U.S. Secretary of Defense speech to 2012 Naval Academy graduates: Important work of modernizing historic alliances with Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand

I am posting sections of a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, delivered to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It is related to my earlier post(s) on activities and potential flashpoints in the South China Sea area (e.g., the China – Philippine dispute over the Scarborough Shoals).  Excerpt:

…America is a maritime nation, and we are returning to our maritime roots.  One of the key projects of your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Pacific.

America’s future prosperity and security are tied to our ability to advance peace and security along the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia. 

That reality is inescapable for our country and for our military, which has already begun broadening and deepening our engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific.  One of your great challenges as an officer in the Navy will be to ensure the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region for the 21st century. 

We need you to project America’s power and to reflect America’s character:  to serve on ships and submarines, to fly planes, and to train and operate throughout the region. 

We need you to do the important work of strengthening and modernizing our historic alliances with Japan, with Korea, with Australia, with the Philippines, with Thailand. 

We need to you to build robust partnerships throughout the region; with countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia; with Vietnam, Singapore, India and others.    

We also need you to strengthen defense ties with China.  China’s military is growing and modernizing.  We must be vigilant.  We must be strong.  We must be prepared to confront any challenge. 

But the key to peace in that region is to develop a new era of defense cooperation between our countries – one in which our militaries share security burdens to advance peace in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Tomorrow I depart on a trip to Southeast Asia.  And later this year, I will visit to China for the first time as Secretary of Defense.

I’ll tell all of these nations that the United States will remain a Pacific power, and I’ll tell them why: because of you.  Because during your careers many of you will be headed to the Pacific. There and across the globe, the Navy and Marine Corps must lead a resurgence of America’s enduring maritime presence and power. 

As graduates of the Naval Academy, you’ve earned much and you’ve been given much. And now, as Navy and Marine Corps officers, your nation will ask you to give much of yourselves to service to this country.  It is about giving back to this country.  That’s what service is all about.   ...Click here to read the entire speech…

This post is military-related, and I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force…and what I am thinking of is continued PEACE for the Asia-Pacific region, and the world.  Yes…a balanced, peaceful world, and safety for these young graduates, and future military leaders.

And that the power and might of the American military, partnering with other countries in the region, will prevent an escalation of violence, especially as China continues with its aggression towards the Philippines, and their territorial claims in the resource-rich South China / West Philippine Sea area.

Not the Bananas! More on the ongoing Philippine – China disputes

The latest on the Philippine – China dispute involve Philippine bananas and new, stricter inspections from Chinese ports — resulting in a lot of rotten Philippine bananas.

Chinese authorities claim they found pests in banana shipments coming in from the Philippines.

So…who put those bugs in the banana imports….really?!?

After Japan, China is the Philippines’ second largest market for bananas.

Read more about the impounded bananas — and other Philippine fruits now facing extra quarantine measures and new scrutiny from China, from an article at JapanToday.com (here).

And somewhat related, here is a banana and container port article I posted earlier this year: What’s in the Box

Scarborough Shoal disputes: Chinese travel agents suspend tours to the Philippines

China’s news outlets report that Chinese travel agencies are suspending or rescheduling summer trips and tours to the Philippines, due to recent tensions in the South China / West Philippine Seas.

Beijing travel agent Dun Jidong is quoted as saying “Safety is the prime concern in the travel business. We’ve learned there might be anti-China activities in the Philippines, which means a lot of uncertainty. To ensure the safety of our clients, we have suspended all tours to the Philippines. And we will monitor the situation as it develops.”

On Thursday, China’s National Tourism Administration website told Chinese tourists to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the Philippines and warned those who are already there to be mindful of their security.

Anti-China protesters carry placards and shout slogans in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City on Friday. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

Excerpt from a Manila Times report:

Maria Victoria Jasmin, DOT undersecretary, said that as of Thursday, 10 tour operators from Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have cancelled flights to the Philippines…

The DOT said that China ranks fourth in the country’s top tourist market and had an 8.4-percent share in the total visitor arrivals for the January to March, 2012 period or over 96,455 tourists.

