Eco label granted for swordfish caught on controversial longlines
  Consumers who buy one company’s swordfish caught off eastern Florida will see a blue and white label at the store that assures them the fish was caught with utmost care for life in the Atlantic Ocean.
The company awarded the eco label, Day Boat Seafood of Lake Park, Fla., says it’s a reward for years of working to take only fish from a healthy population. Conservationists, however, are concerned because most of the company’s swordfish are caught on surface longlines, which sometimes stretch for 30 miles, with hundreds of hooks.
"Long-line fisheries catch whatever is swimming by," said Teri Shore of SeaTurtles.org, an advocacy group that objected to the certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). "It’s not sustainable for the oceans."
The MSC’s certification for Day Boat Seafood, granted in December, was the first for any fish in the world caught on ocean-surface longlines.
The eastern Canadian longline swordfish industry, which is five times larger and sells mainly to the United States, is waiting for a decision, expected soon, about whether it will also get the MSC’s label.. An assessor reviewed the case of the Canadian fishery and recommended certification. An independent judge is reviewing objections.
The label is a marketing tool. Some consumers make purchase decisions based on it. Stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Whole Foods say they intend to carry MSC-certified fish.
The MSC website says its vision is “the world’s oceans teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations.” The MSC sets standards and grants its certification once an independent assessor determines they’re met.
Shore said that one of her biggest concerns is that the MSC doesn’t consider how the effects in different places add up.
"They look at each fishery as if no other fishery existed. That is not a sustainable perspective. That’s the problem," she said.
Turtles and swordfish migrate between Canada and Florida. Shore said her group argued that there’s not enough information to know whether or not longlines harm sea-turtle populations.
Leatherbacks are listed as being in danger of extinction. Loggerheads are listed as threatened, which is defined as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
"The bottom line from our point of view for sea-turtle protection is, after 40 years on the endangered species list, no U.S. population of sea turtles has recovered, and longline fishing remains one of the primary reasons," Shore said.
Scott Taylor, a co-founder of Day Boat Seafood, disagreed.
"The fact of the matter is, this is really a non-issue," he said. "It makes my blood boil."
He said that the real problems for turtles were from loss of habitat and collisions with ships and pleasure boats.
Taylor said that his vessels have had no observed turtle deaths in the past five years.
"We do interact occasionally. A turtle will get either hooked or entangled in a line. I think there were something like 40 or 50 documented interactions over a five-year period, all of which were live releases."
Longlines also catch swordfish that are too small to keep, as well as sharks, diving sea birds, bluefin tuna and game fish such as blue marlins. Taylor said the amount of bycatch (unintended and unwanted catch) is low. U.S. law requires each boat to keep a bycatch log and send the reports to the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS observers go on about 10 percent of the trips, he said.
Taylor said his company agreed to take extra measures, such as increasing the number of independent observers to verify the accuracy of its bycatch reports, to counter critics. In five years, he plans to have observers on all vessels.
About 25 percent of Day Boat’s swordfish catch is from buoy gear instead of longlines. One or two hooks are attached to each buoy. They’re watched from the boat, and each line is hauled up quickly when it has a fish on it. Longlines, by contrast, generally aren’t hauled in for eight hours or longer.
Buoy gear produces less bycatch, but fishermen don’t use it exclusively because they can’t get enough fish, Taylor said.
NMFS requires fishermen to get trained in how to release sea turtles. They also must use a type of hook that turtles are less likely to swallow. The vessels’ location must be monitored. Observers join some fishing trips to check bycatch amounts. Lines must be long enough so that if turtles are snagged they can swim to the surface to breathe. NMFS also closes some areas for protection.
"We think it has worked," said Margo Schulze-Haugen, chief of the agency’s highly migratory species management division. Turtle losses have declined to what scientists have determined are acceptable limits, she said.
"There are many longline fisheries in the world that do not take anywhere near the care of the ecosystem that the U.S. does," Schulze-Haugen said.
SeaTurtles.org, however, argued that not enough is known about sea turtles to certify longlines like the ones Day Boat Seafood uses as sustainable.
"While this is a small fishery, there isn’t enough observer coverage or scientific data to determine whether or not on its own it harms the sea turtle populations or not," Shore said. One area of uncertainty, she said, is how many turtles are released alive but die as a result of being hooked.
One recent study by NMFS scientists and others, published Dec. 31 in a scientific journal, found that fewer female loggerheads nesting at Juno Beach in Florida were surviving in the ocean than previously thought. The scientists used satellite tagging to follow female loggerheads. They concluded that more studies were needed, but that if additional work verifies their findings, stronger conservation measures may be needed.
Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas with the Marine Stewardship Council, said the experts involved in the certification looked closely at the issue of endangered and threatened turtles. Conservation groups made suggestions, and the company agreed to implement some of them, Coughlin said. The end result is a gain for turtles, she said.
Lee Crockett, who oversees federal fisheries policy at the Pew Environment Group, said that just because Day Boat Seafood got the eco label doesn’t mean that all longline fishing is sustainable.
"I think Day Boat is unique in the way they approach their fishing and their business practices and their commitment to do a better job," he said.
Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre and colleagues criticized the MSC in an article in the journal Nature in 2010, saying that its standards aren’t stringent enough. The article also said that the certifiers have a financial conflict of interest, arguing that those who are lenient get more work.
In Canada, the Ecology Action Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the MSC shouldn’t certify the Canadian swordfish industry because the improvements it has promised to make aren’t in place yet. The center and the Canadian conservation group David Suzuki Foundation have been calling for alternatives to longline fishing, arguing that too many sharks and sea turtles end up on the lines.

