Best of our wild blogs: 6 Mar 15



Dead fish updates: More seen at Sungei Buloh, and other updates
from wild shores of singapore

A Rare Male Asian Koel Call – With Sound Visualisation
from Bird Ecology Study Group


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Up to 600 tonnes of fish lost to algal bloom: AVA

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 5 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Up to 600 tonnes of fish belonging to 55 farms have been lost to algal bloom in recent days, said the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority today (Mar 5).

Issuing its first comments on the algal bloom since last Saturday, the authority said last year’s plankton bloom cost 53 farms about 500 tonnes of fish.

The AVA also said it would help the affected fish farmers — who operate off Pasir Ris in the East Johor Strait — to recover and restart their operations, and enhance their resilience to environmental challenges.

AVA’s media statement and replies to queries came after Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman visited two affected fish farms today. One of the farmers he visited, Mr Gary Chang, told TODAY via the phone that he managed to minimise his losses to just over a tonne — or 10 to 15 per cent of his fish — by moving half of his stocks to the farm of a good friend in Malaysia. He enveloped the remaining half in canvas bags and aerated the water in the bags, said Mr Chang, who rears grouper and sea bass.

Dr Maliki said farmers who suffered severe losses may not have taken measures early enough. “Plankton bloom occurences are very difficult to prevent, but it is possible to reduce the impact. Whilst we provide assistance to help farmers tide over this difficult period, it is also important for farmers to do their part to take mitigating measures early,” he said. The AVA is looking to build up farmers’ resilience against these incidents, such as through robust contingency plans and contingency exercises. It will also ask farmers who have taken early action to share their experience with other farmers, Dr Maliki added.

Farmers reported the bulk of deaths to have occurred in the pre-dawn hours last Saturday, and many dead wild fish also washed up on Pasir Ris beach over the weekend. TODAY reported on Wednesday that a laboratory test had identified the algae species to belong to the Gymnodinium group, but AVA said its preliminary findings point to the Karlodinium veneficum species, which has been associated with fish kills worldwide.

According to website algaebase.org, the Karlodinium veneficum has been detected in places including France, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and is known to produce karlotoxin, an agent responsible for fish kills. According to Western Australia’s Swan River Trust, there is no evidence that this species is toxic to humans.

The AVA said the dead fish had gill damage caused by plankton. No marine biotixins have been detected in fish samples from affected farms and live fish harvested from the farms are safe for consumption, it added.

DHI Water & Environment, which did the laboratory test for TODAY, said that the seawater sample tested was examined at a magnification of 400 times. At that level, species of algae belonging to the Karlodinium and Gymnodinium groups would appear very similar. To be able to positively identify the algae species, a genetic test or a microscope with 1,500 to 2,000 times’ magnification would be needed, said Dr Hans Eikaas, head of environmental technology and chemistry at DHI, a not-for-profit offering consultancy and water-modelling services.

To his knowledge, no Karlodinium algae has been found in the East Johor Strait, although they have been found in the West Johor Strait, said Dr Eikaas.

Blogger and marine enthusiast Ria Tan reported seeing dead wild and farmed fish at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension, which is near the West Johor Strait, yesterday afternoon. But West Johor Strait farmer Malcolm Ong said there have been no fish deaths on his farm so far. His staff are on alert during this “dangerous period” and have pumps and aerators on standby, said Mr Ong, chief executive of Metropolitan Fishery Group, which is a major stakeholder in Singapore’s largest marine fish farm, off Lim Chu Kang.

On how it was dealing with plankton bloom in the longer term, the AVA said it has been working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute of the National University of Singapore on plankton bloom studies since last year’s episode. The studies, for the development of effective mitigating solutions, are ongoing, it said.

The AVA also called for proposals to design and develop a closed-containment aquaculture system for coastal fish farming last year. It recently awarded the tender to five companies, which will be working on a sustainable option for fish farms to minimise exposure to changes in the environment, such as plankton bloom, said the authority.