Last year, at least 243,137 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, making up 6.21 percent of the total tourist arrivals.

The Philippine Travel Agency Association earlier said that the country’s top three markets are Korea, the United States and Japan.

During a press briefing, Philippine Malacanang Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “We are going to certainly assure our Chinese friends of their safety”.

He added “Sa totoo lang, ang dami naman nating mga Chinese dito (the fact is, there are so many Chinese here). You would not know if they are from the mainland or from the Philippines. We have very good relations in terms of cultural exchange and our relations with China have been very good on a cultural level, on a familial level. So there is no reason for our Chinese friends and the Chinese Embassy to worry about the safety of their nationals”.

Scarborough Shoal Standoff: Strong words from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister

It does not look like the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoals, and territorial claims over the South China Sea / West Philippine Sea area, is anywhere close to being resolved.

Below is an excerpt from a report today, by Brian Spegele of the Wall Street Journal, with strong statements from the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying:

China said it was pessimistic about resolving a standoff with the Philippines in the resource-rich South China Sea and was prepared for tensions there to escalate further.

The remarks, delivered during a meeting Monday between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying and Manila’s charge d’affaires in Beijing, Alex Chua, marked a significant uptick in the heat of the rhetoric as relations between China and one of Washington’s closest allies in the region continue to deteriorate.

Mr. Chua was summoned by China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency, as part of a long-running dispute around what is known as the Scarborough Shoal in English and Huangyan island in Chinese, in the southeastern part of the South China Sea. Xinhua said it was the third meeting in less than a month between the two sides.

“It is obvious the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions instead,” Ms. Fu said in a statement on the website of China’s Foreign Ministry. “It is hoped that the Philippine side will not misjudge the situation and not escalate tensions without considering the consequences.”

A spokesman for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, Raul Hernandez, said in a statement that the Philippines was taking a “new diplomatic initiative” that it hopes will defuse the situation, but declined to provide details.  More…

And so the Scarborough Shoals standoff and tension continues, and China reportedly now has four government ships in the area — in addition to eight fishing vessels.  The Philippines has one coast guard vessel, and one Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel.

Do you need to catch up on why there are disputes over these South China Sea territories?   Visit the BBC News Q&A: South China Sea disputes, to learn more (e.g.,  possible natural gas reserves and the large amount of natural resources in this area).

Also, here is a link to my original article on the latest flare-up over the Scarborough Shoal area.

Meanwhile, here in the states, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met with Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon yesterday, May 7, 2012.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie to the Pentagon, May 7, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It was the first U.S. visit by a Chinese defense minister in nine years.

Liang has been visiting U.S. military bases and meeting with U.S. military leaders to discuss U.S.-Chinese cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Excerpt from the American Forces Press Service news article by Cheryl Pellerin:

Liang’s visit occurs at a time when the armed forces of both nations seek to expand cooperation, improve understanding, build trust and reduce differences.

“The United States and China are both Pacific powers, and our relationship is one of the most critical in the world,” Panetta said at a news conference with Liang after their meeting.

“In my meeting with General Liang, I expressed my commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous [military-to-military] relationship with China,” the secretary said, adding that at Liang’s invitation he will visit China within the next few months.

“We share many interests across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” Panetta added, “from humanitarian assistance to concerns about weapons of mass destruction to terrorism to drug interdictions to trade to counterpiracy.”

…“As you all know,” Panetta said, “the U.S. Department of Defense recently released a new defense strategy, recognizing that no region is more important than the Asia-Pacific for our country’s future peace and prosperity.”

Liang spoke through an interpreter, describing the purpose of his visit as being “to implement the important agreement reached by President Hu Jintao and President [Barack] Obama on developing the China-U.S. state-to-state and military-to-military relationship.”   More…

Latest on the China – Philippines standoff: Meeting of Philippines Foreign Secretary del Rosario and Defense Secretary Gazmin in Washington D.C.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were in Washington D.C. yesterday, April 30th, 2012  to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

It was a historic first “2+2″ or bilateral meeting of U.S. and Philippine defense and foreign affairs leaders.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, far right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Filipino Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, far left, and Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pose for an official photo before a meeting at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

After the meeting, they made statements for the media, and then took a few questions from the press.