Eco label granted for swordfish caught on controversial longlines

  Consumers who buy one company’s swordfish caught off eastern Florida will see a blue and white label at the store that assures them the fish was caught with utmost care for life in the Atlantic Ocean.

The company awarded the eco label, Day Boat Seafood of Lake Park, Fla., says it’s a reward for years of working to take only fish from a healthy population. Conservationists, however, are concerned because most of the company’s swordfish are caught on surface longlines, which sometimes stretch for 30 miles, with hundreds of hooks.

"Long-line fisheries catch whatever is swimming by," said Teri Shore of SeaTurtles.org, an advocacy group that objected to the certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). "It’s not sustainable for the oceans."

The MSC’s certification for Day Boat Seafood, granted in December, was the first for any fish in the world caught on ocean-surface longlines.

The eastern Canadian longline swordfish industry, which is five times larger and sells mainly to the United States, is waiting for a decision, expected soon, about whether it will also get the MSC’s label.. An assessor reviewed the case of the Canadian fishery and recommended certification. An independent judge is reviewing objections.

The label is a marketing tool. Some consumers make purchase decisions based on it. Stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Whole Foods say they intend to carry MSC-certified fish.

The MSC website says its vision is “the world’s oceans teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations.” The MSC sets standards and grants its certification once an independent assessor determines they’re met.

Shore said that one of her biggest concerns is that the MSC doesn’t consider how the effects in different places add up.

"They look at each fishery as if no other fishery existed. That is not a sustainable perspective. That’s the problem," she said.

Turtles and swordfish migrate between Canada and Florida. Shore said her group argued that there’s not enough information to know whether or not longlines harm sea-turtle populations.

Leatherbacks are listed as being in danger of extinction. Loggerheads are listed as threatened, which is defined as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

"The bottom line from our point of view for sea-turtle protection is, after 40 years on the endangered species list, no U.S. population of sea turtles has recovered, and longline fishing remains one of the primary reasons," Shore said.

Scott Taylor, a co-founder of Day Boat Seafood, disagreed.

"The fact of the matter is, this is really a non-issue," he said. "It makes my blood boil."

He said that the real problems for turtles were from loss of habitat and collisions with ships and pleasure boats.

Taylor said that his vessels have had no observed turtle deaths in the past five years.

"We do interact occasionally. A turtle will get either hooked or entangled in a line. I think there were something like 40 or 50 documented interactions over a five-year period, all of which were live releases."

Longlines also catch swordfish that are too small to keep, as well as sharks, diving sea birds, bluefin tuna and game fish such as blue marlins. Taylor said the amount of bycatch (unintended and unwanted catch) is low. U.S. law requires each boat to keep a bycatch log and send the reports to the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS observers go on about 10 percent of the trips, he said.

Taylor said his company agreed to take extra measures, such as increasing the number of independent observers to verify the accuracy of its bycatch reports, to counter critics. In five years, he plans to have observers on all vessels.

About 25 percent of Day Boat’s swordfish catch is from buoy gear instead of longlines. One or two hooks are attached to each buoy. They’re watched from the boat, and each line is hauled up quickly when it has a fish on it. Longlines, by contrast, generally aren’t hauled in for eight hours or longer.

Buoy gear produces less bycatch, but fishermen don’t use it exclusively because they can’t get enough fish, Taylor said.

NMFS requires fishermen to get trained in how to release sea turtles. They also must use a type of hook that turtles are less likely to swallow. The vessels’ location must be monitored. Observers join some fishing trips to check bycatch amounts. Lines must be long enough so that if turtles are snagged they can swim to the surface to breathe. NMFS also closes some areas for protection.

"We think it has worked," said Margo Schulze-Haugen, chief of the agency’s highly migratory species management division. Turtle losses have declined to what scientists have determined are acceptable limits, she said.

