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News round-up: 2013

Marine and Coastal news round-up in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Region
The news round-up aims at informing partners, stakeholders, national working groups and all interested persons on the news, events, activities and publications on the Western Indian Ocean region compiled from various sources that include our partners, projects/programmes, various websites, newspapers and articles.


February, 2013


20 February 2013


South Africa: Penguins facing extinction

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Leading marine biologist Dr Lorien Pichegru, from the Percy Fitzgerald Institute of African Ornithology, yesterday said the penguin population has dropped by at least 70% since 2004 due to the ongoing competition with commercial fishermen for sardines and anchovies.

Globally, the African penguin population has shrunk from two million pairs to 26000 pairs.

Pichegru's tracking device has shown that overfishing close to Algoa Bay off Port Elizabeth is forcing penguins to swim further to catch food.

"They do not breed when they do this. The penguins can travel up to 50km from their colonies when they have a chick to look for food to feed it, but usually remain within 20km.

"Both fishermen and penguins are struggling because the fish population is also declining. It is very worrying," said Pichegru.

Ninety percent of the penguin population was lost when 19th-century and 20th-century traders sold vast amounts of guano and eggs.

There has since been a loss of 70% since 2004 due to limited fish availability.

Pichegru said there are "complicated cycles" when sardine and anchovy populations also remain at very low levels for a few years.

"We are in such a cycle at present. Penguins, but also other seabirds such as Cape gannets and Cape cormorants also endemic to Southern Africa, suffer dramatically," she said.

Pichegru explained that, during such periods, local competition with industrial fishing threatens penguin populations.

"At present, every effort possible is made to save penguins.

"We built artificial burrows for them on their islands to protect them from heat waves or storms that can kill their chicks," Pichegru said, adding that starving chicks are moved to a rehabilitation centre.

uShaka Sea World marine biologist Ann Kunz agreed with Pichegru's findings.

She said last year's census noted a further decline of more than 1000 pairs of penguins.

"Their numbers continue to go down due to a number of factors. Overfishing is a huge concern. Anchovy fishing in South Africa is mainly for fish meal and not direct human consumption.

"Other concerns include climate change, habitat destruction, plastic pollution and oil pollution."

Kunz said South Africans could help save the penguins by simply reducing marine pollution.

"We have an initiative called Penguin Promises which gives public updates on the status of the African Penguin as well as a platform to pledge support, not financial support, just support by changes in lifestyles."

Source of article


Seychelles: Fisheries minister urges higher quality control 

“If Seychelles is not able to meet the challenges of being able to service the expanding fishing industry, this will affect our ability to export our fish to our major market which is the European Union.”

The remark was made by the Minister for Natural Resources and Industry Peter Sinon following a visit he made to the Fish Inspection and Quality Control Unit on Flamboyant Avenue yesterday morning.

Minister Sinon explained that the fisheries sector is set to expand especially now that there is a lot of interest shown following President James Michel’s visit to Sri Lanka last year.

“President Michel’s visit to Sri Lanka has brought a wide range of opportunity for us to have more fishing vessels. There has been an increasing interest by Seychellois investors to tap into the sector, the Bank of Ceylon is putting at our disposal a line of credit to develop the sector,”  said Mr Sinon.

He said all these new development are coming with new challenges for small Seychelles especially with regard to providing onshore facilities and support, thus the need to raise the standard of the Fish Inspection and Quality Control Unit for the continued prosperity of the sector.

“It is important to see the inspectors on the ground, see where they work, understand the constraints and challenges they face and seek ways to resolve them so as to improve the working conditions and environment for them to better cater for an expanding fishing industry. This in my opinion is the best thing to do before the investors come in so that when they do come in they will find a smooth, effective and efficient competent authority,” he added.

Mr Sinon also noted that soon the auditors from the European Union will be in the country to assess the efficiency of the local competent authority.
“Our aim is to have as few issues as possible and to have addressed all recommendations put before us when they came in 2011,” Mr Sinon stressed.

He said the visit has allowed him to apprise of the work being done by the unit which is key to ensuring that all fish being exported and transported abroad meet the required standard and quality.

He was led on the visit by Christopher Hoareau, a chief fish inspector responsible of the unit which falls under the Seychelles Bureau of Standards (SBS), and the latter’s chief executive Amy Quatre.

Mr Sinon said the visit also allowed him to discuss with the workers the different challenges and shortcomings of the unit, assess its different needs in terms of equipment, improve staff working environment, capacity building as well as space to expand and see how best to help address the pertinent issues to allow the unit to improve on the quality of services it provides.

“This year is an important one for the Seychelles fishing sector as the country’s fishing industry prepares to start renegotiating its fishing partnership agreement with the European Union, and being a key component in the fish export process it is therefore fitting to apprise of the unit’s needs and challenges,” Minister Sinon said.

According to Mr Hoareau, the unit comprises a very young team of workers and among them seven fish inspectors – the majority of them being very young graduates.
“Our team is very young and full of potential which we want to develop to the maximum with the necessary training so as to turn them into professional fish inspectors for the future with the help and support of the government,” said Mr Hoareau.

He stressed that more and more the international standard recommendations for fish inspection are being set higher and are getting more and more complicated and as an exporter we have to abide by them, thus the need for highly trained inspectors.

Noting that fish export is the second pillar of our economy with the fishing industry continuously expanding and the products being subjected to higher recommended international norms, there is a need for higher qualification for our graduates, Mrs Quatre noted.

