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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
June, 1999 Vol. 2 No. 6

Coastal Alert





Antique's marine turtle habitats threatened - DENR
Gov't, private groups want protection for Danajon Reef
Indonesian find provides new hope for coelacanth conservation
Reuters/IUCN media award launched
Edible boxes from McDonald's
Three new natural sites on World Heritage list

Antique's marine turtle habitats threatened - DENR
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has expressed concern about the proliferation of seaweed farms and human settlements on the islands off Caluya, Antique, a marine turtle sanctuary.

Seaweed farming was introduced in 1990-91 in the islands of Malaki, Ballongan and Munti in Panagatan Bay, about 30 nautical miles off Caluya. The activity was allowed despite the fact that Caluya, along with the rest of Antique, was declared in 1982 as a marine turtle sanctuary, to be protected from any destruction or disturbance of the marine turtle's habitat within 250 meters from the lowest tidemark.

Seaweed production was pegged last year at 4,000 metric tons, nearly double the 2,500 tons achieved previously. The seaweed boom has resulted in the influx of new settlers to the islands, increasing the local population from 500 to 650 families. As a result, the DENR reported, the area's marine turtle population has declined significantly, largely because of the disturbance caused by the seaweed farming lines and the lights from the houses.

The islands are coralline and always low on fresh water. In the absence of a proper waste disposal system, the growing human settlement on the islands can pollute the limited water supply and affect marine life. Local vegetation adapted to the extreme soil-water deficit environment is cleared to give way to housing, drying areas, and other industry infrastructure. "Without guidelines on equitable use and sustainable management, these small islands are doomed. The industry, the people and the environment all lose," the DENR warned.

Furthermore, the islands lie within a typhoon hazard area and are likely to attract permanent settlements. This poses the danger that the islands are treated as open access areas where resources will be exploited without regard for sustainability, said the DENR. A. Maguilas, The Freeman, 06.19.99

Gov't, private groups want protection for Danajon Reef
Different government agencies and members of the private sector vowed to protect the double-barrier Danajon Reef in the waters of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Bohol and Cebu. They agreed to create a working group to plan and conduct activities for the management of coastal and marine resources in the reef area. They also drafted a proposed executive order for the creation of a protection program consisting of coastal population management, tourism, information dissemination and enforcement of fishery laws. LAP/MIE, Sun.Star Daily, 06.23.99

Indonesian find provides new hope for coelacanth conservation
Nearly one year after they first reported the discovery of a new coelacanth population off the northern coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, researchers are cautiously upbeat about the prospects of this prehistoric order of lobe-finned fishes. "The announcement in September 1998 of a previously unknown population of coelacanths [off Sulawesi] provides hope that coelacanths are potentially much more widespread than originally thought," said Mark Erdmann of the Department of Integrative Biology of the University of California, Berkeley.

The coelacanth, called "Old Fourlegs" because of its leg-like fins, is a large (up to 2 meters in length) fish, a slow-moving, nocturnal drift hunter which inhabits steep young volcanic slopes at typical depths of 150-300 meters.

Until 1938, coelacanths were known only to a few paleontologists as a strange order of lobe-finned fishes (Order Actinista, Sub-class Sarcopterygii) which appeared in the Devonian fossil record almost 370 million years ago and then seemed to go extinct about 80 million years ago. The first "living fossil" coelacanth, christened Latimeria chalumnae in honor of the type locality and the curator who preserved it, was trawled off the coast of South Africa in early 1939. Subsequently, after a 14-year search, researchers discovered the "true" home of the living coelacanth in the Comoran archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Almost 200 specimens have been captured from the Comoros since then, and many have been preserved in museums around the world.

Recent reports on the Comoran coelacanth population indicate an alarming decline, however. Noted Erdmann, "The most recent work on coelacanth population size suggests that L. chalumnae may now be in danger of extinction, only 60 years after its initial discovery. Population monitoring of L. chalumnae on Grande Comore island has revealed an apparent population decrease of 32% from 1991 to 1994 alone. This decline has been attributed primarily to overfishing by native artisanal fishermen, who occasionally catch the coelacanth as an incidental catch of their oilfish fishery."