"There are many longline fisheries in the world that do not take anywhere near the care of the ecosystem that the U.S. does," Schulze-Haugen said.

SeaTurtles.org, however, argued that not enough is known about sea turtles to certify longlines like the ones Day Boat Seafood uses as sustainable.

"While this is a small fishery, there isn’t enough observer coverage or scientific data to determine whether or not on its own it harms the sea turtle populations or not," Shore said. One area of uncertainty, she said, is how many turtles are released alive but die as a result of being hooked.

One recent study by NMFS scientists and others, published Dec. 31 in a scientific journal, found that fewer female loggerheads nesting at Juno Beach in Florida were surviving in the ocean than previously thought. The scientists used satellite tagging to follow female loggerheads. They concluded that more studies were needed, but that if additional work verifies their findings, stronger conservation measures may be needed.

Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas with the Marine Stewardship Council, said the experts involved in the certification looked closely at the issue of endangered and threatened turtles. Conservation groups made suggestions, and the company agreed to implement some of them, Coughlin said. The end result is a gain for turtles, she said.

Lee Crockett, who oversees federal fisheries policy at the Pew Environment Group, said that just because Day Boat Seafood got the eco label doesn’t mean that all longline fishing is sustainable.

"I think Day Boat is unique in the way they approach their fishing and their business practices and their commitment to do a better job," he said.

Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre and colleagues criticized the MSC in an article in the journal Nature in 2010, saying that its standards aren’t stringent enough. The article also said that the certifiers have a financial conflict of interest, arguing that those who are lenient get more work.

In Canada, the Ecology Action Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the MSC shouldn’t certify the Canadian swordfish industry because the improvements it has promised to make aren’t in place yet. The center and the Canadian conservation group David Suzuki Foundation have been calling for alternatives to longline fishing, arguing that too many sharks and sea turtles end up on the lines.

Extreme mouth-sewing protest in Indonesia leads to logging inquiry

A protest in which 28 Indonesian sewed their mouths shut has led to an inquiry into a logging concession on Padang Island. The Ministry of Forestry has formed a mediation team to look into the controversial concession, reports Kompas. Around a hundred natives of Padang Island rallied for weeks against the logging concession held by PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), which covers 37 percent of the island’s total land.

The team will be selected from Indonesia’s Presidium of the National Forestry Council (DKN) including a mix of government officials, scientists, NGO, and business people. The inquiry will not have decision-making powers, but will report their recommendation to the Ministry.

The protesting islanders argue that the 2009 concession occurs on customary lands, threatening both the environment and the small-scale agriculture on which they depend. They demand that the Indonesian government revoke the logging concession, which is largely located on peatland rainforests, from RAPP.

For its part, RAPP says they have seen no proof that the concession is on customary land, but they will abandon the concession if proof comes forward. The logging company says it secured approval from 14 village chiefs, though three have since bolted from the agreement.

"We’re not even sure if the protesters are actually from Pulau Padang or not," RAPP president commissioner, Tony Wenas, said as reported by the Jakarta Post. "For all we know, there are ex-cons among the protesters."

An Indonesian NGO, Greenomics, has released a report alleging that RAPP’s parent company, Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), has wrongly claimed it has set aside 4,102 hectares of the Padang Island concession (around 10 percent of the total) for conservation. Greenomics argues that the touted “protected areas” were not such at all, since Indonesian law required the land to be set aside.

"None of the land set aside for conservation […] was set aside at the company’s own initiative. Rather, all the land was required to be set aside under Indonesian law," the report reads. The report further argues that one of the main reasons behind the concession is a corporate need for raw materials taken from clearing the standing forest, garnering between 1.43 and 2.15 million square meters of materials for APRIL’s paper mills.

Earlier this year, RAPP was accused of clearing high conservation value forest in Riau province on Sumatra. The forest was a known wildlife corridor for the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, among many other species.

APRIL did not respond to requests for comment.