She brought to Minister Sinon’s attention the need to upgrade the level of training courses being offered to prospective candidates at the Maritime Training Centre (MTC) to work as fish inspectors.

“The level of the certificate graduates are receiving at the end of their training at MTC does not provide the needed requirements for them to proceed to university studies,” Mrs Quatre noted.

“As the fishing industry expands there is the need for highly qualified cadres to help meet the increasing demands for quality services and international standards,” added Mrs Quatre, who thanked Mr Sinon for understanding the importance of the unit in the country’s expanding fishing sector.

Apart from inspecting all fresh, frozen fish and also canned fish products, the unit is also responsible to analyse fish samples which it collects from different fishing vessels for different types of tests as required by the European Union. It works in close collaboration with the SBS.

Source of article


Nesting Site Protection 'Key to Save Turtles from Climate Change'

International marine scientists have warned it will be vital to protect key marine turtle nesting grounds and areas that may be suitable for turtle nesting in the future to ensure that the marine reptiles have a better chance of withstanding climate change.

A new study reveals that some turtle populations in the West Indian Ocean, Northeast Indian Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, East Atlantic Ocean and the East Pacific Ocean are among the least likely to recover from the impacts of climate change.

"To give marine turtles a better chance of coping with climate change, we have to protect their nesting sites and to address threats such as bycatch and coastal development," says Dr Mariana Fuentes from the ARC Centres of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and James Cook University.

"We have seen sea turtle populations decline dramatically in recent decades, and it is likely to get worse due to climate change, as they're particularly vulnerable to it.

"Climate change can affect their nesting beaches through sea level rise, stronger cyclones and storms; high temperatures can cause their eggs to die before they hatch, or produce an unnatural sex ratio and adversely affect their food sources."

"At present there are three ways we can tackle climate-related threats," Dr Fuentes says. "We can reduce global greenhouse emissions, actively manage for direct impacts from climate change by manipulating the nesting thermal environment with shade, for example, and build the turtles' resilience, that is, their ability to recover from the negative impacts.

"Reducing emissions is perhaps the biggest challenge, but even if we were able to cut greenhouse emissions immediately, it will not stop the already apparent and unavoidable impacts of climate change on turtles."

"Also, we don't know the risks of implementing actions, such as relocating, manipulating or managing turtle populations, or how effective these strategies are," she says. "So until we understand more about the risks and effects of active strategies, we should focus on increasing the turtles' resilience.

"This means that we must better understand what factors influence their ability to recover from the negative effects of climate change."

Together with sea turtle specialists from around the world, the CoECRS researchers identified that nesting ground vulnerability and non-climate threats, including coastal development and fishery bycatch, as the greatest influences on resilience of marine turtles to climate change.

The researchers also pinpointed the world's 13 turtle regional management units -- large scale conservation areas -- that are the least resilient to climate change. These are distributed across three major ocean basins and are important breeding grounds for six of the world's seven species of sea turtle -- flatbacks, loggerheads, green turtles, leatherbacks, hawksbills, olive ridleys and Kemp's ridleys.

"Eleven of the least resilient conservation areas that we identified are the ones most likely to lose their turtle rookeries," Dr Fuentes says. "This highlights the particular importance of protecting key regional nesting beaches and to legally protect areas that may be suitable for turtle nesting in the future.

"Turtles have existed for millions of years and were here long before humans. It would be a complete tragedy if they were to become extinct as a result of our actions and our lack of care."

Source of article


15 February, 2013


Tanzania: Book Reveals Wealth of Zanzibar's Chwaka Bay

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RESEARCHERS have revealed that Chwaka Bay in South Unguja is an important coastal area in Tanzania. In a book launched here in Zanzibar researchers reveal that the area has social-economical and ecological benefits advising people not to use destructive fishing gear.

The book, 'People, Nature and Research in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar, Tanzania' launched by Zanzibar Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Mr Abdullahi Jihadi Hassan calls for the harmonization of management plans to address local needs and problems.

The 346-page publication, put together by 26 marine science researchers from Tanzania, Sweden and Israel, focuses on socio-economic settings, coastal livelihoods, geological processes, costal vegetation, and carbonate production amongst other topics.

According to Prof Maricela De la Torre-Castro, one of the researchers and co-editors from Stockholm University in Sweden, Chwaka Bay has a good scientific baseline to continue with more complex research "for example climate change and socio-ecological modelling."

"But it is important to consider high dependence of the people on marine resources, local economy, and ecosystem diversity including mangroves, seaweed, and corals," Dr Maricela said, adding: "The management challenges posed by the influx of new activities such as tourism and people joining fishing need to be addressed with great care... the role of different actors and policies has to be revised so as to clarify functions, goals and coordination."

Dr Narriman Jidawi from the Institute of Marine Science (IMS) University of Dar es Salaam said that researchers at Chwaka Bay overcame several challenges during the three-year study.

In his speech, Minister Jihadi thanked the 'Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and Sweden for the financial support towards the study, and asked people and academicians in the country to read and use the book for reference.

"However, I ask you to make a summary of the book in local language (Kiswahili) so that even the local people can read it," he advised. The launch was held at the Coconut Tree Beach Resort, and was witnessed by villagers and community leaders from Uroa, Marumbi, Michamvi, Chwaka, Charawe, and Ukongoroni.