Fish farmers affected by fish deaths will receive help from AVA
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 5 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Fish farmers affected by the recent fish deaths will get help to recover and restart their operations, as well as increase their resilience against environmental challenges.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will help farmers take early action to mitigate the impact of plankton bloom by putting in place robust contingency plans. It is also working with external agencies, companies and experts to look into possible solutions to minimise the impact of plankton bloom in the long term.

It recently contracted five companies to work on systems that offer a sustainable option for coastal fish farms, to minimise exposure to environmental changes.

Last month, many local farms at the East Johor Straits were affected by a plankton bloom that triggered a massive amount of fish deaths.

- CNA/rg

MND facebook post:
Earlier this morning, MOS Dr Maliki Osman paid a quiet visit to two affected coastal fish farms to better understand their situation after the fish kill and the mitigating measures they have taken. One of the farmers - Mr Gary Chang of San Lay Marine Culture Co, shared how quick implementation of many early measures has helped to salvage his fish stock. Since Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) sounded the first warning in January, he had set up canvas bags to hold his fishes or transferred them to other alternative sites. He still lost about 1.5 tonnes of his fish but he is grateful that his situation is better than last year when he lost almost 16 tonnes of his stock.

Dr Maliki also met Mr Goh Khoon Heng from De Kelong, who unfortunately suffered heavy losses because he could not react in time to the plankton bloom.

AVA will continue to provide the necessary equipment, manpower and technical expertise to help the affected farmers through this period of recovery. AVA is also collaborating with experts and other agencies to explore long term solutions to this problem. This includes looking at closed containment aquaculture systems, which they have recently approved five proposals from companies. These systems will help to minimise exposure to environmental hazards, which are caused by multiple factors and often challenging to solve in the short term.

Incidents like these are likely to incur again in the future. AVA will continue to provide support and assistance. Farmers, too, must be prepared to handle such contingencies so as to minimise impact.

AVA TO WORK WITH FARMERS AFFECTED BY FISH DEATHS TO RECOVER AND BUILD UP RESILIENCE
AVA media release AsiaOne 6 Mar 15;

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will provide assistance to fish farmers affected by the recent fish deaths to recover and restart their operations, as well as enhance their resilience against environmental challenges.

Background

In late February 2015, many local fish farms at the East Johor Straits were affected by a plankton bloom situation. These farms suffered massive fish deaths as a result.

Prior to the incident, AVA had been actively monitoring the situation at the fish farming areas. AVA alerted fish farmers in the area on the 16 and 17 February 2015, to elevated plankton levels and to prepare to take the necessary precautions.

These included deploying canvas bags to isolate the fish from its external environment, early harvest of fish to cut loss, and transferring their fish stock to unaffected areas.

Taking early action to mitigate impact of plankton bloom

Minister of State for National Development and Defence, Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, visited two of the affected fish farms today. He sympathised with the fish farmers who are affected by the recent incident as it must have been difficult for the farmers to see all these losses.

However, he learnt that one farmer who took early action was able to save his fish and minimise losses significantly.

"Mr Gary Chang told me that he started preparing for a possible plankton bloom once he was alerted to elevated plankton levels. He lined his net-cages with canvas and installed a simple filtration system to maintain the water quality. Other farmers also took measures, but unfortunately suffered severe losses as they may not have done so early enough."

"Plankton bloom occurrences are very difficult to prevent, but it is possible to reduce the impact. Whilst we provide assistance to help farmers tide over this difficult period, it is also important for farmers to do their part to take mitigating measures early.

At the same time, AVA is looking into how to build up farmers' resilience against such incidents. This includes putting in place robust contingency plans and conducting contingency exercises. We will also ask those who have taken early action to share their experience with other farmers," Dr Maliki shared.

Dealing with plankton bloom in the long term

AVA is also working with external agencies, companies and experts to look into possible solutions to minimise the impact of plankton bloom in the long term.