FIRST EVER PICTURES OF RECENTLY DISCOVERED MONKEY
 In 2010 researchers described a new species of primate that reportedly sneezes when it rains. Unfortunately, the new species was only known from a carcass killed by a local hunter. Now, however, remote camera traps have taken the first ever photo of the elusive, and likely very rare, Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), known to locals asmey nwoah, or ‘monkey with an upturned face’. Locals say the monkeys are easy to locate when it rains, because the rain catches on their upturned noses causing them to sneeze."These images are the first record of the animal in its natural habitat," said Ngwe Lwin, a native to Myanmar, who first recognized that the primate may be a new species. "It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives."Still, no scientist has ever seen a living individual and the monkey’s life is obscured by the little-explored forests of northern Myanmar (also known as Burma). Just setting the camera traps in April of last year proved incredibly difficult with the expedition battling both snow and rain."We were dealing with very tough conditions in a remote and rugged area that contained perhaps fewer than 200 monkeys," explains photographer Jeremy Holden, who led the team. "We didn’t know exactly where they lived, and had to rely on information gathered from hunters; I didn’t hold out much hope."Still a month after setting up the camera traps, the scientists had the first photographic evidence of a living Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, including family groups."We were very surprised to get these pictures," said biologist Saw Soe Aung. "It was exciting to see that some of the females were carrying babies—a new generation of our rarest primate."Snub-nosed monkeys are imperiled by hunting and trapping, but it may be logging that ultimately does them in. In 2010 Frank Momberg, FFI’s Regional Program Development Coordinator in the Asia Pacific, told mongabay.com that hunting in the remote region had recently moved beyond subsistence only: with Chinese logging roads infiltrating the area there has been a rise in commercial bushmeat hunting. At the time, Momberg also warned that the logging roads were expected to move into Myanmar snub-nosed monkey territory by 2011.Myanmar has one of world’s the highest deforestation rates, which is at least partly driven by China’s rising demand for commodities. Between 1990 and 2010, Myanmar lost 19 percent of its forest cover, or around 7,445,000 hectares, an area larger than Ireland.Next month, FFI and Myanmar’s Ministry for Environmental Conservation and Forest (MOECAF) plan to meet to develop an action plan to protect the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey.While the photos may not be award-winners, Holden says they bring to life the scarcity of the new primate."The images are poor quality compared to what we are now used to seeing from wildlife photographers, but this somehow examplifies the fact that these monkeys are rare, mysterious, and on the brink," he says.

FIRST EVER PICTURES OF RECENTLY DISCOVERED MONKEY

In 2010 researchers described a new species of primate that reportedly sneezes when it rains. Unfortunately, the new species was only known from a carcass killed by a local hunter. Now, however, remote camera traps have taken the first ever photo of the elusive, and likely very rare, Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), known to locals asmey nwoah, or ‘monkey with an upturned face’. Locals say the monkeys are easy to locate when it rains, because the rain catches on their upturned noses causing them to sneeze.

"These images are the first record of the animal in its natural habitat," said Ngwe Lwin, a native to Myanmar, who first recognized that the primate may be a new species. "It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives."

Still, no scientist has ever seen a living individual and the monkey’s life is obscured by the little-explored forests of northern Myanmar (also known as Burma). Just setting the camera traps in April of last year proved incredibly difficult with the expedition battling both snow and rain.

"We were dealing with very tough conditions in a remote and rugged area that contained perhaps fewer than 200 monkeys," explains photographer Jeremy Holden, who led the team. "We didn’t know exactly where they lived, and had to rely on information gathered from hunters; I didn’t hold out much hope."

Still a month after setting up the camera traps, the scientists had the first photographic evidence of a living Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, including family groups.

"We were very surprised to get these pictures," said biologist Saw Soe Aung. "It was exciting to see that some of the females were carrying babies—a new generation of our rarest primate."

Snub-nosed monkeys are imperiled by hunting and trapping, but it may be logging that ultimately does them in. In 2010 Frank Momberg, FFI’s Regional Program Development Coordinator in the Asia Pacific, told mongabay.com that hunting in the remote region had recently moved beyond subsistence only: with Chinese logging roads infiltrating the area there has been a rise in commercial bushmeat hunting. At the time, Momberg also warned that the logging roads were expected to move into Myanmar snub-nosed monkey territory by 2011.

Myanmar has one of world’s the highest deforestation rates, which is at least partly driven by China’s rising demand for commodities. Between 1990 and 2010, Myanmar lost 19 percent of its forest cover, or around 7,445,000 hectares, an area larger than Ireland.

Next month, FFI and Myanmar’s Ministry for Environmental Conservation and Forest (MOECAF) plan to meet to develop an action plan to protect the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey.

While the photos may not be award-winners, Holden says they bring to life the scarcity of the new primate.

"The images are poor quality compared to what we are now used to seeing from wildlife photographers, but this somehow examplifies the fact that these monkeys are rare, mysterious, and on the brink," he says.