Source of article


Warming seas frustrate Zanzibar's seaweed farmers

Rising sea temperatures and more extreme weather  are damaging Zanzibar’s formerly thriving seaweed farms, maritime experts say, reducing harvests and putting farmers out of work.

Commercially valuable seaweed was brought to Zanzibar from the Philippines in the 1980s, and early producers found it grew well in the shallow waters off this Indian Ocean island.

Some types of seaweed, used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as a stabilizer or emulsifying agent, are in great demand abroad, and the government promoted it as a useful export crop and source of employment.

Until a few years ago, mariculture - the cultivation of marine organisms in open ocean waters - employed 15,000 to 20,000 ‘farmers’ in Zanzibar, most of them women, and seaweed was one of the island’s biggest exports, after spices and fine raffia.

Demand was strongest for high quality red seaweeds such as the Cottonii and Spinosum varieties, but seaweed farmers say those varieties are now proving very vulnerable to changes in growing conditions, which can make the weed lose its colour and, most important, its texture.

FALLING HARVESTS

As an apparent result of warming conditions and storms, Zanzibar’s seaweed production has fallen sharply in recent years, from 14,040 tonnes five years ago to just under 10,800 tonnes last year, according to the Department of Marine Resources of Zanzibar.

The Zanzibar Exporters Association said its members collected and exported about 11,000 tonnes of dry seaweed in 2011, most of it going to the United States, France, Denmark, Spain, China and Chile. 
Experts have linked the sharp fall to warmer water and turbulent conditions on the seabed because of more extreme weather. Farmers and researchers now hope to create new farms in deeper water, at the lower temperature the seaweed prefers.

The Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Dar es Salaam says water temperatures around the island have been rising substantially.

“Temperatures in the shallow seaweed farms have increased from below 30 degrees centigrade in the 1990s to about 38 degrees centigrade and slightly above recorded recently,” Flower Msuya, a marine scientist at the university, told AlertNet.

The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), which promotes the conservation of resources and ecosystems on Indian Ocean islands, confirms that weather patterns around Zanzibar are undergoing great changes.

The 2011 rains that killed 20 people in Dar es Salaam – and which the Tanzanian Meteorological Agency described as the heaviest downpour there since independence in 1961 - also affected seaweed farms on the coast of Zanzibar.

“Because of these unstable ocean levels, the fields (seaweed farms) are sometimes washed away by heavy ocean storms that result in huge losses for the farmers,” said Tim Andrew, the director of outreach and resource mobilization at WIOMSA. Shoreline erosion has also affected seaweed cultivation along the beaches, he said.

MOVE TO DEEP WATER?

This has prompted research at the University of Dar es Salaam into the development of deep-water floating seaweed farms that would enable farmers to grow seaweed, particularly the favoured red varieties, at the low water temperature the plants prefer.

“We are researching new techniques of seaweed farming which will involve the construction and anchoring of floating line seaweed farm systems at about 3- 6 metres depth in the sea,” Msuya said. This takes account of the size of the tides and involves fastening the seaweed to rocks using rubber bands, she said.

A study published in the journal Aquaculture also attributes the slump in seaweed production in Zanzibar to health problems among farmers, including back pain and respiratory disease.
Research by Stockholm University noted that seaweed farmers may suffer from exposure to toxic vapours, airborne particles and extended exposure to sometimes cold water as they work long hours in humid, salty conditions.

Asif Hamiza, a former seaweed farmer who has moved back to traditional fishing, agreed that cultivating seaweed was extremely hard work.

“It takes a lot of energy to work in the sea and haul the seaweed from the water to the shore,” he said.

As men leave seaweed farming because of poor harvests, women are taking their places. But floating line seaweed farming can be difficult for women farmers, many of whom cannot swim well.

Msuya, who has been working with women seaweed farmers, believes the only hope of expanding harvests is for the government to provide farmers with both financial help and other resources such as small boats and protective clothing.

Other commercial seaweed production is found in the French Antilles, Indonesia, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Source of article


Mauritius: Fisheries Minister launches Marine Ranching Project in Mahebourg

Stocking lagoons with fingerlings is high on the agenda of the Government and the objective this year is to release some 1 500 000 fingerlings around the island, the Minister of Fisheries, Mr N. Von Mally, stated yesterday at the Mahebourg Fish Landing Station during the official release of a first batch of 100 000 Cordonier fingerlings.

The release was done in the context of the Marine Ranching Programme launched by the Fisheries Ministry last year. The Minister of Education and Human Resources, Mr V. Bunwaree also participated in the ceremony.

Species which are targeted for marine ranching are: cordonier, gueule pavé, and mud crab. Cordonier is an economically important group of herbivorous fishes contributing around 10% in the total actual catch from the lagoon and off-lagoon areas of Mauritius.

Marine ranching is a process whereby seeds of desired species of marine animals are collected, produced, reared and released in the sea to supplement the natural population. The fingerlings/juveniles are grown to a predetermined size, released in the sea and recaptured at marketable size.

Prior to the release of fingerlings, underwater surveys were carried out and based on the findings, particularly, with regard to the habitat, occurrence of feed (algae) and optimal physico-chemical parameters, the sites were selected.

Moreover, under the marine ranching program a pilot seed production of mud crab (Scylla serrate) was undertaken at Albion Fisheries Research Centre and 200 crablets were produced and released at Pointe d’Esny (the newly proclaimed Ramsar Site) and 100 in Bel Eau Estuary at Albion.

