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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
October, 2010, Vol. 12 No. 4


Fisheries production to grow 8% in 2010 despite El Niño
RP adopts Southeast Asia action plan for marine conservation
Government eyeing higher seaweed production in 2010
DA cites specific measures to cope with climate change, trade liberalization
DENR creates task force to monitor coral bleaching
DENR, GTZ sign agreement supporting Philippine efforts toward cutting greenhouse gases
New guidelines to ensure greater public, LGU participation in ECC processing
DENR, Senate to fast-track bills on protected areas to preserve wildlife habitats
DENR to closely monitor wildlife trade
Agriculture department to fast track completion of Philippine Halal food standards
Bicol tops fisheries production in first half of 2010
"President's fish" facing extinction
BFAR plans more floating fish cages in mariculture parks
Government to offer financing scheme for fish cages
Tilapia gains popularity abroad
Drive vs illegal fishpens in Dagupan starts Sep 1
Artificial reef eyed for damaged marine reserve in Dauin, Negros Oriental
Fishers’ group seeks compensation for oil spill
SC gives Palawan fishermen green light to sue oil firm
BFAR-12 strengthens MCS system; apprehends 68 vessels in September

UN chief highlights collective responsibility to protect world’s oceans
World pays high price for overfishing, studies say
Scientists issue call to heal world’s coral reefs
First global guidelines for certification of fish production finalized – UN
UN officials stress tourism’s role in safeguarding environment, reducing poverty
On World Maritime Day, UN officials urges tribute to seafarers
Marine census results released
Marine species threatened by pollution, climate change – UN report
UN Ambassador Edward Norton calls for people power to protect biodiversity
Sea cow, origin of mythical mermaid, threatened with extinction, UN warns
Young corals vulnerable to predators
Climate change implicated in decline of horseshoe crabs
Seafood eco-labels not always reliable, says study
Human noise pollution in ocean can lead fish away from good habitats and off to their death
Climate change affects turtles and dugongs
Asian chief justices, judges propose network to promote environment justice
China tops world in catch and consumption of fish
ASEAN businesses urged to green the supply chain
China, Japan agree to restrict increase in Chinese fishing boats
Taiwan eyes marine park despite fishers’ objection
Climate change threatens livelihood, nutrition losses for Asia-Pacific fishers
Pacific Island countries warn UN debate of threats from overfishing
Green growth can help Asia-Pacific overcome recessions, climate change -- UN
Coral death strikes at SE Asia
11 Malaysian fishermen may face a Philippine court
Japan: Nomura to launch world's 1st fishery investment fund
India: UNDP steps in to save marine sanctuary
Climate change hits SE Australia fish species
Australia: Great Barrier Reef corals reveal sea level and climate changes
Europe in fish debt to rest of the world
Europe: UN warns alien species are threatening biodiversity of Wadden Sea
US issues rule on IUU vessels
Rising ‘dead zones’ threaten US coastal ecosystem
Per capita seafood consumption in US slips
US: Lawsuit launched to save tuna imperiled by overfishing, Gulf of Mexico oil spill
US: Biologist quits MSC over sockeye certification
African coastal states organize network to tackle illegal fishing

Review: Current management of tuna fisheries
Tool to monitor trade in endangered species
Canned Tuna Guide
Green guide for humanitarian operations



Fisheries production to grow 8% in 2010 despite El Niño
15 Jul 2010 (JA Ng/Business Mirror) -- Despite the El Niño weather phenomenon that caused extensive damage to the Philippines’ fisheries subsector during the first half of the year, fisheries production is expected to register an overall positive growth rate in 2010.

“Barring strong typhoons, the fisheries subsector will grow by 8%. Aquaculture will propel the growth [of the subsector],” said Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) director Malcolm Sarmiento in a telephone interview.

Sarmiento said seaweed and fin fisheries production will prop up aquaculture production for the year.

Fisheries production in January to March was down by 0.63 percent due to extensive damage caused by El Niño. The subsector accounted for almost 25% of total farm output during the quarter, with aquaculture production posting a 0.36% increase, and commercial and municipal fisheries production decreasing by 3.5% and 0.15%, respectively. Gross value of fisheries production was Php53.1 billion, lower by 1.2% from last year. Full story

RP adopts Southeast Asia action plan for marine conservation
TURTLE ISLANDS, Tawi-Tawi, 21 Jul 2010 (D Maliwanag/inquirer.net) —The Philippines has adopted an action plan to protect the Sulu-Sulawesi seascape, considered the world's center of marine biodiversity.

Through Executive Order 899, Malacañang ordered the strict implementation of environmental laws in two of the country's biodiversity hotspots—Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi province, and Balabac in Palawan—as part of a Southeast Asia regional action plan to protect shared marine resources.

The new law, issued on June 22 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, authorizes the formation of an interagency ad hoc committee, with the Philippine Coast Guard as the lead agency in implementing the country's conservation plan.

The Philippine conservation plan is also part of the country's commitment with five Asia Pacific countries, which adopted in 2009 the Coral Triangle Initiative, an action plan considered as the largest marine conservation initiative in history. Full Story

Government eyeing higher seaweed production in 2010
18 Oct 2010 (DA-BFAR) -- The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) announced plans to step up its effort to increase production of seaweeds in the country through a financing and technical assistance program aimed at people’s organizations (POs) engaged in seaweed farming.

DA-BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento, Jr. said the bureau will initially focus on three areas – Central Visayas, Oriental Mindoro in the MIMAROPA region and Guimaras in Western Visayas for the implementation of this program.

In 2010, BFAR’s office in Central Visayas is investing Php3 million in the program. It is currently monitoring ongoing projects of 60 POs in the region.

The Fisheries Financing Program (FFP) – a joint undertaking of the DA’s Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC), the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the BFAR – is also implementing a seaweed processing venture in Balatasan, Oriental Mindoro. This project has been awarded a loan of Php500,000 and is expected to benefit 30 seaweed producers.

Created by ACPC Resolution No. 31-02 series of 2007, the FFP is a lending program under the Agro Industry Modernization Credit and Financing Program (AMCFP), the government’s umbrella financing program for agriculture and fisheries.

Seaweed farming is a low capital business venture that does not require feeds or fertilizer inputs. The average production of seaweeds per hectare for a 45-day cropping period is 26,000 kilos.

The Philippines is currently the world’s third leading seaweed producer next to China and Japan. For the past seven years, the country has remained the world’s top supplier of carrageenan. However, despite these impressive rankings, Philippine seaweed production still falls short of the still increasing global demand for carrageenan. Some local seaweed processing companies have even resorted to importation to meet local demand for the commodity. Full story

DA cites specific measures to cope with climate change, trade liberalization
18 Oct 2010 (DA-BFAR) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) is investing in core infrastructure and exploring more markets for the country’s export winners, among other measures, to help Philippine agriculture adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and increasing global free trade.

Former DA Secretary Bernie Fondevilla said that infrastructure investments in, as well as domestic support services for, the agriculture sector are focused on five concerns, namely:(1) rehabilitation of irrigation systems and municipal fish ports; (2) construction of farm-to-market roads (FMRS); (3) teaching and encouraging of sustainable methods of production; (4) ensuring of funds for loans to farmers and fisherfolk; and (5) increased budget allocations for extension services and research and development.

“The Department of Agriculture has put to good use the welcome significant increases in budgetary resources, from Php15 billion in 2006 to Php48 billion in 2009, to invest in core infrastructure and domestic support services to enable sector adaptation to climate change impacts,” Fondevilla said in a recent business forum.

He said for the fisheries sector, municipal fishports are undergoing rehabilitation, while a total of 50 mariculture parks have so far been established with more in the pipeline, boosting the deliberate shift from fish hunting to fish farming, he said.

He likewise noted that with the deliberate shift to fish farming through investments in mariculture parks together with incentives for locators, the country is poised to be a substantial exporter of high-value fish species in the region. Full story

DENR creates task force to monitor coral bleaching
10 Sep 2010 (DENR) -- Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today directed the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) to create a task force that will be responsible in monitoring and documenting coral bleaching in the country.

Paje likewise ordered the department’s regional officials to mobilize their technical staff to collaborate with local government units, particularly those with marine protected areas (MPAs), as well as divers groups, the academe and other stakeholders, in monitoring coral bleaching in their respective areas.

Paje issued the directives following reports by scientists and divers of a massive bleaching of coral reefs in the country due to warmer-than-usual ocean water temperature.

“Coral bleaching is among the many impacts of climate change that the country is expected to experience. This is the reason why the Philippines, together with other developing nations, remains steadfast in pushing for more concrete measures from developed countries to address this global issue on climate change,” Paje said.

Aside from monitoring coral bleaching, Paje said the task force is also expected to provide technical assistance to the LGUs in crafting strategies to effectively manage their MPAs, and other measures to minimize coral stress like pollution control and solid waste management of coastal communities.

The task force is also expected to come up with recommendations on the establishment of a network of climate resilient MPAs, as well as demonstration sites for best practices in MPA management, restoration and restocking, and other measures to reduce human activities that will impact on coral reefs.

Among the areas confirmed to be experiencing coral bleaching include Nasugbu, Lian, Calatagan, Bauan and Mabini in Batangas province; Pagbilao in Quezon, and Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro.

Coral bleaching has also been also reported in Ilocos, Bolinao in Pangasinan, Masinloc in Zambales, Concepcion in Iloilo, Bohol, Zamboanga Sibugay and Davao. But the worst bleaching was observed in northern Palawan, particularly in Calamianes, Taytay and El Nido.

There are currently 29 nationally declared marine protected areas in the country, covering a total area of 1.37 million hectares; and around 1,000 MPAs established and managed by local government units nationwide. Full story

DENR, GTZ sign agreement supporting Philippine efforts toward cutting greenhouse gases
21 Sep 2010 (PNA) -- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje and German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) Country Director Jochem Lange signed yesterday an implementation agreement to undertake a new 2.7-million Euro technical assistance project aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in the country. The project is called “Climate-Relevant Modernization of the National Forest Policy and Piloting of REDD Measures in the Philippines.” Source

New guidelines to ensure greater public, LGU participation in ECC processing
14 Sep 2010 (DENR) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued new guidelines that will allow for greater public participation in the implementation of the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) system.

Based on the guidelines, the community shall now be given sufficient opportunity to engage in discussions, particularly on measures that need to be undertaken to mitigate any possible adverse impact of proposed development projects on their local environment.