A giant Galapagos tortoise believed extinct for 150 years probably still exists, say scientists.
Chelonoidis elephantopus lived on the island of Floreana, and was heavily hunted, especially by whalers who visited the Galapagos to re-stock.
A Yale University team found hybrid tortoises on another island, Isabela, that appear to have C. elephantopus as one of their parents.
Some hybrids are only 15 years old, so their parents are likely to be alive.
The different shapes of the giant tortoises on the various Galapagos islands was one of the findings that led Charles Darwin to develop the theory of evolution through natural selection.
The animals are thought to have colonised the archipelago through floating from the shores of South America.
Colonies on each island remained relatively isolated from each other, and so evolved in subtly different directions.
C. elephantopus is especially notable for its saddleback-shaped shell, whereas species on neighbouring islands sported a dome-like carapace.
Three years ago, the Yale team reported finding some evidence of hybrids around Volcano Wolf at the northern end of Isabela Island, in amongst the native population of Chelonoidis becki.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

If you do some calculations you realise that there have to be a few elephantopus around to father these animals ”

Dr Gisella CacconeYale University
They speculated that through careful cross-breeding, it might be possible to re-create the extinct lineage - a process likely to take many generations.
Now, in the journal Current Biology, they report that this might not be necessary. A further expedition to Volcano Wolf found 84 tortoises that appear, from genetic samples, to have a pure-bred C. elephantopus as a parent.
Thirty of these are less than 15 years old; so the chances of the pure-blood parents still being alive are high, given that they can live to over 100 years old.
"Around Volcano Wolf, it was a mystery - you could find domed shells, you could find saddlebacks, and anything in between," recounted Gisella Caccone, senior scientist on the new study.

"And basically by looking at the genetic fingerprint of the hybrids, if you do some calculations you realise that there have to be a few elephantopus around to father these animals.
"To justify the amount of genetic diversity in the hybrids, there should be something like 38."
This number appears to include both males and females, given that some of the hybrids carry C. elephantopus mitochondrial DNA, which animals inherit exclusively from their mothers.
The theory is that some of the tortoises were probably taken by whaling ships that sailed from Floreana via the relatively remote Volcano Wolf en route to multi-year cruises in the Pacific looking for sperm whales.
Some of the giants made it to shore on Isabela, somehow, and established a presence.
The tortoises made an ideal food stock for whaling ships, as they can go without food for months and provided a source of fresh meat whenever the captain decided to kill them.
Needles, haystacks
The giant tortoises are so large, growing to nearly half a tonne, that you might think the elusive C. elephantopus would be easy to find.
The reality is rather different, according to Dr Caccone.
"The landscape on Volcano Wolf is hard, the vegetation thick with lots of bushes and nooks, and the carapaces are translucent so you need a trained eye to see the shininess of the shell," she told BBC News.
"The thing that struck us is that no-one knows what the population is on Volcano Wolf. We took 40 people [on our last expedition], and we had to stop collecting basically when we finished our supplies."
That trip took samples from over 1,600 individuals - which could be a small fraction of the population, indicating just how big a role the giant tortoises play in the ecosystem of the islands.
The Yale team now plans to discuss with Galapagos authorities whether to mount further exploratory expeditions, or whether to press ahead with a captive breeding programme.

A giant Galapagos tortoise believed extinct for 150 years probably still exists, say scientists.

Chelonoidis elephantopus lived on the island of Floreana, and was heavily hunted, especially by whalers who visited the Galapagos to re-stock.

A Yale University team found hybrid tortoises on another island, Isabela, that appear to have C. elephantopus as one of their parents.

Some hybrids are only 15 years old, so their parents are likely to be alive.

The different shapes of the giant tortoises on the various Galapagos islands was one of the findings that led Charles Darwin to develop the theory of evolution through natural selection.

The animals are thought to have colonised the archipelago through floating from the shores of South America.

Colonies on each island remained relatively isolated from each other, and so evolved in subtly different directions.

C. elephantopus is especially notable for its saddleback-shaped shell, whereas species on neighbouring islands sported a dome-like carapace.

Three years ago, the Yale team reported finding some evidence of hybrids around Volcano Wolf at the northern end of Isabela Island, in amongst the native population of Chelonoidis becki.

Start Quote

If you do some calculations you realise that there have to be a few elephantopus around to father these animals ”

Dr Gisella CacconeYale University

They speculated that through careful cross-breeding, it might be possible to re-create the extinct lineage - a process likely to take many generations.

Now, in the journal Current Biology, they report that this might not be necessary. A further expedition to Volcano Wolf found 84 tortoises that appear, from genetic samples, to have a pure-bred C. elephantopus as a parent.

Thirty of these are less than 15 years old; so the chances of the pure-blood parents still being alive are high, given that they can live to over 100 years old.

"Around Volcano Wolf, it was a mystery - you could find domed shells, you could find saddlebacks, and anything in between," recounted Gisella Caccone, senior scientist on the new study.

Map

"And basically by looking at the genetic fingerprint of the hybrids, if you do some calculations you realise that there have to be a few elephantopus around to father these animals.

"To justify the amount of genetic diversity in the hybrids, there should be something like 38."

This number appears to include both males and females, given that some of the hybrids carry C. elephantopus mitochondrial DNA, which animals inherit exclusively from their mothers.

