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.

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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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Best of our wild blogs: 18 Apr 18

Butane gas spill off Life Firing Islands, 17 Apr 2018
wild shores of singapore

Common Goldenback Mating at SBWR
Singapore Bird Group

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Tanker collision off Singapore coast results in butane leak

Channel NewsAsia 17 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: Two tankers collided off the coast of Singapore on Tuesday (Apr 17), causing a liquefied butane gas leak, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

The collision occurred at 2.30am about one nautical mile south of Tuas Extension in Singapore waters.

The Singapore-registered LPG tanker, Crystal Sunrise, was picking up its pilot near the designated western pilot boarding ground when it collided with the westbound Greece-registered tanker Astro Saturn.

The collision damaged the Crystal Sunrise’s ballast tank, causing its butane cargo to start leaking from one of the cargo tanks, while the Astro Saturn sustained damage to its port anchor and bow.

Though an estimated 1,796 metric tonnes of butane gas had leaked, MPA said any leaked butane, which has a high evaporation rate, would have been carried southward away from mainland Singapore, where most of it would have rapidly dissipated to below flammable levels within an hour and pose no risk to shipping.

No injuries have been reported, but eight PSA Marine staff who were in the vicinity of the collision have received medical check-ups at the National University Hospital, and all of the crew have since been discharged.

MPA is investigating the incident.

The Straits of Singapore and Malacca are one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and has seen some high-profile incidents recently such as US Navy ship John S McCain colliding with an oil tanker resulting in the deaths of 10 US sailors last August.

In September last year, five crew members died after a dredger and a tanker collided in Singapore waters.

On Monday, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*STAR) Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore Management University (SMU) and Fujitsu announced that they are in the process of developing predictive tech to prevent ship collisions.

Source: CNA/ec(hm)

Singapore-registered LPG tanker in collision off Tuas; no injuries reported
Today Online 17 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE — A Singapore-registered Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanker was involved in a collision with a Greece-registered tanker off the Tuas Extension early Tuesday morning (April 17), the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said.

In a media release sent late on Tuesday night, the MPA said the Singapore-registered vessel, Crystal Sunrise, was picking up her pilot near the designated western pilot boarding ground at about 2.30am when it collided with a westbound Greece-registered tanker, Astro Saturn.

The collision took place about one nautical mile south of Tuas Extension, in Singapore waters.

"Following the collision, Crystal Sunrise sustained damage to her ballast tank... (and) the butane that (the) vessel was carrying had started to leak from one of the cargo tanks," said the MPA.

"The ship’s crew took the necessary measures and stopped the leak."

Astro Saturn sustained damages to her port anchor and bow. Both ships have been stablised, the MPA added.

No injuries were reported, but the collision saw an estimated 1,796MT of butane gas leaked from Crystal Sunrise.

"As liquefied butane has a high evaporation rate, MPA has assessed that any leaked butane would have been carried southward away from mainland Singapore, where most of it would have rapidly dissipated to below flammable levels within an hour and pose no risk to shipping," said the MPA.

As a precautionary measure, eight PSA Marine staff who were in the vicinity of the collision received medical check-ups at the National University Hospital. All of the crew have since been discharged.

MPA said it is investigating the incident.

UPDATE 1-LPG, fuel oil tankers collide off Singapore coast
Reuters 17 Apr 18;

* Collision between tankers leads to butane leak
* Leak poses no danger to shipping
* Both ships have been stabilised
* Ships chartered by Gyxis and Trafigura
* (Adds MPA statement)

By Roslan Khasawneh and Seng Li Peng

SINGAPORE, April 17 (Reuters) - Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it is investigating a collision between two tankers in Singapore waters on Tuesday that led to a leak of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from one of the ships.

An estimated 1,796 tonnes of butane gas leaked from the LPG tanker involved but this posed no danger to shipping and measures had been taken by the ship’s crew to stop the leak, MPA said in a statement.

