Newsletter 2023-11-23


Last of the reef netters: Decline of an Indigenous, sustainable salmon fishery by Liz Kimbrough — November 21, 2023

– Reef net fishing is an ancient, sustainable salmon-harvesting technique created and perfected by the Lummi and other Coast Salish Indigenous people over a millennium.
– Rather than chasing the fish, this technique uses ropes to create an artificial reef that channels fish toward a net stretched between two anchored boats. Fishers observe the water and pull in the net at the right moment, intercepting salmon as they migrate from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River near present-day Washington state and British Columbia.
– Colonialism, government policies, habitat destruction, and declining salmon populations have separated tribes from this tradition. Today, only 12 reef net permits exist, with just one belonging to the Lummi Nation.
– Many tribal members hope to revive reef net fishing to restore their cultural identity and a sustainable salmon harvest but face difficulties balancing economic realities with preserving what the Lummi consider a sacred heritage.

The coveted legacy of the ‘Man of the Hole’ and his cultivated Amazon forest by Fabio Zuker — November 22, 2023

– Tanaru, also known as The Man of the Hole, was an Indigenous person who survived several massacres that decimated his relatives in the state of Rondônia, in the Brazilian Amazon, in the 1980s and 1990s.
– He was the last of his group and refused contact with non-Indigenous Brazilian society and with other Indigenous people for decades, and he died peacefully in 2022.
– Tanaru’s dramatic story was told in Corumbiara, a documentary by Vincent Carelli, who hoped to capture Tanaru’s footage to persuade the Brazilian state to recognize the land as an Indigenous territory.
– Now Indigenous people and advocates are fighting for the Tanaru Indigenous land to remain an Indigenous territory, but ranchers want to take possession of the plot to turn it into pastures and soy fields.

Mongabay CEO discusses slowdown in Amazon loss and other positive news by Mike DiGirolamo — November 21, 2023

– It’s been an eventful couple of months for the Amazon Rainforest and for the Mongabay newsroom.
– Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) recently shared data showing a 22% decline in deforestation for the year ending July 31, 2023.
– In other exciting news, Mongabay was awarded the prestigious 2023 Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication recently. Past winners have included Pulitzer-winning journalist Elizabeth Kolbert and The Guardian.
– Mongabay has also just launched an entirely new bilingual bureau in Africa. Here to discuss all these developments on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is CEO and editor-in-chief Rhett Butler.

Texas ocelot breeding and reintroduction may offer new route to recovery by Erik Iverson — November 21, 2023

– A public-private partnership aims to establish a new ocelot population in Texas to ensure survival and recovery of the species in the U.S. Current ocelot populations at the East Foundation’s El Sauz Ranch and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge are small, isolated and inbred. The nearest Mexican ocelots are 100 miles to the south.
– The new Texas population can offer insurance against accidental extirpation due to a hurricane or disease and give access to now inaccessible habitat and dispersal corridors. Captive-bred ocelots, with a mix of genes from Texas and elsewhere, will be released on East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch, west of the current range.
– The effort represents the world’s second-ever attempt to release small wildcats via a captive breeding program. Without a suitable federal or state wildlife refuge for release, the Texas program will rely on a Safe Harbor Agreement to ensure buy-in from nearby landowners. Ranches in the region have a deep culture of wildlife management.
– Distance, development and the border wall all make connectivity between U.S. and Mexican ocelots difficult — especially in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The new release site represents the best possibility for connectivity, but continued border wall development could threaten movement of ocelots and other recolonizing species.