The theory is that some of the tortoises were probably taken by whaling ships that sailed from Floreana via the relatively remote Volcano Wolf en route to multi-year cruises in the Pacific looking for sperm whales.

Some of the giants made it to shore on Isabela, somehow, and established a presence.

The tortoises made an ideal food stock for whaling ships, as they can go without food for months and provided a source of fresh meat whenever the captain decided to kill them.

Needles, haystacks

The giant tortoises are so large, growing to nearly half a tonne, that you might think the elusive C. elephantopus would be easy to find.

The reality is rather different, according to Dr Caccone.

"The landscape on Volcano Wolf is hard, the vegetation thick with lots of bushes and nooks, and the carapaces are translucent so you need a trained eye to see the shininess of the shell," she told BBC News.

"The thing that struck us is that no-one knows what the population is on Volcano Wolf. We took 40 people [on our last expedition], and we had to stop collecting basically when we finished our supplies."

That trip took samples from over 1,600 individuals - which could be a small fraction of the population, indicating just how big a role the giant tortoises play in the ecosystem of the islands.

The Yale team now plans to discuss with Galapagos authorities whether to mount further exploratory expeditions, or whether to press ahead with a captive breeding programme.

mad-as-a-marine-biologist:

Guys, guys, guys! It’s seriously exciting in Singapore right now!

After a seafood supplier’s completely unprofessional employee wrote this on their facebook page (read more here):

“Screw the divers! Shark’s fin & Mola Mola will be launched at NTUC Fairprice outlets during CNY 2012!”

Singapore’s major supermarket chain denounced them as a supplier AND has pledged to buy no more Shark Fin products!

The whole controversy has thrust the Shark Fin debate into the limelight, and the story has been picked up by several news outlets, including the newspaper in Singapore, The Straits Times! 

 

The whole thing is snowballing. Another supermarket Carrefour has announced that it will stop selling shark fin products by the end of the year!! 

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see this change in the making. Two major supermarket chains will stop selling shark fin products, all because of the power of social media. I urge you to join this “revolution”.

Because of the publicity, this isn’t one of those empty pledges or petitions that you put your name and email and never hear of again. Your support will be heard. This scandal has opened up this debate at a crucial time of year! 

There is a ‘cause’ on facebook petitioning for a Shark Fin Free Singapore by 2013. Your support would make a huge difference. If successful, we will have eliminated a major demand for shark fins. Singapore would be blazing a trail for other countries like China/Hong Kong to follow. 

There are already more than 2,400 members. It took much much less than that to get shark fin off the shelves of NTUC. Imagine what we could do with global support?

AND NOW WE CAN ADD FAIRMONT HOTEL AND CARREFOUR TO THE EVER GROWING LIST! THIS IS HUGE GUYS GET INVOLVED. 

Fairprice make a stand against irresponsible seafood company

As you may have heard Thern Da Seafood angered many people this week in Singapore and world with their online comment “Screw the divers! Sharks fin and mola mola will be launched at all NTUC fairprice outlets during CNY 2012”.

Fairprice have seen the light and released this coment:

Thank you everyone for your comments and for alerting us to this matter. As a standing instruction, all our suppliers are required to clear their joint promotional materials and messages with us before implementation. In this incident, the supplier had not complied with our standing instruction. We take this matter very seriously and we are withdrawing all products from Thern Da Seafood across all our stores. Sustainability is important to FairPrice and we have been relooking various policies in our commitment to be a socially responsible retailer. The sale of shark fin has been one of the areas that we have been looking into in the past few months. We are pleased to announce that we will cease the sale of shark fin products by the first quarter of this year. This is to ensure that we honour our current commitments to our partners but will no longer be placing new orders for shark fin products.

Looks like the divers won! Screw you Thern Da Seafood!