“As liquefied butane has a high evaporation rate, MPA has assessed that any leaked butane would have been carried southward away from mainland Singapore, where most of it would have rapidly dissipated to below flammable levels within an hour and pose no risk to shipping,” it said.

The collision was between Singapore-registered LPG tanker Crystal Sunrise, chartered by Japanese firm Gyxis, and a westbound Greece-registered tanker, Astro Saturn, chartered by European trading house Trafigura, market and shipping sources said.

“We can confirm that the Astro Saturn is on TC (time charter) to Trafigura and is carrying fuel oil,” a Trafigura spokeswoman said, without elaborating.

According to data from Thomson Reuters Eikon, Crystal Sunrise is a Very Large Gas Carrier (VLGC) with a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of 54,070 tonnes carrying Middle Eastern origin LPG.

Astro Saturn is an Aframax with a DWT of 105,167 tonnes and is anchored at Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, Malaysia, but close to Singapore.

According to MPA, the Crystal Sunrise was picking up her pilot near the designated western pilot boarding ground when the collision took place about one nautical mile south of Tuas Extension.

The vessel sustained damage to her ballast tank in the collision while Astro Saturn sustained damage to her port anchor and bow.

Both ships have been stabilised and no injuries were reported.

But eight staff from PSA Marine, a marine services provider, who were in the vicinity of the collision, were given medical check-ups as a precaution.

All of the crew have since been discharged, MPA said. (Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh and Seng Li Peng; Editing by Adrian Croft)

Collision between LPG tanker CRYSTAL SUNRISE and tanker ASTRO SATURN
MPA Press Release 17 April 2018

At about 2.30am on 17 April 2018, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) received a report from Singapore-registered LPG tanker, CRYSTAL SUNRISE that she had collided with a westbound Greece-registered tanker, ASTRO SATURN. CRYSTAL SUNRISE was picking up her pilot near the designated western pilot boarding ground when the collision took place about one nautical mile south of Tuas Extension, in Singapore territorial waters.

2. Following the collision, CRYSTAL SUNRISE sustained damage to her ballast tank. The master reported that the butane that vessel was carrying had started to leak from one of the cargo tanks. The ship’s crew took the necessary measures and stopped the leak. ASTRO SATURN sustained damages to her port anchor and bow. Both CRYSTAL SUNRISE and ASTRO SATURN have been stabilised.

3. An estimated 1,796MT of butane gas had leaked. As liquefied butane has a high evaporation rate, MPA has assessed that any leaked butane would have been carried southward away from mainland Singapore, where most of it would have rapidly dissipated to below flammable levels within an hour and pose no risk to shipping.

4. The two tankers reported no injuries to their crew. As a precautionary measure, eight PSA Marine staff who were in the vicinity of the collision received medical check-ups at the National University Hospital. All of the crew have since been discharged.

5. MPA is investigating the incident.

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Singapore and Indonesia researchers uncover at least 12 new species off Java

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 17 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE — Scientists from Singapore and Indonesia have found at least 12 species of hermit crabs, prawns, lobsters and crabs that are new to science in the deep sea off western and southern Java.

The South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 (SJADES 2018), the first such expedition jointly organised by both countries, also yielded more than 40 species that are new records for Indonesia.

The figures may be the tip of the iceberg as the researchers now go through the 12,000 specimens collected during the 14-day expedition, crab expert Peter Ng told reporters on Tuesday (April 17).

Prof Ng is the chief scientist for the Singapore team and head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Thirty-one scientists and a 25-member support crew set off on the Indonesian research vessel, Baruna Jaya VIII, on March 23 from Jakarta. They sailed anti-clockwise towards Cilacap in southern Java and back, sampling at depths averaging 800m and up to 2,100m.

Among the new species are a crab with fuzzy spines and blood-red eyes, a lobster with long arms and a zebra-patterned shell, and a hermit crab with green eyes and orange banded pincers.

