Monthly Archives: August 2011

Environmentalists urge Ma to safeguard rare dolphins


Environmental activists yesterday urged President Ma Ying-jeou to immediate launch concrete measures to safeguard the critically endangered Chinese White Dolphins that are about to extinct in Taiwan waters.

Standing with a Chinese White Dolphin model in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, protestors from several local environmental protection groups yesterday jointly accused the government of done little for the species that resulted in decreasing of the rare dolphins, which only number around 70 now.

“We need actions not lip service from Ma,” said Pan Han-sheng (潘漢聲), secretary-general of the Green Party during the protest.

According to Pan, dozens of children had sent postcards to Ma earlier this year to urge the ruling administration to actively safe the Chinese White Dolphins.

In response to their calls, Ma previously claimed that he was deeply touched with these children’s love for the species.

However, Ma’s administration failed to make concrete moves even though three years had passed since the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated the Chinese White Dolphins in waters of Taiwan’s west coast as a “critically endangered” species.

Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽), chairman of the Changhua Environmental Protection Union, said that Ma failed to keep his promise to safeguard the dolphin.

Instead spending money for the marine mammal, the government has spent millions of dollars building homes for giant pandas from China in the Taipei Zoo, he said.

Pan added that it is a good sign that the government has decided to cancel the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Technology Corp.’s new naphtha cracking plant on a coastal wetland in southern Changhua County, where the species lives.

But there are other tasks at hand that need to be solved too, he said.

According to Gan Chen-yi (甘宸宜), secretary of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union, water and noise pollution, overdevelopment, and reduced food supplies resulting from over fishing, as well as illegal fishing, are all factors that lead to the dwindling number of the dolphins.

“Many of the Chinese White Dolphins found are trapped in fishing nets and are choked or drowned,” she noted.

They jointly called on the government to face the issues by cracking down on illegal fishing in areas where the dolphin lives.

A cross-ministries meeting should also be held immediately before establishing a conservation area for the dolphins, they said.

The dolphins are also known as Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins.

They are sometimes called “Matsu’s fish” by fishermen because they are most frequently spotted between March and April, when the birthday of the widely-worshipped goddess of the sea Matsu is traditionally celebrated.

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Shark fin soup: The taste of extinction


If passed, the California state bill that prohibits the sale of shark fin and helps protect the threatened fish would affect Chinese Americans disproportionately, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jonathan Gold in an op-ed piece on the website of The Los Angles Times on August 7, 2011.

It is considered a sign of respect to serve shark’s fin to guests, and at a certain kind of Cantonese restaurant a grand dinner is inconceivable without it or one of its sisters in luxury, noted Gold.

But there is no happiness in the future of sharks, said Gold, as China’s middle class continues to grow and the number of aficionados who can afford the delicacy is expanding. To meet the rising demand, efficient new fishing boats have found ways to catch more sharks and some fishermen even resort to “finning,” a barbaric and wasteful practice in which the fins are hacked off live sharks, after which the bleeding, crippled animals are tossed back into the sea to drown.

Shark populations have been reduced to 10 percent of historical levels, and nearly a third of shark species are approaching the point of extinction, Gold mentioned.

We need sharks, said Gold. “As top-dog predators, they keep the ocean’s ecosystems in balance. And we need to stop eating shark’s fin, at least until shark populations have had a chance to recuperate.”

Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state have all enacted laws banning the sale, trade and distribution of shark’s fin. However, Gold said, in California, which controls an estimated 85 percent of the US trade in the fins, a bill prohibiting the sale, consumption or trade of shark’s fin faces obstacles. “In the state Senate, where Senator Ted Lieu, a member of the Appropriations Committee, which will consider the bill August 15, has said that the ban would unintentionally discriminate against Chinese Americans.”

The ban would affect mostly Chinese Americans, concluded Gold, who make up almost all of the market for fins.

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New fund to protect African elephants launched at UN-backed forum

United Nations News Centre.

19 August 2011 – Global conservation experts concluded a United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva today with important decisions to protect a number of endangered species, including the launch of a trust fund to ensure the long-term survival of the African elephant population.

Several countries have already contributed to the multi-donor technical trust for the implementation of an African Elephant Action Plan, and more were encouraged to do so by the participants of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We expect that donors will hear the urgent needs of Africa and support the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan,” said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, whose secretariat is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The target is to raise $100 million over the next three years to enhance law enforcement capacity and secure the long-term survival of African elephant populations,” he added.

Elephant conservation and new financial mechanisms were among several issues on the agenda of the week-long meeting, in addition to measures to reduce current levels of poaching of rhinos, tigers and other big cats, illegal trade in mahogany and other timber species, the fate of sturgeon and the caviar trade, and the sourcing of reptile skins used in the leather industry.

The committee considered recent findings concerning African and Asian elephants, poaching levels and illegal trade in ivory.

It also recognized rhinoceros poaching and illegal trade in their horns as a major challenge that requires innovative approaches, with one delegation describing the situation “as almost out of control.”

All populations of rhinoceroses are suffering from poaching, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the illegal trade in rhinoceros horns appearing to be the main motive.

The committee also reviewed efforts by Peru in establishing reliable timber verification systems, and new rules for introducing marine species from international waters, among other topics.

Some 175 States have joined CITES, an international agreement that entered into force in July 1975 and aims to ensure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

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Human Sewage Linked to Mass Elkhorn Coral Extinction Threats


Researchers from the Rollins College in Florida and the University of Georgia have established for the first time that elkhorn corals, a species found in the Caribbean, have been infected and killed by a bacterium from human sewage.

The same bacterium, Serratia marcescens, causes respiratory problems in human beings. When the elkhorn corals are exposed to it, their soft tissues degrade, leaving behind only the organism’s white skeleton.

“When we identified Serratia marcescens as the cause of white pox, we could only speculate that human waste was the source of the pathogen because the bacterium is also found in the waste of other animals,” said Kathryn Sutherland, associate professor of biology at Rollins College.

The research team conducted a series of experiments to find out the exact cause. They collected and analyzed both human and other animals’ samples from a wastewater treatment facility. The conclusion was that only the strain from human sewage matched the strain found in white pox diseased corals on the reef.

“The strain caused disease in elkhorn coral in five days, so we now have definitive evidence that humans are a source of the pathogen that causes this devastating disease of corals,” Sutherland further stated.

Throughout the world, corals are facing severe treats of extinction from various causes, including rising temperatures and ocean acidification.

“Bacteria from humans kill corals-that’s the bad news. But the good news is that we can solve this problem with advanced wastewater treatment facilities,” said James Porter, professor of ecology at the University of Georgia.

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