Newsletter 2022-12-08 – Mongabay.com

Shark-fishing gear banned across much of Pacific in conservation ‘win’ by Philip Jacobson — December 8, 2022

 
– The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has adopted a ban on shark lines and wire leaders, both of which aid industrial-scale fishers in targeting sharks.
– Shark numbers in the open ocean have dropped by roughly 71% in the past 50 years.
– The new measure is considered a potentially precedent-setting win for conservationists who hope other regions will adopt similar bans.
Podcast: True eco-crime in the U.K., ‘Into the Wasteland’ part 1 by Mongabay.com — December 6, 2022
 
– In a three-part, ‘true eco-crime’ series for Mongabay’s podcast, investigative journalists trace England’s towering illegal waste problem.
– The country is facing a mountain of waste problems, but ‘fly-tipping’ might not be one you’ve heard of: it’s the clandestine, illegal dumping of household and business waste, even dead animals, in the countryside.
– In a country that throws away more plastic per person than anywhere else in the world, fly-tipping has become a much more serious – and dangerous – problem lately, with the involvement of criminal elements seeking easy profit.
– On this episode, a mild-mannered English IT professional shares how he’s gone to great lengths — and has had to run for his life — for exposing the people behind the rubbishing of the country’s farms, fields, and public spaces.
Whistleblower: Enviva claim of ‘being good for the planet… all nonsense’ by Justin Catanoso — December 5, 2022
 
– Enviva is the largest maker of wood pellets burned for energy in the world. The company has, from its inception, touted its green credentials.
– It says it doesn’t use big, whole trees, but only uses wood waste, “tops, limbs, thinnings, and/or low-value smaller trees” in the production of woody biomass burned in former coal power plants in the U.K., EU and Asia. It says it only sources wood from areas where trees will be regrown, and that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation.
– However, in first-ever interviews with a whistleblower who worked within Enviva plant management, Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso has been told that all of these Enviva claims are false. In addition, a major recent scientific study finds that Enviva is contributing to deforestation in the U.S. Southeast.
– Statements by the whistleblower have been confirmed by Mongabay’s own observations at a November 2022 forest clear-cut in North Carolina, and by NGO photo documentation. These findings are especially important now, as the EU considers the future of forest biomass burning as a “sustainable” form of renewable energy.
Rare, critically endangered gecko making dramatic recovery in Caribbean by Maxwell Radwin — December 2, 2022
 
– The Union Island gecko (Gonatodes daudini), known for its jewel-like markings, has seen its population grow from around 10,000 in 2018 to around 18,000 today — an increase of 80%.
– The gecko’s wild population had shrunk to one-fifth its size after becoming a target for exotic pet collectors.
– Fauna & Flora International, Re:Wild and local partners like Union Island Environmental Alliance and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Forestry Department to develop a species recovery plan that included greater protected area management and expansion.
Photos: Newcomer farmers in Brazil embrace bees, agroforestry and find success by Inaê Guion — December 2, 2022
 
– New female farmers that are part of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) are embracing beekeeping and agroforestry on land that was previously unproductive and worn out by pesticides and fertilizers.
– The workers’ movement seeks to rectify land inequality by helping families occupy, settle and farm on land throughout the country.
– People are initially given unproductive land and are taught agroecological techniques based on organic and regenerative farming.
– In the past five years since they started tending to the land, the new beekeepers and farmers say there have been improvements in soil quality, reduced soil erosion and higher bird and native bee diversity in the region.
‘It was a shark operation’: Q&A with Indonesian crew abused on Chinese shark-finning boat by Philip Jacobson and Basten Gokkon — December 2, 2022
 
– Rusnata was one of more than 150 Indonesian deckhands repatriated from the various vessels operated by China’s Dalian Ocean Fishing in 2020.
– Previous reporting by Mongabay revealed widespread and systematic abuses suffered by workers across the DOF fleet, culminating in the deaths of at least seven Indonesian crew members.
– In a series of interviews with Mongabay, Rusnata described his own ordeal in detail, including confirming reports that DOF tuna-fishing vessels were deliberately going after sharks and finning the animals.
– He also describes a lack of care for the Indonesian workers by virtually everyone who knew of their plight, from the Indonesian agents who recruited them to port officials in China.
Podcast: How reporters uncovered a massive illegal shark finning operation by Mike Gaworecki — December 1, 2022
 