End of impunity for Indigenous killings in sight for Brazil’s Guajajara by Karla Mendes — November 20, 2023

– Indigenous forest guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara was killed in November 2019 in an alleged ambush by illegal loggers in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory in Brazil’s Maranhão state.
– Mongabay’s Karla Mendes, who interviewed Paulo for a documentary film nine months before his death, returned to Arariboia in August 2023 to talk with his family and the other guardian who survived the attack, Laércio Guajajara, and shine a light on a case that still hasn’t gone to trial after four years.
– “If those invaders had managed to kill us both, me and Paulo, they were going to hide us in the forest. Who would find us? Nobody was ever going to find me or Paulo again in a forest of that size,” Laércio says of his will to warn the guardians about Paulo’s murder, even as he suffered four gunshot wounds.
– Justice may soon be on the horizon for the Guajajara people: Paulo’s case will be the first killing of an Indigenous defender that will go before a federal jury, likely in the first half of 2024, after a court in late October denied a motion by those accused to try the case in state court.

Circular economy poised to go beyond outdated oil, gas and coal, experts say by Sean Mowbray — November 16, 2023

– The exploitation of oil, gas and coal is now destabilizing all nine planetary boundaries and driving a triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The solution, experts say, is to move from a hydrocarbon-based linear economy to a diversified circular economy. This is Part 3 of a three-part miniseries.
– To step back from dangerous environmental thresholds, humanity needs to cut its use of fossil fuels, petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers and petrochemicals (especially plastics), with many analysts unequivocal about the unlikelihood of utilizing oil, gas and coal resources to implement a global circular economy.
– To achieve a circular economy, fossil fuels need to be phased out and alternative energy sources put in place. Bio-fertilizers need to be adopted and scaled up, and nitrogen fertilizers must be managed better to prevent overuse. Plastic production needs to be curbed, with a ban of single-use plastics as a start.
– Unfortunately, the world isn’t on target to achieve any of these goals soon, with surging oil and natural gas production by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia expected to push the planet past the maximum 2° C (3.6° F) temperature increase agreed to in the 2015 Paris Accord — putting Earth at risk of climate catastrophe.

Lethal or not? Australia’s beaches are a crucible for shark control methods by Nick Rodway — November 16, 2023

– For decades, Australia’s east-coast states have attempted to keep beachgoers safe from sharks by deploying entangling shark nets and culling species deemed dangerous.
– Recent figures published by the state of New South Wales reveal that almost all the animals caught in the nets during the 2022/23 summer season were “nontarget” species, including turtles, dolphins and endangered shark species, the majority of which died due to entanglement in the nets.
– In contrast, the west-coast state of Western Australia has abandoned a shark culling regime in favor of nonlethal alternatives, such as drone monitoring and “eco barriers,” swimming enclosures that keep marine life out but do not risk entanglement.
– Despite calls from environmental groups to exclusively adopt nonlethal technologies, shark control programs are continuing in both New South Wales and its northern neighbor, Queensland, during the 2023/24 Australian summer.

Indigenous farmers’ hard work protects a Philippine hotspot, but goes overlooked by Keith Anthony S. Fabro — November 16, 2023

– A Pala’wan Indigenous community’s organic farming practices, using a mix of traditional, modern and agroforestry techniques, is successfully conserving old-growth forests and watersheds in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, a biodiversity hotspot.
– However, the farmers face many challenges, including low profits, lack of access to markets, and nearby mining operations, and say they wouldn’t want their children to follow in their footsteps.
– Experts say the government should provide more incentives to these farmers who support conservation in a protected area in the form of direct subsidies, transportation and performance-based rewards for providing the ecosystem services that society depends on.
– Mantalingahan, also a candidate for a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, is home to 11 out of the 12 forest formations found in the Philippines and hosts 33 watersheds.