Similar projects are foreseen for other fishers’ cooperative societies around the island. The Fishermen Investment Trust has initiated action and is negotiating with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme to assist Mauritius in procuring more cages for the fishermen community.

Sustainable fisheries remain a priority on the government’s agenda. In Mauritius, seafood demand is increasing and thus pressure on marine resources is rising. In this regard, marine ranching can provide a worthwhile means to sustain the marine resources in Mauritius and its stock for the benefit of the fishermen community.

The Ministry of Fisheries has embarked on a marine ranching programme whereby fish fingerlings are being produced at the Albion Fisheries Research Centre for release at selected sites in the lagoon to increase the stock potential.  Species targeted for marine ranching are the cordonnier, Siganus sp., mud crab, Scylla serrate, Gueule Pavé, Rhabdosargus sarba and marine shrimp, Penaeus monodon.

Source of article


8 February, 2013


Seychelles: Ministry urges proper disposal of waste

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Members of the public should dispose of their household waste in dustbins and at the landfill in a responsible and appropriate manner.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy has made this appeal following the recent flooding caused by heavy rains but aggravated by litter dumped illegally.

The accumulation of plastic bags, bottles, cans among others blocked drainage preventing free flow of rivers, which resulted in massive floods on the roads, public as well as at private buildings.

La Digue was the most affected by the recent flood caused by illegal dumping.

The Landscape and Waste Management Agency within the Ministry of Environment and Energy has started a massive cleaning exercise on La Digue where 99 tons of household waste have been collected. “Illegal dumping and littering is becoming like a normal routine in our daily lives,” said Professor Rolph Payet.

“My ministry will increase its awareness campaign so as to educate people on the need to manage waste and dispose of it effectively.

“A clean environment is vital for healthy people, accumulation of waste leads to breeding space for mosquitoes and rats, leading to the spread of diseases such as chikungunya, dengue and leptospirosis which can be fatal,” added Prof. Payet.

To date one confirmed case of dengue has been recorded on La Digue.
“Inappropriate disposal of waste not only poses a threat to our health as human beings but threatens the rich and fragile ecosystem of our islands. It also tarnishes Seychelles’ reputation as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world,” added Prof. Payet.

In the meantime, the enforcement unit within the Ministry of Environment and Energy will be intensifying its patrols and will fine those caught littering or dumping waste illegally. And as a way of encouraging people to dispose waste in the right place, the landfill at Providence will remain open until 7pm on a daily basis.

Source of article


Tiny Marine Creature Spreading Through Ocean, Stabilizing Reefs and Islands With Calcareous Shells

The climate is getting warmer, and sea levels are rising -- a threat to island nations. As a group of researchers led by colleagues from the University of Bonn found out, at the same time, tiny single-cell organisms are spreading rapidly through the world's oceans, where they might be able to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Foraminifera of the variety Amphistegina are stabilizing coastlines and reefs with their calcareous shells.

The study's results have now appeared in the international online journal PLOS ONE.

Countless billions of tiny, microscopic shelled creatures known as foraminifera inhabit the oceans of our planet: some of which look like little stars, others like Swiss cheese, and yet others like tiny mussels. They are extremely plentiful and exceptionally diverse in shape. Most of the approximately 10,000 foraminifera species live on the bottom of tropical and sub-tropical oceans, are surrounded by a calcareous shell, and do not even reach the size of a grain of sand. And yet, these tiny organisms are capable of enormous tasks. "Foraminifera are ecosystem engineers," says Prof. Dr. Martin Langer from the Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie at the University of Bonn. "With their shells, these protozoa produce up to two kilograms of calcium carbonate per square meter of ocean floor. This often makes them, after corals, the most important producers of sediment in tropical reef areas."

About 9,000 kilometers along the coast

Together with their colleagues from the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, the University of Trier and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA), the scientists from the University of Bonn studied the range of Amphisteginid foraminifera.Amphisteginids are among the most conspicuous and ubiquitous foraminifera on coral reefs and tropical carbonate environments and often have been referred to as living sands. Over the past years, Prof. Langer has been capturing the range in which Amphisteginids occur along the about 9,000 kilometer-long coastline off Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. "The range ofAmphistegina is essentially governed by ocean temperature and nutrient content of the waters," the micro-paleontologist explains. These protozoa need a water temperature of at least 14 degrees Celsius.

By 2100, the protozoa will have spread almost 300 kilometers closer to the poles

Using the data from biogeographic terrain analyses, the researchers developed a species distribution model for calculating where Amphisteginid foraminifera occur under certain environmental conditions. Based on climate models, the researchers then forecast the future range of these calcareous shell protozoa. "Amphistegina are among those profiting from the rising temperatures as a result of climate change," summarizes Prof. Langer. According to the models, the calcareous protozoa will spread 180 km (or 1.6 degrees of latitude) closer to the poles through the warming oceans by 2050. By 2100, average ocean temperatures will increase by about 2.5 degrees Celsius according to conservative estimates. Accordingly, Amphisteginid foraminifera will progress another almost 300 kilometers -- about 2.5 degrees of latitude -- closer to the poles.