The largest creatures hauled up include a squid 40cm to 50cm long, purple sea cucumbers weighing about 1kg each and a tulip sponge about 1m long that anchors itself to the ground with glass threads. The smallest creatures include worms and a type of crustacean called copepods that are 1mm to 2mm in size, or tinier.

The scientists faced stormy weather at the start due to the tail-end of a cyclone, and about half of them were sea-sick on the first day. But the terrain posed a far greater challenge. “Getting used to the seasickness was quite easy; getting used to the terrain was very difficult. Sampling was very difficult,” said Prof Ng.

The depths and terrain given on maps were wrong, resulting in nets being ripped when they were sent down. Out of eight trawl nets which the team took along, seven were ripped and nights were spent repairing some of the nets.

Other equipment included dredges (which are made of steel), box corers and multi-corers to collect samples from mud and soil, as well as preservatives. The equipment weighed 4.5 tonnes, while fuel accounted for 98 tonnes of the vessel’s load.

The expedition proved valuable, especially for the younger scientists with little deep-sea experience.

Deep-sea expeditions have traditionally been organised by the French, Americans, Australians, and English. Prof Ng said being tasked with the primary responsibility this time round was important. For instance, it was a “learning curve” each time the team threw down the multi-corer. “You know what to do in theory… but it’s not so easy, when the waves are 3m high, to know when it hits the bottom,” he said.

An interesting deep-sea creature found was the Bat fish, which ‘walks’ on the bottom of the ocean. Photo: SJADES 2018

Some expedition members are also involved in studies of an area 80 times the size of Singapore in the Pacific Ocean. Ocean Mineral Singapore, a unit of Keppel Corporation, signed a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority in 2015 to explore how metal-rich rocks could be harvested and is working with the Keppel-National University of Singapore (NUS) Corporate Laboratory to conduct environmental studies and surveys for the metal deposits.

“(SJADES 2018) will be useful for our next trip in the Pacific. We’ve been there once and hope to do it again (next year),” said NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute’s Mr Lim Swee Cheng, who studies sponges.

The scientists’ haul from the deep featured an unwelcome component: Marine trash in the form of plastic bags, snack wrappers, coffee sachets, toothpaste tubes and even clothes.

Out of 63 stations where samples were collected, only five or six were without rubbish, said hermit crab expert and the Indonesian team’s chief scientist Dwi Listyo Rahayu.

“Yes, we found somebody’s underpants at (a depth of) 1,000m,” said Prof Ng. “Deep-sea trash, we’re finding it almost everywhere on the planet, even in the most isolated places in the Pacific or Indian oceans where there are no human beings around… the problem with plastic is, it’s everybody’s problem, so it’s nobody’s problem.”

Marine trash can cause animals to get entangled and has been found in the gut of whales and other creatures.

The scientists will now study the specimens collected from the expedition, and hope to share results and discuss them with others at a workshop in Indonesia in 2020.

More than 12,000 marine creatures uncovered during first-ever exploration of West Java seas

National University of Singapore 17 Apr 18;

Despite a stormy start thanks to Cyclone Marcus, scientists who participated in the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 (SJADES 2018) had collected more than 12,000 creatures during their 14-day voyage to survey the unexplored deep seas off the southern coast of West Java, Indonesia.

The expedition team, consisting 31 researchers and support staff, were led by Professor Peter Ng, Head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum of the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu, Senior Research Scientist at the Research Center for Oceanography (RCO) of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). The NUS research team comprises scientists from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Some 800 species from over 200 families of sponges, jellyfish, molluscs, starfish, urchins, worms, crabs, prawns and fish were uncovered during the expedition. Over a dozen new species of hermit crabs, prawns, lobsters and crabs were discovered, and over 40 species of various kinds are new records for Indonesia.