Beyond Climate: Fossil fuels rapidly eroding Earth’s ‘safe operating space’ by Sean Mowbray — November 15, 2023

– This exclusive three-part Mongabay mini-series explores how the oil, natural gas and coal industry are destabilizing nine vital Earth systems, which create a “safe operating space” for humanity and other life on the planet.
– The first story in the series examined some of the direct detrimental impacts of fossil fuels, petroleum-based agrochemicals and petrochemicals (such as plastics) on climate change, biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution of the world’s oceans and other forms of pollution.
– This story looks at the direct and indirect impacts that hydrocarbon production is having as it destabilizes Earth’s freshwater systems; influences rapid land use change; pollutes air, land and water; potentially contributes to ozone layer decay; and ultimately impacts life on Earth.
– Scientists say humanity’s actions — inclusive of burning fossil fuels and producing petrochemical and agrochemical products — has already pushed Earth into the danger zone, overshooting six of nine critical planetary boundaries. Unless we pull back from these violated thresholds, life as we know it is at risk.


Growing rubber drives more deforestation than previously thought, study finds by Abhishyant Kidangoor — November 22, 2023
– A recently published study has used high-resolution satellite data to show that deforestation linked to rubber cultivation is much higher than previously thought.
– Deforestation for rubber in Southeast Asia, which produces 90% of the world’s natural rubber, was found to be “at least twofold to threefold higher” than earlier estimates.
– The underestimation of rubber-linked deforestation has led to gaps in policy setting and implementation when it comes to managing rubber cultivation, the study says.
– While synthetic rubber, made from fossil fuels, accounts for the most of the rubber produced today, rising demand for rubber overall drove the expansion of rubber plantation areas by 3.3 million hectares (8.2 million acres) from 2010-2020.

How scientists and a community are bringing a Bornean river corridor back to life by Carolyn Cowan — November 22, 2023
– Decades of deforestation to make way for oil palm monoculture have transformed the Kinabatangan River floodplain in east Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, dividing wildlife populations and confining many of the region’s most iconic species to small fragments of forest that cling on along the river.
– Local communities and conservation initiatives are working together to restore and reconnect pockets of remaining habitat along the river to preserve the vital wildlife corridor, but restoration in the unpredictable and often-waterlogged floodplain is notoriously difficult.
– One such initiative, Regrow Borneo, is facing the challenge by leveraging the expertise of scientists and local knowledge of community members who have been planting forests along the Kinabatangan for decades.
– They say that by focusing their approach on a model that benefits both people and wildlife, they hope their program inspires others to shift away from simply planting numbers of trees toward restoring forests where they’re most needed, including in areas that present challenging conditions.

Ancient ocean water found in Himalayas could offer insights about evolution by Niladry Sarkar — November 22, 2023
– A team of researchers from India and Japan have found water droplets trapped in mineral deposits in the Kumaon mountains in the Indian state of Uttarakhand that were likely left from an ancient ocean dating back some 600 million years.
– The scientists say these droplets could aid our understanding of the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event and the Earth processes that fostered the evolution of complex life.
– The researchers say these droplets could offer insights about the makeup of ancient oceans and the environment at the time, and they could be helpful for future climate modeling.

Biofuels in the Pan Amazon by Timothy J. Killeen — November 21, 2023
– Mongabay has begun publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
– Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
– Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
– Click the “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023 and 2024.

Report shines partial light on worst labor offenders in opaque fishing industry by Edward Carver — November 21, 2023
– In recent years, examples of forced labor on industrial fishing vessels have commanded headlines in prominent media outlets. Yet ship owners are rarely held to account, often because it’s hard to identify who they are.
– A new report from the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC), a consortium of international NGOs, examined cases of reported forced labor on 475 fishing vessels since 2010.
– The authors could only identify the legal owners (often a company) of about half the vessels, and could only identify the beneficial owners (the people who ultimately keep the profits) of about one-fifth of the vessels.
– Of the accused vessels for which it could identify legal owners, half are owned by Asian companies, and nearly one-quarter are owned by European companies.

Jamaica battles relentless plastic pollution in quest to restore mangroves by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 21, 2023
– In recent decades, mangroves in Jamaica have declined rapidly, from about 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) in the 1970s to about 9,945 hectares (24,574 acres) now.
– Currently there are several efforts to restore mangroves in the island country, as experts recognize the many ecosystem services they provide, including the protection and stabilization of coastlines as human-induced climate change worsens.
– However, restoration efforts face numerous challenges: Near Kingston, the main one is voluminous tides of plastic waste, which can stunt mangrove growth or kill them.