Included in this post are parts of the introduction from Secretary of State Clinton, press questions, and answers from Philippine Foreign Secretary del Rosario as well as Philippine Defense Secretary Gazmin on the Scarborough Shoal standoff, and the Philippines’ position.

Please see the earlier post on this topic for the definition of UNCLOS.

Introduction from Secretary of State Clinton:

…Today we held the first ever 2+2 meeting between the United States and the Philippines, a testament to our shared commitment to write a new chapter in the partnership between our two countries.

With the growing security and economic importance of the Asia Pacific, the United States is actively working to strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and engage more systematically in the region’s multilateral institutions.

At the heart of this strategy is our effort to deepen and broaden our alliance with our friend and treaty ally, the Philippines. This alliance is rooted not just in a deep history of shared democratic values but in a wide range of mutual concerns. And today we had a chance to cover a number of them.

First we discussed our bilateral military cooperation. Our alliance has helped keep both of our countries secure for more than 60 years, and it has been a bulwark of peace and stability in Asia. Today the United States reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the mutual defense treaty.

We also discussed steps we are taking to ensure that our countries are fully capable of addressing both the challenges and the opportunities posed in the region in the 21st century. We need to continue working together to counter violent extremism, to work on addressing natural disasters, maritime security, and transnational crime.

 Press Question / Answer:

PRESS QUESTION: Mr. del Rosario, the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal is into its fourth week now. Did you get an unequivocal assurance from the U.S. it will come to the aid of the Philippines if shots are fired? And what was the type or form?

Also, short of shots being fired, how do you see the endgame of Scarborough being played out if China cannot be persuaded diplomatically to withdraw its vessels from the area?

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Those are several questions rolled into one, my friend, but let me begin from your last question.

We do have a three-track approach to endeavoring to solve the problem that we currently have with China in the Scarborough Shoal. It encompasses three tracks.

The first track is the political track. We are pursuing the ASEAN as a framework for a solution to this problem through a code of conduct that we are trying to put together and ultimately approve. Hopefully that will quiet the situation.

Secondly, we are pursuing a legal track, and the legal track involves our pursuing a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS. There are five of them. We think that we can avail of one or two of those mechanisms, even without the presence of China.

Thirdly, we are pursuing a diplomatic approach, such as the one that we are undertaking, which is to have consultations with China in an attempt to defuse the situation.

In terms of U.S. commitment, I think the U.S. has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes, but that they are firm in terms of taking a position for a – towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea towards a multilateral approach and towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS. They have expressed that they will honor their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

PRESS QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Gazmin. Secretary, in light of the current Chinese-Philippines standoff in Scarborough Shoal, what kind of assistance have you asked to bolster Manila’s ability to patrol its waters and to deter what you call intrusions?

SECRETARY GAZMIN: Thank you for the question. The assistance we have sought is to help us bring the case to international legal bodies, so that the approach is the legal rules-based approach in resolving the issue in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

It is worth reading the full remarks after the meeting, from the U.S. Department of State website (visit here).

Secretary Clinton was scheduled to leave for Bejing the evening after the meeting, so it will be interesting to see what develops in the next few days.

It certainly is a sensitive topic for the U.S. – China, as well as Philippines – China relationships, not to mention other countries that have an interest in the South China Sea, and China’s territorial waters claims.

UNCLOS and the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoal

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea.

You may have heard about the current standoff between China and the Philippines, near the Scarborough Shoal area.  Here is an excerpt from a BBC News article yesterday – China needs a ”consistent policy” on the South China Sea:

China’s claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants.

That has led to occasional flare-ups and to competition to occupy islands, reefs and sandbars.

The latest incident sparked when a Philippines warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the Scarborough shoal – which both sides claim – when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

When navy personnel boarded the Chinese fishing vessels, they found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral, Manila said.

Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area, preventing the navy from making arrests.