Following last year's plankton bloom episode, AVA has been working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute of NUS (TMSI) on a research project to conduct studies on plankton blooms, to enable development of effective mitigating solutions. The studies are ongoing.

In addition, AVA called for proposals for the design and development of closed-containment aquaculture system for coastal fish farming last year. We recently awarded the tender to five companies to develop a more sustainable sea-based farming system, under the Co-Innovation Partnership Programme (CIPartnership).

The companies will be working on systems that offer a sustainable option for coastal fish farms, to minimise exposure to environmental changes, such as plankton bloom.

AVA's CEO Ms Tan Poh Hong said, "The proposals from the companies are promising. We look forward to working with them on the projects. We hope that the projects can bring about significant improvements to boost the resilience of fish farming."

Channel 8 News article
红潮导致我国东部海上渔场大批鱼儿死亡
发布: 04/03/2015 22:26 | 更新: 04/03/2015 23:44
记者:吴俍祥
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红潮导致我国东部海上渔场、大批鱼儿死亡。有陆上渔场因为使用海水饲养鱼苗,30万条鱼苗相继死去。附近的观赏鱼业者也差点遭殃。

位于巴西立第1农道,这个陆上鱼苗养殖场的水,是从500米外的海域抽上来的。回忆起上个月17日红潮来袭时,渔农心有余悸。

鱼苗养殖营运经理林传兴说,“因为速度太快,所以损失的鱼也是很多,估计20万、30万条,10多万新币这样。”

渔场负责人说,死去的鱼苗种类包括石斑和红鲷。渔场如今改用经过消毒的海水。渔场附近的这家观赏鱼业者,本来也是用海水养鱼。

观赏鱼养殖业者陈江平说,“我们就用海盐加我们自己泡的(去离子)水。盐的东西比较贵,从外国进口的,美国中国进口。”

业者说,使用海盐加水,成本提高五成,不过暂时不会转嫁给消费者。另外,有渔场把红潮来袭时成功救起的700条龙虎斑,放回巴西立海域试养。

受影响渔场业者黄靖凯说,“到现在为止是可以活,那个需求还在,我们一停供应,需求可能会掉。”

新加坡鱼商公会受询时说,本地养殖鱼占总供应量的2%到3%,影响不大。再说,从邻国进口的鲜鱼数量充足。

据本台了解,自本地渔场再次出现大批养殖鱼突然大批死亡事故,农粮局从每两个月一、两次,改而天天上渔场采集海水和鱼儿样本,以确保水质是符合标准,而鱼儿是安全可食用的。

- CH8/JK


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Indonesia: Riau Police name 15 suspects over forest fires in Riau

Antara 5 Mar 15;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Riau Police has named 15 arsonists as suspects responsible for the forest fires that occurred in January and February this year.

The 15 suspects were caught red-handed while deliberately setting fires in different districts in Riau province, Chief of the Riau Police Brigadier General Dolly Bambang Hermawan told the press here on Thursday.

The police hope to find the masterminds behind these arson attacks by interrogating the suspects.

Furthermore, the Riau Police will focus on investigating the forest and plantation fires in the province.

"Investigations will continue because we suspect they were ordered to set the fires by other orchestrators," a spokesman for the Riau Police, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo, stated.

The police will also probe the possible involvement of plantation companies in the setting of the forest fires in several districts.

"There is no discrimination. If companies are proven to be involved, they will be questioned and brought to court. Last year, PT NSP was tried in court," Tejo affirmed.

Riau province has been hit by forest fires of late, which triggered haze in some cities and districts such as Meranti Islands, Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir and Rokan Hulu.

Land and aerial efforts to extinguish the fires are still going on.
(T.KR-FZR/F001/INE/KR-BSR/A014)


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India, Bangladesh, China most at risk from river floods: study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 6 Mar 15;

India, Bangladesh and China are most at risk from river floods, with an increasing number of people threatened because of climate change and economic growth in low-lying regions, a study said on Thursday.