– Podcast host Mike G. speaks with Mongabay reporters who conducted recent investigations revealing a major and illegal shark finning operation by one of China’s largest fishing fleets, and the involvement of a major Japanese company, Mitsubishi, in buying that fleet’s products.
– Through an exhaustive interview process with deckhands who worked throughout the company’s fleet, the team showed that Dalian Ocean Fishing deliberately used banned gear to target sharks across a huge swath of the western Pacific Ocean.
– The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is currently meeting to discuss policies that would crack down even further on use of this gear, and we speak with Phil Jacobson who is there covering the event.
– We also speak with Japan-based reporter Annelise Giseburt who was able to verify that the illegal operation benefited greatly from selling a massive share of its tuna catch to the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi.
 
As waste-to-energy incinerators spread in Southeast Asia, so do concerns by Nicha Wachpanich and Nithin Coca — December 8, 2022
– Widely in use in countries including Japan, South Korea and northern Europe, waste-to-energy technology is making inroads in Southeast Asia, where it’s presented as a tried-and-tested green energy solution.
– Thailand plans to build 79 waste-to-energy plants in upcoming years, and there are at least 17 proposed for Indonesia.
– Concerns about environmental and public health impacts have already led to protests and project delays.
– In Europe, the technology’s climate-friendly credentials are being called into question, with several countries imposing or considering carbon taxes on waste-to-energy facilities.

