Newsletter 2022-11-10


How Mitsubishi vacuumed up tuna from a rogue Chinese fishing fleet by Annelise Giseburt — November 10, 2022


– Last week, Mongabay revealed a massive illegal shark finning operation across the fleet of a major Chinese tuna fishing firm.
– The company, Dalian Ocean Fishing, mainly serves the Japanese market. Most of its tuna has gone to Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and its seafood trading arm, Toyo Reizo.
– While the general outlines of their partnership are well-documented, tracing specific tuna flows from individual fishing boats to Mitsubishi’s supply chain is impeded by the murky nature of the supply chain.
– Experts say this lack of transparency must be solved in order to prevent illegal fishing and labor abuses at sea.

Mercury rising: Why Bolivia remains South America’s hub for the toxic trade by Maxwell Radwin — November 8, 2022


– Bolivia is one of the few countries in South America yet to ban the import of the toxic chemical mercury, facilitating its use in illegal mining throughout the region.
– An October U.N. report highlighted Bolivia’s high rate of mercury imports and the need to regulate the distribution and use of the chemical, which has polluted entire watersheds in the country and poisoned animals and Indigenous communities alike.
– Some Bolivian government officials have called for a ban on the import of mercury and better controls on mining operations, many of which run without permits or government oversight.

Did climate change really kill billions of snow crabs in Alaska? by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 7, 2022


– In October 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the lucrative snow crab fishery in the Bering Sea would close for the first time, following a population decline of 80% between 2018 and 2022.
– While fisheries managers and biologists say climate change is to blame for the species’ retreat, some fishers and crab experts suggest that trawling bycatch and other fishing activity may have played a role in the snow crab’s decline.
– The fishery’s closure has amplified a chorus of concerns about Alaska’s trawling industry and the knowledge gaps around its potential impact on fisheries.


Let’s use smart tech solutions to deal with climate change, too (commentary) by Ariel Stern — November 10, 2022
– A major solution to fix aging infrastructure to adapt to climate change realities is building smarter – not bigger.
– When it comes to choosing the right technology to implement, we should look for solutions that offer monitoring, alerting, and reporting capabilities in a secure manner.
– “Smart solutions promise a brand new world in which climate change can be mitigated by the collective [by] capturing real-time data from energy, water and waste utilities, municipalities and organizations [to] find and implement solutions that alleviate climate change-related problems,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

EU ‘moving the goal posts’ with new timber requirement, Indonesia says by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 10, 2022
– In 2011, Indonesia began the process of ensuring that its timber exports to the European Union met strict legality verification standards, which the EU duly recognized in 2016.
– Now, a new bill threatens to undermine this progress by revoking the “green lane” access for imports of Indonesian timber and subjecting them to addition checks for deforestation links.
– “You can’t suddenly change your mind by saying ‘I’m not willing to accept [Indonesian timber products] because they’re not sustainable enough,’” says Arif Havas Oegroseno, the Indonesian ambassador to Germany.
– The official adds that Indonesia is willing to take the matter to the World Trade Organization — a move that other tropical forest countries, including Brazil and Ghana, have also hinted at.

Rat killers in paradise: An eradication program remakes a tropical atoll by David Helvarg — November 10, 2022
– Like many islands around the world, Tetiaroa Atoll in French Polynesia has been overrun by rats and other invasive species that profoundly affect its terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
– In July, the paradisiacal 12-island atoll was declared rat-free after years of concerted efforts to wipe out the predators.
– Scientists have been studying the atoll’s plants, seabirds, insects, lizards, crabs, coral and algae, establishing a uniquely comprehensive ecological baseline to better understand how the rat eradication will affect the atoll — and others like it.

More than half of palm species may be threatened with extinction, study finds by Liz Kimbrough — November 9, 2022
– Using novel machine-learning techniques, researchers found that of the 1,889 species of palms with enough data to investigate, more than half (56%) may be threatened with extinction.
– Researchers hope that the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, paired with data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, can speed up preliminary evaluations of a species’ conservation status, reduce costs, and avoid bias toward vertebrate animals.
– The study found that nearly half of the functionally distinct species were threatened, as well as nearly one-third of species used by humans (at least 185 palm species). The study also identified high-priority regions for palm conservation including Borneo, Hawai‘i, Jamaica, Madagascar, New Caledonia, New Guinea, the Philippines, Sulawesi, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.
– Like many other threatened plant and animal species, the greatest risk to palms is habitat destruction from agricultural and urban expansion.