“Any development project of any nature is expected to have impact on the environment. It is only right for the people in the host community to be properly informed of the project, and at the same time be given sufficient opportunity to engage in discussions on what measures to be undertaken before and during operation to minimize the potential impact of the project,” said environment secretary Ramon Paje.

Under Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2010-14, the community surrounding an environmentally-critical project (ECP) shall be consulted during scoping meetings where the most significant issues/impacts of proposed projects are considered. Further, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau will also ensure that the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be presented during such public consultations.

Aside from the surrounding community, all those that will be potentially affected, either directly or indirectly, will also have to be informed and consulted on the project proposal at the earliest stages of the assessment.

The MC also provides for the planning or environment officer of the concerned local government unit directly affected by the ECPs to act as resource person of the EIA review committee. The result of the EIA study and the draft environmental compliance certificate (ECC) shall also be presented to the LGU for their inputs prior to the issuance of the final ECC. Full story

DENR, Senate to fast-track bills on protected areas to preserve wildlife habitats
26 Aug 2010 (DENR) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources are joining hands to fast-track the passage of 17 bills on selected protected areas (PAs) in the country to preserve the habitat of the Philippines’ remaining wildlife resources.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje expressed appreciation for the commitment made by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri during the First National Zoological Park Conference held recently at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Nature Center in Quezon City that he will work for the passage of all the remaining protected area bills.

The 17 protected area bills include the following: Siargao Islands Protected Land and Seascape (Surigao del Norte); Mt. Hilong-Hilong Range (Agusan del Sur); Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary; Samar Island Natural Park; Apo Reef Natural Park (Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro); Malampaya Sound Protected Land and Seascape (Palawan); El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (Palawan); Turtle Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Tawi-Tawi); Bataan National Park; Casecnan Protected Landscape (Nueva Ecija); Aurora Integrated Protected Area; Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park (Romblon); Tagub-Kampalili Range Protected Landscape (Davao Oriental-Compostela Valley); Mt. Balatukan Range (Misamis Oriental); Buug Natural Biotic Area (Zamboanga Sibugay); Northwest Panay Peninsula National Park; and Northern Negros Natural Park. Full story

Government to closely monitor wildlife trade
27 Jul 2010 -- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje directed the department’s regional officials to coordinate closely with the various law enforcement agencies to map out strategies to combat illegal collection and transport of wildlife species.

Paje’s directive came in the wake of a police apprehension of a van transporting some PhP1 million worth of endangered birds and mammals at a checkpoint in San Luis, Batangas on Sunday morning (July 25).

“This incident shows that illegal wildlife trade is very much alive in the country,” Paje said. “We have to curb this malpractice. We should protect and take pride in our biodiversity, and exert all efforts to prevent the disappearance of any species, especially those that are endemic to the country and can only be found here,” Paje said.

The confiscated wildlife species, believed to have come from Palawan, were turned over last Sunday afternoon to the DENR’s Wildlife Rescue Center at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Nature Center in Quezon City for rehabilitation and safekeeping.

WRC resident veterinarian Dr. Riza Salinas said among the 182 confiscated wildlife species include 129 Palawan hill mynahs or kiyaw, 47 blue-naped parrots or pikoy, 3 leopard cats or maral, one young Palawan bearcat or binturong, and two Palawan hornbills or talusi. Unfortunately, said Salinas, six mynahs, two parrots and one hornbill died while in transit apparently due to stress and mishandling.

As of press time, 12 more mynahs died while the remaining hornbill was very sick, according to Salinas.

The vehicle’s driver and passengers, who are now under the custody of the PNP Provincial Headquarters in Batangas, are facing charges for violating Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. Full story

Agriculture department to fast track completion of Philippine Halal food standards
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, 21 Oct 2010 (DA-BFAR) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced recently that it would speed up the development of Halal standards for food commodities in order for the country to tap the flourishing multi-million dollar global market for Halal products.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala directed DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 12 Director Sani D. Macabalang whom he designated as head of the DA-Halal Food Industry Development Committee (HFIDC) and DA Halal Coordinator.

Macabalang said the country would not be able to compete globally unless the Halal standards, which had been initially developed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), are fully established.

In his report to Secretary Alcala, Macabalang noted the lack of harmonized standards and certification procedures followed by various Halal certifiers in the country.

In a recent meeting of the technical working group of DA-HFIDC presided by DA-BAFPS Director Gilbert Layase, it was agreed that the drafts for the Philippine National Standards on Halal Foods and the Code of Practices for Halal Poultry and Halal Large and Small Ruminants will be presented to a public hearing by prominent Muslim scholars in Metro Manila towards the last week of November 2010.

Bicol tops fisheries production in first half of 2010
PILI, Camarines Sur, 18 Oct 2010 (DA-BFAR) – The Bicol Region topped the growth in fisheries production from all regions of the country for the period of January to June 2010 by registering 9.15% growth compared with the same period last year, according to the data released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

The region’s fisheries production for the period increased by 13,185.87 metric tons, from 144,040.50 MT in 2009 to 157,226.37 MT in 2010.

Fisheries production is composed of three sub-sectors, namely: the commercial, municipal and aquaculture.

The commercial fisheries sub-sector registered the highest growth with 11.78% increase. The municipal and aquaculture sub-sectors grew by 8.63% and 8.04% respectively. Full story

"President's fish" facing extinction
MANILA, 24 Sep 2010 (AFP) -- A species of mullet reputed to be one of the favorite dishes of former president Ferdinand Marcos is facing extinction in the Philippines because it is so valuable, a fisheries official said Saturday.

The high value of the lobed river mullet, popularly known as "president's fish" has resulted in overfishing, seriously diminishing their numbers, said Jovita Ayson, a regional director of the fisheries bureau. "It is a threatened species and we have to do something about it before it goes extinct. If we don't stop the indiscriminate catching, in a short while, it could vanish," she told AFP.

The fisheries bureau is calling for a five-year ban on the catching of Cestraeus plicatilis, locally known as "ludong" or "banak.”

The lobed river mullet is found in only a few countries, and in the Philippines its habitat is limited to a few rivers in the north. It sells for Php5,000 (USD114) a kilogram, which only the wealthiest can afford, making it the most expensive fish in the Philippines, Ayson said. Full story

BFAR plans more floating fish cages in mariculture parks
22 Sep 2010, TACLOBAN CITY (SQ Menian/Business World) -- The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) plans to expand mariculture zones in Eastern Visayas by setting up floating fish cages in Leyte’s open seas.

The fisheries bureau also plans to redevelop and upgrade the Calbayog Mariculture Park, the first such project in Samar.

BFAR has inspected possible project sites in Leyte, including Carigara Bay, Leyte Gulf and Biliran Strait but it has yet to determine the number of cages that will be set up in each area.

The region has 14 existing mariculture zones with 346 cages, owned by different investors. Early this year, BFAR introduced rent-to-own cages for subsistence fisherfolk. An initial 56 beneficiaries availed of the scheme. Under the rent-to-own scheme, the cages are constructed by the beneficiaries using materials provided by BFAR. Fingerlings are then provided by the government for the first cropping. Full story

Government to offer financing scheme for fish cages
20 Jul 2010 (JA Ng/Business Mirror) -- The Philippine government will help fisherfolk living near mariculture parks to own fish cages through a financing scheme, officials of the Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said.

“This [scheme] is intended to solve the difficulties confronting fisherfolks in putting up their own fish cage,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala in a chance interview on the sidelines of the midyear briefing sponsored by the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific late Friday.

The BFAR disclosed that it is now in the process of putting up techno-demo fish cages in 54 mariculture parks all over the Philippines. The agency’s target is to identify 10 cooperators in each mariculture park.

Malcolm I. Sarmiento, BFAR director, said the agency will work with local government, units as well as fisherfolk groups, to identify households which will run the techno-demo fish cages.

“Once the cooperator has been identified, we will be providing around Php175,000 for the cooperator to put up the techno-demo fish cage,” said Sarmiento in a telephone interview.

The amount will be used for constructing the fish cages, as well as for their initial stocking. The agency is eyeing the cultivation of bangus (milkfish) in the techno-demo fish cages.

“We hope these techno-demo fish cages will encourage other households to put up their own. For those who will decide to have their own fish cage, the Land Bank of the Philippines will be willing to lend them the capital,” said Sarmiento.

The BFAR revealed that it has already signed a memorandum of agreement with the LandBank for this project. Under the plan, each borrower will be allowed to avail of up to Php400,000 for the construction of the fish cage, procurement of initial stocks, as well as feeds. Full story

Tilapia gains popularity abroad
PILI, Camarines Sur, 27 Jul 2010 (PNA) — Tilapia, now officially considered the Filipino poor man’s fish replacing “galungggong” (roundscad), is finding a growing market abroad.

According to Dennis del Socorro, the regional director for Bicol of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) based here, said latest report of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association said that in the United States (US), tilapia has shown the biggest gains in popularity among seafood.

This trend is expected to continue as consumption is projected to increase from 1.5 million tons in 2003 to 2.5 million tons by 2010, Del Socorro said, quoting the report.

He said that like Americans, Europeans also have the passion – and taste – for tilapia since they consider it as “white meat,” a health food low in cholesterol and fat. Also, European chefs have a preference for its firm meat.

And because of its large demand in the world market, tilapia commands a high price as in the US, for instance, the typical retail price for whole live tilapia is from USD10 per kilo, while fresh tilapia fillet is being sold at the same price.

In the Philippines, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said a correlation between the price of tilapia and hunger incidence was established over five years ago, when tilapia replaced galunggong as the “poor man’s fish,” largely because it is more easily available and less expensive than galunggong. NEDA reported that tilapia is priced between Php80 and Php100 a kilo, while the lowest-priced galunggong sells for Php120.

Considered a nuisance fish when it was first introduced into the country in 1950, tilapia is now the second most important fish in the Philippines, after bangus.

Dr. Rafael Guerrero III, the man who popularized tilapia in the Philippines, touted tilapia as the "country's wave of the future."

"We are now one of the world's leading producers of tilapia that include China, Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sri Lanka,” he said. Full story

Drive vs illegal fishpens in Dagupan starts Sep 1
DAGUPAN CITY, 20 Aug 2010 (PNA) — The city government’s crackdown on illegal fishpens starts September 1, but owners have until October 31 to dismantle their installations.

In a press release, the City Information Office said that by September 1, several local government teams will begin to remove illegal fishpens, especially those that are not properly located or are oversized and operating without permits.