Until the Indonesian find, established coelacanth populations were known only from two islands in the Comoros. The discovery of the Manado Tua population has raised hopes for the conservation prospects of the Old Fourlegs. "[The discovery] brings with it an important responsibility for the Indonesian people to act as wardens of this unique aspect of both Indonesia's and the world's natural heritage," Erdmann and his colleague, Moh. Kasim Moosa of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, wrote in a report published in the Indonesian Journal of Coastal and Marine Resources last January 1999. "The eyes of the international conservation community are now focused on Indonesia, and we must accept full responsibility for careful stewardship of the Indonesian coelacanth."

Two journalists receive Reuters/IUCN Awards
To promote excellence in environmental reporting worldwide, Reuter Foundation and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched the annual Reuters/IUCN Media Awards by recognizing the life achievements of two journalists who have have brought environmental issues to the attention of the general public.

Geoffrey Lean, 51, who has been writing about the environment and development for 29 years, was recognized for his "highly regarded contribution to environmental reporting." Lean has been environment correspondent for The Observe and The Independent on Sunday and writes for leading papers and journals. He is consistently voted "most impressive environmental journalist of the year" in an annual poll of his peers and is the only newspaperman ever to have won the British Environment and Media Award's lifetime achievement award, joining Prince Charles, US Vice President Al Gore, Sir David Attenborough, and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Busani Bafana, 27, who writes for the Zimbabwe Independent, was selected because of his "contribution to environmental reporting and as an incentive to those embarking upon a career in this important field". His stories include coverage of a spill of cyanide-tainted sludge in a large gold mine, which created water contamination panic in the city of Bulawayo.

The Reuters/IUCN Media Awards will give special attention to the ability of journalists to show how environment-related issues impact on mainstream socio-political and economic matters. They will be open to press journalists from all countries. Each year, a winner will be selected by regional juries from each of the eight IUCN-designated regions (Africa, East Europe and North/Central Asia, Meso and South America, North America and the Carribean, Oceania, South and East Asia, West Asia, West Europe). An international jury will then choose one global winner from the regional winners. Winners will be offered fellowships and training opportunities organized by the Reuter Foundation, the educational and humanitarian arm of Reuters. J.A. Ahmad in World Conservation, 01/99

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Edible boxes from McDonald's?
This year, fast food chain McDonald's plans to start supplying its hamburgers in edible boxes. McDonald's has already experimented in the United States with boxes made of potato starch, and more experiments with cups and bowls are planned. The boxes are fully biodegradable.

McDonald's hopes the new boxes will help keep the streets around its restaurants cleaner. Even if one of its boxes does land in someone's garden, the snails should eat it within a week. Environmental News from the Netherlands, 02/99

Three new natural sites on World Heritage list
The World Heritage Committee has added three new natural sites to its World Heritage List upon the technical advice of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At its 22nd Session in Kyoto, Japan, the Committee inscribed the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, the Golden Mountains of Altai in Russia's Altai Republic, and East Rennell in the Solomon Islands.

New Zealand: seabird islands. The New Zealand site includes five island groups - the Snares Islands, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Island.

Located between the Antarctic and Sub-tropical Convergence zones, the seas surrounding these island groups are extremely productive.

The islands are most notable for their populations and diversity of seabirds. Of 40 seabird species found on the islands, five are not known to breed outside the World Heritage site. In addition to six million nesting shearwaters on Snares Island, major populations of 10 of the world's 24 species of albatross are found on the islands, including the world's largest colony of royal albatross with 14,000 breeding pairs.

Golden Mountains. The Golden Mountains of Altai in the Altai Republic of southern Siberia form the watershed between Central Asia and the Arctic Ocean. With more than 1.5 million hectares of lakes, mountain taiga, alpine meadows, high altitude tundra and steppe, this new World Heritage area is a center of plant diversity which has played a key role in the evolution of the vegetation of Central Asia.

The area is also important as habitat for the globally endangered snow leopard acting as a core area linking snow leopard populations in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and southern Siberia.

East Rennell. The East Rennell World Heritage site covers one-third of the largest raised atoll in the world as well as the adjacent marine area. Lake Tegano, the largest lake in the insular Pacific, is a major feature of the island. Its brackish waters host an endemic banded sea snake as well as endemic algae and diatom species. Relatively undisturbed forest, showing special adaptations to frequent cyclonic storms, covers much of the island.

"The addition of East Rennell to the World Heritage list is significant, since it is the first natural site to be inscribed on the list with no official protected status," comments Jim Thorsell, who as the Union's Senior Adviser for World Heritage carried out the site evaluations for IUCN. "The area is under the customary ownership of its 800 inhabitants who are in favor of continuing current sustainable use practices." IUCN World Conservation, 01/99



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