Attempts to resolve the stand-off have not yet been successful. The Philippine warship has been replaced by a coast guard vessel and the Chinese fishermen have gone, but two Chinese vessels remain there.

China has also expressed anger at the annual US-Philippines military exercises, due to run until 27 April.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near the disputed Spratly islands which both Manila and Beijing claim. The joint exercises involve some 7,000 troops, including more than 4,000 from the US.

With China asserting its claims more aggressively the US has been strengthening old friendships in the region, says the BBC’s John Sudworth reporting from the South China Sea on the exercises.  Read more…

I’ve heard something about this  “200 nautical miles” rule before, but did not know the history.  Apparently, it is based on the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international agreement also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Looking at the map above, it seems rather clear — especially regarding the Scarborough Shoals — that this area belongs in the Philippine “exclusive economic zone” under UNCLOS definitions.  China is claiming a very large area as “territorial waters”.

The current UNCLOS III treaty came into force in 1994,  replacing earlier treaties UNCLOS I and UNCLOS II (though the concept of national rights of a nation’s coastlines dates back to the 17th century).

UNCLOS III covers exclusive economic zones (see below graphic), navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Related Links:

United Nations – Oceans and Law of the Sea: Historical Perspective on UNCLOS

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies – All for one, one for all: promoting economic activities in the South China Sea, by Nazery Khalid.

Palawan-based blogger Alex Pronove’s latest post: Sun-Tzu – The Art of War, and President Aquino (and the standoff at Scarborough Shoal)

Two items NOT to bring in your luggage, when traveling from the Philippines to the U.S.

Yesterday, Carol, from the Philippines posted a comment / question about bringing a walis tambo — a traditional Philippine broom — with her, when she visits her relatives in New Jersey next month (see my response about walis in comment section of blog post, here)

In the process of getting her question answered, the customs official I spoke with also mentioned two items often packed in the luggage of those traveling from the Philippines, that are currently banned from entry to the U.S.

And these item are:

  1. Tsitsaron (or chicharron) — My response was…What?  Really? You are just kidding right?  Nope, he was not kidding, so leave your favorite bags of tsitsaron for your friends and relatives in the Philippines, and not as a part of your pasalubong items.
  2. Any chicken bouillon type seasoning (a popular brand is “Magic Sarap”) — again, my thought was….hmmm,  that is strange one, but it may have something to do with minimizing bird flu risks.

So…you will have to buy your tsitsaron from U.S. manufacturers, and leave your Magic Sarap packages behind.

I have seen this brand for sale at our local Filipino stores, so the formula may be different for export (?).

And just a reminder that if you want more information on specific items you want to bring back from the Philippines, you should contact directly, your port of entry airport (such as, Los Angeles, etc.)

For the San Francisco International Airport – Port of Entry officials on this topic can be reached at telephone # (650) 624-7200, extension 415.

To find your own local authority, you can Google “Port of Entry” along with the name of your airport of entry.

It is always a good idea to contact your Port of Entry authorities first, to check if you have questions on items you are bringing in from the Philippines, in case of rule changes!

Dried fish (tuyo) for sale at a Philippine market. Photo Lolako.com

And by the way, as of now, it is still OK to bring as much dried fish and fermented seafood products from the Philippines — like tuyo, bagoong and ginamos — that you can fit in your luggage. NOTE: This applies to SEAFOOD only, not beef or poultry. And of course, not ever any FRESH seafood!

The most important thing is that you DECLARE your items, in case the agriculture department wants to see the items and scan through their X-ray machines.

For more on bringing tuyo, bagoong and ginamos when travelling to the U.S., see the comments section on my  “Luggage with a special kind of stinky” post.

And if you like this post and want to see other Philippine related post from LolaKo.com, click here…

Among Lolako.com’s most popular Philippine related post are about

~ Lola Jane

Tilapia – the world’s top aquaculture fish

Writing about the Philippine bangus / milkfish these last few days got me thinking about the most popular farmed (aquaculture) fish in the world, the tilapia (Oreochromis, Sarotherodon).