Operators of oversized fishpens are given 15 days to comply with government regulations on size limits. Full story

Artificial reef eyed for damaged marine reserve in Dauin, Negros Oriental
DUMAGUETE CITY, 16 Jul 2010 (PNA) – An artificial reef will be installed in a marine protected area (MPA) at Barangay Maayong-tubig, Dauin in Negros Oriental after the area’s reef was damaged by the cargo vessel M/V Lorcon Davao of Lorenzo Shipping Lines last June 18.

Vice Mayor Rodrigo Alanano said Lorenzo Shipping proposed the installation of used container vans in the damaged area of the MPA to serve as artificial reefs. The shipping company admitted that their vessel was at fault for entering a marine protected zone.

Alanano said that Community and Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Mario Aragon had told him that container vans are suitable materials for artificial reefs provided they are properly cleaned of rust and oil.

Notwithstanding the local government’s acceptance of Lorenzo Shipping’s proposal, Alanano stressed that the local government still plans to file a complaint against the captain of the cargo vessel before the Maritime Industry Authority. Full story

Fishers’ group seeks compensation for oil spill
SAN PEDRO, Laguna, 17 Jul 2010 (M Cinco/inquirer.net) – The fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) demanded Saturday that Petron Corporation compensate the families of fishers affected by an oil spill off Rosario, Cavite, which was caused by leakage from a Petron-owned underwater pipelines that broke at the height of Typhoon “Basyang” last Tuesday.

In a statement, Pamalakaya urged Petron, which operates an oil depot in Barangay Poblacion, to provide Php20,000 in economic assistance to each family in the fishing community affected by the oil spill.

“The oil spill created a scare among the fish buyers, which [cut] prices by more than 50 percent,” said Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap.

He claimed the amount would just be enough to tide the fishers over until affected areas are cleaned of oil.

Rosario town, with a population of 140,000, has the biggest fishing port in Cavite and depends heavily on the regular catch of squid and bisugo fish, Vice Mayor Jose Rozel Hernandez said by phone.

“I would say thousands were affected, counting their dependents,” he said, noting that local fishermen stopped fishing for fear that their catch could be contaminated.

“Coast Guard members placed floaters to contain the oil on the water. Some of our local fishing boats helped out by using dippers to remove the oil. The oil on the water’s surface is now very thin,” Hernandez said.

He said the cleanup could be done in two to three days. Full story

SC gives Palawan fishermen green light to sue oil firm
MANILA, 22 Sep 2010 (T Torres/Inquirer.net) – The Supreme Court has ruled that fishers from Northwestern Palawan could sue Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. for possible physical disruption of marine environment resulting in the pollution and decline of their livelihood.

“All the elements of a cause of action are present. First, [the fishers] undoubtedly had the right to the preferential use of marine and fishing resources which is guaranteed by no less than the Constitution. Second, Shell had the correlative duty to refrain from acts or omissions that could impair [the fishers’] use and enjoyment of the bounties of the seas. Lastly, Shell’s construction and operation of the pipeline which is an act of physical intrusion into the marine environment is said to have disrupted and impaired the natural habitat of fish and resulted in considerable reduction of fish catch and income for [the fishers],” the high court first division said in a 48-page decision penned by Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

“In this case, a valid judgment for damages can be made in favor of [the fishers] if the construction and operation of the pipeline indeed caused fish decline and eventually led to the fishers’ loss of income,” the high court added.

However, the high court said the fishermen should have filed their complaint with the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) not the regional trial court because Republic Act 3931 as amended by Presidential Decree 984 or the Pollution Control Law, the PAB has primary jurisdiction over pollution cases and actions for related damages. It added that the PAB’s decision may be reviewed by the Court of Appeals. Full story

BFAR-12 strengthens MCS system; apprehends 68 vessels in September
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, 21 Oct 2010 (J Alferez/DA-BFAR) – The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 12 (BFAR-12) effort to strengthen its monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) system has paid off with the apprehension of scores of fishing vessels in just one month.

 In September, BFAR 12 and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) apprehended 68 fishing vessels fishing in Celebes Sea and found 52 violations of various fishery laws. In addition, in just one week in October, the bureau inspected 34 fishing vessels and reported 18 violations. The fishing vessels apprehended were mostly handline and carrier vessels. Full story


UN chief highlights collective responsibility to protect world’s oceans
NEW YORK, 3 Sep 2010 (UN News) -- Highlighting the centrality of the marine environment to human well-being, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the collective global responsibility to protect the world’s oceans.

“We need to preserve the productivity and essential ecosystem functions of the oceans as a basis for a prosperous and sustainable future for all,” he told the Pacem in Maribus XXXIII International Conference on Oceans, held in Beijing, China.

In a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien, Ban noted the theme of this year’s Conference, “Oceans, Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” spotlights just how important oceans are and the many benefits that are derived from them.

Oceans – which cover about two-thirds of the Earth’s surface – generate most of its oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide emissions, provide food and nutrients, regulate climate, and supply fishing and other marine resources for income.

“Perhaps most significant is the role that oceans play in regulating the global climate – generating oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said the Secretary-General.

He pointed out that among those on the front lines of climate change are coastal communities, particularly people living in small-island developing States.

“Halting the decline of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, can help to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change while providing numerous social and economic benefits to hundreds of millions of people,” he said.

As the world is becoming increasingly aware, he noted, the many benefits of the oceans to human well-being are not limitless and, in some cases, are in peril.

Ban said that with so many people depending on the oceans, it is vital to pursue universal participation in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Known as the world’s “constitution for the oceans,” the treaty provides the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

In 2008 the General Assembly decided to make World Oceans Day, which was already celebrated by many countries, into an officially-recognized UN annual observance on 8 June to raise global awareness of the threats to the oceans.

World pays high price for overfishing, studies say
VANCOUVER, 14 Sep 2010 (A Dowd/Reuters) – Decades of overfishing have deprived the food industry of billions of dollars in revenue and the world of fish that could have helped feed undernourished countries, according to a series of studies released on Tuesday.

The Canadian, US and British researchers behind the studies also said that overfishing is often the result of government subsidies that would have been better spent conserving fish stocks.

Fisheries contribute USD225 billion to USD240 billion to the world economy annually, but if fishing practices were more sustainable, that amount would be up to USD36 billion higher, according to the four papers published in the Journal of Bioeconomics.

The researchers said the data demonstrate that the reasons for protecting world's ocean fish stocks from unsustainable fishing are more than just biological.

The researchers estimated that from 1950 to 2004, 36 to 53 percent of the fish stocks in more than half the exclusive economic zones in the world's oceans were overfished, with up to 10 million tonnes of fish catch now lost.

They said many governments underestimate the financial impact of overfishing, such as the affect on related industries, and, as a result, they have less incentive to protect fish stocks.

Fish that would have been available had it not been for past overfishing could have helped feed nearly 20 million undernourished people a year in poorer counties, the researchers estimated. Full story

Scientists issue call to heal world’s coral reefs
10 Oct 2010 (JCU) -- There is still time to save the world’s ailing coral reefs, if prompt and decisive action can be taken to improve their overall health, leading marine researchers say.

Writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, eminent marine scientists from Australia and the USA have called for an international effort to improve the resilience of coral reefs, so they can withstand the impacts of climate change and other human activities.

“The world’s coral reefs are important economic, social and environmental assets, and they are in deep trouble. How much trouble, and why, are critical research questions that have obvious implications for formulating policy and improving the governance and management of these tropical maritime resources,” explains Jeremy Jackson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The key to saving the reefs lies in understanding why some reefs degenerate into a mass of weeds and never recover – an event known as a ‘phase shift’ – while on other reefs the corals manage to bounce back successfully, showing a quality known as resilience.

This underlines the importance of managing reefs in ways that promote their resilience, the researchers say.

They presented evidence that coral decline due to human activity has been going on for centuries, but has been particularly alarming in the past 50 years. In all some 125,000 sq kms of the world’s corals have disappeared so far.

The most recent global report card (2008) estimated that 19% of all reefs were effectively lost, another 15% were critical and likely to be lost in 10–20 years, and a further 20% are under threat from local human pressures (already experiencing 20–50% loss of corals). The remaining 46% of reefs were at low risk from direct human impacts, but were nevertheless vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification.

“We have a very good scientific understanding of what causes reefs to decline – what we now need is a clearer picture of how to help them back onto the reverse trajectory,” says lead author Professor Terry Hughes from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

Taking an optimistic view, the researchers argue there is compelling evidence from sites in Hawaii, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Philippines that the degradation and disappearance of corals can be arrested and reversed with the right management:

  • In Hawaii, where ending sewage discharges allowed corals in Kanehoe Bay to recover;

  • In Australia, where weed-eating fish played a decisive role in keeping seaweed down while the corals fought back;

  • In the Caribbean where recovering sea urchin populations are helping to keep down weed and allow corals to recover; and

  • In the Bahamas and Philippines, where controls on over fishing for parrot fish and other weed-eaters, also helped to restore coral cover.

“The coral reef crisis is a crisis of governance,” says co-author Peter Mumby from the University of Queensland.

The team has formulated the scientific lessons from resilient reefs into a set of management advice which governments can adopt to give coral reefs a fighting chance:

  • Empower and educate local people to look after their own reefs.

  • Change land uses that cause damaging runoff and sediment.

  • Control not only fishing, but also fish markets to protect herbivorous fish.

  • Integrate resilience science with reef management and support for local communities in restoring their reefs
    Improve laws that protect coral reefs globally

  • “Confront climate change as the single most important issue for coral reef management and conservation by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

On climate change they caution: “Without urgent action, unchecked global warming and ocean acidification promise to be the ultimate policy failures for coral reefs. Although it is possible to promote the recovery of reefs following bouts of bleaching via local actions such as improving water-quality and protecting herbivores, these interventions alone cannot climate-proof reefs.”

“The clear message from our research, and that of other marine scientists, is that the world’s coral reefs can still be saved… if we try harder,” Prof. Hughes says.

Their article “Rising to the challenge of sustaining coral reef resilience” by Terry P. Hughes, Nicholas A.J. Graham, Jeremy B.C. Jackson, Peter J. Mumby and Robert S. Steneck appears in the latest issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE). Source

First global guidelines for certification of fish production finalized – UN
NEW YORK, USA, 1 Oct 2010 (UN News) -- Consumers will now benefit from standardized seafood labels, thanks to the first-ever global guidelines for aquaculture certification having been adopted at a United Nations-backed meeting.