Salty wells and lost land: Climate and erosion take their toll in Sulawesi by Agus Mawan — November 21, 2023
– Coastal erosion on the west coast of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island is so advanced that seawater has penetrated the groundwater supply that tens of thousands use for drinking water.
– The communities have yet to be served by utility water provision, so families are resorting to costly supplies of water from private distributors.
– Research shows that rising seas and more frequent and powerful storms will accelerate coastal abrasion, raising burdens shouldered by the world’s coastal communities.

Vizzuality data set aims to give companies full view of supply chain impacts by Maxwell Radwin — November 21, 2023
– Sustainability technology company Vizzuality has published an open-source data set that can help companies evaluate how much their products are contributing to ecological degradation and accelerating climate change.
– The data set is also available through LandGriffon, an environmental risk management software.
– The software maps supply chains and calculates the impacts of several environmental indicators, including deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of natural ecosystems, and biodiversity loss resulting from agricultural production.

Indonesia launches new front in climate campaign focusing on seagrass by Basten Gokkon — November 21, 2023
– Indonesia has published a road map for seagrass protection and rehabilitation, as part of its efforts to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.
– Seagrass meadows are estimated to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a much greater rate, hectare for hectare, than even tropical rainforests.
– Indonesia has long been recognized as a crucial country for protecting the underwater flowering plants, as it’s estimated to host at least a tenth of the world’s seagrass meadows.

Madagascar group aims to protect wildlife from stray cats & dogs by Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy — November 21, 2023
– In the biodiverse forests of Madagascar, stray cats and dogs pose threats to wildlife by hunting and harassing wild animals or transmitting diseases to them.
– The Mad Dog Initiative, an American NGO, runs annual sterilization and rabies vaccination campaigns to reduce the strays’ impact.
– However, it will take more time to achieve measurable impacts on wildlife, the group’s leaders say, and raising awareness among villagers and overcoming “fadys,” or Malagasy taboos, remains a challenge.

Enviva, the world’s largest biomass energy company, is near collapse by Justin Catanoso — November 20, 2023
– The forest biomass energy industry took a major hit this month, as Enviva, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets — burned in former coal power plants to make energy on an industrial scale — saw catastrophic third quarter losses. Enviva’s stock tanked, its CEO was replaced and the company seems near collapse.
– Founded in 2004, Enviva harvests forests in the U.S. Southeast, with its 10 plants key providers of wood pellets to large power plants in the EU, U.K., Japan and South Korea — nations that use a scientifically suspect carbon accounting loophole to count the burning of forest wood as a renewable resource.
– A former manager and whistleblower at Enviva told Mongabay in 2022 that the company’s green claims were fraudulent. Last week, he said that much of Enviva’s downfall is based on its cheaply built factories equipped with faulty machinery and on large-scale fiscal miscalculations regarding wood-procurement costs.
– How the firm’s downfall will impact the global biomass for energy market, and worldwide pellet supply, is unknown. European and Asian nations rely on Enviva pellets to supply their power plants and to meet climate change goals, with the burning of forests to make energy erroneously claimed as producing zero emissions.

Can India’s Forest Rights Act deliver? Odisha state is trying to find out by Malavika Vyawahare — November 20, 2023
– In 2021, the village of Kodalpalli in Odisha’s Nayagarh district became one of the few places in India where the country’s landmark Forest Rights Act of 2006 (FRA) was translated into formal rights for traditionally forest-dependent communities.
– This July, the east Indian state of Odisha launched a scheme to expand FRA coverage to 30,000 villages that are home to tribal groups and other traditionally forest-dwelling communities.
– It took Kodalpalli villagers more than 10 years to get their claim validated; by then, a women-led forest stewardship scheme called thengapalli had been in place for about four decades.
– Experts say the legal right has helped strengthen existing community-based institutions and practices like thengapalli while opening up new livelihood opportunities for residents.