The U.S.-based World Resources Institute think-tank and four Dutch research groups estimated that some 21 million people worldwide were affected by river flooding in a typical year.

"That number could increase to 54 million in 2030 due to climate change and socio-economic development," their report said.

People living in 15 emerging nations, led by India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Pakistan, accounted for almost 80 percent of all those affected by floods in an average year, it said. In India alone, almost five million people were at risk.

The United States had 167,000 people exposed to floods in a average year, the most for any developed nation, putting it 18th on a ranking of more than 160 nations.

The U.N. panel of climate scientists said last year that global warming would lead to more risks of floods, heatwaves, storms, downpours, landslides, air pollution, water scarcity, sea level rise and storm surges.

Thursday's study estimated that $96 billion of annual global gross domestic product was exposed to river floods every year, led by India on $14 billion and Bangladesh on $5.4 billion. This amount could rise to $521 billion by 2030. it said.

"There will be a huge increase in risk, especially in South East Asia," Hessel Winsemius, an author of the study at Dutch independent research institute Deltares, told Reuters.

Such flooding can also impact multinational companies which spread their production capacity -- monsoon floods in Thailand in 2011 killed more than 800 people and closed many factories -- including some making parts for firms such as Intel and Apple.

Many cities on flood plains were expected to expand in coming years, putting more people and businesses at risk. Multinational companies should think more about flood risks, including back-up suppliers or insurance from vulnerable areas.

Developing nations are working to adapt.

Thailand, for instance, is experimenting with floating homes that can rise up above the waters on pontoons filled with styrofoam.

(Editing by Crispian Balmer)

Global flood toll to triple by 2030
Claire Marshall BBC 5 Mar 15;

The number of people affected by river flooding worldwide could nearly triple in the next 15 years, analysis shows.

Climate change and population growth are driving the increase, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

In the UK, about 76,000 people a year could be at risk of being affected by flooding if defences aren't improved, it says.

The yearly cost of damage to urban areas could reach more than £1bn.

The centre says this is the first public analysis of all world data on current and future river-flood risks.

It demonstrates some 20 million people are at risk of being affected by flooding, and it costs almost £65bn in GDP.

According to the new evaluation, in just 15 years time these numbers could rise to around 50 million people with an annual potential cost to the world economy of around £340bn.

Much of this is attributed to climate change and socioeconomic development.

By 2030, if there isn't any increased investment in flood prevention, the UK could be facing a yearly bill of more than £2bn.

The World Bank says that this calculator will help to inform governments about mitigation and defence strategies.

According to the Red Cross, almost half of natural disasters they dealt with last year were caused by floods.


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El Niño finally arrives but is weaker than expected, says US agency

Arrival of long-anticipated climate phenomenon will be too little, too late for drought-struck California, meteorologists say
Associated Press The Guardian 5 Mar 15;

The US National Weather Service on Thursday proclaimed the phenomenon is now in place. It​ involves a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe, and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.

El Niños are usually so important that economists even track them because of how they affect commodities.

But this is a weak, weird and late version of El Niño, so do not​ expect too many places to feel its effects, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center. He said there may be a slight decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes this summer, but he also points out that 1992’s devastating Hurricane Andrew in Florida occurred during an El Ninño summer, so coastal residents should not​ let their guard down.

This is the first El Niño since spring of 2010.

Ever since March 2014, the weather service has been saying an El Nino was just around the corner. But it did not​ quite show up until now.

Meteorologists said the key patch of the Pacific was warming but they didn’t see the second technical part of its definition — certain changes in the atmosphere. Halpert said he did not​ know why this El Niño didn’t form as forecast, saying “something just didn’t click this year.”

For drought-struck California, it​ is too little, too late, meteorologists say.

Last year, some experts were hoping that El Niño would help the southwestern U​S​ droughts because moderate-to-strong events bring more winter rain and snow to California — even flooding and mudslides during 1998’s strong El Niño. But this El Niño arrives at the end of California’s rainy season and is quite weak, Halpert said.