More than 50 countries attended the Phuket, Thailand, meeting of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of the Committee on Fisheries, part of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Sub-Committee is the only global intergovernmental forum discussing aquaculture development.

The non-binding guidelines – finalized after four years of debate among governments, producers, processors and traders – are the first to subject animal health, food safety, the environment and socio-economic issues relating to aquaculture workers to compliance or certification.

They will go before the Committee on Fisheries for approval when the body meets next January in Rome.

If the guidelines are followed in full by countries, consumers at the fish counter will know whether the shrimp they are considering purchasing were raised without damaging a coastal mangrove swamp, whether the fish farm worker was paid a fair wage and whether the shrimp are contamination-free.

“These guidelines have been developed to bring some harmony to what is the fastest-growing food sector in the world,” said FAO aquaculture expert Rohana Subasinghe.

“Certification of aquaculture products has proliferated over the years claiming all kinds of things,” he continued. “There was no criteria, no benchmarks or agreed principles. Aquaculture products are global-traded and it is important that we ensure responsible production and consumer satisfaction.”

Among the world’s fish farmers, 80% are small-scale, often with a backyard pond for fish or a shrimp pond along the coast.

One thorny issue that had to be resolved was how a costly certification process could be engineered so that small-scale producers were not shut out of the market.

The new guidelines call on governments to support fish producers develop and comply with aquaculture certification systems.

“There are ways for small producers to operate within a modern certification system,” said Subasinghe, who pointed to clusters of fish farmers in India and Thailand who share the costs of compliance.

UN officials stress tourism’s role in safeguarding environment, reducing poverty
NEW YORK, 27 Sep 2010 (UN News) -- Top United Nations officials today stressed the important role that sustainable tourism can play in conserving the diversity of life on the planet and in helping to reduce poverty as they marked World Tourism Day.

“Tourism and biodiversity are closely intertwined,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his message for the Day, pointing out that millions of people travel each year to experience nature. “The income generated by sustainable tourism can provide important support for nature conservation, as well as for economic development. Furthermore, sustainable tourism can help to raise awareness among tourists and local communities of the importance of biodiversity to our everyday lives.”

Ban pointed out that despite repeated global pledges to protect the planet’s species and habitats – and the goods and services they provide – the variety of life on Earth continues to decline at an unprecedented rate, adding that human activities are the cause.

This year, which happens to be the International Year of Biodiversity, provides a timely opportunity to focus on the urgency of safeguarding biodiversity for the wealth, health and well-being of people in all regions of the world, he added.

The tourism community is becoming increasingly aware of its responsibility, he stated. “Indeed there is much the sector can contribute to protecting biodiversity, including by integrating simple measures such as managing tour groups to minimize disturbance to wildlife or buying supplies only from sustainable sources.”

He added that through initiatives such as its “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty” project, and its collaboration with the UN family, national tourism authorities and the private sector, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is helping to highlight the links between tourism, poverty alleviation and biodiversity.

Observed annually on 27 September, World Tourism Day serves to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. Full story

On World Maritime Day, UN officials urges tribute to seafarers
NEW YORK, USA, 23 Sep 2010 (UN News) -- The head of the United Nations agency mandated to ensure the safety of the shipping industry today urged the world to recognize the important role played by seafarers in international maritime trade and make efforts to improve their unique working lives.

Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, the Secretary-General of the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), used his message for World Maritime Day to draw attention to the maritime workers, whose efforts, he said, go largely unacknowledged.

He said that in selecting the theme for this year’s Day – “2010: Year of the Seafarer” – IMO’s intention was to use it as an opportunity “to reassure those who labor at the ‘sharp end’ of the industry – the seafarers themselves – that those of us who work in other areas of the maritime community, and yet whose actions have a direct bearing on seafarers’ everyday lives, understand the extreme pressures they face and approach our tasks with genuine interest and concern for them and their families.”

Mitropoulos urged members of the shipping industry to maintain high standards; enshrine best practices; embrace corporate social responsibility; provide a clean, safe and comforting workplace; recognize and adequately reward those worked for them.

In addition, he called on political leaders to work towards the ratification, entry into force and implementation of all the international measures that have a bearing on seafarers’ safety and security. Legislators and law enforcers should strive to treat seafarers fairly, while port and immigration authorities had the responsibility to treat them with respect. Full story

Marine census results released
6 Oct 2010 (Australian Antarctic Division) -- The results of a decade-long study into the biodiversity of the world’s oceans, the Census of Marine Life (CoML), are being released in London this week.

The CoML program involves researchers from more than 80 nations and aims to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans.

One of the 14 CoML projects is the Australian-led, Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), which has undertaken the largest ever survey of the Southern Ocean.

CAML coordinated more than 19 major voyages, including the Australian Antarctic Division’s 2008 Collaborative East Antarctic Marine Census on Australia’s icebreaker ship, Aurora Australis.

More than 300 scientists from 30 countries have been involved in CAML including the Australian Antarctic Division, the CSIRO, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of Tasmania.

The four day symposium at the Royal Society and Natural History Museum in London will be celebrating the major achievements of CAML including: (1) The inventory of 16,500 marine taxa (species), with hundreds new to science; (2) DNA barcoding of 2,500 species; (3) pioneering DNA data to check hundreds of species which appear to inhabit both the Antarctic and Arctic waters; (4) over 1,000 scientific and general publications; (5) online illustrated field guides and pages in the Encyclopaedia of Life; (6) bioregionalisation data for conservation of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems; and (7) a robust baseline against which the effects of climate change may be measured. Source

Marine species threatened by pollution, climate change – UN report
NEW YORK, 19 Oct 2010 -- Pollution, over-fishing and climate change are having an increasingly damaging impact on the world’s oceans, threatening a growing extinction of native marine species across all regions, a new United Nations report warned today.

Productivity, and with it fish catches, is projected to decrease in nearly all areas by 2050 and worldwide, fisheries will be heavily dominated by smaller species lower down the food chain, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report – Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook: Global Synthesis.

Climate change, if unchecked, could see surface sea temperatures rise by 2100 with important implications for coral reefs and other temperature-sensitive marine organisms, while other predicted changes include a continued and widespread increase in nitrogen levels due to discharges of wastewaters and agricultural run-off from land and emissions from vehicles and shipping.

Nitrogen can trigger algal blooms which in turn can poison fish and other marine creatures as well as contribute to the development of so-called dead zones – areas of sea with low oxygen concentrations.

The report also flags concerns over the rise in marine invasive species, transported to regions from elsewhere, often in ballast water of ships or attached to its hull, highlighting that the cumulative impacts of all of these factors will have serious consequences in the rise of extinctions of native marine species across all regions.

The continuing decline in marine biodiversity will compromise the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, as well as their ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, the report said.

“Decoupling growth from rising levels of pollution is the number one challenge facing this generation,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “This is nowhere more starkly spotlighted than in the current and future health of the world’s sea and oceans. Multi-trillion dollar services, including fisheries, climate-control and ones underpinning industries such as tourism are at risk if impacts on the marine environment continue unchecked and unabated.

“Governments are rising to the challenge through actions under the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans. This global report, based on 18 regional reports, underlines that ambition and actions now need to match the scale and the urgency of the challenge.”

Given that the nature and dynamics of oceans are transboundary, actions must be taken by all regions, with countries working together to find solutions, and must include cross-sectoral approaches such as ecosystem-based management to address activities affecting marine ecosystems, since the combination of increasing human uses and the expected effects of rising temperatures and sea acidification threaten marine biodiversity and human activities that depend upon it.

UN Ambassador Edward Norton calls for people power to protect biodiversity
NEW YORK, USA, 22 Sep 2010 (UN News) -- Individuals can use their wallets, their Internet skills and their lawmakers to press corporations and governments to take meaningful measures to preserve biodiversity, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and acclaimed actor Edward Norton said today, urging the public to play a bigger role in stopping the decline in the number of plant and animal species worldwide.

Norton – who was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity in July – told the UN News Centre that it is not only world leaders and policy-makers who can play a part in protecting the planet. Consumers can vote with their dollars and only buy products that are environmentally friendly, he said, noting that many companies had started to introduce “greener” brand lines to meet demand.

“Growth in the environmentally friendly sector of consumer products is really high – not just in organics, but also in cleaner products,” he said. “I think that companies that ignore these trends are probably ignoring them at the peril of their bottom line.”

Norton noted that many green products are no longer substantially more expensive than their standard rivals. “In some cases, there still is that cost premium, but in many cases the products that don’t carry a downstream environmental burden are becoming price competitive.”

Norton said the public can also pressure their legislators to ensure their country signs the Convention on Biodiversity or pass appropriate laws on the issue, such as better regulating environmentally destructive industry.

“I think it is being persuasively demonstrated all over the world in various scenarios of all different scales that you can achieve economic development that does not rely on the destruction of ecosystems.”

Norton and several partners have recently developed Crowdrise, a website that allows the public to use a social networking platform to help raise funds for charitable causes. “We implemented Crowdrise with the idea that people are looking for tools of empowerment so that they can get around what feel like the over-large edifices surrounding an issue and get directly to some of the people in small groups that are taking the initiative and support them.”

The world is more interconnected than ever, Norton stressed. “It’s not that hard to surf around [the Internet] any more and find examples of groups that are doing things at a scale where your small contribution or your small ability to do a little bit of fund-raising can really make a difference.”

He added that he was optimistic that policy-makers were becoming more aware of the importance of protecting biodiversity, its impact of human health, and on the fact that taking a green stand does not necessarily have to mean a large economic cost to industry or the public.

“Unsustainable development is no longer an option, and environmental preservation that doesn’t deal with human needs is no longer an option either.”

Sea cow, origin of mythical mermaid, threatened with extinction, UN warns
NEW YORK, 7 Oct 2010 -- Dugongs, or sea cows, believed to be the source of mermaid legends, are threatened with extinction within 40 years, and an arsenal of measures, from replacing fishing nets that trap them to setting up marine reserves, are vital for their survival, a United Nations-backed forum has warned.

“Man-made threats pose the greatest risk to the gentle sea cow,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, summing up a meeting this week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), of governments, international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) convened by the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) on the seemingly clumsy animal, the world’s only herbivorous mammal living in marine waters.

“Illegal poaching, unsustainable hunting by local communities, severe injuries from ships and vanishing sea-grass beds are accelerating a critical loss of habitat and threatening populations,” it said, stressing that enhanced regional cooperation among countries hosting dugongs is essential to ensure the survival of the creature that sailors once took for a mermaid when spotted from afar.