Among the deep-sea creatures new to science is a crab that has fuzzy spines and blood-red eyes; a lobster with long arms and zebra-patterned shell; and a hermit crab with green eyes and orange banded pincers. Please refer to the Annex for more details about these creatures, as well as other rare and interesting sea creatures collected by scientists during the trip.

63 stations sampled within a fortnight

The research team departed Muara Baru, Jakarta in Indonesia on 23 March 2018 on board Indonesian research vessel Baruna Jaya VIII. They sailed anti-clockwise towards Cilacap in southern Java and back, covering a total distance of 2,200 kilometres.

"14 days of shared challenges at sea has enabled us to forge strong ties with our Indonesian collaborators, and such links are important to the long-term scientific ties between our two countries," said Prof Ng, chief scientist for the Singapore team. "On the research front, our teams have learnt a lot about how to conduct deep-sea science, handle the various equipment needed for such work, and had the opportunity to sample and examine a multitude of fantastic deep sea animals. We expect to identify more new species among the pickings of the expedition, and we certainly look forward to studying the specimens and data with our Indonesian friends."

Prof Rahayu, chief scientist for the Indonesia team, said, "The Indonesian scientists benefitted both personally and professionally through this expedition, which was partly a capacity-building exercise for our young scientists. Through interacting with international scientists, they were exposed to new scientific techniques and methodologies in an environment that presents a different set of challenges from their own scientific specialities. Hopefully, such knowledge transfer and collaboration would build stronger and more resilient ties among between our two nations."

About the expedition

The South Java Deep-Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 is the first concerted deep-sea biological exploration conducted by Singapore and Indonesia, to study deep-sea marine life in the largely unexplored part of the waters off the southern coast of West Java.

This unprecedented project is a reflection of the bold and collaborative spirit embodied in RISING50 - a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Indonesia. This joint initiative reaffirms the depth and diversity of the long-standing collaboration between the academic and scientific communities of Singapore and Indonesia.

The samples collected will be studied by scientists from both countries. This is anticipated to take up to two years, and the results will be shared and discussed with the world at a special workshop that will be held in Indonesia in 2020. The outputs will then be collated and published in the museum's science-citation journal, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Singapore-Indonesia deep-sea expedition team discovers over a dozen species new to science
Samantha Boh Straits Times 17 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Hidden more than 1,000m underwater along the Sunda Strait off the coast of Jakarta is a peculiar spider crab with plates resembling ears that actually protect its eyes.

It had not been seen for some 10 million years, till researchers from Singapore and Indonesia discovered it while trawling the depths of the sea in March.

Researchers believe the 6cm-wide crab, dubbed "Big Ears", is from the Rochinia genus.

More than a dozen new species of crustaceans were discovered on the pioneering expedition into the deep waters off the southern coast of West Java.

In total, some 800 species from more than 200 families of sponges, jellyfish, molluscs, starfish, urchins, worms, crabs, prawns and fish were discovered, accounting for more than 12,000 individual animals.

Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore, and Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu, senior research scientist at the Research Centre for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, led the 31-member team on the 14-day trawling expedition.

They sailed from Jakarta to the Sunda Strait, and waters off the Indonesian port of Cilacap, in the south-western part of Java.

Using trawls, dredges and other devices capable of capturing creatures even a few millimetres long, the team collected samples from 63 stations, at depths of between 500m and 2,000m under the sea.

Prof Rahayu said trash was a problem. Only five or six stations were able to trawl the sea without picking up rubbish.

But there was treasure in the trash. One of the hermit crabs was found hidden in discarded underwear.

"How rubbish affects the creatures, we still do not know. But ocean plastic is a huge problem," said Prof Ng.

The expedition was not without problems. One of the nets snared something heavy underwater which could have caused the cable to snap.

If that had happened, there was a real chance the flaying cable would have cut someone on board the ship.

But the captain stopped the ship instead of using force to disentangle the net, which Prof Ng said is something to learn for future expeditions.

