Rainforests: the year in review 2017

first_img2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots.This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests.Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017. Between America’s abandonment of leadership on conservation and environmental policy, Brazil’s backtracking on forest conservation, massive forest fires worldwide, and the revelation of a sharp increase in global forest loss in 2016, 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests. Still, there were bright spots, including the establishment of new protected areas, better forest monitoring and research, and continued progress in recognizing the critical role local and indigenous communities play in forest conservation.The following is a short review of some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017. This review is not exhaustive, so feel free to add developments we missed via the comment function at the bottom.Reviews from past years: 2018 [Update 12/30/18] | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2009Forest lossAs reported in Mongabay’s last year-end review, there wasn’t a major update on global forest loss in 2016. In 2017 however, we got updates for both 2015 and 2016, and the numbers weren’t pretty: last year global forest loss hit the highest level on record (the dataset goes back to 2000).While much of that “loss” — which includes all tree cover loss, ranging from deforestation to harvesting of plantations to instances where blocks of forests have lost all their leaves from, for example, fire and beetle infestation — occurred outside the tropics, Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malaysia, Bolivia and Laos made the top 10 list for 2016 in terms of loss of dense tree cover.Analysis suggests that tree cover loss in the tropics may have been higher than normal in 2016 due to fire. Brazil and Indonesia were both particularly hard hit by drought and fire during the 2015 El Niño, which would have shown up in satellite data in 2016.The continuation of severe fires in the tropics in 2017 — Brazil, Indonesia and Guatemala, for example — suggests the past 12 months will go down as another year of high forest cover loss. CommoditiesCommodity production is the biggest direct driver of tropical deforestation, so commodity prices are an important factor in deforestation trends. In 2017, prices of commodities most commonly linked to deforestation in the tropics were generally flat in dollar terms, with the exception of rubber, which rose by about a quarter, and cocoa, which fell nearly 30 percent. Energy and metals prices increased modestly over 2016.Adoption of commodity sourcing safeguards is often associated with falling commodity prices, which give buyers leverage for extracting concessions from suppliers. Continuing in that trend, in November the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire said they would take action to address deforestation for cocoa production.Companies continued to make and strengthen No Deforestation, No Peat conversion, No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments, but some NGOs expressed concern about progress. For example, the Global Canopy Programme (GCP) said in its annual “Forest 500” report that less than a quarter of the companies assessed had extended zero deforestation policies to cover all of the commodities in their supply chains. GCP called out banks as laggards on zero deforestation, echoing campaigns that targeted financial institutions like HSBC and pension funds, which underwrite deforestation by lending to, and investing in, plantation and logging companies. A report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) noted that some publicly traded companies aren’t disclosing the full extent of their “landbanks,” making it harder to determine whether they are abiding by their sustainability commitments. Some prominent companies that have signed NDPE agreements said they need more help from governments to make zero deforestation a reality.Some major companies made headlines for the wrong reasons in 2017. Goodhope Asia Holdings was sanctioned by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for environmental and human rights abuses in Indonesia’s Papua region. It subsequently established an NDPE policy. Samsung’s relationship with Korindo, a South Korean conglomerate that has cleared thousands of hectares of Papuan rainforest, made it a target of Mighty Earth, an upstart campaign group that in 2017 also went after Burger King for deforestation in dry forests in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as chocolate buyers for forest clearing in West Africa. JBS, the world’s biggest meat company, was sanctioned by Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, for buying cattle from illegally deforested areas in the Amazon. Pulp and paper giants APRIL and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) got caught up in scandals that felt like throwbacks to their pre-NDPE days: APRIL for deforestation in Sumatran peatlands as well as transactions documented in the Paradise Papers, and APP for deforestation by allegedly “independent” suppliers that an Associated Press investigation said are actually owned by APP’s parent Sinarmas.An analysis by Brazilian NGO Imazon confirmed the role the cattle business plays in deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest. The study found that 88 percent of deforestation that occurred in the Brazilian Amazon between 2010 and 2015 was within the “zone of influence” of the 128 slaughterhouses that process 93 percent of cattle raised in the region. The findings suggest that slaughterhouses may offer the best leverage point in working to address deforestation in the cattle sector in Brazil.Mining may also be a bigger driver of deforestation than traditionally thought. A Nature Communications study estimated that mining caused five to 10 times as much deforestation as previously estimated in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2015. The researchers incorporated indirect deforestation from mining, including infrastructure built to support mineral extraction and transport, into their estimates, concluding that 11,670 square kilometers (4,500 square miles), an area twice the size of the state of Delaware, of forest loss was attributable to mining during that period.And finally, a paper in Environmental Research Letters highlighted a non-conventional driver of deforestation: money-laundering by narco-traffickers in Central America. The paper said profits from the drug trade are being used to finance agricultural expansion in the region.Lowland rainforest in Sulawesi’s Tangkoko Reserve, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.CertificationThe Forest Stewardship Council, a timber and wood products certification body, held its General Assembly, which takes place every three years. Notably, the assembly passed a motion to allow certification of plantations cleared post-1994. The move — which was opposed by some environmental members of the FSC — would expand certification to countries like Indonesia, where large-scale forest clearance has occurred for plantation development since that date. The body voted down a motion to increase transparency around certified concessions.Two leaders of eco-certification decided to become one. In June, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ announced they would merge to create a single sustainability standard and certification program under the Rainforest Alliance brand.The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) announced it would stop working with certification in agriculture. In reaching the decision, Andre de Freitas, executive director of SAN, said “We have seen many positive impacts from certification for workers, producers and the environment. But we have also increasingly come to recognize the limitations of certification as a tool to drive change in agricultural production systems at scale.”Various parties reached agreement on a methodology for determining what areas should be off-limits for conversion within oil palm concessions. Known as the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach Toolkit, the methodology is the product of years