Fish Population At Record Lows

By Reuters 2015-09-16 15:57:40

The amount of fish in the oceans has halved since 1970, in a plunge to the “brink of collapse” caused by over-fishing and other threats, the WWF conservation group said on Wednesday.

Populations of some commercial fish stocks, such as a group including tuna, mackerel and bonito, had fallen by almost 75 percent, according to a study by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, told Reuters mismanagement was pushing “the ocean to the brink of collapse”.

“There is a massive, massive decrease in species which are critical”, both for the ocean ecosystem and food security for billions of people, he said. “The ocean is resilient but there is a limit.”

The report said populations of fish, marine mammals, birds and reptiles had fallen 49 percent between 1970 and 2012. For fish alone, the decline was 50 percent.

The analysis said it tracked 5,829 populations of 1,234 species, such as seals, turtles and dolphins and sharks. It said the ZSL data sets were almost twice as large as past studies.

“This report suggests that billions of animals have been lost from the world’s oceans in my lifetime alone,” Ken Norris, director of science at the ZSL, said in a statement. “This is a terrible and dangerous legacy to leave to our grandchildren.”

Damage to coral reefs and mangroves, which are nurseries for many fish, add to problems led by over-fishing. Other threats include coastal development, pollution and climate change, which is raising temperatures and making waters more acidic.

The study said the world’s fishing fleets were too big and supported by subsidies totaling $14-35 billion a year.

Later this month, governments are due to adopt new U.N. sustainable development goals, including ending over-fishing and destructive fishing practices by 2020 and restoring stocks “in the shortest time feasible”.

Closing fishing grounds and cracking down on illegal fishing gives stocks a chance to recover, Lambertini said. Some grounds, such as those off Fiji, have been revived by stronger protection.

World marine fish catches dipped to 79.7 million tonnes in 2012 from 82.6 million in 2011, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Safeguarding the oceans can help economic growth, curb poverty and raise food security, it says.


Singapore to Add LNG to Bunker Services

By MarEx 2015-09-16 14:16:00

Singapore is already the maritime industry’s largest fuel bunkering hub, but it is now strategically positioning itself to become a leading LNG trading center as well. Pavilion Energy, which is state owned, said that it will be providing LNG bunkering services in Singapore.

The small-scale LNG market is gaining momentum in Southeast Asia as it is a cost-effective solution for transporting natural gas to users, which are not connected to pipeline grids or in remote locations. Small-scale LNG tanker solutions can cut capital expenditure investment down by about 25 percent compared to conventional methods.

While, there are no LNG-fueled vessels in Southeast Asia, Pavilion said that by establishing LNG bunkering services it will encourage regional and international operators to use LNG-powered vessels. Singapore sells over 42 million metric tons of bunker fuel each year to vessels calling the port.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) began soliciting Requests for Proposal (RFP) for LNG bunkering licenses in late July with a September 30th deadline for submission. Approved applicants can begin LNG bunkering services as early as January 2017.


Indian Ocean Piracy Suppressed

By MarEx 2015-09-16 11:34:17

EU Navfor, BIMCO and NATO were unanimous in their opinion that piracy in the Indian Ocean is suppressed but not eradicated. The combination of measures – Best Management Practice 4 (BMP4), Armed Security Teams and a heightened naval presence – are proving effective at ensuring the pirate investors regard the risk to reward ratio as not in their favour.

They were keen to emphasize however, that the measures work in unison, and that any relaxation of armed guarding, BMP4 or the naval patrols may result in a return to piracy by the Somalis. The military believe probing attacks are being conducted to test defenses and these are occurring mainly in the Gulf of Aden. The conditions ashore have not changed and capacity building has, so far, been totally ineffective. Illegal fishing has re-emerged as a significant challenge and two Iranian fishing dhows have been hijacked in last three months.

Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of leading maritime security firm MAST, said in a statement earlier this week that “the current security framework is working, but it remains extremely fragile and dependent on international navies maintaining a presence in the Indian Ocean, BMP4 being diligently applied, and for at least the majority of vessels to be protected by armed guards.”

He warned that there is an increased risk with convicted pirates being released and returning to their homes in Somalia, reportedly seeking work as armed guards in ocean going fishing vessels. “This is a potentially risky situation. It is not a big step from providing security on a fishing vessel to taking the vessel hostage and using it as a pirate mothership,” he said.

South East Asia

With the recent increase in piracy activity in SE Asian waters, the Malaysian authorities are keen to demonstrate they are taking pro-active measures to prevent it. Armed guards were discussed as a potential solution but given the legal complexities, with vessels passing through different states territorial waters, to be effective, an agreement would need to include the Indonesians and Singaporeans.

A modified version of Best Management Practices (BMP) tailored to SE Asia is due out soon.

Northwood said: “It can take time before armed guards on ships in SE Asia become an effective measure, but this is a move in the right direction. Our advice is that all vessels should be putting in place the appropriate risk assessed security measures.”

He added: “When making the risk assessment, factors to be taken into account include the physical attributes of the vessel (speed, freeboard, access points etc.), cargo and routing. Ideally the measures to be put in place should be from a menu of options, including crew training, access to a citadel, and other BMP4 passive measures where possible.”

Gulf of Guinea

The Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG) has been established in Ghana as the equivalent of the Indian Ocean’s UKMTO.

Under reporting is a significant issue in the Gulf of Guinea as the authorities are not keen on the publicity it generates.


China Continued Reclamation Projects

By Reuters 2015-09-16 09:39:16

China was carrying out land reclamation in contested waters of the South China Sea this month, more than four weeks after saying it had stopped such activity, a U.S. expert said on Tuesday, citing recent satellite images.

The evidence of continued dredging in the Spratly archipelago could complicate a visit to the United States by Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, when U.S. concerns about China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia are expected to be high on the agenda.

Bonnie Glaser, of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, said images taken in early September showed dredging activity at both Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratlys.

The dredgers at Subi could be seen pumping sediment on to areas bordered by recently built sea walls and widening the channel for ships to enter waters enclosed by the reef.

At Mischief Reef, a dredger was expanding a channel to enable easier access for ships, possibly for use as a naval base, Glaser said.

On Aug. 5, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China had halted land reclamation in the sea.

Speaking in Beijing on Wednesday, Wang did not address the issue of whether reclamation had ended or was going on, but said “necessary” construction work was to improve conditions on the islands.

“The Nansha islands are China’s territory. In this regard, China possesses ample historical and legal basis,” Wang said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.

Glaser said China’s activity appeared to be focused on construction for military use.

Images of Fiery Cross Reef showed a completed and freshly painted 3,000 meter runway, helipads, a radar dome, a surveillance tower and possible satellite communication facilities, she said.

Security experts say a 3,000 meter strip would be able to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft.

Glaser said China’s apparent preparations to build similar airstrips on Subi and Mischief Reefs raised questions about whether it would challenge freedom of navigation in the air and sea in future.

“The persistence of dredging, along with construction and militarization on China’s artificial islands, underscore Beijing’s unwillingness to exercise self-restraint and look for diplomatic paths to reduce tensions,” she said.

“On the eve of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States, Beijing appears to be sending a message to President Barack Obama that China is determined to advance its interests in the South China Sea even if doing so results in heightened tensions with the United States.”

On Monday, Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), which obtained the images, said three airstrips in the Spratlys would allow China to threaten all air traffic over features it has reclaimed there.