Allan Clarke, a physical oceanography professor at Florida State University, said as far he​ is concerned, El Niño has been around a while and the weather service did not​ acknowledge it. But he agrees that this does​ not look like a strong one.


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Best of our wild blogs: 5 Mar 15



A Quiet Morning @ Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Hill Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

4 Lessons on Visual Storytelling from Chai Jing’s Documentary on Smog in China
from Green Future Solutions

Fishes dying at Sungei Buloh?
from wild shores of singapore


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Fish farms may move from Changi after mass deaths

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Mar 15;

AFTER a plankton bloom at the weekend wiped out almost all their stocks of fish, some farmers in Changi are looking at moving to sites with stronger tide conditions.

Others told The Straits Times they planned to invest in more costly closed containment systems that would be protected from such blooms, which can suffocate marine life.

The weekend incident was a blow to farms still trying to recover from a similarly devastating bloom a year ago. One of them, Ah Hua Kelong, went online to appeal for donations to help it meet its daily running costs.

Mr Frank Tan, chief operating officer of Marine Life Aquaculture, which produces about 200 tonnes of seabass and threadfin annually, said he had planned to move to two sites - one on Pulau Tekong and the other on the Southern Islands - following last year's incident, which wiped out 20 tonnes of his fish.

Last Saturday's bloom killed 120 tonnes of his fish.

"We spent the past year rebuilding our business and were planning to move only in about a few years' time.

Yesterday, he was still busy directing staff to bag and remove the dead fish.

Following the authorities' warnings, he had managed to save a few hundred adult fish by moving them to an offshore site located near his Changi farm.

Mr Tan said he will be ready to move in one to two months. He estimates the tides at Pulau Tekong to have a water flow rate three times stronger than those at Changi, so stronger support structures need to be built for the farm.

Fin Fisher owner Timothy Hromatka, 42, is not discounting a move to Pulau Tekong, but estimates he would need $500,000 to do so.

"Tekong is farther away (from the mainland), and this means higher operational costs."

The smell of rotting fish was strong around the fish farms, located near the Lorong Halus jetty, yesterday as workers continued to dispose of the dead fish.

As of October last year, home-grown farms contributed about 7 per cent to the industry, producing fish like sea bass and grouper as well as lobsters.

Plankton blooms are caused by factors such as warmer weather and a neap tide, when the high tide is at its lowest.

Some farmers such as Mr Malcolm Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, who is in his 50s, are looking at farming under controlled conditions to protect their stocks from such unpredictable blooms.

But another farmer, Mr Simon Oh, in his 60s, said the systems can be challenging to install. He lost all 35 tonnes of his pomfret last week.

"I have no funds to restart my business, much less invest in such equipment," he said.

Additional reporting by Isaac Neo














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Malaysia: Lafarge’s encroachment into eco-sensitive areas causes alarm

PATRICK LEE The Star 5 Mar 15;

PETALING JAYA: Quarrying at Perak’s Gunung Kanthan by cement giant Lafarge Malaysia has alarmed green groups, who say work has encro­ached close to “sensitive” areas.

According to a source, a small hill within the limestone mountain’s southern area was cut down in January.

He expressed concern that rocks from “Area B” where the hill was located would be strewn along the adjacent “Area C”, causing fears that quarrying there would follow.

Gunung Kanthan, which is home to many endangered species of flora and fauna, is divided into several sections with “Area C” and “Area D” located in the south.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Henry Goh, who confirmed that quarrying had been conducted on the hill, cautioned that the removal of forestry there would have damaging effects on Area C and Area D.

The Star previously reported the discovery of two new flora species in Area C, which is also home to nine species that are on Malaysia’s Red List of Endangered Plants.

Goh said Lafarge Malaysia had assured him that both Area C and Area D would not be affected.

He also claimed that temples embedded in or around the mountain had received evacuation notices.