of debate between palm oil producers, buyers, traders, and civil society groups.BrazilBrazil houses the largest extent of rainforest in the world, most of which lies within the Amazon. Since the early 2000s, Brazil has led the world in setting aside protected areas and indigenous reserves, creating financial incentives for forest conservation, building forest monitoring systems and reducing rainforest loss. As such, the country has been seen by forest giants like Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as donor nations like Norway seeking to reduce deforestation and associated emissions, as a model to potentially emulate.But Brazil’s success story started to sputter over the past few years as the costs of the country’s financial and political crisis has started to impact its conservation initiatives. Part of Brazil’s apparent success has been a façade — agricultural expansion in the woody grassland called the cerrado has allowed Brazil to ramp up commodity production, while slowing deforestation in the rainforest biome — but some of it has indeed been real, the product of a combination of policy, law enforcement, monitoring, and activism and pressure from civil society and indigenous peoples.In 2017, Brazil seemed to backtrack on recent progress, with President Temer leading a rollback of environmental protections, including reducing conservation areas, targeting indigenous land rights, cutting budgets for monitoring and enforcement, and granting amnesty for environmental crimes. Many of Temer’s initiatives were blocked by courts, public prosecutors, or public outcry. Things looked so bad at one point that Norway, which has put hundreds of millions of dollars into Brazil’s coffers for forest conservation, took the unusual step of condemning Temer’s plan to remove a vast swath of land from conservation areas. The government was also ineffective in stemming violence against environmental, indigenous and land rights reform advocates. More than 60 were killed through the first 10 months of 2017.While the broad trend in Brazil was bad news for its forests, there were moments of elation for environmentalists, including the creation of the 12,000-square-kilometer (4,630-square-mile) Turubaxi-Téa Indigenous Territory in Amazonas state; some of Temer’s most environmentally damaging proposals failed to advance; infrastructure expansion in Brazil and neighboring countries got bogged down by corruption scandals and basic economics; indigenous communities won a series of legal victories and settlements against the state, and the headline deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon fell 16 percent versus last year. Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Indonesian rainforest. Photo for Mongabay by Rhett A. Butler.Indonesia2017 was an up and down year for Indonesia’s rainforests. Data released during the year showed that tree cover loss in Indonesia’s primary forests shot up in 2016 as a result of the 2015 fire crisis. And satellite data seems to suggest significant ongoing forest clearing into 2017, especially in Kalimantan and Papua.In an effort to avoid a repeat of past fire and haze crises, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued several policies governing the management of peatlands, including a land-swap mechanism that allows companies to trade carbon-dense areas in their concessions for lands elsewhere as a means to reduce fire risk. Some of the regulations were struck down by the Supreme Court. His administration also announced a plan to reduce fires by half by 2019. Indonesia’s parliament, however, pushed legislation, including a major palm oil bill that could become law in 2018, that threatened to undermine those goals by loosening restrictions on plantation expansion. An analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) concluded that Indonesia is likely to miss its near-term climate targets.Central government agencies also sent mixed signals. For the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 2017 was all about attempting to assert control. It stepped up prosecution of firms linked to illegal fires and peatlands clearance — including plantation giants Asia Pulp & Paper and APRIL — but also took measures against groups seeking greater transparency and accountability in the forestry sector. Greenpeace and Forest Watch Indonesia engaged in legal battles trying to get the Indonesian government to publicly release oil palm concession data.Plantation lobby groups — the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) and the Indonesian Association of Forestry Concessionaires (APHI) — asked the Constitutional Court to revise the national forestry law and environment law so they aren’t strictly liable for fires that occur in their concessions. Plantation companies have argued that fires within their concessions are often the result of burning by communities on adjacent lands. These fires can quickly spread in peatlands because drained peat is highly flammable.The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) in Sumatra. Photo by Maxime Aliaga.Scientists’ decision to classify a second species of Sumatran orangutan reignited global interest in saving Sumatra’s fast-dwindling forests. The Tapanuli orangutan is classified as critically endangered and is immediately threatened by a planned dam. Conservationists warned that proposed road projects pose additional threats to endemic species in Sumatra. One of those species, the Sumatran rhino, may be on the brink of extinction in the wild, with fewer than 100 — and possibly fewer than 30 — surviving outside captivity.Jokowi’s administration made slow progress in recognizing customary land rights per a landmark court decision in 2013. By November, the government had rezoned 164 square kilometers (63 square miles) as customary forests. The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) says that some 19,000 square kilometers (7,340 square miles) are immediately ready to be rezoned as customary forests.See Indonesia in 2017: A fighting chance for peat protection, but an infrastructure beatdown for indigenous communities for an in-depth look at other major environmental developments in Indonesia during 2017.Rainforest in Madagascar, which has experience an increase in its deforestation rate in recent years. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Other geographiesAustralia often ranks among the countries with the highest forest loss, but the revelation that deforestation has surged in Queensland was particularly concerning to environmentalists, given the uniqueness of the ecosystem and its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. A government assessment found that 3,950 square kilometers (1,525 square miles) of tree cover was cleared in Queensland between 2015 and 2016, 40 percent of which occurred in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.A paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution argued that forest loss in tropical Africa has been greatly overestimated due to inaccurate assumptions about original land cover. According to the research, some of the areas classified as once having forest were actually savanna. The study estimated forest loss in the region at just over 20 percent since 1900. That is roughly on par with the percentage loss in the Brazilian Amazon.A vast swamp in the heart of the Congo was determined to be the world’s largest tropical peatland. Estimated to cover 145,500 square kilometers (56,200 square miles), the peatland may hold more than 30 billion tons of carbon. Scientists made a case to governments that the area should be off-limits to logging and conversion for industrial agriculture.Myanmar’s national logging ban expired in March, although reports indicate that illegal logging persisted during the year-long moratorium.Please see Mongabay’s location feeds for news from more countries.Redwood forest in Santa Cruz County, California. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Lack of U.S. ambitionThe Trump Administration‘s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, weaken environmental and conservation regulations at home, and signal an intent to cut protections for wildlife abroad raised fears that important conservation programs and grants that benefit rainforests will be reduced or eliminated when they come up for renewal in 2018. Given that many of these are federal programs run under the State Department or Fish and Wildlife Service, it is unclear whether subnational jurisdictions like states and cities will step in to fill the gap.Large-bodied animals like this knobbed hornbill play an important role in forest ecosystems. Studies show that the loss of seed dispersers can have long-term effects on the carbon storage of forests. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerResearchPlenty of important research on tropical forests was published in 2017. Here are a few highlights.A paper published in Science Advances assessed trends in intact forest landscapes (IFL), revealing that forest ecosystems greater than 500 square kilometers (190 square miles) in area and showing no signs of human impact declined more than 7 percent between 2000 and 2013. The rate of loss tripled in the tropics since the beginning of the study period. The research identified timber harvesting and agricultural expansion as the primary drivers of IFL loss. It seemed to suggest that timber certification seems to be contributing to IFL loss in the Congo Basin by opening up previously inaccessible areas to logging.A number of studies looked at the climate impacts of forest loss. A paper published in Environmental Research Letters assessed climate impacts of deforestation beyond releasing carbon dioxide, including methane and nitrous oxide emissions. The researchers estimated that tropical deforestation alone could cause a 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7-degree Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures by 2100.A Science paper concluded that tropical forests are now a net source of carbon emissions, with deforestation and forest degradation releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis than forests can sequester. The research — which used satellite imagery, airborne LiDAR systems, and field measurements — put net annual emissions at about 425 million tons.A study published in Environmental Research Letters added further evidence that deforestation is becoming more industrialized, with a growing proportion of forest clearing being classified as medium, large or very large, corresponding to the rise of plantations and industrial agriculture in the tropics.A study in Scientific Reports found that protected areas lost only 0.2 percent of their forest cover between 2000 and 2012. While that loss was low, it resulted in a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions because the protected areas had higher density of forest cover relative to unprotected forests. Nine percent of the reserves accounted for 80 percent of the emissions from protected forest loss.Emissions from tropical forest degradation are higher than emissions from outright deforestation in many countries, found a study published in Carbon Balance and Management. Forest degradation emissions were primarily from logging, fuelwood harvesting and forest fires. According to the paper, the countries with the highest forest degradation emissions are Indonesia, Brazil, India, Malaysia and the Philippines.The 2015-2016 drought in the Amazon rainforest produced the highest temperatures and extended to the largest area ever recorded in the region, said a study published in Scientific Reports. The research estimated that temperatures were some 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than during the 1997-98 El Niño and extreme drought affected an area 20 percent larger than the previous record.A Nature Communications study estimated the extent of tropical forest fragmentation globally at 50 million fragments. The researchers argue that this fragmentation increases emissions from tropical deforestation by 31 percent.Yet another study warned about the potential adverse impacts of carbon-focused conservation policies on biodiversity. The Scientific Reports study found lack of correlation between tree biodiversity and carbon storage across different geographies.Amazon DamsEnvironmentalists and biologists are highly concerned about plans to build nearly 300 dams in the Amazon basin. New research published in 2017 adds to the evidence that their fears are well-founded. A PLoS ONE study forecast the impacts of six dams planned in Peru and Bolivia. It found that the six dams would retain nearly 900 million tons of river sediment annually, preventing those nutrients from reaching floodplains, potentially affecting food security downstream. The authors also said the dams would generate 10 million tons of carbon emissions annually and worsen mercury pollution. A separate study, published in Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment, found that Brazilian mega-dams flooded far larger areas than projected in the dams’ environmental impact assessments, resulting in higher carbon emissions and economic losses.Conservation technologyMonitoring technologies continued to make advances in 2017. By the end of the year, World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch had GLAD alerts — near real-time deforestation tracking — covering 22 countries. The platform also added 25 new datasets, ranging from palm oil mills to Brazilian Amazon land cover, as well as Places to Watch, a “data-driven storytelling initiative that combines deforestation alerts with satellite imagery.”Planet, which operates a constellation of shoebox-sized satellites, was increasingly being used for forest research and monitoring applications.Groundwork began to be laid for a biodiversity-monitoring satellite mission that would use the chemical signatures of plants to discern species richness.The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) continued to produce impactful reports on forest change in Peru and neighboring countries using satellite data.Buttress roots of a rainforest tree in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Conservation strategyStill more research was published in support of the argument that granting land titles to indigenous and local communities is an effective conservation strategy. A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper used remote sensing data to show that forest clearance and disturbance dropped sharply after the granting of land title to an indigenous community in Peru. Those findings were echoed more broadly in a Scientific Reports paper that found, on average, there was less deforestation and forest degradation in community-managed protected areas in the Peruvian Amazon than in those managed by the government.In recognition of the dividends of helping indigenous peoples and local communities in rural areas secure rights to their traditional lands, in October the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) announced the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, a $100 million, fund for scaling up recognition of rights to collective lands and forests. The tenure facility aims to secure at least 400,000 square kilometers (154,400 square miles) of forests and rural lands for local and indigenous communities.A study published in PLoS Biology identified places where deforestation — and by extension, conservation — is most and least beneficial economically. It concluded that areas with high agricultural yields, low production costs and good access to markets — like the Atlantic Forest and the Gulfs of Guinea and Thailand — are places where conservation faces long odds in terms of economics. The research indicates that, overall, deforestation yields large net economic losses even once factoring in agricultural outputs.More academic papers added to the body of research showing the importance of protecting wildlife, including large-bodied birds and mammals, for maintaining forest carbon stocks.The lower Kinabatangan river. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerGains for rainforestsIn Sabah, the eastern state in Malaysian Borneo, a plan to build a bridge over the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary was canceled. Conservationists said the bridge would have disrupted wildlife migration in an area that has been hard hit by extensive conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. Sabah also set aside a 1,010-square-kilometer (390-square-mile) tract of orangutan-rich rainforest slated for logging as a conservation area. And the state began to work with a “wall-to-wall” map of its carbon stocks, the result of a mapping campaign initiated last year. Those maps will help identify what unprotected areas are most important for conservation in Sabah.Norway continued to have an outsized role in tropical forest conservation efforts. In January, the Nordic country contributed $100 million toward a new fund that endeavors to support small farmers boost agricultural output while avoiding further deforestation and degradation. It later banned the public procurement and use of palm oil-based biofuel; hosted the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative to bring together faith leaders to build on the moral case for protecting tropical forests; and used diplomatic pressure to encourage Brazil to stand by its forest protection commitment.Papua New Guinea established its largest-ever conservation area after a 32-year process involving local communities and other stakeholders. Managalas Conservation Area covers 3,600 square kilometers (1,390 square miles).After a global outcry, Nigeria rerouted a super highway so that it would no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, although concerns remained about the potential path of the road.Fungi in Costa Rica. Photo by Rhett A. Butler2018 OutlookBrazil: Watch for continuing fallout from the Lava Jato scandal, including impacts on large infrastructure projects that have involved corrupt dealings. Stripping corruption and contact-padding out of these deals, will make it harder to get big dams and roads financed.Indonesia: Sub-national and national elections are right around the corner. Typically politicians in Indonesia get their campaigns finances by granting plantation, timber and mining concessions, meaning that what happens in the run-up to an election can have significant implications for forests after the election. A major palm oil bill is currently working its way through parliament. 2018 isn’t expected to be an El Niño year, meaning fire risk should be lower than 2015-2016.United States: There is a great deal of uncertainty about what international conservation programs will proceed under the Trump administration. If the first year of the administration is any indication, there won’t be much leadership from the United States on conservation issues.Technology: Look for continuing advancements in satellite detection and analysis as well as on-the-ground sensor systems like camera traps. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being applied to conservation challenges, and bioacoustics has huge potential to emerge as a good tool for biodiversity monitoring.Biodiversity: There’s a perception that biodiversity is losing out to climate in conservation policymaking, but in 2018 watch for a concerted push to get wildlife back on the public’s radar.center_img Article published by Rhett Butler Biodiversity, Carbon Emissions, Cattle Ranching, Commodity Roundtables, Community Forestry, Conservation, Conservation Technology, Dams, Deforestation, Drivers Of Deforestation, Environment, Featured, Fires, Forest Fires, Forest Stewardship Council, Forests, Green, Indigenous Peoples, Land Rights, Logging, Mining, Palm Oil, Peatlands, Protected Areas, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforests, Remote Sensing, Rspo, Satellite Imagery, Technology, Technology And Conservation, Tropical Forests, Year in review – rainforests, Zero Deforestation Commitments last_img read more

‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent

first_imgAnimals, Archive, Biodiversity, Conservation, Conservation And Poverty, Developing Countries, Environment, Fish, Fishing, Governance, Green, Marine Animals, Marine Biodiversity, Marine Conservation, Marine Ecosystems, Marine Protected Areas, Oceans, Overfishing, Poverty, Wildlife For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat.While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products.In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. Marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling for years. The fishing technique involves a boat dragging a weighted net along the seafloor, scooping up whatever marine life swims or sits in its way. In their pursuit of commercially valuable seafood, not only do bottom trawlers unintentionally kill or injure non-targeted creatures as bycatch, they can disrupt the marine habitat itself and kick up sediment plumes that smother nearby organisms.While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem. She and her colleagues are finding that in parts of Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all. Instead, she says, it’s any and all sea life they’re after, for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products.She has coined an unsettling term for these catch-all fisheries: “annihilation trawling.”Vincent is currently on a year’s sabbatical from her post at the University of British Columbia, traveling around the world with her family and contributing to marine ecology along the way. Mongabay spoke with her by Skype this fall while she was in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, where this kind of trawling is common.Amanda Vincent at a fish landing site in Mandapam, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Tanvi Vaidyanathan/Project Seahorse.Interview with Amanda VincentMongabay: Tell us about what you’ve been seeing.Vincent: I think we’ve reached a really interesting situation in trawl fisheries where we’ve transitioned from having target species with quite a bit of bycatch, the normal scenario which has worried us all for a long time, to a situation which I call annihilation trawling, where there really is no target anymore.The trawl fisheries are going to sea for life, in whatever form they can find it. And that means that normal management protocols geared around species are suspended, don’t make any sense; they’re not guiding the fishery. So, what we’re finding in quite a number of parts of the world now is trawl fisheries that are literally just seeking carbon. In some places most of what comes up is being turned into fishmeal, fish oil, chicken feed or surimi, which is the white compressed stuff that creates fish cakes and fish balls and things like that.There’s nothing that regulates those fisheries at all in terms of species limits, transitions in size, or any form of biological reference points, which are normal in fisheries management but are geared around [targeted] species. There’s really no logical endpoint to those fisheries. Those fisheries go until they’ve emptied the ocean, I presume.In what parts of the world are you seeing this?Thailand is well known for having bottom-trawl fisheries that are without target. What’s interesting in Thailand is that it’s supported by fuel subsidies but also by labor subsidies. You’ve probably heard that in Thai fisheries there have been a lot of slavery issues, and so obviously the labor is free in that case. It’s not usually recognized as a form of subsidy but of course free labor would be just that. And then the product goes into agriculture feed, animal feed, or it goes into surimi. And so there you have a convergence of human rights issues, ecological devastation, and seafood supply concerns.In India, what we’re seeing now is extraordinary landings of undifferentiated marine life that is sold as chicken feed…for values as low as one cent, two cents U.S. per kilogram. Imagine capturing the bottom of the ocean and selling it off for one cent, two cent U.S. per kilogram! These boats are losing money persistently in many areas and continue to fish largely on indebtedness. Talking to people, this is becoming a fairly common practice around the world.The scale and impact is what we’re working on at the moment, to try to understand just how prevalent this is and just what damage it’s doing.Undifferentiated catch arrives ashore from a fleet of fishing boats in Mandapam, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Are these fisheries legal or illegal?Well, it depends very much. Some of them are absolutely operating legally and