A newly developed toolbox to mitigate threats includes incentives to replace harmful gillnets with alternative fishing gear to reduce so-called by-catch and minimize the mortality rates. Use of gillnets has led to incidental entanglement in fishing gear. As fisheries become increasingly commercialized, by-catch will become even more frequent and serious, UNEP warned.

The second largest threat is unsustainable direct consumption which can result once a dugong is caught in the nets. In addition, dugongs are also legally hunted by local communities in some countries for traditional consumption.

“Simple innovative tools and new incentives for local fishermen have been presented to the signatories to the CMS dugong agreement, which might prevent this rare species from becoming extinct,” CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema told the gathering.

Steps include protecting breeding and feeding areas by setting up marine reserves, temporal limits on fishing, and loans to fishermen to buy new boats and use line-fishing gear.

According to an assessment undertaken in 2008, the dugong is now extinct in the Maldives, Mauritius and Taiwan, Province of China, and declining in other waters in at least a third of the areas where it is found. But current information is too limited to even assess completely the threats.

Man-made risks are exacerbated by the dugong’s low reproduction rates. Even a slightly reduced survival rate of adults from habitat loss, disease, hunting or drowning in nets can trigger a dramatic decline.

Data from fishermen in 20 countries in the Pacific Islands, South Asia, and the UAE to assess the threat of fishing on the dugong’s survival in parts of its migratory range will be combined into a geographical information system to identify the trouble spots, provide crucial information on existing populations and map important habitat areas such as sea-grass beds. In 2011, the survey will be extended to East Africa, the western and north-western Indian Ocean and South Asia.

Young corals vulnerable to predators
23 Aug 2010 (ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies) -- Tiny corals face shocking losses when first they settle on reefs, making the full complexity and wonder of the mature coral reef all the more remarkable.

Research by Australian and French scientists has thrown new light on coral’s dangerous infancy and childhood, in the quest to better understand how coral reefs can re-establish, at a time when they face multiplying threats worldwide.

A team from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) at James Cook University and CRIOBE, the French Research Centre and Observatory for Island Environments, used terracotta tiles to study and count survival in minute and juvenile corals on the Pacific island of Moorea, French Polynesia.

“The first thing we found is that the type and amount of coral larvae in the water very rarely bears any resemblance to the mature reef,” Lucie Penin of CoECRS and the University of Perpignan explains.

“What happens to the baby corals in the early stages of their life, up to the age of 4 or 5 years when they begin to reproduce, is clearly of great importance to the kinds of corals that dominate the reef.”

The team waited for tiny corals to settle on the underside of terracotta tiles, then turned half of them face up to study what happened in the ensuing days and months.

“Of the newly settled corals, tiny creatures only a millimeter or so in size, we found nearly half were eaten up by predators or died in the first seven days,” Penin says. “Of the juvenile corals, aged one to four years, we found 20% died over a four month period.”

The study suggests the coral losses during the entire growing-up phase may total in the high 90% range.

“Local conditions at the time are clearly extremely important in the life and death of the young corals – the quality of the water, the number and activity of predatory fish, climate and water temperature – for it is the survivors who build the reef,” she says.

Early losses among the baby corals may be largely due to the actions of parrot fishes foraging for weed on the reef and eating tiny corals by mistake.

“So with the parrot fish there are two effects, good and bad for the tiny corals – on the one hand they eat many of them by accident, on the other they help keep the weed at bay. On balance the effect is probably beneficial to the corals, says Professor Sean Connolly, from CoECRS.

However seaweeds also pose a direct threat to infant corals, in some cases using a form of biological warfare to kill them and in others simply smothering them.

At the juvenile stage, the team found the corals are attacked by coral-eating fishes such as butterfly fish.  Although these do no harm to mature corals, the effect of a fish eating a large chunk of a small coral may be fatal to the individual coral, he says.

Penin says that with coral reefs under threat from a combination of climate change, coral bleaching, diseases, overfishing and dirty water from human land activities, understanding what happens at all stages of the coral’s life cycle may be of high importance to managing our reefs successfully during one of the most dangerous periods they have faced for millions of years. Source

Climate change implicated in decline of horseshoe crabs
LEETOWN, W. Va., 30 Aug 2010 (USGS) A distinct decline in horseshoe crab numbers has occurred that parallels climate change associated with the end of the last Ice Age, according to a study that used genomics to assess historical trends in population sizes.  

The new research also indicates that horseshoe crabs numbers may continue to decline in the future because of predicted climate change, said Tim King, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a lead author on the new study published in Molecular Ecology.

While the current decline in horseshoe crabs is attributed in great part to overharvest for fishing bait and for the pharmaceutical industry, the new research indicates that climate change also appears to have historically played a role in altering the numbers of successfully reproducing horseshoe crabs. More importantly, said King, predicted future climate change, with its accompanying sea-level rise and water temperature fluctuations, may well limit horseshoe crab distribution and interbreeding, resulting in distributional changes and localized and regional population declines, such as happened after the last Ice Age.

The research substantiated recent significant declines in all areas where horseshoe crabs occur along the West Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, with the possible exception of a distinct population along the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico

These findings, combined with the results of a 2005 study by King and colleagues, have important implications for the welfare of wildlife that rely on nutrient-rich horseshoe crab eggs for food each spring. Full story

Seafood eco-labels not always reliable, says study
VANCOUVER, Canada, 1 Sep 2010 (M Munro/Postmedia News) — An international program run by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) purports to certify only sustainably harvested fish but is "failing" to protect the environment and needs radical reform, says a highly critical report released Wednesday.

Many of the MSC's claims are "eco-babble" and very misleading, Jennifer Jacquet, a University of B.C. researcher and co-author of the report, said this week as she checked out the seafood at Capers, a trendy grocery store in Vancouver.

Fresh halibut was selling for $49.90 a kilogram under one of the council's aqua blue signs guaranteeing "sustainability" and "a sound environmental choice."

The certification program is run by the non-profit council based in London. The MSC's blue "eco-labels" can be found on seafood sold at Capers, Whole Foods Markets and Walmart in North America and many stores in Europe.

Controversy has been brewing over the certification program for years but the MSC's recent decision to slap its eco-label on an Antarctic krill fishery prompted the researchers to spell out their concerns in the journal Nature this week. Jacquet is a resource management specialist who authored the report with noted UBC fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly and colleagues in the U.S. and Italy.

In May, the council certified the krill fishery, despite scientific evidence that suggests the shrimp-like creatures at the base of the Antarctic food chain are in decline. Much of the krill caught is used to feed farmed fish, pigs and chicken and "any fishery undertaken for fish meal should not be viewed as responsible or sustainable, and should not qualify for MSC certification," the researchers say.

Co-author Paul Dayton, at the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the krill certification "is an embarrassment as it flies in the face of existing data and denies any sense of precautionary management."

The MSC argues that the less than one per cent of krill is under fishing pressure. Full story

Human noise pollution in ocean can lead fish away from good habitats and off to their death
ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2010) — The growing amount of human noise pollution in the ocean could lead fish away from good habitat and off to their death, according to new research from a UK-led team working on the Great Barrier Reef.

After developing for weeks at sea, baby tropical fish rely on natural noises to find the coral reefs where they can survive and thrive. However, the researchers found that short exposure to artificial noise makes fish become attracted to inappropriate sounds.

In earlier research, Dr Steve Simpson, Senior Researcher in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences discovered that baby reef fish use sounds made by fish, shrimps and sea urchins as a cue to find coral reefs. With human noise pollution from ships, wind farms and oil prospecting on the increase, he is now concerned that this crucial behavior is coming under threat.

He said: "When only a few weeks old, baby reef fish face a monumental challenge in locating and choosing suitable habitat. Reef noise gives them vital information, but if they can learn, remember and become attracted towards the wrong sounds, we might be leading them in all the wrong directions."

In noisy environments the breakdown of natural behaviour could have devastating impacts on success of populations and the replenishment of future fish stocks.

Simpson said: "Anthropogenic noise has increased dramatically in recent years, with small boats, shipping, drilling, pile driving and seismic testing now sometimes drowning out the natural sounds of fish and snapping shrimps. If fish accidentally learn to follow the wrong sounds, they could end up stuck next to a construction site or follow a ship back out to sea." Full story

Climate change affects turtles and dugongs
8 Oct 2010 (ARC CoE on Coral Reef Studies) -- The “turtle and dugong capital of the world”, the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Torres Strait region, faces increased pressure under climate change from human actions such as fishing, hunting, onshore development and pollution.

“Depletion of turtle and dugong numbers increases their vulnerability to other threats and lowers their ability to cope with climate change,” said Dr Mariana Fuentes of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

Fuentes said that turtles in particular are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which include decreases in hatching success, loss of nesting areas and overheated beaches, which will decrease the turtles’ reproductive output and may significantly alter the sex ratio of their offspring.

Fuentes’ research into the green, hawksbill and flatback turtles and well as dugongs in the northern GBR and Torres Strait is seeking to establish priorities for the management of marine megafauna to increase their resilience to climate change.

“Managers face the challenge of addressing the direct effects of climate change, as well as ongoing threats that dugongs and sea turtles face throughout their geographic range,” she explains. “For logistical, financial and political reasons, managers cannot address all threats simultaneously, and so need to prioritize their actions.

Of particular concern is the effect of climate change on the gender balance of turtle population, Dr Fuentes says: “The temperature of the beach sand determines the gender of the hatchlings – warmer sand produces more females while cooler sand produces more males. Under current conditions the nesting grounds are already producing more females. With an increasing temperature, these turtles are at risk of stretching out the ratio, though we can’t yet predict exactly when it will cause an unbalanced population.”

“While sea turtles have survived large climatic fluctuations during their evolutionary history, modern rates of climate change are much faster, and are coupled with additional human pressures,” said Fuentes. “We still do not know whether turtles can adapt to modern rates of climate change.”

Dugongs may experience indirect effects of climate change and human activity through impacts on their main food source, seagrass. Seagrass diebacks are linked to lower reproduction, increased mortality and emigration of dugongs.

Fuentes has been working closely with indigenous communities in the Torres Strait region and northern GBR to monitor turtle numbers and condition and to track the movements of dugongs. She said it will be important to take a range of short-term and long-term measures to protect turtles and dugongs from climate change, including:

  1. Reducing the negative stresses that they are currently subject to

  2. Actively trying to change the habitat they use (e.g. by shading nests, re-vegetating beaches and replacing lost sand), and

  3. protecting areas that seem to offer the best conditions as refuges in the future.