He said: "On the research front, our teams learnt a lot about how to conduct deep-sea science, handle the various equipment needed for such work, and had the opportunity to sample and examine a multitude of fantastic deep-sea animals."

This yet-to-be-named crab species was found camouflaged with debris, small zoanthid anemones and mud. It has a distinctive plate which resembles over-sized ears adjacent to its red eyes.

The samples will be studied, and the findings will be shared and discussed at a workshop slated to be held in Indonesia in 2020, and later published in The Raffles Bulletin Of Zoology.

Prof Rahayu said the Indonesian scientists were exposed to new scientific techniques and methodologies through interactions with scientists from other nations.

"Hopefully, such knowledge transfer and collaboration would build stronger and more resilient ties between our two nations," she said.

Related links

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page


Their microsite

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Philippines to deploy riot police for Boracay tourist closure

AFP Yahoo News 17 Apr 18;

Manila (AFP) - The Philippines is set to deploy hundreds of riot police to top holiday island Boracay to keep travellers out and head off potential protests ahead of its six-month closure to tourists, the government said Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte has branded the tiny central island and its world-famous white-sand beach a "cesspool". He has ordered visitors be kept away from April 26 so facilities to treat raw sewage can be set up and illegal structures torn down.

On Tuesday, authorities laid out a lockdown plan to keep out all foreign and Filipino tourists using more than 600 police, including a 138-member "crowd dispersal unit".

"In any transition, especially for a drastic action such as this, there is always confusion, uncertainties, and low morale," the regional police director, Chief Superintendent Cesar Binag said at a public forum on the island, aired on national television.

"What we did was to identify the sources of confusion, sources of uncertainty and sources of low morale that might result to agitation and eventually into a security issue," he added.

Boracay residents will be obliged to carry new identification cards and will be banned from boating and night swimming, he said.

Entry to the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) island, located 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Manila, will be limited to a single small sea port.

Island residents' new identity cards are expected to be distributed three days before the shutdown, and security forces will conduct a "capability demonstration" next week, Binag said.

Businesses in the area, which previously lobbied for a phased rehabilitation, have warned that an abrupt shutdown could lead to bankruptcies and job losses for many of the island's 17,000 hotel, restaurant and other tourism workers, plus some 11,000 construction workers.

The island drew two million visitors last year, earning the country more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue, according to official data.

The abrupt decision to close Boracay has forced hundreds of hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other businesses to cancel bookings, leaving clients fuming.

The threat of closure first emerged in February when Duterte accused Boracay's businesses of dumping sewage directly into the island's turquoise waters.

"I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool," Duterte said in a speech in his southern home city of Davao.

The Duterte government maintains it is legal for it to deploy police and bar tourists from the island.

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Best of our wild blogs: 17 Apr 18

Seahorses and other odd fishes of Singapore's seagrass meadows
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Are Singaporeans Too Detached to Care About Plastic Waste?

21 Apr (Sat): Free screening of “A Plastic Ocean” at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Celebrate Earth Day in Singapore by battling marine trash @ Lim Chu Kang East (Sun 22 Apr 2018: 7.30am – 12.00pm)
Otterman speaks

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Rescued giant turtles, endangered tortoises sent home to Malaysia

Channel NewsAsia 16 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: Four giant Asian turtles and two elongated tortoises, an endangered species, were repatriated to their home country Malaysia on Monday (Apr 16).

It is part of efforts by Singapore's Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) to rehabilitate animals which have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Last February, the animal welfare group repatriated its first live reptile, an endangered Malaysian giant turtle named Rahayu, to Malaysia.

"Since then, we promised ourselves to do everything we could to give a second chance for Rahayu's friends still residing in our sanctuary," ACRES wrote in a Facebook post.

"It took us another whole year, but today we are finally sending Boltz, Andrea, Audrey, Ayu, Comot and Comel home to Malaysia!"