As EU finalizes renewable energy plan, forest advocates condemn biomass by Justin Catanoso — December 7, 2022
– The EU hopes to finalize its revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED) soon, even as forest advocates urge last minute changes to significantly cut the use of woody biomass for energy and make deep reductions in EU subsidies to the wood pellet industry.
– Forest advocates are citing a new commentary published in Nature that argues that the EU’s continued expansive commitment to burning forest biomass for energy will endanger forests in the EU, the U.S. and elsewhere — resulting in a major loss in global carbon storage and biodiversity.
– Changing RED to meet forest advocate recommendations seems unlikely at this point, with some policymakers arguing that woody biomass use is the only way the EU can achieve its 2030 coal reduction target. The woody biomass industry is pressing for sustained biomass use and for continued subsidies.
– Russia’s threat of reducing or cutting off its supply of natural gas to the EU this winter is also at issue. In the EU today, 60% of energy classified as renewable comes from burning biomass. If RED is approved as drafted, bioenergy use is projected to double between 2015 and 2050, according to the just published Nature commentary.
Melting ice created the perfect storm for a rapidly acidifying Arctic Ocean by Luis Melecio-Zambrano — December 7, 2022
– The Arctic Ocean has grown more acidic at a surprising rate in recent years, three times faster than the rest of the global ocean.
– Melting sea ice has exposed the top level of the Arctic Ocean to air rich with carbon dioxide, creating a layer that sopped up carbon from the atmosphere.
– Increased acidity may hamper the ability of marine organisms to build their shells, causing ripple effects through the Arctic food web.
‘Amazing first step’ as EU law cracks down on deforestation-linked imports by Hans Nicholas Jong — December 7, 2022
– The European Union has agreed to adopt a law that will ban the trade of commodities associated with deforestation and forest degradation.
– The law will be the first of its kind in the world, and aims to tackle deforestation caused by the EU’s consumption of various agricultural commodities that are the main drivers of global forest loss, including palm oil, cattle, rubber, soy and cocoa.
– Green groups have lauded the law, but say it falls short on several key points, including failing to protect other wooded ecosystems like savannas, and providing limited rights protection for Indigenous peoples.
Indonesian authorities nip island auction in marine reserve in the bud by Basten Gokkon and Mahmud Ichi — December 7, 2022
– Indonesian officials have sought to neuter an apparent bid to auction off private tourism enclaves to foreign investors in a marine reserve in the country’s east.
– Shares of Bali-based developer PT Leadership Islands Indonesia (LII) had been up for bidding via Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions in New York from Dec. 8-14, but the deputy environment minister said this had now been annulled.
– LII holds the rights to develop tourism facilities in the Widi Islands, but not to sell off individual islands to foreign investors, which is against Indonesian law.
– The Widi Islands are part of a marine reserve in the Pacific Coral Triangle, and while most of the islands are uninhabited, they hold high social, cultural and livelihood importance for local fishing communities.
In Patagonia, a puma’s life is decided by political borders by Ryan Biller — December 7, 2022
– Human-wildlife conflict has caused a decline in the puma population in parts of Argentinian Patagonia, research shows.
– One of Patagonia’s emblematic species, the puma is treated very differently by Argentina and Chile, the two countries that share the region.
– The Argentinian province of Chubut pays a puma bounty to incentivize the hunting of pumas, as a measure to counter livestock killings.
– Chile has outlawed puma hunting and has found a delicate balance between ranching and conservation.
Scientists plead for protection of peatlands, the world’s carbon capsules by John Cannon — December 7, 2022
– As the United Nations Biodiversity Conference begins, a group of researchers from more than a dozen countries are calling for worldwide peatland protection and restoration for the protection of species and because of the vast amounts of carbon they contain.
– In a signed statement released Dec. 1, more than 40 scientists note that peatlands contain twice as much carbon as is found in all the world’s forests.
– As long as peatlands remain waterlogged, that carbon will stay in the soil; but if they’re degraded or drained, as around 12% of the world’s peatlands have been, they quickly become a source of atmospheric carbon.
– The scientists are asking for a more prominent role in international negotiations to address climate change and species’ global loss.
No justice for Indigenous community taking on a Cambodian rubber baron by Gerald Flynn and Vutha Srey — December 7, 2022
– A land dispute that has simmered for a decade pits an Indigenous community inside the Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary against a politically well-connected rubber company.
– The company, Sambath Platinum, cut off the Indigenous Kuy residents of the village of Ngon from the forests from which they have gathered herbs and medicinal plants for generations.
– The community have followed all the procedures to obtain a communal land title, but continue to be stonewalled by various government ministries, but now face questionable criminal charges.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.
Human justice element is key to stemming biodiversity loss, study says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — December 6, 2022
– In a new paper, a team of scientists argue that efforts to halt biodiversity loss and aid recovery must strive to put both nature and people on a positive path forward.