Goh said a biodiversity report by Universiti Malaya, commissioned by Lafarge Malaysia, had not been revealed.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has highlighted its concerns to Lafarge chairman Bruno Lafont in France.

“We are concerned to learn that a road is being blasted immediately adjacent to Area C,” IUCN Species Survival Commission chairman Simon Stuart wrote in a Feb 13 letter.

He stated that Google Earth images showed the forested valley next to Area C “is being filled with rubble”.

It was learnt that Lafarge Malaysia had yet to meet the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) which wanted to preserve Areas C and D.

Speaking to The Star, Lafarge Mal­aysia vice-president Mariano Garcia maintained that Area C and Area D were out of the mining plans.

He said the biodiversity report on Gunung Kanthan was completed before Christmas.

Garcia said he did not know of the said evacuation notices, but said monks and temple staff had entered the quarry site and verbally abused his workers.

He also said Lafarge Malaysia had been trying to meet FRIM to no avail.

“It has been very difficult ... (FRIM) refuses to work with us,” he added.


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Indonesia: Haze worsens in Riau

The Jakarta Post 5 Mar 15;

Persisting forest and land fires in regencies across Riau have led to deteriorating air quality, bringing the pollution rate to a dangerous level in the province’s northern areas on Wednesday.

The province’s Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) reported that air pollution standards index (ISPU) equipment indicated that air quality had reached an alarming level of 300 on the pollutant standards index (PSI) Wednesday morning.

Thick haze blanketed Bengkalis regency in the morning, creating smog that reduced visibility at the Bengkalis seaport to less than 1 kilometer.

The haze was said to have been caused by land fires on Padang Island in the Meranti Islands regency, sent southward by winds at a speed of between 9 and 39 km per hour.

Antara news agency said that port authorities declared an alert status due to the conditions.

Air pollution, however, improved later in the day, with air quality recorded at 84 PSI, or medium level.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said that Terra and Aqua satellites had detected 86 hot spots in a number of regions in Riau on Wednesday.

“Data from 7 a.m. on March 4 shows that the 86 detected hot spots are among 96 hot spots across Sumatra,” head of the BMKG’s Pekanbaru office, Sugarin, said.

Of the 86 hot spots, 55 were indicated to be fires, with a reliability of 70 percent.

The Riau provincial administration has declared an emergency status for forest fires in Riau, where slash-and-burn agriculture practices are believed to be the culprit behind the annual disaster.

Between January and March this year, no less than 379 hectares were affected by fires, according to data from the Riau Emergency command post.

Most of the hot spots were detected in the northern part of the province. A total of 36 hot spots were recorded in Bengkalis, 16 in the Meranti Islands, 12 in Pelalawan regency, eight in Siak regency, six in Rokan Hilir, three in Kota Dumai, two each in Rokan Hulu and Kampar and one in Indragiri Hilir regency.

Since Tuesday, the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) has created artificial rain south of Bengkalis and north of Siak regencies. The operation will be focused on the eastern coast of the province over the next few days, especially in peat areas in Bengkalis, Siak, Pelalawan and Dumai regencies.

The cloud-seeding method has been chosen to help solve the difficulty of reaching the locations of the fires.

The Riau administration has created an action plan for forest and land fire mitigation and prevention, which is aimed at freeing the province from the disasters that have been taking place for the past 17 years.

The action plan includes the designation of peatland as a protected area, canal blocking to maintain the wetness of peat, document evaluation and environmental licensing for plantation and forestry companies to prevent and mitigate forest and land fires, law enforcement against companies disobeying audits and the establishment and provision of incentives for fire-aware communities in fire-prone areas.

In Jakarta, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has asked all parties to remain alert.

The minister said that according to the BMKG, Indonesia would be influenced by weak El Nino weather patterns until June, resulting in lower intensity and frequency of rain. Among the prioritized fire prevention and mitigation provinces are Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West and Central Kalimantan.