many of them are violating one or more laws. In some cases the gear itself is violating laws. Trawling is banned within 3 to 5 kilometers (1.8 to 3.1 miles) of many Asian countries, but it persists nonetheless.In the case of India, where I am right now, there are limits, for example, on the size of boats. But some of the boats I’ve been seeing are massively in excess of the size limits, massively in excess of the horsepower limits. In Tamil Nadu, the state we’re working in, there’s actually a lot of disagreement among the leading state authorities as to whether bottom trawling is banned or not. And we’re trying to decipher the code to figure out which one of these leading authorities is correct. But certainly pair trawling is banned — that means when two boats trawl together with a net between them — and yet pair trawling persists here. They may [also] be violating seasonal closures, they may be violating gear limits, they may be violating area exclusions. But many of them are actually operating within the law and simply the law hasn’t dealt with the challenge of these bottom trawls running amuck.I’m working here with one of my Ph.D. students [Tanvi Vaidyanathan], who is Indian herself, and she’s been surveying the ports of India for the last couple of years, doing a phenomenal job: 850 interviews to date. When I first came out with her she was concerned as to how much our desire to see an end to bottom trawling here, which is indeed our desire, would somehow bring us into conflict with the special interest groups or government authorities here. And what’s been extraordinary to me is that before we could even complete an introductory conversation, every single person we’ve met here has insisted that bottom trawling has to end. We’ve met with some really significant senior figures in the state government on the civil service end, and representatives of fisherfolk associations. We’ve met with scientists, we’ve met with technical people, and there’s a deep and growing awareness that bottom trawling has to end.The biggest challenge seems to be to develop the political will to actually force an implementation of existing laws, let alone move forward with further closures.PhD student Tanvi Vaidyanathan aboard a trawl boat in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Most trawlers in the area, including this one, are over the legal length and have engines over the legal power. The vessel did not target a particular species when it went fishing, and fishers are picking through the catch to find marketable sea life. What’s left will be sold en masse, commonly for chicken feed. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.If these countries are having such a hard time even agreeing on what their legal code says, let alone enforcing basic fisheries legislation, how can they grapple with something like this?The difficulty in enforcement is not for technical reasons. It’s strictly for political will. And so frankly you’re part of that solution. Generating the political will has to be our focus. I’ve never had any trouble explaining to anybody why we consider it unreasonable to scrape the bottom of the ocean, dump it into an undifferentiated mass, and sell it for two cents U.S. per kilogram as chicken feed. Somehow that doesn’t seem to challenge most people’s understanding.Obviously, what we should be doing is stopping bottom trawling, but beyond that the best way to manage these fisheries is going to be very much spatial closures. So, protected areas and restrictions like that, and perhaps to some extent seasonal closures. But the spatial closures are going to have to come into play pretty heavily until we can get these trawl fisheries under constraint.What’s the perspective of the fishers you talk with?Well, it depends which fishers we’re talking to. If you’re talking to trawl boat owners, they obviously have a vested interest in the fishery continuing. If you’re talking to the people in the region using selective gear or using targeted gear, [or] using passive gear like gill nets, or hook and line, or traps and pots, they obviously see trawl fishing as a major challenge to their way of life. So, fishers come in many shapes and sizes.What you’ll often hear if you talk about ending bottom trawling is, ‘Well, a lot of people are employed in these fisheries.’ And that is, of course, correct. But many, many, many more are and could be employed in passive gear fisheries or in conventional gear fisheries. What we’re hearing from a significant number of people is [that they’re observing] declines in catches. Even allowing for the fact that they’ve expanded their willingness to extract from a couple of targeted species to now a wide array of fish and invertebrates.And you’re hearing that from the bottom trawlers themselves?Oh yeah.Women sell fish in Karaikal, Tamil Nadu, India. Women are commonly charged with sorting and selling the catch, particularly the low-value species. Trawlers don’t target any particular species and their catch includes many forms of marine life. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.How did you discover that this is happening?I’m a professor at the University of British Columbia and also have a number of international roles, primarily with the IUCN and CITES. And I am particularly an expert in seahorses and their relatives. I was the first person to work on seahorses underwater and the first person to reveal the huge trade in seahorses. In my work to try to ensure a future for seahorses I involved myself in everything from marine protected areas to fisheries management to global trade policy and so on. And we’ve been for a long time trying to find ways to restrict the [seahorse] trade to sustainable levels.But it’s become very apparent to us, frankly, that you can restrict trade all you like, but as long as these nonselective gears are operating with impunity, then those animals are still being extracted and whether they’re traded or not is almost incidental on some levels. So that’s then driven us to begin to pay a lot of attention to trawl fisheries and how they’re operating, and revealed that the seahorses are among the many, many things at the bottom of the net that are being caught heedlessly.Gradually over time we’ve realized, hang on, it’s most species that are being caught heedlessly, it isn’t that the seahorses are unusual. It’s that that’s the way that trawl fisheries are operating these days.What was your reaction when you first saw a load of this stuff on the docks?It was extraordinary. To give you an example, we were in [the city of] Tuticorin last week. Tuticorin has 240 bottom trawlers landing each night at around 9 or 10 p.m. And I went to visit this harbor. An area of about 200 yards by 100 yards was literally carpeted with increasing piles of this dismissive catch. And small trucks [were] drawing up to it, men shoveling it, and I mean shoveling it, at a fast rate into these little trucks. The truck [were] driving away, and more loads coming off the fishing boats, and more little trucks coming up in an endless convoy of little yellow trucks and men with shovels. Just heaving the bottom of the ocean into these trucks for chicken feed. It was stunning. And accompanying all this on the side [were] little piles of sorted catch being sold off in various small auctions.[What struck me] was the complete apparent disconnect between the fact that this was life and food security and the juveniles of commercially important species, quite apart from threatened species, that were just being heaved off to feed chickens. So, I was both appalled and enthralled.A trawler, returning from a day-long fishing trip for whatever marine life it could catch, offloads the portion that can be sold by species in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Undifferentiated catch arrives from the trawl boats in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Workers shovel it onto trucks and take it away, often to be processed into chicken feed. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Part of the offloading area for undifferentiated catches in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Has anybody been down to see what the seafloor looks like where these trawls have been operating?No, I don’t think so. But what we’re hearing is of course of habitat transitions and change. It depends which part of the world we’re talking about, but some [trawl boats] go out for a day and some go out for up to 10-, 20-day trips. And the sorting that happens at sea includes the discard of a lot of habitat-forming organisms: sponges, and seagrass, and corals, and so on.Is anybody else keeping an eye on this?Well, I think there’s a lot of people who have a partial understanding of this. There’s certainly been some considerable reports emerging about the increasing direction of trawl extraction to fishmeal, fish oil, agriculture feed, animal feed and surimi. But I don’t think that we’ve been hearing any sort of clarity as to just how dangerous this is, just how limitless this is.I’ve read some FAO [U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization] reports and talked to FAO colleagues about excellent analyses showing an increase in the use of trawl catches for fishmeal, fish oil, et cetera. But they seem to think in large measure this is a good thing because you’re getting less waste and much more efficient — I hate that word — use of the world’s ocean resources. And to try to discuss with them exactly where this is heading is extraordinarily difficult. It seems to me obvious that this is heading us towards oblivion, eventually.I am absolutely not against fisheries; God knows we need fisheries. But it’s got to be done in a rational way that sets us up for a long-term future. And wholesale extraction for chicken feed just ain’t the way to go. Especially with damaging the habitats as you do it.We’re hearing [a similar story] from our colleagues. But nobody I have talked to and nothing I have read has actually brought it into this perspective: this is crazy that we aren’t even targeting anything anymore. And so every time we talk to people about it they say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that here,” or “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that there.” But this hasn’t been brought together into compilation. And that’s where I think we need to go with it, to start to document the global dimension of this.A mixed catch at a landing site in Karaikal, Tamil Nadu, India, where trawlers target any and all marine life. It will probably be sold for chicken feed. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Banner image: Undifferentiated catch at a landing site in Karaikal, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by Amanda Vincent/Project Seahorse.Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the editor of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Article published by Rebecca Kesslerlast_img read more

Wildlife trade detective Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Samuel K. Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., has pioneered ways of using DNA from animal feces to track wildlife poachers.In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has honored Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal, an award that “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.”In a brief Q&A, Wasser told Mongabay that it was “heartening” to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal, and that he is proud to see his work make a difference in the world. From dogs to poop, Samuel K. Wasser has used it all to monitor wildlife and track down poachers.A conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., Wasser has pioneered methods that use DNA from elephant dung to identify poaching hotspots and pinpoint where seized ivory originates from — work that’s been instrumental in prosecuting some of Africa’s biggest ivory poachers. He has also spearheaded the use of detection dogs to sniff out the feces of wild animals over large landscapes. This innovative strategy has helped researchers monitor the health of threatened species without needing to actually spot any individuals in the wild.In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has awarded Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal. The medal, instituted in 1951 in honor of the philosopher and theologian Albert Schweitzer who would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.” Past recipients of the medal include British primatologist Jane Goodall and American biologist Rachel Carson.U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington presented the award to Wasser in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on April 10.“Dr. Wasser’s groundbreaking work has paved the way for remarkable strides in the fight against wildlife trafficking, especially ivory trade,” Cathy Liss, the AWI president, said in a statement. “The Animal Welfare Institute feels privileged to have this opportunity to acknowledge his accomplishments with the Albert Schweitzer Medal.”Samuel Wasser examining seized ivory. Photo by Kate Brooks.Mongabay caught up with Wasser, who said it was “heartening to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal.”A brief Q&A with Wasser follows.Mongabay: Can you give us a bit of background on how you first became interested in studying wildlife?Samuel K. Wasser: I loved animals all my life. I started working in Africa at 19 years of age, studying how migratory ungulate herds impact lion social structure and hunting patterns in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem. Then, I was hooked.What inspired you to develop non-invasive methods to monitor the distribution and physiological health of wild animals?During my doctoral dissertation on baboons in southern Tanzania, I became interested in how the environment impacts the timing of reproduction in baboons. I pioneered methods to measure stress and reproductive hormones in baboons to do that. That led to tools to measure nutrition hormones, DNA and even toxins in feces.How did you come up with the idea of training dogs to sniff out animal feces? What kinds of species can the detection dogs identify from scat?Realizing how much biological information was available in scat and how accessible scat is in the wilderness, I was searching for a method that could increase access to these samples across large wilderness areas in an unbiased manner. Detection dogs were the answer. They have an extraordinary ability to detect samples from their scent. Since detection is incentivized by the reward of a couple minutes of play with their ball, the dogs are actually searching for ways to get their ball. The means to that end is locating the target samples associated with that reward. That makes detection dog sampling virtually unbiased because the dogs get their ball regardless of the sex of the target species or the degree to which the sample is hidden, features that typically bias other forms of sampling (for example, trapping, hair songs, camera traps).Our dogs have been used to detect dozens of species. Examples include: grizzly bears, killer whales, right whales, pocket mice, northern spotted owls, Jemez [Mountains] salamanders, wolves, caribou, moose, coyote, cougar, bobcat, lynx, fisher, pangolins, jaguar, maned wolves, tapir, tigers, lions, cheetah, invasive plants, and even chemical in the environment like PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls].Wasser’s detection dogs can track several species, including killer whales. Photo by Jane Cogan.What prompted you to develop techniques to determine when and where an elephant was killed by poachers?My baboons work was in the most heavily poached part of Africa, the Mikumi-Selous Ecosystem in southern Tanzania. My work there began in 1979, the same year that poaching began to skyrocket and continued for another 20 years. Throughout that time, we frequently ran across poached elephants, or had to leave the field because we heard gun shots nearby. I wanted to do something about it. When my lab pioneered methods to get DNA from feces, I realized that was the answer. I could collect elephant scat across Africa and use the DNA in the scat to map elephant genetics across the continent. If I could then get DNA from ivory, I could match the ivory genotypes to the DNA reference map to determine where seized ivory was poached.Do you feel disheartened to see the current levels of poaching in Africa? How do you