Introduction, from Tilapia Production Report, Globefish.org:

Tilapia is both a genus of fishes in the Cichlidae family and the common name for nearly a hundred species of freshwater and some brackish water cichlid fishes belonging to the three genera Tilapia, Sarotherodon, and Oreochromis. 

Nile Tilapia Drawing (1898): WH Flower, Guide to the galleries of reptiles and fishes of the British Museum

Tilapia is often called “St. Peter’s fish” because according to the Book of Mathew (17:27) the fish which St. Peter caught was a tilapia. Also, the miracle of Jesus Christ in which it says a crowd of five thousand people were fully fed with five loafs of bread and two fishes (Mathew 14:15-21) may have also been a tilapia since this is the species most found in Lake Tiberius (Sea of Galilee) in historical Palestine. It is also called as Nile mouth brooder, or Nile perch.

Most important and abundant in production, capture and aquaculture, is the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus); followed by the Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus); Mango tilapia (Sarotherodon galilaeus) and Sabaki tilapia (Oreochromis spilurus). These are native to Africa and the Middle East.  Blue and Mango tilapias are captured although in limited quantities while Sabaki tilapia is only cultured.

In the twenty-first century tilapia is dubbed as “wonder fish”.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

Although tilapia is native to Africa and the Middle East, 98% of all farmed tilapia is grown outside its native habitat, by about 85 countries.

Tilapia was the 4th favorite seafood in the U.S. in 2010, moving up from its previous position as 5th favorite.  And because it is an affordable fish, worldwide demand continues to grow (www.Globefish.org).

According to a Seafood Watch report by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tilapia are the most widely grown of any farmed fish. They are highly adaptable, easily cultured and

  • provides more protein than it takes to raise it (unlike farmed salmon or tuna)
  • are omnivorous and adapts eating habits to available food (they feed on phytoplankton or benthic algae but readily accept compound feed)
  • can tolerate low oxygen levels and a range of salinities
  • occupy a wide range of habitats (ponds, rivers, lakes, canals, irrigation channels)
  • have high reproductive capacities and readily establish self-reproducing populations

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

For many years, it has been available at Filipino supermarkets here in the U.S. and is a popular fish choice for markets that have a “free” fish frying service.

More and more, I see it offered as a fish option at restaurants, and it is usually always available as a fish choice in Filipino eateries.

From a sustainability standpoint, here is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s stance on tilapia:

Your “Best Choice” is tilapia grown in the U.S. in environmentally friendly systems. “Avoid” farmed tilapia from China and Taiwan, where pollution and weak management are widespread problems.

Seafood
Rating Market Names Where Caught/How Caught
Tilapia Best Choice Izumidai U.S. – Farmed
Tilapia Avoid Izumidai China, Taiwan – Farmed
Tilapia Good Alternative Izumidai Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras – Farmed

More tilapia consumer notes  from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch:

Most tilapia consumed in the U.S. comes from China/Taiwan (frozen) or Central and South America (fresh). Less than 10 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. is farmed domestically.

A mild, white fish, tilapia is available year-round. It’s available whole, fresh, frozen, or even live in some Asian restaurants. It can also be found as fresh or frozen fillets. Tilapia is known as izumidai when prepared for sushi.

Summary

Tilapia is an important source of protein, especially in developing countries. Tilapia is a good candidate for farming, as it provides more protein than it takes to raise it. This is in contrast to some other fish raised in farms, such as salmon or tuna.

Tilapia is a hardy, freshwater fish that tolerates a wide range of water conditions. This means it’s easy to farm, but it also means it easily invades many habitats and threatens native fish populations.

In the U.S., most tilapia is farmed in closed inland systems that guard against escapes and pollution. However, in many other countries, tilapia is often farmed in open systems where escapes and pollution are bigger threats. However, tilapia farming methods vary widely within any given country.

U.S. farmed tilapia is the “Best Choice,” with tilapia from Central and South America as a “Good Alternative” to other imported product.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

The bottom line for U.S. consumers of tilapia:  Look at country of origin packaging labels, and ask your fish dealer, or your restaurant, the country source of the tilapia that they sell and/or serve.