Qiaoling X-
So here’s the story for those who missed the online drama today.A local seafood supplier, Thern Da Seafood, posted this distasteful comment on their facebook page:"Screw the divers! Shark’s fin and Mola mola will also be launched at all NTUC Fairprice outlets during CNY 2012!"This was followed by much displeasure from divers and non-divers alike, generating over 200 shares and about 150 comments, without any response from the company.At around 6.40pm, the entire Thern Da Seafood facebook page was deleted but screenshots have been captured and posted herehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Really-Screw-The-Divers-Thern-Da/153057091470154What makes me mad is how this comment is wrong in so many aspects.1. The first 3 words of the comment shows an utter disrespect to consumers and the public, regardless of whether we patronize your company or not.2. Sharks are endangered. Over 100 million sharks die every year just for their fins. Another 100 million die as by-catch of the fisheries industry. We need sharks to maintain ecological balance in the oceans!3. Thern Da markets Mola mola as a good source of collagen. First of all, all fish have collagen. Seaweed is also a source of collagen. Why not use seaweed instead if you must have collagen?However, collagen itself is not a proven skin supplement as the ingested collagen simply gets broken down during digestion. So please do not mislead the public.4. I’m pretty sure the Mola mola were wild caught as there have been no reports of captive breeding, much less farming. At present, we know precious little about the numbers, biology and fecundity of Mola molas. The IUCN conservation status of the species has not been evaluated yet. We cant put Mola mola on the mass consumer market if we dont know how it will affect the species in the wild.5. The health risk of seafood is a fact that seafood companies would gladly bury and forget about. As apex predator, sharks have high levels of heavy metals such as mercury in their tissues. Mola molas, have high levels of parasites on their skin. Fancy a bowl of mercury soup or parasite soup this CNY?6. And to NTUC Fairprice, after the recent move to promote locally-farmed fish, why take a step backwards and stock Mola mola? What ever happened to your so-called “Responsible Retailing Commitment”? What about your commitment to “Food Safety”?http://www.csr.fairprice.com.sg/responsible-retailing.htmlPerhaps you should take a leaf out of Cold Storage’s book.http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1156624/1/.htmlSo, would you still eat shark’s fin and Mola mola this Chinese New Year?

Qiaoling X-

So here’s the story for those who missed the online drama today.

A local seafood supplier, Thern Da Seafood, posted this distasteful comment on their facebook page:
"Screw the divers! Shark’s fin and Mola mola will also be launched at all NTUC Fairprice outlets during CNY 2012!"

This was followed by much displeasure from divers and non-divers alike, generating over 200 shares and about 150 comments, without any response from the company.

At around 6.40pm, the entire Thern Da Seafood facebook page was deleted but screenshots have been captured and posted here
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Really-Screw-The-Divers-Thern-Da/153057091470154

What makes me mad is how this comment is wrong in so many aspects.
1. The first 3 words of the comment shows an utter disrespect to consumers and the public, regardless of whether we patronize your company or not.

2. Sharks are endangered. Over 100 million sharks die every year just for their fins. Another 100 million die as by-catch of the fisheries industry. We need sharks to maintain ecological balance in the oceans!

3. Thern Da markets Mola mola as a good source of collagen. First of all, all fish have collagen. Seaweed is also a source of collagen. Why not use seaweed instead if you must have collagen?
However, collagen itself is not a proven skin supplement as the ingested collagen simply gets broken down during digestion. So please do not mislead the public.

4. I’m pretty sure the Mola mola were wild caught as there have been no reports of captive breeding, much less farming. At present, we know precious little about the numbers, biology and fecundity of Mola molas. The IUCN conservation status of the species has not been evaluated yet. We cant put Mola mola on the mass consumer market if we dont know how it will affect the species in the wild.

5. The health risk of seafood is a fact that seafood companies would gladly bury and forget about. As apex predator, sharks have high levels of heavy metals such as mercury in their tissues. Mola molas, have high levels of parasites on their skin. Fancy a bowl of mercury soup or parasite soup this CNY?

6. And to NTUC Fairprice, after the recent move to promote locally-farmed fish, why take a step backwards and stock Mola mola? What ever happened to your so-called “Responsible Retailing Commitment”? What about your commitment to “Food Safety”?
http://www.csr.fairprice.com.sg/responsible-retailing.html

Perhaps you should take a leaf out of Cold Storage’s book.
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1156624/1/.html

So, would you still eat shark’s fin and Mola mola this Chinese New Year?

Conservationists and wildlife officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah airlifted a young female Sumatran Rhinoceros — one of the world’s most endangered animals — to an area of forest where she would encounter a potential partner, reports the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Rhino Alliance. Sumatran Rhinoceros populations are so low, some individuals live in areas where they have no hope of ever finding another rhino.“This is a fantastic gift for our uphill battle in ensuring the survival of this truly unique species and wonderful timing with Christmas, a time to give thanks for our blessings,” said Laurentius Ambu the Director of the SWD.“We have monitored her since 2007, and there is no sign that any other rhino has entered her range in the past five years,” added Junaidi Payne the Executive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance. “This is a stark indication that so few rhinos remain that they are simply not meeting for reproduction.”The rhino, named Puntung, was moved within Tabin Wildlife Reserve to be close to Tam, a middle-aged rhino rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008. Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching. Small populations live on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo — but the number of Bornean rhinos remaining is less than 40.Conservationists in Sabah are pushing a plan that would involve moving several rhinos to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, a large enclosed area covering 20 hectares of natural forest located within Tabin Wildlife Reserve. A similar program is underway in Sumatra.“This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal,” said Laurentius. “We need collaboration and support in our efforts to prevent the extinction of this unique species that was once found in abundance.”Read more:http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1224-rhino_translocation.html#ixzz1iKIkk2WA

Conservationists and wildlife officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah airlifted a young female Sumatran Rhinoceros — one of the world’s most endangered animals — to an area of forest where she would encounter a potential partner, reports the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Rhino Alliance. Sumatran Rhinoceros populations are so low, some individuals live in areas where they have no hope of ever finding another rhino.