“Turtles and dugongs have numerous roles – apart from their cultural and spiritual significance to the indigenous community, they are important for the tourism industry. Being at the top of the food chain also means that they have high ecological significance.” Full story

Asian chief justices, judges propose network to promote environment justice
MANILA, Philippines -- Asian judges proposed creation of an Asian Judges Network on the Environment to improve the quality of court rulings on environment and natural resource cases in the region at a seminar held at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Around 120 senior judges, environment ministry officials and civil society participants attended the “Asian Judges Symposium on Environmental Decision-Making, the Rule of Law, and Environmental Justice” on 28-29 July to discuss ways to ensure effective environmental adjudication and dispute resolution, access to justice, and promote the rule of law.

Participants shared their experiences in evolving environmental jurisprudence, as well as handling environment cases, including the challenges and needs that arise in doing their work. They discussed how best to achieve effective environmental enforcement, including working through judges networks convened by the Chief Justices in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Association for South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries.

“We need judges to champion and lead the rest of the legal profession toward credible rule of law systems, compliance and enforcements that have integrity and promote environmental sustainability,” ADB Vice-President Bindu Lohani said at the two-day symposium.

Lohani stressed that environment and climate change issues are key in reducing poverty, and that the symposium would initiate a continuing conversation among the region’s judges and environmental officials.

The symposium was attended by Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona and Indonesia’s Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa, along with senior judges and officials from Bangladesh, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States.

“As judges and lawyers, we have a significant role to play in the protection of the environment…Judges can make a contribution not only to the present generation, but also to future generations,” Chief Justice Corona said at the conference.

“I saw that closer intent and cooperation is necessary to have judges of ASEAN countries jointly develop a “green bench”,” said Indonesia’s Chief Justice Tumpa, adding that the Indonesian Supreme Court is ready to host a meeting of chief justices and environmental judges of ASEAN countries next year.

Bakary Kante, Director of Division of Environmental Law and Conventions of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said: “UNEP is committed to continue strengthening the capacity of judges as well as the whole judiciary. To achieve this, UNEP will work closely with ADB and other relevant partners for environmental justice and sustainability.”

ADB has been assisting some Asian countries create a roadmap to strengthen the capacity of judges to consistently apply environmental and natural resources law and regulation. The symposium was led by ADB and convened in partnership with UNEP, the Access Initiative of the World Resources Institute, the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network, and the Philippines Supreme Court. Source

China tops world in catch and consumption of fish
WASHINGTON, USA, 22 Sep 2010 (B Moffet/Pew Environment Group) — China leads the world in tonnage of fish caught annually as well as the amount of fish consumed, according to new findings.

The research, conducted by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with the National Geographic Society and The Pew Charitable Trusts, ranks the top 20 nations that have the greatest impact on ocean ecosystems through catching or consuming marine wildlife.

China's top ranking results from its enormous population, despite its very low per capita footprint of fish catch and consumption. Japan is high on the list too, a result of its rate of consumption (often by importation) of fish rather than its catch. The "top 20" list of fish catch and consumption are unveiled in the October issue of the National Geographic magazine.

The United States comes in third in both lists, due to its relatively large population and tendency to eat top predator fish such as Atlantic salmon. Peru ranks second in the world in catch although it is not in the top 20 fish-consuming countries because Peruvians on the whole eat little seafood.

The data come from the SeafoodPrint study, led by Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia and National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala.

In assessing the true impact nations have on the seas, the team needed to look not just at what a given nation caught but also at what the citizens of that nation ate.

Standard methods of measuring nations' impact on the sea are misleading because, as Pauly says, "every fish is different. A pound of tuna represents roughly a hundred times the footprint of a pound of sardines."

That's because fish like tuna are apex predators — they feed at the very top of the food chain. The largest tuna eat enormous amounts of fish, including intermediate-level predators such as mackerel, which in turn feed on fish like anchovies, which prey on microscopic organisms. A large tuna must eat the equivalent of its body weight every 10 days to stay alive, so a single thousand-pound tuna might need to eat as many as 15,000 smaller fish in a year, the National Geographic article says.

Any large fish in the world — a Pacific swordfish, an Atlantic mako shark, an Alaska king salmon, a Chilean sea bass — is likely to depend on several levels of a food chain.

The SeafoodPrint method provides a way to compare all types of fish caught, by creating a unit of measurement based on "primary production" — the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the marine food web — required to make a pound of a given type of fish. The research found that a bluefin tuna, for example, may require a thousand pounds or more of primary production.

The new approach also allows the researchers to assess individual nations' impacts on the seas, based not only on what was caught but also on what their citizens ate through imports. "A country can acquire primary production by fishing, or it can acquire it by trade," says Pauly, whose research is part of the Sea Around Us project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of British Columbia.

Much of the world's catch, especially from the high seas, is being purchased by wealthy nations for their people; poorer countries simply can't afford to bid for high-value species, the article says. Citizens in poor nations also lose out if their governments enter into fishing or trade agreements with wealthier nations. In these cases, local fish are sold abroad and denied to local citizens — those who arguably have the greatest need to eat them and the greatest right to claim them.

Humanity's demand for seafood has now driven fishing fleets into every virgin fishing ground in the world, the scientists say. A report by the World Bank and United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that even if the number of boats, hooks and nets now used were cut by half, the world would still end up catching too many fish to be sustainable for the future.

The scientists favor treaties among nations setting seafood-consumption targets as well as ocean havens to safeguard resources. "Barely 1% of the ocean is now protected, compared with 12 percent of the land," Sala says, "and only a fraction of that is fully protected." Full story

ASEAN businesses urged to green the supply chain
17 Oct 2010 ---- (DENR) -- Business and industry leaders in Southeast Asia can help raise the public’s environmental consciousness by incorporating sustainable practices from the purchase of supplies down to the manufacturing and marketing of their products.

The call for “greening the supply chain” was made at the 3rd ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on Sustainable Production and Consumption held October 6-7, 2010 at the Bayview Park Hotel in Manila. The forum was organized in line with declaration of the United Nations of 2005-2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development .

At a media briefing, Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), highlighted the role of the business sector in adopting measures that would use and produce goods and services with less environmental impact. “Businesses should practice sustainable production and consumption through their own initiative and not as mere compliance to government regulations,” he said.

According to him, such initiatives are needed especially in developing countries like the Philippines, where raw materials for consumer products, whether for domestic or export purposes, are extracted from available natural resources.

Dr. Raman Letchumanan, Environment Division head of the ASEAN Secretariat explained that “developing countries are in a position to reduce their carbon footprint by being more sustainable in using their rich biodiversity while they are on the path to economic growth.”

He stressed the need to put in place market mechanisms that would “compel businesses to put their own initiatives to educate consumers.” In the Philippines, such mechanisms include certifications from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), green or eco-labeling, and recognition of local industries who demonstrate environmental initiatives.

Ironically, however, it was observed that products from companies with such mechanisms in place were more expensive compared with other [more] mass-produced or commercial products, prompting Prof. Govindan Parayil, director of the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies, to suggest that the public must be acquainted with responsibilities that are usually attached to the supply and production processes.

“Organic and other environmentally-friendly products require more extensive research on biodiversity, which is the source of almost all raw materials used by humans,” Parayil explained. “Sometimes, some companies also work in partnership with and support communities who ensure a constant yet sustainable supply of raw material. Thankfully, there are environmentally-aware consumers who patronize such products.” Full story

China, Japan agree to restrict increase in Chinese fishing boats
BEIJING, China, 27 Aug 2010 (Kyodo News International/iStockAnalyst) -- China and Japan agreed Friday not to increase the number of large roll-net equipped fishing boats of the Chinese side operating in the western and central Pacific Ocean to protect stocks of tuna and bonito.

The agreement to keep the number of such boats at the current 20 was made in talks between Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Masahiko Yamada and his Chinese counterpart Han Changfu in Beijing.

It came against the backdrop of fears about declining stocks of such fish as bonito, yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna in the ocean due to an increase in Chinese and Taiwan fishing boats.

At the meeting, Japan also agreed to hand over part of its surplus catch quotas for bigeye tuna to the Chinese side, given that China has faced a shortage in such quotas, according to Japanese officials. Full story

Taiwan eyes marine park despite fishers’ objection
TAIPEI, Taiwan, 30 Aug 2010 (AFP) — Taiwan plans to set up a marine national park in the middle of one of its largest fishing grounds despite opposition from fishers who depend on the area for their livelihood, an official said Monday.

The planned national park will cover three island chains and surrounding waters to the north of Taiwan, measuring some 750 square kilometers (300 square miles).

"An evaluation of the new marine national park has been under way," Hsu Shao-liang of the Marine National Park Headquarters told AFP.

The outlook for the project, which will become Taiwan's second marine national park, is bright as the initial response from the public has been positive, he said.

"There's been some noise, of course. Some fishermen who wish to catch fish in the area have opposed the project, fearing that their livelihood would be negatively impacted. But others favoured the project from a fisheries resources protection perspective," he said, referring to the depletion of fisheries resources by the frequent invasion of Chinese poachers. Full story

Climate change threatens livelihood, nutrition losses for Asia-Pacific fishers
BANGKOK, 10 Sep 2010 (Thin Lei Win/Reuters AlertNet) -- Climate change could lead to livelihood loss, increased poverty and malnutrition, and conflict over fish stocks in the Asia Pacific region's fisheries and aquaculture sector, which employ at least 32 million people, the United Nations said on Friday.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the Asia Pacific region is the world's largest producer of aquatic products. The region accounts for some 51% of global fisheries production and close to 90% of global aquaculture.

Fishing households already under stress from overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution are expected to face added pressure from climate change, said Simon Funge-Smith, the FAO regional senior officer and secretary of the Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission.

"Many fishing households rely on the fish they produce for basic income and typically have few options for alternatives," he said, noting that the Asia Pacific region employs 85% of world's total fishers and aquaculture farmers. "Any loss or disruption places their already precarious livelihoods in further danger.”

A loss of fishing livelihoods could also have a knock-on effect on the nutritional value of people's diets, he said. Cambodians, for example, are heavily reliant on freshwater fish, and get 95% of their daily protein intake from them.

Altogether, more than one billion people around the world depend on fish as their primary source of animal protein, Asian Development Bank figures show.

