Nature in Asia Pacific
ObjectivesWhenever and wherever contrasted with when and where Noun clauses with whoever and whatever
this month, the United Nations celebrated World Wildlife Day with a focus on
oceans and marine wildlife.
focus was appropriate given the large number of marine species that are
regarded by scientists as either endangered or vulnerable around the world.
Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed
more than 700 marine species or subspecies as either endangered or
vulnerable. Vulnerable means being close to being endangered.
of the endangered marine animals can be found in East Asia and the Pacific.
Among them are well-known animals such as whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and
tuna fish. In one extreme case, tuna fish are being driven to the point of
extinction in the South Pacific by illegal Chinese fishing.
not just from China—have destroyed much marine life through overfishing,
industrial development, and chemical pollution, some of it caused by
pesticides. Add to this the man-made warming of ocean waters caused by
greenhouse gases as well as a proliferation of plastic waste littering
coastal waters in Asia.
waste floating in ocean waters is turning out to be the most difficult
environmental challenge facing many Southeast Asian nations.
A new study on ocean
under the water, trends look ominous.
new report published on March 4 by the journal Nature Climate Change showed
that ocean “heat waves” are occurring more frequently than they did in the
last century. As the Reuters news agency explained, most previous studies on
the impact of climate change on the oceans have focused on a gradual rise in
the waters’ temperatures. Those temperatures hit a record high in 2018,
causing some fish to swim toward the cooler water of the North and South
new study prepared by a team of scientists from seven nations is the first to
study marine heatwaves, which are defined as lasting for at least five days
at temperatures far above average. The heatwaves pose threats to fish, coral
reefs, and other forms of marine life and could disrupt the livelihoods and
food supplies for millions of people.
the negative image that many people have of sharks, they provide benefits to
their ecosystem. But they, too, are threatened not only by heatwaves and
pollution but also by the practice known as finning.
described by the environmentalist Mark Carwardine, “finning is the gruesome
practice of cutting off a live shark’s fins and throwing the animal back into
the sea, where it dies a slow and painful death.”
more than a thousand years, shark fins have been used by Chinese communities
around the world as a key ingredient in shark-fin soup. A number of
countries, including China, have banned finning. And as far back as 1991, 28
airlines agreed not to transport shark fins.
has banned the use of shark-fin soup at banquets, although the practice
apparently continues to take place at some private events. Danny Mok of The
South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Feb. 12 that shark fins were
among luxury items worth millions of dollars that Hong Kong customs police
seized last month.
a 27-day effort to tackle cross-border smuggling into China before and during
the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, Hong Kong customs officials arrested
more than 1,200 people engaged in the smuggling operations. The smugglers
were dealing in endangered wildlife species, including pangolin scales, as
well as ivory tusks and ivory products, orchids, and shark fins, which
altogether were valued at an estimated $9.4 million.
seemed to indicate that some of China’s growing middle class still value
shark fin soup as a delicacy and status symbol. But Simon Denyer of The
Washington Post reported on Feb. 15 that based on government figures and
private surveys, consumption of shark fin soup in China had fallen by about
80 percent since 2011.
the same time, however, the consumption of shark fin soup had risen in some
other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, according to Denyer. In a
report published in 2018, WildAid, a San Francisco-based nonprofit
organization focused on reducing the demand for illegal wildlife, listed the
main markets outside China for shark fins as Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong.
a non-profit organization established in 2001by leading foundations such as
the Pew Charitable Trusts, says that sharks play a key role in protecting
coral reefs by removing predatory fish such as groupers that feed on
reefs provide homes and protection to thousands of fish species.
The good news
the growing threat to marine life caused by climate change, the proliferation
of plastic waste and pesticides, overfishing, and industrial development,
there is some good news.
awareness of the threat to marine wildlife has grown in a number of Asian
countries, thanks to the work of governments as well as that of local and
international nonprofit organizations. Thailand awakened to the threat to
marine wildlife caused by plastic in early June last year when a pilot whale
washed ashore in a canal in southern Thailand.
Thai rescue team attempted to remove all of the plastic but failed, and the
whale died. Veterinarians discovered that the whale had swallowed some 80
pieces of plastic waste. It had mistaken the bits of plastic for food.
which had been slow to deal with plastic waste, now plans to ban the use of
very thin single-use plastic bags in 2022. This is to be followed by a ban on
single-use plastic glasses and straws three years later.
when it comes to sharks, Thailand as well as Indonesia and Malaysia continue
to be part of a group of countries that have not yet banned shark finning,
according to a report dated 2017 from the nonprofit organization WildAid.
and adapted from https://www.rfa.org/english/commentaries/wildlife-pacific-03292019163839.html March 2019)