Delayed Indigenous ‘Man of the Hole’ burial reveals dispute over his land by Sarah Brown — November 9, 2022
– A court ruling ordered Brazil’s Indigenous agency Funai to bury the remains of the Indigenous Tanaru man, known as the “Man of the Hole,” three months after his death, following 26 years of solitude as the last member of his tribe.
– Critics accuse Funai’s president, Marcelo Xavier, of working in favor of local agribusiness interests by deliberately stalling the funeral to help farmers claim the rights to the land.
– The delay of his burial was partly due to a debate over what will happen to the land where the Indigenous man lived, which is covered in Amazon rainforest and is currently protected by a restriction of use ordinance until 2025.
– The Federal Public Ministry and Amazon activists call for the land to be permanently preserved, while local farmers claim they are the owners and demand the restrictions of use be revoked to allow for agricultural expansion.

A flying robot swoops in via Quebec to save endangered plants in Hawai‘i by Abhishyant Kidangoor — November 9, 2022
– Surveying and collecting rare plant species that grow on steep cliffs has been a risky affair for scientists and conservationists for hundreds of years.
– The world’s first aerial sampling system that comprises a robotic arm suspended from a drone is trying to solve the problem in Hawai‘i.
– Conservationists control the Mamba robotic arm via remote control to identify and cut samples from rare plant species.
– The tool has enabled scientists to collect endangered species from vertical terrain and grow them in nurseries.

LED lights could contribute to massive carbon reductions by Ian Morse — November 9, 2022
– The world has been shifting away from wasteful incandescent and harmful fluorescent lights and increasingly adopting light-emitting diode (LED) technology, which promises to reduce carbon emissions.
– Yet despite widespread adoption of the technology, virtually no LEDs are currently recycled or reused for their parts.
– To counter this problem, researchers are exploring ways in which LEDs can be designed for reuse and repair, as well as improving the efficiency of recycling.

Deforestation is pushing Amazon to ‘point of no return’: WWF report by Maxwell Radwin — November 9, 2022
– A new report from the World Wildlife Fund, called the Living Amazon Report, warns that threats to the Amazon have gotten worse in recent years, and could result in the disappearance of the biome if more drastic action isn’t taken.
– Around 18% of Amazon forests are lost and another 17% are highly degraded, the report said.
– If more drastic action isn’t taken, the report said the biome could transition from forest to savanna and push global warming above the safe threshold of 1.5°C.

Deadly landslides prompt Philippine president to call for tree planting by Bong S. Sarmiento — November 9, 2022
– Typhoon Nalgae, which made five landfalls on Oct. 29, killed 123 people across the Philippines, including at least 61 who died in floods and landslides on the southern island of Mindanao.
– After inspecting the damage wrought by the storm, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. blamed deforestation and climate change for the scale of the disaster, and called on flood control plans to include tree planting.
– The Philippines already has an ambitious tree-planting program, but an audit found it has so far fallen short of its target.

Tensions boil in Sumatra over a palm oil promise villagers say has yet to be kept by Jaka Hendra Baittri — November 9, 2022
– In West Sumatra province, tensions in a three-decade-old land conflict spiked this year after several residents of Nagari Aia Gadang village were detained by police.
– The dispute centers on the community’s entitlement to a proportion of oil palm company PT Anam Koto’s concession under Indonesia’s plasma program.
– Residents of Nagari Aia Gadang say the company’s refusal to cede the land has held back local livelihoods, elevating risks that parents will not be able to afford to send their children to school.

Here come the sunbirds: New species from Indonesia’s Wakatobi Islands by Basten Gokkon — November 9, 2022
– A group of researchers have identified several new species of sunbirds whose range spans from Africa to Australia and the tropical Wakatobi Islands in central Indonesia.
– They also found evidence that could divide the more widespread species of the olive-backed and black sunbirds, Cinnyris jugularis and Leptocoma aspasia.
– The researchers said their findings reiterated recommendations to protect the Wakatobi Islands as an endemic bird area, especially as so much remains unknown to the scientific community.
– The tiny archipelago is also part of the Wallacea region that many scientists consider “a living laboratory” for the study of evolution with endemic species being newly identified to science in recent years.

