Ray of hope for Indonesian fish, better paper and US tackles wildlife trafficking

Manta rays worth more alive than dead  

In a move set to boost its tourism industry, Indonesia is granting its manta rays full protected status. The decision by the Indonesian ministry of marine affairs and fisheries to ban fishing for manta rays was prompted by the results of a joint review between the ministry and several marine organisations.

The assessment found a single manta ray to be worth an estimated $1m in tourism revenue over the course of its lifetime, compared with its value of between $40 and $200 in fish markets. In other words, mantas are found to be worth at least 5,000 times more alive than dead. “As the world’s largest archipelagic nation, it is important for Indonesia to maximise economic returns from our marine resources,” says Sharif Sutardjo, Indonesia’s minister of fisheries.

Over the past few decades Indonesia’s manta rays have been caught and sold, mainly to Chinese buyers. In China the fish is believed to hold medicinal properties including the ability to cure a wide variety of health issues such as chickenpox, cancer and infertility.

Indonesia is one of the few places in the world where both species of manta rays, the oceanic manta and the reef manta, can be easily observed by tourists. The south-east Asian country currently has the second largest manta ray tourism industry in the world, with an estimated value of over $15m a year.

According to Andrea Marshall, director of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, placing a monetary value on animals and ecosystem services can be a convincing argument for protecting a species. 

WWF partners with paper giant Mondi  

Environment NGO WWF and leading international packaging and paper group Mondi are partnering to increase environmental stewardship in the paper industry. The newly formed three-year partnership aims to increase responsible management in packaging and paper related industries by minimising the environmental footprint of Mondi’s activities.

WWF believes the alliance with the packaging giant, which operates across 30 countries, sends a strong message to the industry. Jim Leape, director general at WWF International, says: “Companies such as Mondi that choose to contribute to sustainable resource use and nature conservation are ensuring their own long-term viability, while contributing to the wellbeing of people and the planet today.”

The programme aims to encourage stewardship in three main areas. The ecosystems category will focus on protecting high conservation value areas, as well as increasing the value and resilience of multifunctional production landscapes. Manufacturing will further reduce the water and climate footprint of Mondi’s operations, and promote resource efficiency, recycling and longevity of products. Finally, the products category will look to enhance the environmental performance of Mondi’s products through credible certification and efficient life-cycle use of materials in paper and packaging products, among others.

“Pulp and paper is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation,” says Tristan Tremschnig of Greenpeace Indonesia. “We urge all companies in the pulp and paper sector to follow the necessary steps to become leaders in forest protection.”

Paper production is a notorious deforestation culprit across the world. According to the WWF, about 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is processed for paper, while the pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD countries. 

US tackles wildlife trafficking  

The US government recently unveiled its first national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking. Environmental NGOs have applauded the decision to make the problem of illegal wildlife trafficking a national priority, a move the White House says will strengthen US leadership on countering the global security threat posed by the illicit trade in wildlife.

Dr Richard Thomas of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic says the illicit global wildlife trade is a multibillion-dollar industry believed to be the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking. 

The US is a critically important consumer market and transit point in global wildlife crime. As the world’s largest economy, the US also has a huge influence on the global trade of wildlife. Its new national strategy aims to strengthen enforcement and mobilise new federal agencies in the fight to stop wildlife trafficking, reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife, and build international cooperation, commitment and public-private partnerships.

“There is little doubt that the recent escalation and sheer scale of the global poaching crisis has raised awareness of the ongoing crisis at the highest political level, leading to the understandable desire to take action to address it,” says Thomas. 

deforestation  Manta rays  Mondi  NGOwatch  poaching  wildlife trafficking  WWF 

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