This way, you can at least know if you are consuming “Best Choice” — that is, U.S. farm raised tilapia — or “Good Alternative”, sustainably grown tilapias (again, from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras).

Although tilapia is one of the better farmed fish to eat — because of its mild flavor, affordability, and from a sustainable fish standpoint — it is still a fairly new fish in the world of modern aquaculture.

Under the right conditions, they can become an invasive species when deliberately or accidentally introduced in tropical climates.

In Florida, the blue tilapia (oreochromis aureus) is the most widespread of foreign fish species and a problem when tilapia populations compete with native fish.

Blue Tilapia – Photo credit: Michael Rupert Hayes

Tilapia is now the second most popular farmed fish in the Philippines (after the bangus).

A report from www.Globefish.org indicated that Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was introduced to the Philippines in the mid-1960′s.  Excerpt from Globefish report on the Nile tilapia:

The culture of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times as depicted on bas-relief from an Egyptian tomb dating over 4000 years ago, which showed the fish held in ornamental ponds.

While significant worldwide distribution of tilapias, primarily Oreochromis mossambicus, occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, distribution of the more desirable Nile tilapia occurred during the 1960s up to the 1980s.

Nile tilapia from Japan was introduced to Thailand in 1965, and from Thailand they were sent to the Philippines. Nile tilapia from Cote d’Ivoire was introduced to Brazil in 1971,and from Brazil they were sent to the United States in 1974. In 1978, Nile tilapia was introduced to China, which leads the world in tilapia production and consistently
produced more than half of the global production in every year from 1992 to 2008.

I recommend reading the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Globefish.org reports below, if you need more information to decide if tilapia is a fish you want to include in your diet.

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally and Found! U.S. Farmed Tilapia

Tilapia-US-Farmed-Lions-MarketLolako.com’s Found! U.S.A. Farmed Tilapia

Seafood Watch – Seafood Report on Farmed Tilapia, by the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How to Raise Tilapia in the Backyard (http://www.pinoybisnes.com)

www.Globefish.org – Tilapia Production Report and Tilapia Archives

Rare Golden Bangus

Bangus (or milkfish – see previous post about Jollibees and “Burgers…and Bangus”) is silver-colored, like many fish.  Somehow though, this one came out a golden color.

RARE GOLDEN BANGUS–-Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) research center based in Dagupan City, holds a live rare golden bangus (milkfish) donated to the center by a fish farmer from Binmaley for research and propagation. The 16-month old fish is measured at 50 centimeters long and weighs 1.2 kilogram. (Photo by Cesar Ramirez) Source: http://sundaypunch.prepys.com/archives/2012/04/16/rare-golden-bangus/

Read more from Yolanda Sotelo, from the blog Northern Watch.  Excerpt:

The “golden bangus” aged one year and four months, could be a freak of nature, much like albinism, BFAR center chief Westly Rosario said. The rare bangus has golden scales, head, fins and tails, which are usually silver in “normal” bangus.
(Albinism, according to Wikipedia, is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.)

…Rosario said he has seen a golden bangus seven years ago in Taiwan, but this is the first time that such kind was reported in the Philippines  More…

Interested in why the Philippine bangus is considered an unofficial national symbol?  See the previous post “Burgers and Bangus”, and then check out the post Haring Ibon: the magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle to learn about official, national symbols of the Philippines).

Burgers…and Bangus?

Where else, but the Philippine fast food restaurant Jollibee, can one order hamburgers AND fried bangus (pronounced something close to “bung-oose”), served with rice?

Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC) started in Manila, soon after McDonalds made plans to enter the Philippine market.

They are one of Asia’s most successful and fastest growing companies, and the Philippines’ largest chain restaurant.  They continue to expand beyond the Philippines, with most U.S. locations in California.

Not yet familiar with bangus (also known as milkfish)?  It is a commonly eaten fish in the Philippines, and an unofficial national symbol.  And because of its popularity in aquaculture or fish farms, it is available just about everywhere in the Philippines, and easy to find here in the U.S.