stay motivated?It is horrible to watch and it just doesn’t stop. What keeps me going is that my work is making a difference and I am very proud of that.Is there anything else that you would like to add?I could not have done this work without great partners: Bill Clark was my mentor and paved the way for me to apply these methods to actual ivory seizures. My incredible staff at the Center for Conservation Biology work tirelessly to genotype these samples. Governments like Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, South Sudan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and others who gave me access to their ivory seizures, INTERPOL who supported many of these sampling efforts, many donors like U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics [and] Law Enforcement Affairs, World Bank, Vulcan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Woodtiger Fund, the Bosack Charitable Foundation and others for continuous support, and my most recent collaborators, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.Samuel Wasser with elephant tusks. Photo courtesy of Samuel K. Wasser/Animal Welfare Institute.Samuel K. Wasser receiving the award from Senator Cantwell and AWI president Cathy Liss. Photo by Kristina Sherk. Animals, Conservation, Deforestation, Elephants, Endangered Species, Environment, Green, Happy-upbeat Environmental, Illegal Trade, Interviews, Mammals, Poachers, Poaching, Wildlife, Wildlife Trade, Wildlife Trafficking center_img Article published by Shreya Dasguptalast_img read more

Small farmers not ready as Indonesia looks to impose its palm oil sustainability standard on all

first_imgArticle published by Hans Nicholas Jong Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Agriculture, Certification, Environment, Farming, Forests, Indonesia, Oil Palm, Palm Oil, Plantations, Rainforests, Rspo, Sustainability Banner image: A Lubuk Beringin villager, Rahimah, 70, harvests palm nuts for palm oil on her agroforestry farm at Lubuk Beringin village in Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo by: Tri Saputro/CIFOR/Flickr The Indonesian government plans to make its sustainable palm oil certification scheme, the ISPO, mandatory for small farmers by 2020. These farmers account for 40 percent of the total oil palm plantation area nationwide, but were exempted from the initial ISPO rollout.A recent study shows that these smallholders are not ready to adopt the standard. They face a variety of challenges, largely stemming from the tenuous nature of their land ownership claims.The Ministry of Agriculture fears that under the existing ISPO compliance regulation, many farmers will end up in prison for failing to comply by the deadline. The government is now drafting an updated ISPO regulation. JAKARTA — The Indonesian government aims to impose its homegrown sustainability standard for palm oil on all operators, but concerns persist over the readiness of the previously exempt small-scale farmers who manage two-fifths of total plantation area nationwide.Mandatory participation in the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil scheme, or ISPO, was initially aimed at farmers and companies managing plantations of more than 25 hectares (62 acres) in size. This, however, exempts from certification the vast number of smaller plantations that, combined, account for 40 percent of oil palm plantations in the country.To date, less than 1 percent of independent smallholder farms are certified as sustainable under the ISPO and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s largest association for ethical production of palm oil.The industry has long been associated with social and environmental problems such as forced labor and massive deforestation. The government, aware that any meaningful reform of the industry would have to include small-scale farmers, plans to make ISPO certification mandatory for these smallholders by 2020.The need to do so will only grow more urgent as the number of such operators continues to increase, expanding their share of Indonesia’s oil palm plantation area to 60 percent by 2030.“Independent smallholders are thus critical players for bringing sustainable, conflict-free palm oil into reality,” the World Resources Institute (WRI) said in a recent blog post.However, there are concerns that smallholders, long overlooked by both industry and government for assistance in adopting agricultural best practices, are not ready for ISPO certification.A truck transports recently harvested oil palm fruit, which will be pressed to make palm oil. Photo by John Cannon.Obstacles to certificationThe independent smallholders in question here differ from so-called plasma farmers, who also manage smallholdings but have agreements in place with larger companies that cover support and logistics, and ultimately guarantee that the companies will buy their palm fruit.Independent smallholders, by contrast, typically learn how to manage plantations with no training, no supervision, and limited support from the government. The result, says Arya Hadi Dharmawan, a researcher at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), is “a sad tale” of a large group of farmers for whom obtaining ISPO certification will be difficult.A recent IPB study of small farmers in the three provinces of Jambi, Riau and Central Kalimantan highlighted just how ill-prepared they were to meet the standard. For a start, Arya said, most of these farmers lacked land certificates.Under 2013 government guidelines for plantation licensing, small farmers are required to apply for a plantation registration certificate known as an STD-B, while large-scale producers (those cultivating more than 25 hectares) have to obtain a plantation business license called an IUP-B.The former is a simple land certificate with no requirement to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA), while the latter involves more complex procedures and regulatory requirements, including an EIA. In practice, however, STD-B certificates are rarely issued, Arya found during the study of small farmers in Jambi.“We thought it’d be easy [for these farmers to obtain ISPO certificates] because they’re located in [designated plantation] areas, but it’s not,” he said. They don’t have any papers, he added, and manage their land without formal borders, relying instead on mutual understanding with their neighbors.“As a result, only 1 percent of them have STD-B certificates,” he said.A second obstacle to certification is the farmers’ lack of access to ISPO-compliant fertilizers and seeds. The study found 89 percent of small farmers used lower-cost seedlings that provided smaller yields. Another challenge is the difficulty small farmers face in forming groups in order to have a firmer legal basis from which to operate.These problems all mean no small farmers are truly ready, Arya said, even in regions like Jambi, where they face fewer legal woes because they manage plantations in non-forest areas. In Jambi, he said, small farmers are only about “55 percent ready” to comply with the ISPO.Farmers in other regions are even less prepared, the study suggested. In Riau, Arya found that many farmers were managing plantations inside forest areas — a situation that would make it even harder for them to get the requisite paperwork for the land.“If that’s the case, then it’ll be difficult for these farmers to obtain ISPO certificates,” he said. “The ISPO will surely claim victims in the form of farmers whose plantations are in forest areas.”Elephant, orangutan, and tiger habitat cleared in the Leuser ecosystem for oil palm. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerPlantation to prisonThe government has acknowledged the uphill task it faces ensuring all oil palm growers are certified by 2020.“If we make certification mandatory for all 450,000 households [working as oil palm planters], then maybe our prisons will be full,” said Dedi Junaedi, plantation product director at the Ministry of Agriculture, which is managing the ISPO compliance program.Under the regulation mandating ISPO certification for all farmers, failure to comply is punishable by between three and 10 years in prison, and fines of up to 10 billion rupiah ($700,000).