– According to the scientists, this can be done by confronting the main drivers of biodiversity loss; addressing inequities between low-income and high-income countries; acknowledging unrealistic goals and timelines for conservation actions; and combining area-based conservation efforts with justice measures.
– The paper’s release precedes the start of the COP15 summit of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), where government representatives, scientists and activists will discuss the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
– COP15 is set to begin on Dec. 7 in Montreal, with the aim of getting humans to live in harmony with nature by 2050.
New criminal code rings alarms for environmental protection in Indonesia by Basten Gokkon — December 6, 2022
– Indonesia has passed an overhauled criminal code that experts and activists say will weaken environmental protections and make it easier to persecute environmental defenders.
– Among the controversial provisions in the heavily criticized bill: an exemption from prosecution for companies that violate environmental laws; reduced punishment and the choice to pick a fine over a jail sentence for convicted violators; and a higher burden of proof for environmental crimes.
– It could also be used to prosecute environmental defenders who protest public works projects, on the pretext of insulting the president.
– The new code will not go into full effect until 2025, giving opponents time to challenge it at the Constitutional Court.
Population cycles explain white-lipped peccary’s ups and downs, study shows by Mark Hillsdon — December 6, 2022
– A new study attributes the regular disappearance of white-lipped peccaries in South America to natural population cycles.
– White-lipped peccaries are a keystone species and ecosystem engineers whose absence can have a detrimental effect on tropical forest health.
– Using scientific research, historical records and Indigenous lore, researchers have discovered regular boom and bust population cycles, often synchronized over huge areas.
– The researchers believe these cycles are caused by peccary populations outgrowing their habitat and warn that the species requires large expanses of intact forest to survive and thrive.
Indigenous peoples and communities drive climate finance reform by John Cannon — December 6, 2022
– At COP26, the United Nations climate conference in 2021, 22 philanthropies and governments pledged $1.7 billion to support Indigenous and community forest tenure as a way to address climate change, but a recent annual report reveals that only 7% of the funds disbursed in the pledge’s first year went directly to Indigenous and community organizations.
– In response to an overall trend in which little climate-related aid goes directly to these organizations, they have banded together to develop funding mechanisms to which big donors can contribute. These organizations then control the distribution of money to smaller organizations, allowing more control over which priorities are funded.
– In support of these efforts, the U.S.-based Climate and Land Use Alliance, which is a collective of several private foundations, is working with a broader group of philanthropic climate donors to develop “a ‘plumbing’ system for this finance” through the Forests, People, Climate Collaborative.
– Indigenous leaders say more money overall is needed to protect forests and help to mitigate the effects of climate change, but the 2021 pledge has opened the door to finding ways to involve Indigenous and community organizations in how funds are spent.
Climate damage from Bitcoin mining grew more than 125 times worse in just five years by Sean Cummings — December 5, 2022
– The negative climate impacts of mining the cryptocurrency Bitcoin have grown rapidly over time, with carbon emissions per coin multiplying 126 times from 2016 to 2021.
– During that window, the climate damage of mining one Bitcoin averaged 35% of a coin’s value, similar to the environmental costs of unsustainable products like crude oil and beef.
– Reducing Bitcoin’s massive carbon footprint may require international regulation unless the cryptocurrency shifts to a more energy-efficient mining system.
Mangrove photo contest winners reveal majesty & diversity of coastal forests by Erik Hoffner — December 5, 2022
– From a grinning crocodile to human honey gatherers who make a living among the trees, the 8th annual Mangrove Photography Awards winners display a great range of activity and biodiversity among these coastal forests.
– The contest attracted 2,000 submissions from 68 countries, and the judges ultimately selected a set of winners who revealed aspects of mangroves from all corners of the planet.
– Mangroves are marine forests that adorn tropical coasts and are one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems.
– These forests also play crucial roles in protecting coastlines from erosion and providing communities with resources from food to firewood, and are one of the world’s most effective carbon sinks.
Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for December 2022 by Mongabay.com — December 5, 2022
– Mongabay’s videos from November covered how land grabbing and pollution alike are affecting Indigenous and local communities in Brazil, India, Nigeria and the Amazon.
– Watch how wildlife in India’s Kashmir, America’s Montana, and a park in Brazil are influenced by human action, both positively and negatively.
– Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.
Indigenous Knowledge guides the conservation of culturally important plants by Roxanne Hoorn — December 5, 2022
– The Karuk Tribe in northern California has traditionally managed plants for food, fiber, and medicine, but decades of fire suppression and climate change are threatening culturally important species.
– Researchers partnered with Karuk Tribe land stewards to understand how fire suppression and drought have affected the quality of four plants central to their food security and culture.
– In this long-term collaborative study, Indigenous Knowledge expands on western science methods, assessing the ecological health of plants and their cultural usefulness.
Green and gossamer, and not gone: A Sri Lankan dragonfly flits back to life by Dilrukshi Handunnetti — December 3, 2022