Jurisdictional REDD+ ready to fund forest-positive, socially-inclusive development in the Amazon and beyond (commentary) by Daniel Nepstad — November 20, 2023
– Jurisdictional REDD+ (JREDD) is designed to fund regional transitions to forest-positive, socially-inclusive rural development. It is fundamentally different than private forest carbon projects, which have come under scrutiny for overstating their climate benefits.
– JREDD rewards forest carbon emissions reductions already achieved across entire jurisdictions–states and nations–and provides a platform for the full participation of Indigenous peoples, local communities and farmers; it features a leadership role for governments that are becoming more transparent and inclusive in the process.
– The steep decline in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon means that several states are poised to issue a large volume of high-integrity, verified JREDD credits from 2024 onward. If the demand for these credits is sufficient, sales revenues could help states tame extensive forest frontiers with transparency and accountability, inspiring other regions to do the same.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Study shows dire outlook for amphibians: 40% threatened with extinction by Suzana Camargo — November 20, 2023
– A global survey of 8,000 amphibian species by the IUCN reveals that 40% of them are at some risk of extinction: 2,873 species in total.
– Brazil is the country with the greatest amphibian diversity in the world, home to around 1,200 species, and according to the new study, 189 are threatened, most of them endemic.
– Deforestation and lethal fungi had already been noted as causes of the decline, but now biologists are highlighting the role of the climate crisis: High temperatures and low humidity affect the amphibians’ breathing, which is partly done through the skin.
– Amphibians are important bioindicators of ecosystem health, as well as being crucial for pest control and medicine.

Indonesia welcomes new Singapore regulation to help curb lobster smuggling by Basten Gokkon — November 18, 2023
– A new reexport regulation in Singapore could help stem the smuggling of lobster larvae from neighboring Indonesia.
– The city-state is a key destination for the contraband and a transit point for lobster larvae reexported to third countries like Vietnam and China.
– Under the new regulation, reexporters in Singapore will have to get health certificates for live animals from the country of origin, which in theory should be impossible for smugglers.
– Indonesian authorities have cautiously welcomed the plan, but say both countries must work more closely on the long-running problem.

Control of Africa’s forests must not be sold to carbon offset companies (commentary) by Alexandra Benjamin — November 17, 2023
– A forest carbon deal between Blue Carbon and the nation of Liberia would give the company exclusive rights to control 10% of the nation’s land mass for 30 years.
– Blue Carbon has also signed MOUs for similar deals with Tanzania and Zambia (and others) and combined with the Liberia deal, the land controlled by the company in these three African nations represents an area the size of the whole of the United Kingdom.
– “Carbon colonialism is a false solution to the climate crisis,” a new op-ed states. “The only real answer is to end our fossil fuel addiction by dramatically reducing our emissions, while financially supporting countries and local communities to protect their forests, rather than wrest control of them.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

‘We won’t give up’: DRC’s Front Line Defenders award winner Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke by Elodie Toto — November 17, 2023
– Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke, Africa winner of the 2023 Front Line Defenders Award, is an environmental lawyer and community activist.
– He has spent 15 years working in defense of communities in and around Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– Because of his activism in a region dominated by armed conflict and the illicit exploitation of natural resources, including gold and coltan, his life has been threatened on numerous occasions and he currently lives in exile.
– Defending the environment is becoming increasingly dangerous: Nearly half of the 194 human rights defenders killed in 2022 were environmental defenders.