And other protein sources, even if available, do not provide all the benefits of eating fish, Funge-Smith warned. Full story

Pacific Island countries warn UN debate of threats from overfishing
NEW YORK, 24 Sep 2010 (UN News) -- Unsustainable fishing of shark and tuna is threatening stocks and jeopardizing the health of the fragile economies of many small island States, the leaders of two Pacific Ocean nations told the General Assembly’s high-level debate today in New York.

“We must reorient our priorities to put biodiversity and the welfare of our ecosystems first,” said Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong. “In doing so, we can serve both our long-term commercial interests and protect the natural bounty that sustains us.”

This week Palau and Honduras signed a joint declaration calling on other nations to stop unsustainable shark fishing, and Toribiong noted that the health of sharks is closely linked to the health of tuna.

“Palau and other countries rely on tuna as their principal fisheries resource, and the world community relies on it as an important food source. We must work together to ensure the continued viability of this important stock.”

Nauru’s President Marcus Stephen stressed in his address that the preservation of regional tuna stocks is essential to the Pacific’s food security and economic development.

“Regrettably, the sustainability of the tuna stocks and other marine resources that we rely on is threatened by actions beyond our control,” Stephen said.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated overfishing by large fishing nations is rife in the Pacific, and we lack sufficient resources to respond to this criminal activity. One of the pillars of our economic future is literally being stolen from our children.”

Green growth can help Asia-Pacific overcome recessions, climate change -- UN
NEW YORK, 27 Sep 2010 -- Green growth can simultaneously promote environmental sustainability and development in Asia and the Pacific, a senior United Nations official has said, urging stepped up investment in natural capital, clean energy and ecological efficiency.

In a message to a high-level gathering in Astana, Kazakhstan to identify a roadmap for environmental protection and development in the region, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), stressed that environmental sustainability need not be a trade-off for economic growth.

But for this to happen, there will need to be a “fundamental transformation of our economic structure by integrating ecological costs in market prices, investing in sustainable infrastructure, promoting green business and technology, pursuing sustainable lifestyles and by developing climate resilient societies,” she said. Full story

Coral death strikes at SE Asia
19 Oct 2010 (ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies) -- International marine scientists say that a huge coral death which has struck Southeast Asian and India Ocean reefs over recent months has highlighted the urgency of controlling global carbon emissions.

Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.

“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities. “So far around 80% of Acropora colonies and 50% of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

This means coral cover in the region could drop from an average of 50% to around 10%, and the spatial scale of the event could mean it will take years to recover, striking at local fishing and regional tourism industries, he says.

The bleaching event has also hit the richest marine biodiversity zone on the planet, the ‘Amazon Rainforest’ of the seas, known as the Coral Triangle (CT), which is bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“Although the Coral Triangle is the richest region for corals on Earth, it relies on other regions around its fringes to supply the coral spawn and fish larvae that help keep it so rich,” Baird explains. “So there are both direct and indirect effects on CT reefs which will affect their ability to recover from future disturbance. Also the reefs of the region support tens of millions of people who make their living from the sea and so plays a vital role in both the regional economy and political stability. For example, in Aceh, northern Sumatera, where the bleaching is most severe, a high proportion of the people rely on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. While it may take up to two years for some fish species to be affected by the loss of coral habitat, fisheries yields will decline and this combined with a drop in the number of dive tourists visiting could have major long-term effects on the local economy.”

The cause of the bleaching event was a large pool of super-hot water which swept into the eastern Indian Ocean region several months ago, shocking the corals and causing them to shed the symbiotic algae that nourish them, thereby losing color and “bleaching.” If the corals do not regain their algae they starve to death.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Hotspots website, sea surface temperatures in the region peaked in late May 2010, and by July the accumulated heat stress was greater than in 1998. Local dive operators recorded water temperatures of 34 C, over 4 degrees higher that than long term average for the area.

The event was first detected on reefs in Aceh by marine ecologists from Wildlife Conservation Society, CoECRS and Syiah Kuala University. They already rate it as one of the worst coral diebacks ever recorded.

“My colleagues and I have high confidence these successive ocean warming episodes, which exceed the normal tolerance range of warm-water corals, are driven by human-induced global warming. They underline that the planet is already taking heavy hits from climate change – and will continue to do so unless we can reduce carbon emissions very quickly,” Baird said.

“They also show this is not just about warmer temperatures: it is also threatening the livelihoods of tens of millions of people and potentially the stability of our region.”

Baird said it was not yet clear whether Australia would suffer a similar coral bleaching event this year: this would emerge only with the arrival of warmer waters from the north in January/February 2011. The previous worst events to strike the Great Barrier Reef were in 1998 and 2002, when over 40% of the reefs along the length of the GBR were affected. Source

11 Malaysian fishermen may face a Philippine court
20 Jul 2010 (Bernama) -- Eleven Malaysian fishermen arrested in the waters off Tambisan, Philippines, near Lahad Datu on Sunday will probably be charged in a Philippine court, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said Monday.

"They will probably be charged there for committing an offense, maybe for poaching in the Philippine waters or for possessing prohibited fishing gear," he told a press conference here.

He said Sabah police had maintained regular communications with the Philippine police pertaining to the Malaysian fishermen, including the details of the charge made against them, if any.

"At present, they are being held at the Taganak police station, in Southern Philippine, but they are all in safe condition," he said. Full story

Japan: Nomura to launch world's 1st fishery investment fund
TOKYO, Japan, 8 Aug 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Nomura Securities Co. will set up Monday what it says is the world's first investment trust specifically targeting fisheries-related businesses worldwide amid growing demand for fish in many countries.

The company said it has judged that fishery-related businesses will grow in the long term. People in the United States and Europe are becoming more health-conscious while fish demand is also expected to rise in emerging countries amid economic growth, it said.

''We'd like to attract customers who have not been interested in investment funds,'' a Nomura official said.

Nomura plans to assemble up to 140 billion yen through the fund during the period from Monday to Aug. 19, while Amundi Japan Ltd., a Japanese unit of French asset management company Amundi, will manage the fund, the major Japanese brokerage house said.

About 30% of the collected funds is expected to be invested in businesses in Japan, while around 40% would be invested in US firms, Nomura officials said. Full story

India: UNDP steps in to save marine sanctuary
SINDHUDURG, India, 29 Aug 2010 (TNN) : The state forest department has been unable to conserve the first marine sanctuary of Maharashtra at Malwan in Sindhudurg. Recently, the United National Development Programme (UNDP)<undp.org> sanctioned a fund of Rs 25 crore, which will provide alternative means of livelihood to fishers who operate in the core zone of the sanctuary and disturb the flora and fauna.

Forest officials are hoping that once fishing is stopped, the sanctuary and underwater life will be preserved. The forest officials have also drawn up a plan to save the vultures in the marine sanctuary and are planning to finance the conservation programme with UNDP funds. The measures will also preserve the swift (a small bird similar to the barn swallow) population that uses the sanctuary area for nesting. Full story

Climate change hits SE Australia fish species
13 Aug 2010 – Scientists are reporting significant changes in the distribution of coastal fish species in south-east Australia which they say are partly due to climate change.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Climate Adaptation and Wealth from Oceans Flagships have identified 43 species, representing about 30% of the inshore fish families occurring in the region, that exhibited shifts thought to be climate-related.

These include warm temperate surf-zone species such as Silver Drummer and Rock Blackfish that are breeding and have become more abundant, and range increases in Snapper and Rock Flathead. There is also a greater abundance of warm water tunas and billfishes and occasional visits from Queensland Groper and Tiger Sharks.

“Furthermore, up to 19 species, or 5%, of Tasmanian coastal fish fauna have undergone serious declines or are possibly extinct locally,” says the Curator of the Australian National Fish Collection, Dr Peter Last. “At the same time many warm temperate species have moved in and colonised the cool temperate Tasmanian region.”

“Shifts in the distribution of marine animals in response to climate change can be detrimental to some species. The problem is that in southern Tasmania, shallow cold water species have nowhere to escape warmer conditions in the sea,” Last says.

Particularly at risk are species such as the Maugean Skate, which is now confined to Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania’s southwest. Full story

Australia: Great Barrier Reef corals reveal sea level and climate changes
3 Aug 2010 (University of Sydney) -- A team of international scientists, including Dr Jody Webster from the University of Sydney, have taken part in a groundbreaking voyage to the Great Barrier Reef between February to April this year to acquire fossil coral reef cores from the edge of the continental shelf.

The team has discovered the fossil reef that grew from the last Ice Age when global sea levels and climate were very different from today. The team, led by co-chief scientists Dr Webster, and Dr Yusuke Yokoyama from the University of Tokyo, has now begun investigating these cores and their unique archive of past sea-level and climate change and how the Great Barrier Reef responded to these major environmental changes.

The preliminary findings from the IODP Onshore Science Party held in Bremen, Germany in July unveiled fossil coral reefs up to 30,000 years old and showed how the reef ecosystem responded to rapid rises of sea level and changes in climate.

Researchers examining the fossil coral reef cores have found climate change has not been smooth and continuous. Although the investigations deal with past events in Earth history they can be very important to our understanding of how the modern Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site since 1980, will respond to future changes. Analysis of the cores will provide important insights into how robust the reef is over different timescales and under different environmental conditions and stresses such as changing sea level and sea-surface temperatures, changing sediment input and ocean chemistry. Full story

Europe in fish debt to rest of the world
BARCELONA, Spain, 14 July 2010 (UPI) -- Starting last Friday, Europeans began to accumulate yet another debt -- fish debt, actually.

At least that's what several economists and marine conservationists say. Their new report indicates that Europeans consume almost twice as much fish as EU waters produce, putting pressure on global resources.

In concrete: If the European Union this year had consumed only fish from its own waters, it would have effectively run out of stock by last week, making the bloc wholly dependent on imported fish from around the world, numbers from the New Economics Foundation Indicate. So since last Friday, Europeans have been accumulating fish debt.

NEF's report, entitled "Fish Dependence: The increasing reliance of the EU on fish from elsewhere," compiled with marine conservationists, is a worrisome reminder that rich countries consume more fish than is sustainable. Full story

Europe: UN warns alien species are threatening biodiversity of Wadden Sea
NEW YORK, 27 Aug 2010 -- A wide range of species not native to Europe’s Wadden Sea have invaded its ecosystem, threatening the biodiversity of the World Heritage Site, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report unveiled today.

A diverse range of alien species are increasing at an alarming rate in the sea, which borders the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, according to the report, delivered at a conference in Bonn, Germany, to mark Wadden Sea Day. Many species have become abundant and several can be regarded as invasive with a significant impact on the recipient ecosystem.

