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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
November, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 11

Coastal Alert





Fight vs prawn disease intensified
Coral 'smuggler' indicted in US
Dwindling forests may be Asia's next crisis - World Bank
Cebu: Shipmetal dumping site?
Government bans mangrove conversion
Factories closed for polluting lake
Water on the Moon?

Fight vs prawn disease intensified
Scientists at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) in Tigbauan, Iloilo are stepping up efforts to find both short-term and long-term solutions for the disease problems that continually plague the prawn industry.

"We have embarked on several projects to address the industry’s problems," said Dr. RolandoR. Platon, chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Center. These include a shrimp breeding program that aims to develop disease-resistant and fast-growing prawn stocks and ensure the availability of a prawn family line that will breed strong and disease-resistant offspring. If the project succeeds, prawn broodstock will no longer have to be taken from the wild.

Another project is the reengineering of prawn farms into zero-waste systems. SEAFDEC scientists are studying farm management systems that will include all the elements of waste treatment, such as the proper use of reservoir, biomanipulation of reservoir and growout ponds using tilapia and milkfish, bioaugmentation in growout ponds using microbial inoculants and probiotics, use of sludge collectors, and use of biological filters such as seaweeds, mussels and oysters.

Platon said the Center will eventually recommend a prawn farm design and operations that will have zero adverse impact on the environment.

Worldwide, 693,000 tons of prawn valued at $7 billion were produced in 1996, and 75% of these came from Asia. But prawn-producing countries are experiencing production failures because of diseases caused by the destruction of the pond environment and its surroundings. R. Fernandez in Manila Bulletin, 11.14.98

Coral ‘smuggler’ indicted in US
A gift shop owner from the United States and an exporter from the Philippines have been accused of conspiring to smuggle protected corals and seashells.

A US grand jury returned a six-count indictment last November 12 charging Petros "Pete" Leventis, a Florida importer, and Esther T. Flores, a Philippine exporter, in a scheme using false declarations, invoices and other shipping documents to smuggle protected corals and shells into the United States.

US inspectors were suspicious when a shipment of 400 packages of the unusual goods arrived in Tampa in July 1997. The shipment sparked an investigation that prosecutors say uncovered an illegal arrangement to bring internationally protected coral and seashells from the Philippines to Florida to sell on the black market.

From 1991 to 1997, Leventis, owner of Greek Island Imports, a gift shop in Tarpon Springs, and Flores, owner of Esther Enterprises in Cebu City, shipped the rare species into the United States by mislabeling boxes and writing false invoices, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Prosecutors said the two conspired to violate the Endangered Species Act. The charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. AP in Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11.15.98

Dwindling forests may be Asia’s next crisis – World Bank
If not immediately reversed, the rapid depletion of Asia’s forests may be the region’s second economic crisis, the World Bank warns. Environmental scientists estimate that Asia has lost $5.6 billion or 2.5% of its combined total annual gross domestic product to forest fires, which have caused serious environmental problems in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. These forest fires have been traced to slash and burn farming by poor villagers when the region suffered an economic slump at the height of the last El Nino.

Among Southeast Asian countries, only the Philippines recorded an expansion of its forest cover, which increased by almost two million hectares since 1990. Such increase was confirmed by satellite data provided by Japan Technical Assistance on Forestry and the German National Forestry Research Institute, and validated by the World Bank report.

The World Bank urged Asian countries to focus on sustainable natural resource use, especially in the face of the current economic crisis and the increasing reliance of an increasing number of people on the forests. A return to subsistence slash and burn farming in Asia would threaten the long-term economic growth of many of the region’s resource-based economies. P. Arias in Manila Bulletin, 11.25.98

Cebu: Shipmetal dumping site?
Highly polluting shipbreaking activities in Cebu are turning the province into a huge dumpsite for hazardous waste, a Philippine legislator warned.