– Sri Lankan researchers have rediscovered an endemic dragonfly species that was last seen in 1970 and thought to be extinct.
– Macromia flinti was described more than half a century ago based on a single male specimen; in their surveys in Sri Lanka’s central foothills, researchers encountered a live female of the species, and observed other male specimens, also live.
– Their observations suggest the species has a wider range than previously thought, and could lead to an improvement in the dragonfly’s conservation status from the current category of critically endangered.
– But they note there’s still more research to be done, as well as conservation of the unprotected freshwater habitats that M. flinti appears to favor.
Indigenous communities in Peru ‘living in fear’ due to deforestation, drug trafficking by Yvette Sierra Praeli — December 2, 2022
– Between 2021 and 2021 the territory of the Indigenous Kakataibo community of Puerto Nuevo lost 15% of its tree cover.
– Satellite data suggest forest loss in the community territory may have accelerated in 2022.
– Residents say outsiders are invading the territory and clearing forest to grow coca crops for the production of cocaine.
– The presence of armed groups is deterring government intervention.
Some tree-dwelling primates may adapt more easily to life on the ground, massive study shows by Elise Overgaard — December 2, 2022
– As deforestation and climate change alter rainforest habitats, monkeys and lemurs that normally live in trees are risking encounters with predators to spend time on the ground.
– Species with diverse diets, smaller body masses, and larger group sizes may adjust to terrestrial life more successfully than others.
– The huge international study drew from more than 150,000 hours of observations of 47 species in Madagascar and Central and South America.
Despite 11% drop in 2022, Amazon deforestation rate has soared under Bolsonaro by Karla Mendes — December 2, 2022
– An area equivalent to the size of Qatar was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, according to data from the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE).
– Although the figure represents an 11.27% decrease in the Amazon annual deforestation rate compared with the prior year, the government of President Bolsonaro still accounts for the most Amazon destruction in the last 34 years, environmentalists say.
– Bolsonaro’s four-year term ends with a 59.5% boom in Amazon deforestation rates, the highest in a presidential term since 1988, when measurements by satellite imagery began.
– INPE’s report, dated Nov. 3 but only released 27 days later, also triggered criticism among environmentalists, who accused the Bolsonaro’s administration of omitting the annual deforestation data until the end of the UN conference on climate change, COP27, held Nov. 6-20 in Egypt.
To replace Western food imports, Cameroon gives community lands to ‘no-name’ agro-industry by Yannick Kenné — December 1, 2022
– The Cameroonian government has allocated 95,000 hectares of land – three times the size of Cameroon’s capital – to the company Tawfiq Agro Industry, to develop an agro-industrial facility aimed at reducing expensive Western food imports.
– This immediately drew backlash from local communities and farmers, who would lose their lands in the process and have not seen an environmental and social management plan.
– The State plans to reconsider the amount of land granted to the company, and will ensure any impact on communities is mitigated, a state representative unofficially tells Mongabay. This promise is not written in official documents and has not been shared with locals.
– Tawfiq highlights the project’s economic potential, whose overall investment of an estimated $150 million (100 billion CFA francs) over 10 years should generate 7,500 direct and 15,000 indirect jobs.
‘Europe’s rarest fish’ numbers spawn hopes for species’ survival by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — December 1, 2022
– The asprete, a rare freshwater fish found in Romania, was once considered extinct after dam construction destroyed much of its habitat.
– The fish’s existence was confirmed by surveys conducted in the last 50 years but only a few were thought to survive in Romania’s Vâlsan River. In 2020, an official estimate suggested only 7 to 10 individuals remained.
– However, a 2022 survey expedition found 58 specimens across a 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) stretch of the river, raising hopes that the species could be saved from extinction.
– Experts say conservation efforts, as well as more robust survey attempts, led to the higher population count.
EU’s winter energy crisis intensifies pressure on forests (commentary) by Martin Pigeon — December 1, 2022
– An energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine is intensifying pressure on Europe’s already besieged forests.
– Faced with having to choose whether to heat or eat, demand for firewood has surged as people return to this pre-industrial means of survival to get them through the coming winter. Big companies who burn wood for energy have also been lobbying policymakers to support their industry in the face of fossil fuel shortages.
– “Instead of pumping billions of euros of taxpayers’ money every year into burning biomass…financial support should be redirected towards policies which work: for people, for forests and our climate,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Work on cable car line to Indonesian volcano to begin despite concerns by Basten Gokkon — December 1, 2022
– Construction will begin this month on a cable car line to Mount Rinjani on the Indonesian island of Lombok, a UNESCO-listed geopark.
– Environmental activists have expressed concern about the project, noting that local authorities have still not published the environmental impact analysis and feasibility study for public review.
– Authorities insist the cable car line won’t cross into Mount Rinjani National Park, and have touted a series of measures to minimize the environmental impact.
 
 


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