The Wadden Sea includes mud and sand-flats, salt marshes, islands, dunes, estuaries, gullies and open waters that stretch over 500 kilometres along the North Sea coast. It is one of the last remaining natural inter-tidal ecosystems in Europe and supports a huge number of plant and animal species. Between 10 and 12 million birds visit the Wadden Sea during their migratory journeys every year.

The alien species could also become a serious problem to human health, according to the report. For example, the sharp shells of Pacific oysters can cause injuries to the feet of mud-flat walkers and oysters or other aliens may carry agents that cause infections. Oysters covering blue mussel beds reduce fishermen’s yield.

Grasses, mussels and jellyfish are among the most damaging invaders. The common cord-grass (Spartina) is the main invasive plant in the Wadden Sea as it facilitates the build-up of sediment, thus transforming the sea’s tidal flats into salt marshes. The plant was deliberately introduced into the Wadden Sea to enhance the development of such salt marshes. Efforts to eliminate the plant failed and the spreading of the species increased. Full story

US issues rule on IUU vessels
8 Oct 2010 (FishNews) -- The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a final rule that allows the assistant administrator of NOAA's Fisheries Service to deny a vessel entry into a U.S. port or access to port services if that vessel has been listed for engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by a regional fishery management organization (RFMO).

The rule also prohibits persons and businesses from providing certain services to, and engaging in commercial transactions with, foreign, listed IUU vessels. Those services include: transshipment; processing fish harvested or landed by a listed IUU vessel or processing fish using a listed IUU vessel; joint fishing operations; providing supplies, fuel, crew, or otherwise supporting a listed IUU vessel; and entering into a chartering arrangement with a listed IUU vessel.

In recent years, several RFMOs have adopted binding measures that establish both procedures for identifying vessels that engaged in IUU fishing activities and actions to be taken against such vessels. Such measures can act as a strong deterrent to engage in IUU fishing by reducing the profitability of such activities. Nations that are members of these RFMOs are required to take actions against the listed IUU vessels, such as denying port entry.

The rule goes into effect on October 27, 2010. Source

Rising ‘dead zones’ threaten US coastal ecosystem
6 Sep 2010 (B Suriyanarayanan/ibtimes.com) -- The number of hypoxic or ‘dead zones’ in U.S. coastal waters have been rising rapidly over the last 50 years, threatening ecosystems and fisheries nationwide, according to a report.

The report by environmental and scientific federal agencies said incidents of hypoxia — a condition in which oxygen levels drop so low that fish and other animals are stressed or killed — have increased nearly 30-fold since 1960 mainly due to human activities that create excess nutrients that run off into coastal waters.

“These growing dead zones endanger fragile ecosystems and potentially jeopardize billions of dollars in economic activity,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

The presence of excess nutrients in water is thought to lead to reduced oxygen concentrations. Hypoxic waters generally do not have enough oxygen to support fish and other aquatic animals, and are sometimes called dead zones because the only organisms that can live there are microbes such as bacteria.

Over 300 of the 647 U.S. coastal water bodies were assessed for the new report, including the Gulf of Mexico, home to one of the largest such zones in the world. 307 of the 647 ecosystems now experience stressful or lethal oxygen levels, threatening commercial and recreational fisheries, the report said. There were just 12 hypoxic regions in US coastal waters prior to 1960.

Unnatural levels of hypoxia, which occur mostly in the summer, are mainly because of human activities that deliver nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways. Fertilizer runoff from agricultural, urban and suburban landscapes, sewage discharges, and air pollution are major contributors.

The new report also noted that climate change may be causing or aggravating the problem. The expected long-term ecological changes favor progressively earlier onset of hypoxia each year and, possibly, longer overall duration. Higher rainfall can be expected to promote increased runoff of nutrients to coastal ecosystems, causing more severe oxygen depletion.

Also, the expansion of agriculture for production of crops to be used for food and biofuels will result in increased nutrient loading to coastal waters, the report said. Full story

Per capita seafood consumption in US slips
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, 7 Sep 2010 (G Gibbons/National Fisheries Institute) – Americans ate 15.8 pounds of seafood per capita in 2009, down slightly from 16 pounds in 2008 and just 10 varieties made up more than 88% of that consumption.

The National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) “Top Ten” list for 2009 reveals the top two spots remain occupied by shrimp and canned tuna and that while salmon, Alaska pollock and tilapia each saw an increase in consumption they maintained their spots. The only newcomer on the list was Pangasius. Flatfish dropped out of the top 10.

Total consumption actually increased by 45 million pounds, or about 1% however per capita consumption declined because of population growth.

Click here to view Top Ten List. Full story

US: Lawsuit launched to save tuna imperiled by overfishing, Gulf of Mexico oil spill
SAN FRANCISCO, USA, 14 Sep 2010 (C Kilduff/Center for Biological Diversity) — The Center for Biological Diversity today formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service it intends to sue the agency for failing to respond to a petition to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna. The tuna, which migrates across the Atlantic to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, faces extinction due to severe fishing pressure and habitat degradation, including effects of the BP oil spill. The Center filed its Endangered Species Act petition in May; the agency has missed the 90-day legal response deadline.

“The oil well is capped, but the effects of the spill on bluefin tuna will be seen for years to come,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center oceans program attorney. “Tuna were already struggling in the Gulf; the spill made the problem worse. If the government doesn’t move quickly, the question won’t be when the tuna will recover, but if they’ll survive at all.”

Overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna has caused more than an 80% decline from what the population would be without fishing pressure. The millions of gallons of oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and into tuna breeding grounds during spawning season threaten to further reduce the western Atlantic population. Scientists say any eggs or larvae encountering oil will die; oil may also have harmed adult tunas’ gills, and heavy use of dispersants killed fish and other marine life.

“Endangered status for bluefin tuna could mean enhanced protections for all fish and wildlife in the Gulf,” said Kilduff. “To survive this disaster and recover, fish and wildlife need stronger oversight of the offshore oil industry and protection of essential habitat.” Full story

US: Biologist quits MSC over sockeye certification
30 Jul 2010 (N Bennett/Richmond News) -- Nearly a decade ago, Otto Langer quit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in frustration over what he felt was a lax approach to fish habitat protection. Now the Richmond biologist is resigning from a Marine Stewardship Council stakeholder panel over its certification of Fraser River sockeye.

The certification was announced Friday - the same day Langer started drafting his letter of resignation from the stakeholder council he has sat on for nearly a decade.

"I've been on it long enough, and I feel a lot of my comments over the years have been ignored, and I think the last straw is the certification of the Fraser River sockeye," Langer told the News.

The MSC stamp of approval tells consumers that the fishery is sustainable - something many commercial fishermen and environmentalists here believe is patently absurd, given the current crisis facing Fraser River sockeye.

Langer said the MSC was founded in England in response to the failure of governments around the world to do a proper job of protecting fish. The idea was to empower consumers by letting them know which seafood was sustainable and which wasn't.

And for the most part, Langer said the MSC has done some good work. He agrees with other recent certifications of B.C. sablefish, for example, and Nass and Skeena River sockeye. But he draws the line at Fraser River sockeye, which are so depressed that the commercial fishery has been closed for the last three years. Full story

African coastal states organize network to tackle illegal fishing
19 Aug 2010 -- Representatives from African coastal states attend a workshop in the United Kingdom designed to build capacity in tackling illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing is damaging to fish stocks, the marine environment, food security and wider economic growth and development.

The Southern Ocean is often targeted by this practice and IUU fishing operations have traditionally exploited weak controls in African coastal states when landing their catches.

To address the issue the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Polar Regions Unit proposed, and then successfully convened a workshop in Cape Town between 3-6 August, in collaboration with Australia, South Africa, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s Partnership for African Fisheries, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The workshop was funded by CCAMLR, using money donated by the UK in 2001, obtained from the sale of fish confiscated from an illegal vessel operating in the waters of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Representatives from 12 African coastal states attended the workshop which was heavily oversubscribed. The aim of the gathering was to create a network of stakeholders who could work together to identify the challenges involved for African states when tackling IUU fishing, and implement solutions to these problems. Delegates were also provided with information on relevant port and flag-state measures, and were offered a practical fishing vessel inspection in port.

CCAMLR came into force in 1982 as part of the Antarctic Treaty system. It aims to conserve marine life in the Southern Ocean through controls on the rational use and sustainable harvest of fish stocks. It covers 12% of the world's ocean between 45-60 degrees South. Full story


Review: Current management of tuna fisheries
A new FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, International management of tuna fisheries - Arrangements, challenges and a way forward, reviews the current management of tuna fisheries by the five tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). The paper demonstrates that the scientific advice for the management of tuna stocks is not generally followed, at least not on a timely basis. The underlying issues that account for the failure of RFMOs to meet global standards and expectations are discussed and rights-based management systems are advanced as a means of addressing some of the management shortcomings.

Tool to monitor trade in endangered species
A new web-based interactive tool enables users to view trade data about wildlife and plants that was submitted by the 175 State parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Fauna (CITES). The Trade Data Dashboards of the CITES, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), is designed to monitor the worldwide trade in wild fauna and flora as more terrestrial and aquatic species are used, and sometimes over-used, as part of human activities.

Users accessing the dashboards can, for example, learn with a few key strokes that reptile skins, specifically crocodile skins, are legally traded at a high volume, and that Colombia is one of the major exporters of spectacled caiman, the reptile most frequently traded for its skin.

The dashboard displays data on internationally-regulated species that are legally traded under CITES for purposes such as food, personal care, housing, clothing and scientific and medical research.

The global dashboard displays global trade trends, while the national dashboard shows information by country. Users can consult the dashboards on the CITES website to determine which species are traded, and in what volumes, both globally and by particular countries.

More than 10 million trade transactions in animal and plant species have been reported to CITES since the Convention was established.

Canned Tuna Guide
Greenpeace's new Canned Tuna Guide reveals which brands to buy, and which brands still source overfished species or use destructive fishing techniques.

Green guide for humanitarian operations
A new online resource center developed by the United Nations seeks to help reduce the damage done to the environment during humanitarian and relief activities in the aftermath of natural disasters, conflicts and other crises. The Resource Centre for Mainstreaming Environment into Humanitarian Action features guidelines, training materials, case studies and other tools and is intended as a handbook for relief workers. More than 150 resources from over 20 organizations are already featured on the website, and UNEP is calling for contributions of resources in any language from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, UN agencies, private sector and academic and research institutions.




This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-C-00-03-00022-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental and fisheries management and conservation.