Ocean acidification -- survival of the fittest

"Our models are forecasting rates of spread of up to eight kilometers per year," says doctoral student Anna Weinmann from the Steinmann-Institut at the University of Bonn. Corals can spread into new territories at similarly high rates. They do, however, have problems with the acidification of the oceans that accompanies the increasing carbon dioxide rate in the atmosphere. The skeletons of corals consist of aragonite and are thus much more sensitive to acids than the fora-minifera's calcite shell. "Amphisteginids and other foraminifera are increasingly taking over calcium carbonate production from corals, thus occupying their ecological niche. This is a role reversal in process," reports Prof. Langer.

Calcium carbonate producers are stabilizing the coastlines and reefs

The rapid range extension and proliferation of amphisteginid and other tropical foraminifera will characterize tropical ocean floors of the future. There also is abundant evidence from the past to support this hypothesis; especially since these calcite protozoa have been inhabiting the oceans for about 600 million years already. "The fossil record shows that whenever during the history of Earth the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was considerably higher and the oceans were clearly warmer, foraminifera were among the most frequently occurring carbonate producers in tropical oceans," says the micropaleontologist. The capability to rapidly expand their biogeographic territory under changing climate conditions, and their prolific production of calcium carbonate, will make them key ecosystem engineers for the stabilization of reefs, beaches and islands. Island nations are already pointing to the rising ocean levels and increasing damage to their coasts today. Prof. Langer, "Amphisteginids and other foraminifera will rapidly spread in the decades to come and will contribute substantially to future tropical reef island resilience."

Source of article


UNEP to Hold Media Roundtable on Key and Emerging Environment Issues at Governing Council

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will hold an International Media Roundtable during the First Universal Session of the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 - 22 February 2013.

Over 200 ministers of environment and high-level delegates, as well as hundreds of scientists, economists, policy makers, civil society groups and business leaders are expected to participate.

Last December, a landmark decision by the UN General Assembly upgraded and strengthened the role of UNEP and established universal membership of its Governing Council. This means that all 193 member and observer states of the United Nations are set participate at the event later this month.

The Media Roundtable will provide direct interaction between journalists, UN experts, policymakers, scientists, NGOs and others on priority and emerging issues in the global environment. The sessions - led by a panel of international experts - will provide the latest science and policy information on the following issues:

Climate change: IPCC Briefing ahead of the launch of the 2013 report

Experts from the IPCC will provide a briefing to journalists ahead of the launch of the 2013 report, delivering the latest and most authoritative science on climate change.

Environmental Crime: from poaching to illegal logging

International environmental crime is a growing concern. A significant proportion of wildlife and environmental crimes are carried out by organized criminal networks, many of whom use the same routes to smuggle weapons, drugs and people. UNEP is working with governments, international agencies and Interpol to find solutions for what has become a major threat to international security and environmental sustainability. Representatives from CITES, governments, law enforcers and wildlife groups will brief journalists.

Sound Chemicals Management: Focus on endocrine disrupters

Present in a range of industrial and consumer products, endocrine disrupters (EDCs) are chemicals that can disrupt the hormonal system in humans and wildlife. Endocrine related diseases and disorders are on the rise worldwide, including genital malformations, fertility problems, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and some cancers. UNEP and WHO will share the latest scientific information on the impacts of exposure to EDCs on human health, wildlife populations and the environment.

The New Economics of Forests

Forests provide multiple ecosystem services that can make significant contributions to developing economies. As well as carbon sequestration, these include water provision, forest-based products, tourism, and biodiversity. UNEP and partners are working to build the capacity of countries to reduce deforestation through actions that add value to national economies, increase revenues, and provide new livelihood opportunities, while reducing carbon emissions. UNEP experts will brief journalists on REDD+ initiatives and how investing in forests can make a major contribution to achieving development and climate change goals.

Poverty and the Environment: Lessons from Africa

UNEP is working with African governments to integrate environmental considerations into national development plans - in particular, how investing in natural resources and ecosystems can reduce poverty and support sustainable economic growth. Experts will share case studies and lessons learnt from projects in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, and other countries.

Marine and Coastal Ecosystems

UNEP experts will present an overview of the role of coastal ecosystems in the transition to a Green Economy, international efforts to tackle marine litter, sustainable development pathways in small-island developing states, and other issues.

Energy and Transport

This session will focus on renewable energy trends and investments, with reference to a survey of 180 experts on the global energy future. UNEP research and initiatives on vehicle and fuel efficiency, the completion of the phasing out of leaded fuel, and new information on the health and environmental impact of black carbon and small particulate matter, will also be presented.

Other issues:

- Actions to promote sustainable consumption and production

- The global management of mercury: From policy to action

- Implementing the Rio+20 outcomes

Source of article


6 February, 2013


Seychelles: Chameleon’s true colours revealed

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Some of the secrets of Seychelles’ elusive chameleons are under investigation this week as a team of international and local experts carry out an island hopping expedition to study these enigmatic reptiles.

Led by Dr Chris Raxworthy of the American Museum of Natural History, the team includes Bärbel Koch, Anna Gray and Marc Jean-Baptiste, the Vallée de Mai Site manager.

The team previously did a research into the chameleon populations at the Vallée de Mai and sites on Mahé in 2009, and made the exciting discovery of a second species.

For this new survey the team is visiting different locations on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, Frégate and Curieuse to find out more about the distribution of the two species, and describe differences that may exist between the chameleons on each island.

Currently, chameleons are not known from La Digue, Frégate or Curieuse, but the team is hoping to find new populations.

With the support of the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) the team gave a public lecture last Friday at the International Conference Centre (ICCS) where they explained what’s known about the chameleons at present, and what they hope to find out.