Here is a description and biology from Wikipedia:

Milkfish (Chanos chanos) have a generally symmetrical and streamlined appearance, with a sizable forked caudal fin. They can grow to 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) but are most often about 1 metre (39 in) in length. They have no teeth and generally feed on algae and invertebrates.

They occur in the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific Ocean, tending to school around coasts and islands with reefs. The young fry live at sea for two to three weeks and then migrate to mangrove swamps, estuaries, and sometimes lakes and return to sea to mature sexually and reproduce.

Bangus (Milkfish) - Chanos chanos by Sir Francis Day

And on the history of the bangus / milkfish:

Milkfish aquaculture first occurred around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread in Indonesia, Taiwan and into the Pacific.

Traditional milkfish aquaculture relied upon restocking ponds by collecting wild fry. This led to a wide range of variability in quality and quantity between seasons and regions. In the late seventies, farmers first successfully spawned breeding fish. However, they were hard to obtain and produced unreliable egg viability.  In 1980 the first spontaneously spawning happened in sea cages. These eggs were found to be sufficient to generate a constant supply for farms.

Bangus is available fresh or frozen at most Asian markets, and at chain supermarkets that serve the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community (e.g., Seafood City, Island Supermarket).

Bangus milkfish for sale at Seafood City Markets - photo by Lolako.com

It is cooked in soups (sinigang), stewed in vinegar, ginger and spices (paksiw), fried, grilled or barbequed, stuffed (relleno style), and also “dinaing”, marinated in vinegar and spices, and fried, as in the style served at Jollibee.

Targeting the American market with their chicken and burgers, and offering a menu with familiar, native style foods like fried bangus seems like a solid marketing strategy, since U.S. Jollibee locations are in areas with established Fil-Am communities.

Bangus is a bony fish, so perhaps marinating or “dinaning” style of preparation is among the best method, as the acid in the vinegar makes the bangus bones soft, then crispy once it is fried.

Bangus is also available at Jollibee for breakfast, served with traditional Filipino garlic fried rice (sinangag) — and an egg of course.  For the breakfast menu, they do call it milkfish, and highlight the belly  or middle part — a favorite for many, including me!

Bangus is a tasty fish, and it must now be abundant enough — and hopefully grown in a sustainable way — to meet the supply demands of a large restaurant chain like Jollibees.

I checked the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, and did not see anything on chanos chanos, milkfish or bangus.  They did have a Fish Farming Methods Fact Card that indicate recirculating type systems (enclosed fish tanks) as the best method, though costly to run due to reliance on electricity or other power sources.  If you happen upon this blog and know about the bangus industry, I would appreciate getting a comment on modern bangus aquaculture methods.

I often wondered why bangus often shows up as a Philippine national symbol.  So…now I know it is because Filipinos from 800 years ago were the first to capture bangus in the wild, and grow bangus in fish farms.

Lastly for this post…I found out there is a bangus festival in Dagupan City….happening now, until May.  Dagupan City — located in the province of Pangasinan  — is known for having an abundance of fresh bangus.  A festival centered around the tasty bangus… sounds like fun!

Related Links:

Lola Jane’s article “The Jolly Bee & McDonalds Targeted Advertising”

Lola Jane’s article covering official Philippine National Symbols (focused on the magnificent Philippine Eagle)

www.dagupanbangusfestival.com

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources: Overview of the Milkfish Industry

Philippine Department of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Research – About Bangus

The Dagupan City, Philippines Bangus Festival

San Miguel – beer and more!

The choices for beer brands, specially from smaller, independent craft breweries in California is dizzying.  According to the California Craft Brewers Association, as of 2012, there were 312 independently owned, craft breweries in our state alone!

Nationally, I’ve heard that there are now over 2,000 breweries in the U.S., producing 13,000 different labels of beer.

Source: www.sanmiguelbrewery.com

Beer brand choice was quite simple when I was growing up in the Philippines.

Beer was just beer, no need to say a brand name, simply because there was typically just one beer available for sale in the Philippines.  And that brand was San Miguel Beer.