"In the guise of recycling, the shipbreakers have allegedly practically imported hazardous waste from Japan for dumping in the Philippines. This violates Republic Act 6969, which bans the entry of hazardous wastes into the country, and the Basel Convention, which bans industrialized countries from exporting hazardous wastes to less developed countries," Sen. Robert Jaworski, who sits in the Philippine Senate’s committee on health, said.

"Environment officials will have to explain how Kamabara and Aboitiz Metals, Tsuneishi Heavy Industries, and the FBM Aboitiz Marine Corporation were able to secure Environmental Compliance Certificates without the benefit of a single public hearing," he added.

The firms operate in the West Cebu Industrial Park, importing old ships from Japan and breaking them down for conversion to steel products. "Even if they were brought here to be recycled, these ships are strictly considered hazardous because the polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos, waste oil, cadmium, lead, and mercury that are released when they are broken down poison the environment," the Senator said. A test conducted in July last year showed that workers and the marine environment in the facility are exposed to high concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals.

Jaworski also warned about the threats that the shipbreakers’ operations pose to the province’s food security – ricelands, mountains and mangroves were converted, levelled off or clear-cut to lay the ground for the shipbreaking activities. Manila Bulletin, 11.25.98

Government bans mangrove conversion
The Philippine government has banned the conversion of mangrove swamps into fish farms and prawn farms to halt environmental damage. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Antonio Cerilles said the continued granting of permits to covert mangrove forests into commercial fish and prawn farms has resulted in the depletion of the country’s mangroves.

Mangrove swamps are ecologically important because they are home for young fish and shrimp. The roots of mangrove trees also are effective in slowing the erosion of coastlands and act as a water purifier.

Philippine environment officials estimate that about 3,000 hectares of Philippine mangroves are destroyed annually. In 1918, the country had an estimated 500,000 hectares of mangrove forests. In 1994, the mangrove area had declined to 74,268 hectares.

Cerilles said he has issued directiives to all environment offices to report to him the condition of the country’s remaining mangrove forests. He said damaged mangroves will be rehabilitated. AP in Manila Bulletin, 11.25.98

Factories closed for polluting lake
The Laguna Lake Development Authority padlocked on November 25 the Chowking Food Corporation’s main commissary and the candy factory of Van Melle Philippines for dumping wastes into the lake. The LLDA said Chowking’s commissary in Magdaong Drive, Muntinlupa, failed to pass effluent parameters for its wastewater. The company was issued an order to improve its wastewater treatment in September 1996 in order to meet the "Class C" standard (water quality suitable for fishery).

Van Melle, manufacturer of Mentos and Fruitella, also failed to conform with the Class C standard set by the LLDA. For a company to get LLDA clearance, the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of its wastewater should not exceed 50 milligrams per liter. Chowking’s was placed at 954 mg per liter; Van Melle’s was at 1,013 mg per liter.

The LLDA said the closure of the two companies "is necessary to stop their contribution to the continuing degradation of Laguna de Bay."

Water on the Moon?
As much as 10 billion metric tons of water may be frozen in soil near the moon’s poles, new data from a spacecraft orbiting the moon indicate. If that much water is there – more than 10 times previous estimates – it might one day be enough to build a moon village or to fuel rocket ships cruising even deeper into space, experts say.

"Our data is very clear – there is an abundance of hydrogen at both lunar poles, and we interpret that to mean there is water there," said Alan Binder, chief scientist for the Lunar Prospector spacecraft now orbiting the moon. "There is at least one billion tons of water, but there could be as much as 10 billion tons."

That, said Binder, is enough to build a colony on the moon’s surface and to operate a rocket service station for journeys beyond. The deposits of water or hydrogen are "an enabling resource," he explained. "You could build a colony without it, but this really makes it a lot simpler." In addition to sustaining life in such a colony, water can also be used for rocket fuel by breaking it into its constituent chemicals – hydrogen and oxygen. AP in Manila Bulletin. 11.15.98




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