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Disasters have same human impact as tuberculosis: U.N.

Megan Rowling PlanetArk 5 Mar 15;

Deaths, economic damage and other negative impacts from disasters have caused losses equivalent to 42 million life years annually since 1980, a measure that is comparable to the burden of tuberculosis worldwide, the United Nations said.

More than 90 percent of the total "years" lost in disasters between 1980 and 2012 were in low and middle-income countries, representing a serious setback to their development, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said.

"If these figures show that disaster loss is as much a critical global challenge to economic development and social progress as is disease, they also show that it is a challenge unequally shared," the UNISDR said in a report on Wednesday.

Bina Desai, UNISDR policy and research coordinator, referred to the number of years lost due to disaster-related deaths, injuries, economic damage and other losses as an "opportunity cost".

"It is lost time that could otherwise be invested in development and social progress," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In particular, risk from recurring, smaller disasters rather than huge one-off events drives poverty through destruction of homes, water supplies, infrastructure, and health and education facilities, the report said.

Yet 10 years after governments signed up to a global plan to tackle disasters, known as the Hyogo Framework for Action, disaster risk "has not been reduced significantly", it said.

"We are playing with fire," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.

"There is a very real possibility that disaster risk, fueled by climate change, will reach a tipping point beyond which the effort and resources necessary to reduce it will exceed the capacity of future generations."

Governments will meet in Japan from March 14 to 18 to adopt an updated version of the framework, still being negotiated.

GROWING THREATS

Disaster risk is already making it hard for many countries to afford the capital investment and social spending they need to develop sustainably, the report said.

Growing global inequality, increasing hazard exposure, rapid urbanization and overconsumption of energy and natural resources threaten to drive risk to dangerous and unpredictable levels with systemic global impacts, it warned.

Expected losses from disasters caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and river flooding worldwide are estimated at $314 billion per year, or almost $70 for each person of working age, according to the report.

This includes only damage to commercial and residential properties, schools and hospitals, Desai said. The figure would be even higher if it included other hazards such as drought, and other sectors like utilities and agriculture.

"This is not what will happen in terms of losses on an annual basis - it is what countries should prepare for," Desai said. "But you can reduce these risk levels."

Global annual investment of $6 billion in managing disaster risk - only 0.1 percent of the $6 trillion per year that will be required to build infrastructure over the next 15 years - would result in total avoided losses of $360 billion, the report said.

"For many countries, that small additional investment could make a crucial difference in achieving the national and international goals of ending poverty, improving health and education, and ensuring sustainable and equitable growth," it added.

Measures to reduce the risk of disasters include rules that strengthen buildings and prevent construction on floodplains, urban drainage, early warning systems and insurance schemes for small farmers.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)


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Best of our wild blogs: 4 Mar 15



Dead fish update: How are Pasir Ris mangroves?
from wild shores of singapore

Dead fish update: a dead monitor lizard among the fishes
from wild shores of singapore

Chan Yoke Meng: Photographer with a mission
from Bird Ecology Study Group



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Lab test sheds further light on fish deaths

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 4 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Laboratory tests of a seawater sample taken off Pasir Ris have zeroed in on the type of algae that wiped out massive quantities of farmed and wild fish in recent days.

The species of algae behind the mass fish deaths off Pasir Ris likely belongs to the Gymnodinium group. It is suspected to be Gymnodinium mikimotoi, according to the experts at DHI Water & Environment, but the exact species can only be confirmed through further genetic tests. Gymnodinium mikimotoi, also known as Karenia mikimotoi, is not toxic to humans, but has been associated with massive kills of wild and farmed fishes in Japan and Korea.

TODAY commissioned the laboratory test yesterday (March 3) using a water sample provided by a fish farmer operating off Pasir Ris. The sample was taken last Saturday when most affected fish farmers reported the sudden deaths of their stocks.