Of the six reptiles, the story of Boltz the Giant Asian Pond turtle has been most widely shared by ACRES. He was rescued in 2011 after a member of the public saw him being run over by a lorry. The accident left him with severe injuries, including a crack on his shell that looked like a lightning bolt, hence his name.

"I still remember the first night he came, he was all bleeding, he had massive bleeding, his shell was completely fractured, and we didn’t think he will make it. So many other turtles we have rescued with a similar fate didn’t make it," said ACRES deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan, adding the Boltz' resilience helped it on the road to recovery.

Then there was Comot the elongated tortoise which was found two years ago walking along the road near the nature reserve at Seraya Crescent, and Audrey who was found in 2011 wandering around a bus stop.

The repatriation of the reptiles was documented on social media through a series of live videos and updates.

At about 4.30pm, ACRES posted that the animals had left Singapore, and at 9pm, it said that they had passed the borders and were in the clear to proceed.

Mr Kalai said the repatriation was very important not just for animals: "It is also a message to everyone out there that many of these animals which are smuggled in - they do deserve a second chance at life."

"In the wild there will be no enclosure to confine them, they will be able to roam free and wild … Being endangered and vulnerable as they are, they can now meet other animals of the same species and reproduce," he added.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, who attended the repatriation event, highlighted the importance of raising awareness on the illegal wildlife trade.

"Wildlife trade is not going to be stopped simply by us saying it should be stopped, or having legislation," the minister said. "I think it can only come about through education. Human beings are innately good people."

"We look at the story of Boltz and the other turtles here, it’s really heart-rending. People look at them – they are small and cute, (they) take them as pets - (it) shouldn’t be done."

Source: CNA/mz/(gs)

6 rescued turtles sent back to Malaysia by Acres
Esther Koh Straits Times 17 Apr 18;

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) sent six rescued reptiles back to Malaysia yesterday, the first time that it has done a mass repatriation.

It is part of Acres' efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and repatriate wild animals nabbed by illegal traders for their meat or to be sold as pets.

Yesterday's batch consisted of four giant Asian turtles, categorised as a vulnerable species, and two elongated tortoises, deemed an endangered species.

The first reptile to be successfully released back to the wild was Rahayu, a Malaysian giant turtle, in February last year.

Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan lamented that reptiles are preyed on by illegal traders on a large scale.

"For now, we are focusing on the repatriation of reptiles," he told The Straits Times.

Most of the six reptiles were found wandering in open spaces such as roads before they were rescued.

One of them, a giant Asian turtle named Boltz, was rescued in October 2011 after it had been run over by a truck. It suffered severe internal injuries as well as a large, lightning-shaped crack on its shell that inspired its name.

When Acres was set up in 2001, it focused on advocacy and educational work, raising public awareness on important animal protection issues that were previously unaddressed in Singapore. Its rehabilitation and repatriation efforts were a more recent development.

The construction of an animal shelter in Tengah was stalled in 2008 when the building contractor filled the site with contaminated earth and wood chips that rotted over time. Acres won its suit against A.N.A Contractor in 2015.

Despite the difficulties, Acres opened the Wildlife Rescue Centre in 2009 to begin the vital rehabilitation of rescued animals. In 2013, an outdoor sanctuary was built near the Acres office to house animals rescued from the illicit trades.

According to Mr Kalai, after Boltz was rescued seven years ago, it would look out of its cage longingly whenever it rained. This spurred Mr Kalai to build the outdoor sanctuary, which currently has about 160 wild animals.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who was present at yesterday's repatriation, said: "Small as we are, Singapore can make a difference (in wildlife conservation ) worldwide. At least within Singapore, we try and do the right things."

To this end, there have been improvements in terms of legislation and the public sector approach towards animal welfare.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng noted that his society had succeeded in getting the authorities to mete out stiffer penalties to illegal wildlife traders.

Those found guilty now face a maximum fine of $50,000 and/or two years' jail, on a per animal basis. Previously, they faced a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or a year's jail on a per species basis only.

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