Carbon counting without the guesswork: Q&A with FCL proponent Jerry Toth by John Cannon — November 17, 2023
– REDD+ projects aim to incentivize efforts that maintain standing forests, rather than cutting them down, by providing payments based on the carbon emissions kept out of the atmosphere.
– But REDD+, which is short for “reducing deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries,” has been widely criticized lately, in part because skeptics say that the accounting methods are open to manipulation by developers aiming to sell more credits — credits that many not represent a verifiable climate benefit.
– One alternative is the forest carbon ledger (FCL). FCL seeks to value the total amount of carbon in a forest and would provide payments based on how well that storage is maintained over time.
– Mongabay spoke with Jerry Toth, co-founder of a conservation group working to protect and restore the last remaining remnants of the Pacific Forest of Ecuador called the Third Millennium Alliance (TMA). Toth said FCL may provide a more robust alternative to REDD+ carbon accounting.

Glencore’s coal expansion plans face shareholder and Indigenous opposition by Mike DiGirolamo — November 17, 2023
– Swiss-based mining giant Glencore says it plans to challenge the proposed listing of a heritage site, the Ravensworth Homestead, that could deter the planned expansion of its Glendell coal mine.
– Glencore, the largest coal producer in Australia, faces criticism from shareholders for its lack of transparency on how it plans to meet its climate targets, especially in light of proposed thermal coal mine expansions in the country.
– Listing the homestead, which is a culturally significant site for the Indigenous Wonnarua people, is now being reconsidered by heritage officials after a process that sources say has dragged on.
– The Glendell mine is one of several that could increase their emissions under a loophole in the government’s revised “safeguard mechanism” that’s intended to bind the mining sector to a reduction in emissions.

French banks accused of money laundering linked to Amazon deforestation by Dimitri Selibas — November 16, 2023
– A coalition of NGOs has filed a criminal complaint against several French banks for allegedly financing meat companies driving deforestation in Brazil.
– Between 2013 and 2021, the four French banks involved invested a total of nearly $70 million in bonds issued by leading meat companies in Brazil generating about $11.7 million in profits.
– This is the first time that French banks have received a criminal complaint for money laundering, receiving stolen goods related to funding deforestation and profiteering from it.
– An analysis of JBS and Marfrig slaughterhouses in Pará and Mato Grosso found that more than 50% and 40% of suppliers, respectively, showed evidence of irregularities, including deforestation and intrusion into Indigenous lands and protected forests.

New platform offers toolkit for companies to prove their eco claims by Claudia Geib — November 16, 2023
– As governments around the world consider new regulations that would require corporations to track their impacts on biodiversity, a new platform called NatureHelm provides companies and individual landowners with a tool to track indicators of ecosystem health.
– The tool analyzes various databases and scientific papers to find relevant local biodiversity targets and automatically pulls in data from remote tools, such as camera traps, to track them.
– NatureHelm also provides consulting to help companies choose the best tools to track biodiversity targets, and produces annual reports that allow companies to show how different metrics change over time and in response to conservation actions.

Remediation overdue: South American countries fail to enforce oil cleanup laws by Yvette Sierra Praeli — November 16, 2023
– Existing legislation in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia provides for the remediation of environmental damage, though experts point to a “lack of political will” to enforce the laws.
– Bolivia is pressing ahead with its plans to expand activity of its hydrocarbon sector, while in Ecuador, there is an ongoing debate in international courts over an emblematic pollution case.
– In Peru, not a single environmental liability has yet been fully dealt with, while in Colombia a law has just been passed that will seek to catalog the damage caused by the oil industry.


Mongabay launches Africa news bureau by — November 8, 2023
Mongabay discusses the launch of Africa news bureau with director David Akana by — November 13, 2023
As U.S. insurers stop covering prescribed burns, states and communities step up by Ashli Blow — November 15, 2023
Dominica set to open world’s first reserve centered around sperm whales by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 14, 2023
Beyond climate: Oil, gas and coal are destabilizing all 9 planetary boundaries by Sean Mowbray — November 14, 2023
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon falls 22% in 2023 by — November 11, 2023
‘We just want to be left in peace’: In Brazil’s Amazon, soy ambitions loom over Indigenous land by Ana Ionova — November 9, 2023