The test showed concentrations of the algae at 88,529 cells per millilitre – a “very, very high” concentration, according to Dr Hans Eikaas, head of environmental technology and chemistry at DHI, a not-for-profit group offering consultancy and water-modelling services.

Concentrations above 10,000 cells per millilitre are considered a full algal bloom by any international standard, he said. Seawater in normal conditions contain 200 to 300 cells per millilitre and comprise 100 or more different plankton species. Dr Eikaas said the algae bloom was the main cause of the fish deaths, with the algae likely clogging up the gills of the fish.

But ammonia in the seawater probably magnified the scale of fish deaths. Ammonia is a waste product of fish, and is also produced when bacteria decomposes organic matter without oxygen. More ammonia is produced when water is warm, and when there is more organic matter, such as when algae dies. In gas form, it is toxic to fish and can cause convulsions and death, said Dr Eikaas.

Water rich in ammonia and nitrogen is advantageous to algae in the Gymnodinium group. Warm water, which the Republic has seen in recent weeks, also stresses fish out. These factors mean “multiple blows” dealt to the marine life, Dr Eikaas said.

“I would assume ammonia building up could have caused sub-lethal toxicity to the fish – mainly, their gills get inflamed. Then algae doubles every 24 hours… (and the deaths) appear like a sudden event,” he explained. The algae would have taken about a week to bloom to the level shown in the lab test, he added.

If the suspected species is indeed the Gymnodinium mikimotoi, the algae is not known to cause any effect to humans who have eaten affected fish, Dr Eikaas said. Associate Professor Lim Po Teen of the University of Malaya’s Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences said nutrient-rich coastal waters from human activities are believed to be the triggers of algal blooms. Another source of the problem is the introduction of algae species through ships’ ballast water. Efforts to mitigate harmful algal blooms so far include setting up perimeters at aquaculture farms and reduced feeding of farmed fishes, he said.

Dr Eikaas said the recent harmful algal bloom is a natural occurrence that is almost impossible to prevent, but with a monitoring system and simulation forecasting programme, it is not impossible to get a heads-up on. “With regular daily monitoring, we should have had several days’ lead time on this,” he said.

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the United States, Gymnodinium mikimotoi is associated with recurring blooms off the coasts of Japan and Korea and are associated with massive fish and shellfish kills. Blooms have also been reported in Australia, Denmark, Norway and Scotland.

Farmers contacted yesterday said they have spent recent days clearing dead fish from their farms. Some expressed hope that the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority would provide financial assistance, while others said they would relocate if given the chance. Fish farmer Simon Ho said his entire stock of over 30 tonnes of silver pomfret was wiped out. Marine Life Aquaculture chief operating officer Frank Tan said the company’s offshore operations lost 120 tonnes of four-finger threadfin and sea bass. The company had previously identified two sites – near the Southern Islands and Pulau Tekong – as possible areas to move to, but Mr Tan said that with different conditions such as bigger tidal waves, a move would entail a change of operations and re-investment.

Mass fish deaths: Supermarkets take measures to ensure safety of supply
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 4 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Fish harvested from local farms are largely supplied to supermarkets. With the recent mass fish deaths, some supermarkets have stopped selling fish harvested from local farms temporarily. Some are also taking measures to ensure the fish supplied are fresh.

Sheng Siong supermarket, which imports 5,000kg of live fish every month, said that quality control measures for fish harvested from local farms are the same as those for imported fish.

If there are problems with the stocks, they will be returned to the supplier, a representative said.

"If there are problems with the fish, their eyes will be red and swollen, and their bodies will be injured," said Mr Wong Nee Kook, manager of the seafood department at Sheng Siong Group.

Meanwhile, NTUC FairPrice said it has spoken with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and requested that local fish farms ensure that supplies are safe for consumption. FairPrice said it will closely monitor the supply of fish as well.

The supermarket chain said that locally-bred fish make up less than 10 per cent of its total fish stocks. Channel NewsAsia understands that AVA will also conduct checks at supermarkets.

- CNA/dl


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