeated with energy: Chan Chun Sing

Jose Hong Straits Times 30 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE - If the past 50 years have been about how Singapore has overcome water scarcity, the next 50 will be about how the country overcomes its energy challenges.

“Just like how Singapore has successfully diversified our supply of water over the years, our next ambitious goal is to enhance our energy resilience to ensure that we are never dependent on any single source of supply,” said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Oct 30) at the opening of Singapore International Energy Week at Marina Bay Sands.

To this end, the country is investing in infrastructure, tapping green energy and acting as a test-bed for innovative solutions here and abroad.

He announced new projects and initiatives ranging from ramped-up solar production to greater support for the energy storage systems – essentially gigantic rechargeable batteries – that will enable Singapore to better use solar production.

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Malaysia: Sultan of Johor wants quality of water in Johor to be improved

Junita Mat Rasid New Straits Times 30 Oct 18;

JOHOR BARU: Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar wants the quality of water in the state to be improved for the sake of the people’s prosperity.

The ruler said this after receiving an audience from Johor Department of Environment director Datuk Dr Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh and Johor Forestry Department director Jeffri Abd Rasid at Istana Pasir Pelangi here today.

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Ocean Shock: Big aquaculture bulldozes Borneo

Matthew Green Reuters 30 Oct 18;

PURU NI TIMBUL, Malaysia, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Swinging his machete with an economy of movement that only the jungle can teach, Matakin Bondien lopped a stray branch from the path of his boat. He hopped barefoot from the prow, climbed a muddy slope and stared once more at what he'd lost.

Not long ago, the clearing had been home to mangroves, saltwater-loving trees that anchor a web of life stretching from fish larvae hatching in the cradle of their underwater roots to the hornbills squawking at their crown. Now the trees' benevolent presence was gone, in their place a swath of stripped soil littered with felled trunks as gray as fossils.

"Do you think we can find any food in this place now?" asked Bondien, a village leader of the Tombonuo people. "The company thinks it can do anything it wants — that we don't count."

The company is Sunlight Inno Seafood. Owned by Cedric Wong King Ti, a Malaysian businessman known as "King Wong," it has bulldozed swaths of mangroves in the Tombonuo's homeland in northern Borneo to make space for plastic-lined ponds filled with millions of king prawns. The shrimp are destined to be fattened for three months, scooped up in nets, quick frozen, packed into 40-foot refrigerated containers and loaded onto cargo ships bound for distant ports.

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Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds

The huge loss is a tragedy in itself but also threatens the survival of civilisation, say the world’s leading scientists
Damian Carrington The Guardian 30 Oct 18;

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.

The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

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Indonesia: Marine protected areas increasing fish stocks

Maizura Ismail The ASEAN Post 30 Oct 18;

Fish swim over healthy coral in Indonesia's Wakatobi archipelago, a thriving marine paradise, packing a bewildering abundance of life that supports 100,000 people and contributes millions of dollars to Indonesia's economy. (Rod Salm / The Nature Conservancy / AFP Photo)

Surrounded by severely damaged coral reefs, the fishers of Indonesia’s Seraya Besar, off the west coast of Flores, struggle to make ends meet. Year-on-year fish stocks have shrivelled as the damaged reef can only support limited life. If these fishers want more, they would have to fish further out, increasing their costs and lowering profits.

Armed with memories of larger catches and bigger fish within their local waters, the fishers of Seraya Besar, in partnership with a French non-profit reef conservation organisation Coral Guardian, came together to set up a locally managed marine protected area (MPA). Manned by a 15-person team, the damaged coral reefs within the 1,550-acre MPA underwent small-scale coral restoration, under which more than 26,000 corals were planted.

According to a report by the Ocean Agency, the outcome resulted in boosted fish stocks including protected species with five-fold hauls described by fishers. Over the past two years, the coral plantings have grown to form a natural-like reef, with the steel structure barely visible. Bigger fish like groupers, trigger and butterflyfish have also been seen taking occupancy.

Within the MPA where corals have been planted, the numbers of fish have grown from 200 fish per 100 square metres to roughly 1,000 fish per 100 square metres. The impact spill-over on human livelihood can also be felt in much wider areas, including on the nearby Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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We desperately need to store more carbon – seagrass could be the answer

Marianne Holmer The Conversation 31 Oct 18;

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to avoid a climate change catastrophe. Although efforts are already being made to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses, they are by most estimations not enough.

It is therefore critical that we find ways to drastically reduce the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere. Ecosystems capable of absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide know as “carbon sinks” are ideal for this.

In principle, all living organisms – all animals, plants, algae and bacteria – consist of carbon and so function as a carbon sink. For example, as long as a tree lives it will absorb and store carbon. Given the sheer volume of all the trees contained in tropical forests, it’s no wonder most people imagine such forests when they think of a carbon sink.

However, once chopped down and turned into firewood, the carbon in those trees will be released and emitted back into the atmosphere as CO₂. So while a forest is a moderately efficient carbon sink, its capacity to retain carbon in the forest floor is limited.

In fact, new research by colleagues and I has found that such forests are actually only the fifth most efficient ecosystem in the carbon storage cycle behind salt marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and, best of all, tundra.

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Study tracks severe bleaching events on a Pacific coral reef over the past century

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 30 Oct 18;

As climate change causes ocean temperatures to rise, coral reefs worldwide are experiencing mass bleaching events and die-offs. For many, this is their first encounter with extreme heat. However for some reefs in the central Pacific, heatwaves caused by El Nino are a way of life. Exactly how these reefs deal with repeated episodes of extreme heat has been unclear. A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has uncovered the history of bleaching on a reef in the epicenter of El Nino, revealing how some corals have been able to return after facing extreme conditions. The study was published October 26, 2018, in the journal Communications Biology.

"These huge marine heat waves, which are being exacerbated by global warming, are equivalent to an atomic bomb in terms of impact on coral reefs—they kill millions of corals across huge areas of ocean in a very short time" says WHOI scientist Anne Cohen, who was principal investigator on the work. "We've seen this play out now globally for the past 30-40 years, and bleaching events have become more frequent and more severe."

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