Speaking after the presentation, Bärbel Koch said: “This new method of searching for chameleons by torchlight at night has proven to be very successful – we have found nearly 200 chameleons to date.”

Anna Gray said: “By conducting research at night, we have had the privilege of seeing the forest come alive with reptiles and amphibians, and are still on a high from finding 26 chameleons on Silhouette. After the success of 2009, it’s great to be back, and although we’re not sure what we might find on the various islands, it’s a fantastic opportunity to discover more and to share what we’re learning.”

And Marc Jean-Baptiste added: “Once you see these chameleons, you discover that they are amazing animals. I hope more people will do night safaris to find out for themselves that chameleons are really not to be feared or disliked.”

The Seychelles chameleons are Archaius tigris and Archaius scychellensis, but the two species had not been correctly recognised as distinct for almost 200 years, and are known by the single name of Kameleon in Kreol. The team has already observed some differences between the populations on Mahé, Silhouette and Praslin.

“This survey represents a wonderful chance to find new chameleon populations that will provide new opportunities for conservation and research in the Seychelles. The Seychelles chameleon has been a powerful symbol and flagship species for the islands’ biodiversity, so it is especially exciting to find out that there is actually a second species hiding here in the forests,” said Dr Raxworthy.

In addition to SIF, other organisations which assisted the team include the Islands Development Company, Island Conservation Society, Frégate Island and its Ecology team, National Botanical Garden Foundation and Seychelles National Parks Authority. The team is also grateful to the Seychelles Bureau of Standards and the Department of Environment for approving this research.

The project fieldwork will conclude on February 11 and the findings of the research are expected to be published later this year.

A second public presentation will be given on Thursday at 2pm at the Vallée de Mai. For more information people may call the SIF on 4321735.

Source of article


DNA Reveals Mating Patterns of Critically Endangered Sea Turtle

New University of East Anglia research into the mating habits of a critically endangered sea turtle will help conservationists understand more about its mating patterns.

Research published February 3 inMolecular Ecology shows that female hawksbill turtles mate at the beginning of the season and store sperm for up to 75 days to use when laying multiple nests on the beach.

It also reveals that these turtles are mainly monogamous and don't tend to re-mate during the season.

Because the turtles live underwater, and often far out to sea, little has been understood about their breeding habits until now. The breakthrough was made by studying DNA samples taken from turtles on Cousine Island in the Seychelles.

The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) was listed as critically endangered in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), largely due to a dramatic reduction in their numbers driven by the international trade in tortoiseshell as a decorative material -- an activity which was banned in the same year.

The Seychelles are home to the largest remaining population of hawksbill turtles in the western Indian Ocean. Cousine Island is an important nesting ground for the hawksbill and has a long running turtle monitoring program. It is hoped that the research will help focus conservation efforts in future.

Lead researcher Dr David Richardson, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences, said: "We now know much more about the mating system of this critically endangered species. By looking at DNA samples from female turtles and their offspring, we can identify and count the number of breeding males involved. This would otherwise be impossible from observation alone because they live and mate in the water, often far out to sea.

"We now know that female turtles mate at the beginning of the season -- probably before migrating to the nesting beaches. They then store sperm from that mating to use over the next couple of months when laying multiple nests.

"Our research also shows that, unlike in many other species, the females normally mate with just one male, they rarely re-mate within a season and they do not seem to be selecting specific 'better quality' males to mate with.

"Understanding more about when and where they are mating is important because it will help conservationists target areas to focus their efforts on.

"It also lets us calculate how many different males contribute to the next generation of turtles, as well as giving an idea of how many adult males are out there, which we never see because they live out in the ocean.

"Perhaps most importantly, it gives us a measure of how genetically viable the population is -- despite all the hunting of this beautiful and enigmatic species over the last 100 years.

"The good news is that each female is pairing up with a different male -- which suggests that there are plenty of males out there. This may be why we still see high levels of genetic variation in the population, which is crucial for its long term survival .This endangered species does seem to be doing well in the Seychelles at least."

Lead author Karl Phillips, a PhD student in UEA's school of Biological Sciences, added: "This is an excellent example of how studying DNA can reveal previously unknown aspects of species' life histories."

The research was funded by UEA and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Biomolecular Analysis Facility (NBAF).

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Climate Change Clues from Tiny Marine Algae -- Ancient and Modern

Microscopic ocean algae called coccolithophores are providing clues about the impact of climate change both now and many millions of years ago. The study found that their response to environmental change varies between species, in terms of how quickly they grow.

Coccolithophores, a type of plankton, are not only widespread in the modern ocean but they are also prolific in the fossil record because their tiny calcium carbonate shells are preserved on the seafloor after death -- the vast chalk cliffs of Dover, for example, are almost entirely made of fossilised coccolithophores.

The fate of coccolithophores under changing environmental conditions is of interest because of their important role in the marine ecosystem and carbon cycle. Because of their calcite shells, these organisms are potentially sensitive to ocean acidification, which occurs when rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.

There are many different species of coccolithophore and in an article, published in Nature Geoscience this week, the scientists report that they responded in different ways to a rapid climate warming event that occurred 56 million years ago, the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

The study, involving researchers from the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre and University College London, found that the species Toweius pertusus continued to reproduce relatively quickly despite rapidly changing environmental conditions. This would have provided a competitive advantage and is perhaps why closely-related modern-day species considered to be its descendants, (such as Emiliana huxleyi) still thrive today.