COP27: Climate Loss & Damage talks now on agenda, but U.S. resistance feared by Rachel Donald — November 8, 2022
– Loss and Damage (L&D) climate finance will be on the agenda at COP for discussion for the first time ever by the world’s nations, as the result of intense pressure applied by developing countries and NGOs just before the start of COP27 in Egypt.
– L&D refers to reparations potentially owed to poorer, more vulnerable developing nations for the climate harm caused by wealthy nations and their large-scale historical carbon emissions.
– The complexities of the mechanism for calculating losses by developing nations, and paying out of damages by wealthy nations, has never been worked out. The U.S. and other wealthy nations have a history of obstructing L&D negotiations.
– The concern among developing nations at COP27 is that even though L&D is being discussed, wealthy countries will reject the idea of direct no-strings-attached payments from wealthy countries to poorer nations, opting instead for loans, insurance and other less direct financial mechanisms.

As gangs battle over Peru’s drug trafficking routes, communities and forest are at risk by Michelle Carrere — November 8, 2022
– Along the Peruvian and Colombian border, armed gangs formerly part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are seeking control of the Putumayo River – a region inhabited by at least 25 Secoya, Kichwa and Huitoto communities.
– The river is the site of two important drug-trafficking routes: one to Brazil which goes on to Europe and Asia, and the other to Mexico and the United States.
– The armed groups frequently take part in illegal gold mining on the Putumayo to finance their activities, simultaneously contaminating the river, fish and people who live in the border area.
– Some community members, certain by force, engage in illegal businesses by deforesting areas, planting coca (made into cocaine) and transporting prohibited items.

Mangrove forest loss is slowing toward a halt, new report shows by Caitlin Cooper — November 8, 2022
– In 2021, the Global Mangrove Alliance, a consortium of NGOs, published “The State of the World’s Mangroves,” the first snapshot study compiled from satellite imagery intended to provide an up-to-date record of global mangrove forest cover.
– The second installment of the report, published in September, draws on improved and updated maps.
– The report shows a decline in the overall rate of mangrove loss and outlines concrete actions to halt the loss for good and help mangroves begin regaining ground.

Tribe and partners light up a forest to restore landscape in California by Carly Nairn — November 8, 2022
– The Karuk Tribe partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and other stakeholders to reintroduce traditional burning to help restore forests in the Klamath Mountains.
– The four-year-old project aims to prevent wildfires and make overgrown forests in Northern California look more like they did thousands of years ago when the Tribe stewarded them.
– So far, the project’s successes have been encouraging, however, the Tribe and Forest Service have encountered hurdles in their relationship and have had difficulty agreeing on different fire techniques.
– The project hopes to make burning a seasonal and sustainable part of ecosystem management.

In Brazil’s soy belt, Indigenous people face attacks over land rights by Ana Ionova — November 8, 2022
– In Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state, Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous people seeking to reclaim their ancestral lands have been subjected to threats and violence by farmers and security forces, according to Indigenous residents and rights activists.
– In June, tensions escalated in the Guapo’y Mirim Tujury community when a military police operation to evict the Guarani-Kaiowá from part of a farm they were occupying left one Indigenous resident dead and injured at least nine other residents, including children, according to advocates.
– The incident was the latest in a decades-long struggle for land rights and demarcation, which has led to the deaths of 608 Guarani-Kaiowá people in Mato Grosso do Sul between 2003 and 2021.
– The violence has continued since the Guapo’y Mirim Tujury operation: in July and September, two Guarani-Kaiowá leaders were killed in the region, with Indigenous residents blaming farming interests for the deaths.

France’s Macron joins growing chorus calling for deep-sea mining ban by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 8, 2022
– On Nov. 8, French President Emmanuel Macron became the first head of state to call for a complete ban on deep-sea mining, an activity that would extract industrial quantities of minerals from the seabed in international waters in the near future.
– Delegates of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) are currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to discuss deep-sea mining regulations, and many member states are using this forum to express their concerns about mining going ahead.
– In June 2021, the Pacific island nation of Nauru, which sponsors Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI), a subsidiary of Canadian firm The Metals Company (TMC), triggered a “two-year rule” that could force the ISA to allow mining to go ahead in two years with whatever regulations are in place.