“This is a fantastic gift for our uphill battle in ensuring the survival of this truly unique species and wonderful timing with Christmas, a time to give thanks for our blessings,” said Laurentius Ambu the Director of the SWD.

“We have monitored her since 2007, and there is no sign that any other rhino has entered her range in the past five years,” added Junaidi Payne the Executive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance. “This is a stark indication that so few rhinos remain that they are simply not meeting for reproduction.”

The rhino, named Puntung, was moved within Tabin Wildlife Reserve to be close to Tam, a middle-aged rhino rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008. Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching. Small populations live on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo — but the number of Bornean rhinos remaining is less than 40.

Conservationists in Sabah are pushing a plan that would involve moving several rhinos to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, a large enclosed area covering 20 hectares of natural forest located within Tabin Wildlife Reserve. A similar program is underway in Sumatra.

“This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal,” said Laurentius. “We need collaboration and support in our efforts to prevent the extinction of this unique species that was once found in abundance.”

Read more:http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1224-rhino_translocation.html#ixzz1iKIkk2WA

The first California condors to enter the wild in 5 years took a few hesitant hops on a sandstone cliff, craned pinkish necks over the precipice and tentatively tested their nine-foot-plus wings. Since that land mark launch in 1992, wildlife biologists have released nearly 200 condors that were born and raised in captivity, and they have prospered! The world population has rebounded from 22 in 1987 to 396 birds, with wild populations concentrated in  Baja California, Arizona, and southern and central California. As these giant scavengers move to reoccupy their full 7 million square mile range, scientists are using state of the art technology to guide the Pleistocene period survivors toward full self sustainability. They are counting on this and other unusual inventions, such as swapping infertile for fertile eggs, to ensure their full recovery. 
Jesse Grantham, coordinator of the US fish and wildlife service’s condor recovery programme can track every 17 pound and over bird using radio transmitters and solar powered GPS. These send 1000 locator points per day, if a bird stays in one place for too long it usually means they are in trouble. A rescue team is scrambled to trek through remote canyons go and help the condor. The traking also allows scientists to determine where important breeding caves are and ensure they are protected.
The main threat to Condors remains the same as it did 25 years ago, lead bullet fragments that lodge in the bodies of carrion. Some nine out of 10 condors have elevated lead levels, a problem that persists despite a ban on the use of lead bullets within the condor habitat in California. Bottle caps, DDT, high voltage power lines and the occasional shooting also contribute, which means the environment still presents “all the mortality factors that nearly caused their extinction.
With the telemetry records, scientists and conservationists are working to remove what dangers they can from the birds range. If only something could be done about the lead. 

The first California condors to enter the wild in 5 years took a few hesitant hops on a sandstone cliff, craned pinkish necks over the precipice and tentatively tested their nine-foot-plus wings. Since that land mark launch in 1992, wildlife biologists have released nearly 200 condors that were born and raised in captivity, and they have prospered! The world population has rebounded from 22 in 1987 to 396 birds, with wild populations concentrated in  Baja California, Arizona, and southern and central California. As these giant scavengers move to reoccupy their full 7 million square mile range, scientists are using state of the art technology to guide the Pleistocene period survivors toward full self sustainability. They are counting on this and other unusual inventions, such as swapping infertile for fertile eggs, to ensure their full recovery. 

Jesse Grantham, coordinator of the US fish and wildlife service’s condor recovery programme can track every 17 pound and over bird using radio transmitters and solar powered GPS. These send 1000 locator points per day, if a bird stays in one place for too long it usually means they are in trouble. A rescue team is scrambled to trek through remote canyons go and help the condor. The traking also allows scientists to determine where important breeding caves are and ensure they are protected.

The main threat to Condors remains the same as it did 25 years ago, lead bullet fragments that lodge in the bodies of carrion. Some nine out of 10 condors have elevated lead levels, a problem that persists despite a ban on the use of lead bullets within the condor habitat in California. Bottle caps, DDT, high voltage power lines and the occasional shooting also contribute, which means the environment still presents “all the mortality factors that nearly caused their extinction.

With the telemetry records, scientists and conservationists are working to remove what dangers they can from the birds range. If only something could be done about the lead. 

OK so I know I have been rubbish recently. Unfortunately I got disheartened…but that’s gone now. With some conversations with sam (mad as a marine biologist) about how nail art is more popular on tumblr than conservation I have decided to return!!

I STILL BELIEVE!