In contrast, the species Coccolithus pelagicus grew more slowly during the period of greatest warmth and this inability to maintain high growth rates may explain why its descendants are less abundant and less widespread in the modern ocean.

"This work provides us with a whole new way of looking at living and fossil coccolithophores," said lead author Dr Samantha Gibbs, Senior Research Fellow at University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science.

By comparing immaculately preserved and complete fossil cells with modern coccolithophore cells, the researchers could interpret how different species responded to the sudden increase in environmental change at the PETM, when atmospheric CO2 levels increased rapidly and the oceans became more acidic.

"We use knowledge of how coccolithophores build their calcite skeletons in the modern ocean to interpret how climate change 56 million years ago affected the growth of these microscopic plankton," said co-author Dr Alex Poulton, a Research Fellow at the National Oceanography Centre.

"This is a significant step forward and allows us to view fossils as cells rather than dead 'rocks'. Through this we can begin to understand the environmental controls on oceanic calcification, as well as the potential effects of climate change and ocean acidification."

The study was primarily supported by the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, which is jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

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1 February, 2013


Kenya: Panic after massive oil spill at Mombasa beach

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A massive oil spill at a popular beach on Mombasa Island has caused panic among conservation experts and marine officials.

Although the origin of the spill is yet to be established, it is suspected it may have been as a result of a leakage from a ship or illegal siphoning from one of the vessels anchored at sea.

By Wednesday afternoon, there was no official confirmation of the extent of the spillage, although fishermen said the layer of oil stretched for close to 200 metres along the beach and into sea.

When The Standard visited the scene at midday  Wednesday, no efforts had commenced to skim off the oil, which is said to have spilled on Monday.

KPA anti-pollution team and the Oil Spill Mutual Aid Group had, however, arrived at the scene and were conducting site surveys.

No-go zone

The Madhubaha beach, which is popular recreation spot for swimmers and fitness enthusiasts, was early Wednesday a no-go zone after the water was polluted.

Over 500 swimmers throng the beach located near Allidina Visram School each day to swim.

According to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) General Manager, Operations, Khamis Twalib, the long-term effect of the spill could be detrimental to the humans and marine life.

Capt Twalib said it was not possible to ascertain the extent of the spillage as some of the oil had been dispersed by waves.

unravel the mystery

“We shall take samples of the oil whose traces dot the beaches around Madhubaha and try to establish the origin,” said Twalib, who was accompanied by Mombasa County National Environment Management Authority (Nema) Enforcement Officer Benson Wemali.

On his part, Mr Wemali said Nema would work closely with Kenya Maritime Authority, Marine Police and KPA to try and unravel the mystery over the oil spillage.

An eyewitness, Herbert Yaa, who is also a regular beach user said cases of oil siphoning were rampantat the beach.

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Tanzania: Climate Change Takes a Toll At Pangani River Basin

FOR Joanita Kilimba of Langoni village of Pangani District, the day starts at 2.00 am. That is the time when she must wake up, walk about 100 metres to a small shallow well and fetch water that the family will use for the rest of the day. However, sometimes she oversleeps and wakes up at 3.00 am or 4.00 am.

Then the cost of sleeping would be reflected by the family's failure to wash in the morning or miss their lunch because there would be no water. "We have a big shortage of water here especially during the dry season like now.

This shallow well serves almost half the population of the village so if I don't wake up as early as 2.00 am then other women will have fetched all the water and we will have none," she told members of the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) who visited Pangani District recently.

"Sometimes it is very dark, so my husband has to escort me here. If I am not here by three then I won't get water until may be later in the afternoon. Sometimes it doesn't matter if I am here at three because there would be a long queue of women waiting to fetch water and by the time my turn comes, there would be no more water in the well."

She explained that even after waking up as early as that the amount of water that she can get does not exceed four buckets (about 80 lts), which means anyone coming later than that usually doesn't get water and will have to wait until noon when enough would have collected in the well.

The quality of the water also leaves a lot to be desired. It is brownish and full of debris from the trees and grass around the well, a condition that called for a lengthy sterilisation process before it could be fit for human consumption.

"Usually I leave the water to settle for about one hour, then slowly filter it into another container and finally boil it before we can drink it," Mariam told the journalists. Asked if everyone in the village boils their water for drinking, she said she did not know.

"Some people don't have the time to follow this process and drink it without boiling it. Only God knows why we have not suffered from water borne diseases," she added. She told the journalists that there are water vendors in the village who sell a jerry can of 20 litres for between 500/- and 600/-.

"Many people here are poor and cannot afford this," she noted. The well which is hardly two metres deep lies on a dry river bed. The river used to flow throughout the year but it has now become seasonal.

However the villagers could not dig a deeper well because of a layer of rock they found two metres from the surface and because they did not have the appropriate equipment, they decided to stop where they did. Anyone who visits the area where the well is dug would wonder why the river has dried.

The riverbed is about a metre deep and the area has thick natural vegetation comprising tall grass and a small forest even at that time when the dry season was at its peak. It was surprising that the river had dried up even under such a healthy environment.

Langoni Village Executive Officer Omar Kibwanga (32) explained that Kirupu River used to flow throughout the year and supply water to the village of about 1, 000 inhabitants. "We had fitted a pump here which supplied water to the village.