Amid Mexico’s Day of the Dead, a fish declared extinct comes back to life by Liz Kimbrough — November 8, 2022
– Amid Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities, a community released thousands of golden skiffia fish back into the species’ native range in the Teuchitlán River in Jalisco state.
– The fish, declared extinct in the wild in 1996, were part of a captive-breeding program and nearly 10 years of restoration work to restore their habitat and remove some of the threats that would prevent successful reintroduction.
– Freshwater fish are the most threatened group of vertebrates on Earth, with scientists estimating that one out of three is threatened with extinction.
– This golden skiffia reintroduction is part of the Fish Ark Mexico project, which works to conserve highly threatened species of freshwater fish in Central Mexico, including 39 species of splitfins, from the family Goodeidae.

Shady contracts, backdoor deals spur illegal gold mining in Bolivian Amazon by Maxwell Radwin — November 8, 2022
– In the northern regions of the department of La Paz, Bolivia, illegal gold mining has led to widespread deforestation and mercury pollution.
– The Bolivian Amazon, including protected areas like Madidi National Park, face a growing risk of environmental destruction in the years to come from this ever-expanding industry.
– Mongabay visited multiple illegal mine sites, interviewed the investors behind them, and reviewed their work contracts to better understand how the industry operates unchecked in secluded parts of the Amazon.
– The investigation found that miners take advantage of the government’s lack of resources and slow-moving bureaucracy to avoid accountability for the harm they do to the environment; they also rely on illegal, backdoor agreements with well-funded foreign investors to maximize production.

If the US aspires to climate leadership, it must break its addiction to the products driving forest destruction (commentary) by Sam Lawson — November 7, 2022
– At the COP27 climate summit this week, the U.S. government reiterated its commitment to ending global deforestation, a significant driver of the climate emergency.
– Yet, as a recent major investigative report by Earthsight and Mongabay showed, the U.S. is continuing to contribute to illegal deforestation overseas through its unfettered consumption of the goods which result from it.
– This opinion piece argues that if the U.S. truly aspires to leadership on forests, the U.S. must first get its own house in order, improving and better enforcing existing legislation banning imports of stolen timber and urgently passing draft legislation extending such controls to ‘forest risk commodities’ like beef and soy.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Indigenous lands hold the world’s healthiest forests – but only when their rights are protected by Latoya Abulu and Laurel Sutherland — November 7, 2022
– The world’s healthiest tropical forests are located in protected Indigenous areas (PIAs), according to a new study.
– However, research shows that forests with minimal human modification exist only on protected Indigenous lands. Indigenous lands that are unprotected lower forest integrity.
– Researchers believe the lower integrity of forests on Indigenous lands is due to mineral, oil, and gas deposits that are located on lands and communities that lack land tenure to prevent extractive projects.
– According to the researchers, strengthening Indigenous peoples’ land rights is critical to reaching global conservation and climate goals.

Negotiations to conserve Antarctic Ocean end in stalemate on many issues by Francesco De Augustinis — November 7, 2022
– The 41st annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the intergovernmental body charged with conserving marine life in the Southern Ocean and managing fisheries there, ended Nov. 4 with little progress made on several key issues.
– In 2009 CCAMLR committed to creating a network of marine protected areas to preserve Antarctic ecosystems. It established one that year and another in 2016, but since then China and Russia have repeatedly blocked the creation of additional protected areas, as well as other conservation-related measures.
– The commission also failed to reach the consensus required to enact new regulations for the krill and toothfish fisheries, or to protect a vast nesting area for icefish discovered earlier this year.
– CCAMLR members did agree to designate eight new vulnerable marine ecosystems, areas home to slow-growing organisms such as corals, sponges, brittle stars and feather stars that are now permanently protected from bottom fishing.

Can seaweed cultivation help fix the climate crisis? (commentary) by Dr. David Koweek and Dr. Jim Barry — November 7, 2022
– As the world gathers in Egypt for the latest climate change negotiations, two scientists who convened a multidisciplinary working group to develop a research framework for seaweed cultivation as a climate solution share what they’ve learned so far.
– Seaweeds have a remarkable ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and controlled field trials are the next step to establish how this might be used to benefit ecosystems and the climate.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Small share of land rights pledge went to Indigenous groups: Progress report by John Cannon — November 7, 2022
– A report from funders of a $1.7 billion pledge to support Indigenous and community forest tenure made at the 2021 U.N. climate conference found that 19% of the financing has been distributed.
– The findings also show that only 7% of the funding went directly to Indigenous and community organizations, despite the protection they provide to forests and other ecosystems.
– Both donors and representatives of Indigenous and community groups are calling for more direct funding to these organizations by reducing the barriers they face, improving communication and building capacity.