“That’s why we have to be careful,” Dedi said. “Just look at [the study] — the readiness [of small farmers] is still 50 percent.”An Orangutan (Pongo abelii). Orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia have been highly impacted by oil palm production, bringing a strong organized response from international conservation NGOs and local wildlife activists. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerAcceptability and productivityThe ISPO was introduced by the government in 2011 as a mandatory certification scheme for all oil palm growers in the country, after several big buyers, including Unilever, Nestlé and Burger King, stopped buying palm oil from Indonesia over deforestation concerns.Compared against other certification schemes, primarily the RSPO, the ISPO is largely considered the weakest, as it adheres only to Indonesian laws and regulations, which in some cases are not specific enough and fall short of providing detailed guidance for best practices.A recent report commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe detailed some of the ISPO’s weaknesses, such as lack of traceability, lack of protection for the rights of workers — it doesn’t clearly prohibit the use of force or of child labor — and failure to recognize key instruments on community rights, making it a poor tool for safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities.The government, led by the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy, is drafting a presidential regulation to undergird the new ISPO scheme, with new provisions, such as traceability, to address the highlighted weaknesses.Part of these efforts to improve the ISPO is to make it mandatory for smallholders by 2020, so that large corporate consumers that previously claimed ignorance about their suppliers can no longer fall back on that excuse.Ultimately, the idea behind the ISPO is to make Indonesian palm oil and its associated products acceptable on the global market. It also aims to boost the productivity of smallholders, currently a third of that of big growers, by providing small farmers with certification-compliant fertilizers and seeds.“It’s such a shame our farmers lose such a huge potential,” said Musdhalifah Machmud, the coordinating economic minister’s deputy for food and agriculture.The revision of ISPO also dovetails with the government’s replanting program, in which small growers will receive financial aid and technical assistance to shift from less-productive crops to with newer variants with better-quality seeds and fertilizers. The government aims to replant 1,850 square kilometers (714 square miles) of smallholder plantations this year.“If we don’t do that now, our farmers will lose their potential of high productivity in the next 10 years,” Musdhalifah said.The government is concerned that if smallholder productivity remains low, the farmers will expand their plantations to boost output, raising the risk of forest clearing to make way for new land.“Currently, our farmers feel their productivity is low, so they think they need to increase the size of their plantations,” Musdhalifah said.The government expects to finish the revision of the ISPO this year, said Wilistra Danny, Musdalifah’s assistant for plantations.“Starting from a few weeks ago, we’ve started discussing the legal draft,” he said. “We’re hoping that the presidential regulation [on the new ISPO] can be issued this year at the latest. But the process is still long. We still have to discuss it with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and there’s going to be a harmonization process as well. All these will take quite a long time.”last_img read more

Sixes anytime and every time

first_imgGood things, it is said, come to those who wait, and although it is not so long ago, two years is long enough, long enough to make one wonder if it would never come back again. The reason is simply this: it may not be the best of cricket, not in its most sophisticated way, but it is cricket, and Twenty20 cricket is indeed enjoyable, especially when is served up a little at a time but at regular intervals. Twenty20 cricket is not for those who were born and grew up on delicate and rasping cuts, elegant drives, off the front-foot and off the back-foot, vicious pulls, swivelling hooks, screaming bouncers, deadly yorkers, tantalising flight, subtle spin, and mesmerising spin. Twenty20 cricket is for swinging bats, big hits, and acrobatic fielding, the vast majority of hits for sixes, intended or not, flying over the boundary and disappearing into the stands, sometimes into the night sky, for huge sixes. That, apart from the guarantee of a result, plus the carnival-type atmosphere at the matches, is the attraction of Twenty20, and that is the attraction of T20 World Cup number six which is now under way in India. That is why I enjoy it. There is never a dull moment, not even when the minnows are in action, when the skill is not so high. The ball still sails over the boundary, and the sight of them travelling far still excites. For the West Indies, the tournament begins next Wednesday when the 2012 champions take on England at the Wankede Stadium in Mumbai in a battle of two of the favourites. The starting favourites are India, Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and that’s not necessarily in that order. The favourites are plenty, but that’s the nature of the competition and that’s how close it promises to be. As we welcome this rendition of Twenty20 cricket and ponder the wonderful performances to come, the power-hitting of Chris Gayle, the elegance of Virat Kholi, memories of some of big-hitting deeds of the past come to mind. Records, they say, are made to be broken, but those who saw these tremendous big hits will never, ever forget them. In hitting the highest score ever, Sri Lanka’s batsmen went to town against lowly Kenya in the first tournament in South Africa in 2007 when they smashed the highest score of 260 for six, and India followed up with 218 for four against England, also in South Africa in 2007. And South Africa, despite the efforts of Gayle, who cracked 117, scored the third highest total when they romped to 208 for two off 17.4 overs replying to 205 for six in South Africa in 2007. That was the day when Gayle got “mad”, ripping fast bowler Shaun Pollock to ribbons, his four overs going for 52 wicketless runs. I wish I was there on any one of those occasions to see the balls sailing over the boundary, just as I wish I was there for the entire match between India and England when the teams piled up a combined 418 runs for the loss of 10 wickets off 40 overs for the highest match aggregate with India scoring 218 for four and England 200 for four. Probably the day I missed most, the one in Bangladesh last time out, the one which was that between two minnows, the one in which 382 runs were scored for the loss of eight wickets, was the one in which Ireland scored 189 for four and the Netherlands scored 193 for four of 13.5 overs. Sixes fell like rain from the sky. Probably the days I missed most of all, however, were the ones starring Brendon McCullum and Gayle, the two master hitters of T20 cricket, indeed of any cricket. In Bangladesh, in 2012, McCullum, batting for only 57 deliveries, slammed 123 runs with 11 fours and seven sixes out of 191 for three against Bangladesh, and before that, in South Africa in 2007, while batting for 58 deliveries, Gayle smashed 117 with seven fours and 10 glittering sixes against South Africa. Another dazzling display was that of Yuvraj Singh, a left-hander who, also in 2007, cracked 58 runs off 16 deliveries with seven sixes against England. With sixes being the heart of Twenty20 cricket, with each hit followed by loud bursts of music, flashing lights, and jumping spectators, probably the man of the T20 World Cup tournaments has been Gayle, the bravest and most destructive hitter of them all. One batsman has hit 10 sixes in an innings, and that is Gayle, who has also hit a total of 49, 18 more than second-placed Yuvraj Singh on 31; six batsmen have hit seven sixes in an innings, including Yuvraj Singh and Shane Watson; 13 batsmen have hit six sixes in innings. This time, it could be the same, except that one man, McCullum, is missing.last_img read more