But about five years ago the flow of water started to go down and eventually there was no water in the dry season. Even during the rainy season, water is only available for a short time and a day or two after it has rained the water disappears from the river," he told the journalists, taking them around areas where the pump house and other infrastructure had stood.

However, two structures remain standing to tell the water story in the area; a 12 metre deep well, a concrete structure from which the water was pumped to the village and a concrete abstraction that was built across the river in order to provide water to the well. An inscription on the wall reads WD& ID 1970, probably indicating that the construction was made in 1970 by the Public Works Department and Irrigation Department.

The other side of the village tells a different story. Here, Mliwaza River has substantial amount of water, enough to meet the needs of the villagers. A water pump has been installed and according to villagers, its operation was short-lived allegedly because the amount of water was too little to be pumped.

The pump now sits idle and the small pump house a piece of decoration. However, the journalists observed that the problem was not the small amount of water in the river because water was still flowing in the river and at point it was deep enough to sink an adult person.

They also observed that a wall which was built to harness water and create a small dam from which the water could be pumped had broken. Explaining the situation to the journalists, the Councillor for Pangani West, John Semkande, said that the problem was not the low level of water in the river, rather the poor construction of the wall meant to trap the water. "It is a problem of workmanship.

This wall has been constructed very poorly and that is why it has only stood for six months," he said. "The councillor from this part told us that they had to remove the pump because the water level was very low; he never said that the wall had collapsed because the District Council would not hear of it.

So 15 m/- that was spent here has all gone down the drain," noted Semkande scarcely hiding his anger. He had accompanied the journalists to Langoni. He said that he suspected foul play by the contractor but also thought that village leaders and the councillor had collaborated in messing up the project.

"Many villages do not have enough water for their needs but I think the situation is compounded by irresponsible and selfish leaders. This is one such case," he told the journalists. Speaking to JET members about the water situation in Pangani District, Engineer Mohammed Hamis explained that climate change has greatly affected water supply in the district.

"The quality and quantity of surface water has particularly been affected," he noted. According to the District Water Engineer, salt water intrusion in Pangani River has now gone up to eight kilometres upstream because of the rising level of the Indian Ocean. It is for this reason that pumping for fresh water to supply residents of Pangani town has to be done when the tide is low, otherwise they would be supplied with salt water.

"We are now thinking of moving the pump house further upstream to avoid supplying residents with salt water," he told the journalists. But intrusion of salt water into fresh water is not the only problem facing water supply in Pangani.

"Many small rivers that act as feeders to Pangani River have turned seasonal, flowing only during the rainy season when there is plenty of freshwater, anyway. Others have completely dried up, discharging no water throughout the seasons. As a result, the discharge from Pangani River has also gone down significantly," he explained.

In other parts of the district, people get their supply of water from deep and shallow wells but these deep wells in particular, too are being affected by salination. "Rising sea levels have not spared deep wells. Many of them now produce salt water which is not fit for human consumption and the problem is very serious in Sange village.

The district has started drilling other wells further inland in a bid to supply communities with freshwater but this requires a lot of money," he explained, adding that in many parts of the district people drink salty water with levels of salination higher than those prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"For this reason, Tanzania has set her own standards of salt water which are lower than those of the WHO to enable people drink this water, otherwise it would be against international regulations to drink it," he revealed.

Asked what measures the district is taking to deal with the poor quality and short supply of water, Engineer Hamis said that research is being done to find out the best supply sources for the town residents. Such a source would not be affected by salt water intrusion caused by rising sea levels." Pangani Basin Water Office is conducting the research together with IUCN and other organisations.

As for the water supply problem, we are educating communities to take rain water harvesting seriously," he explained, adding that currently schools, institutions, and dispensaries are engaged in rain water harvesting. "But a strong political push is required for people to participate in this activity," he noted.

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New publication: Commercially important sea cucumbers of the world

Sea cucumbers are harvested and traded in more than 70 countries worldwide. They are exploited in industrialized, semi-industrialized, and artisanal (small-scale) fisheries in polar regions, temperate zones and throughout the tropics. In some fisheries, more than 20 species can be exploited by fishers and should be distinguished from each other by fishery officers and scientists. The processed (cooked and dried) animals, often called bêche-de-mer or trepang, are exported mostly to Asian markets and need to be distinguished to species level by customs and trade officers. This book is intended as an identification tool for fishery managers, scientists, trade officers and industry workers to distinguish various species exploited and traded worldwide.


This book provides identification information on 58 species of sea cucumbers that are commonly exploited around the world. There are many other species that are exploited either in a small number of localities or in relatively small quantities, which are not presented. Species in some regions with active fisheries are also not represented due to limited information available (e.g. Mediterranean species). The accounts are based on more than 170 reports and research articles and by comments and reviews by taxonomists and field workers.

Two-page identification sheets provide sufficient information to allow readers to distinguish each species from other similar species, both in the live and processed (dried) forms. Where available, the following information for each species has been included: nomenclature together with FAO names and known common names used in different countries and regions; scientific illustrations of the body and ossicles; descriptions of ossicles present in different body parts; a colour photograph of live and dried specimens; basic information on size, habitat, biology, fisheries, human consumption, market value
and trade; geographic distribution maps.

The volume is fully indexed and contains an introduction, a glossary, and a dedicated bibliography. Readers are encouraged to base their identifications on a combination of morphological features, samples of ossicles from different body parts and information
on what habitat and locality the species was found.

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