Agroecology can feed Africa and tackle climate change — with enough funding by Malavika Vyawahare — November 7, 2022
– Advocates say agroecological systems are the way to meet the climate crisis in its fullness — from limiting emissions to coping with climatic shocks — provided it gets the support of national governments and international donors.
– They are pushing for agroecology to be considered a climate solution by leaders at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt later this month.
– The agroecology movement is forged around opposition to the mindless transplantation of large-scale industrial agriculture to African countries, which is also one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in more industrialized nations like the U.S.
– But its direct impacts on carbon budgets and effectiveness as an adaptation tool are understudied. Proponents like Bridget Mugambe say this hurdle could be overcome with adequate funding.

Will CITES finally act to protect rosewood this month? (commentary) by Mark Roberts — November 4, 2022
– CITES COP-19 starts in mid-November 2022 and is likely going to be a decisive meeting for the protection of species such as rosewood.
– Both CITES and Madagascar have banned the export of rosewood and ebony, but there appears to be no end to the illegal trade, and the fate of nearly 40,000 illegally-exported rosewood logs seized in Singapore, Kenya and Sri Lanka in 2014 is still uncertain.
– Action is needed at COP-19 to protect such stockpiles of seized rosewood from being sold, and for the remaining Malagasy rosewood and ebony trees to be protected before they are all gone, a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Growing soy on cattle pasture can eliminate Amazon deforestation in Brazil by Sarah Brown — November 4, 2022
– Expanding soy cultivation into underutilized cattle pastureland would help prevent massive deforestation and carbon emissions compared to the current practice of clearing new forest for farmland, a new study says.
– Experts say that Brazil, the world’s No. 1 soy producer and beef exporter, has enough pastureland lying unused that would allow soy production to increase by more than a third without any further deforestation.
– Researchers warn that if Brazil continues with its current method of soy cultivation, it would end up clearing 5.7 million hectares (14 million acres) of Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna into cropland over the next 15 years.
– Environmentalists have welcomed intensifying agriculture as a solution to deforestation, but have raised concerns about the potential for increased pesticide use, biodiversity loss, and the expansion of cattle ranching into forested areas.

Element Africa: Keeping platinum in the ground, and minors out of mines by — November 4, 2022
– South Africa’s minister of mines has approved a platinum mine in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve despite objections from a farming community of 500 whose homes sit atop the deposits.
– The end of a government-funded program to incentivize parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo to keep their children in school has seen more than 250 return to working in cobalt mines.
– It’s a different story in Kenya’s Makueni county, where strong local regulations are keeping minors, and criminal elements, out of the sand mining industry.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.

Carbon offsets: A key tool for climate action, or a license to emit? by Ian Morse — November 4, 2022
– The carbon offset market has existed for 25 years, and experts say there are still fundamental problems in its structure. Some question the underlying concepts, and refuse to consider it a tool for climate action.
– Part of the issue is that transparency is low. Buyers and sellers of carbon offsets often never meet and are separated by numerous intermediaries with their own profit incentives: registries, verifiers, and brokers. It’s not clear who buys offsets or which emissions are offset.
– Most experts say the offset market is not meant to contribute meaningful change to emissions, but rather to be an extra tool to channel funds toward sustainable development when companies are failing to transition from fossil fuels.

Report unveils ties between Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas and Canada’s Paper Excellence by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 4, 2022
– An investigative report has revealed that Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas has hidden ties with Canadian paper company Paper Excellence, which indicates that the former is secretly controlling the latter.
– The ties are hidden through a multilayered corporate structure with holding companies in numerous offshore jurisdictions that are characterized by high levels of corporate secrecy, such as the Netherlands, Labuan (Malaysia), the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong, according to the report.
– Paper Excellence could soon become one of the biggest pulp and paper suppliers in North America, as it’s in the process of acquiring Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s third-largest producer of sawn wood.



Podcast: Forest conservation for climate defense & cultural preservation by Mike Gaworecki — November 2, 2022
Exclusive: Shark finning rampant across Chinese tuna firm’s fleet by Philip Jacobson and Basten Gokkon — November 1, 2022
American agroforestry accelerates with new funding announcements by Erik Hoffner — October 31, 2022