San Miguel Beer was founded in 1890 as La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel, a single-product brewery in the Philippines.

It is an iconic Philippine brand, and continues as the #1 beer brand in the Philippines, capturing over 95% of the beer market, and is the #1 brewery in Southeast Asia.

San Miguel has grown, and the brewery — the foundation of its business — is now a subsidiary of the vast San Miguel Corporation (SMC).  SMC is the largest food, beverage and packaging company in the Philippines, with over 100 facilities in the Philippines, China and Southeast Asia.

These days, the San Miguel Corporation’s products range from beer, hard liquor, juices, processed meats, poultry, dairy products, condiments, flour, coffee, animal feeds as well as packaging products.  Their “new business” seems far removed from their core beverage and food products, and are in the areas of:

  • Fuel & Oil
  • infrastructure
  • Power and Energy
  • Mining
  • Telecom
  • Banking

San Miguel was in my radar recently, when I read that the San Miguel Pure Foods Company’s (SMPFC) revenues hit an all time high in 2011.  Excerpt from San Miguel Corporation below:

San Miguel Pure Foods Company Inc. (SMPFC) registered all-time high revenues of P89.6 billion for 2011, up 13% from P79.3 billion in 2010 and driven by increased demand, aggressive distribution expansion, introduction of new products, and higher export sales.

Despite a significant increase in input costs, particularly in its agro-industrial cluster, income from operations increased 4% to P6.1 billion, with significant contributions from its value-added meats, dairy, flour, and coffee businesses.

Profits were boosted mainly by higher volumes, improved efficiencies, a good wheat position, a strong peso, and effective cost reduction across the entire group.

Net income rose to P4.2 billion, up 4% from P4.1 billion in 2010.

Nearly all of SMPFC’s businesses posted significant revenue growth due to higher volumes and favorable selling prices.

Its Value-added business chalked 5% growth in revenue, while its Feeds business posted an 8% revenue growth in commercial feeds.

Revenue growths were also seen across Magnolia Dairy, Magnolia Ice Cream and San Miguel Coffee, which benefited from wider distribution, brand-building initiatives and better selling prices.

For more on this topic, click on the article “SMC more than doubles revenues” from the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.

Pure Foods was acquired by San Miguel Corporation in May, 2001.

The San Miguel Corporation is huge, and hugely successful…and definitely not the San Miguel known by our parents, or THIS lola (grandmother).

Living in the United States, do you still drink San Miguel — or are there just way too many other beer choices here?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Purple yam or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone?

Have you eaten Filipino style ice cream?  If not, you are missing out on some of the best tasting and most interesting ice cream available to us, right here in the Bay Area!

Magnolia Brand “UBE” Ice Cream, from www.RamarFoods.com

When we lived in San Francisco years ago, Mitchell’s Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue (at Guererro and the corner of 29th Street) was the “go to” place for tropical ice cream.

These days, it is still the “go to” tropical ice cream place in SF.  It is quite unusual to see a business with over 1000 Yelp reviews, let alone one with over 2,000 reviews. As of this post date,  Mitchell’s Ice Cream has 2,230 reviews (“in English” out of a total of 2,235 reviews).   And they rate consistently 4.5 out of 5 Yelp stars!  Their tropical ice cream menu consist of:

  • Avocado
  • Buko (baby coconut)
  • Coconut Pineapple
  • Ginger (available November through February only)
  • Green Tea
  • Halo-Halo (buko, langka, ube, pineapple, mongo & sweet beans)
  • Langka (also known as jackfruit, a relative of the fig)
  • Lucuma (a tropical fruit native to Peru)
  • Macapuno (sweet coconut)
  • Mango
  • Tropical Four (banana, guava, mango & pineapple)
  • Ube (purple yam)

They note on their website that the most of the fruit imported for their tropical ice cream line is from the Philippines.

My grandsons like the purple, Filipino ube (pronounced “ou-beh”) — the purple yam ice cream, as well as the coconut or macapuno flavors, made from sweetened young coconut meat.

My grandsons Jun and Gabriel love ube ice cream (and licking frosting off beaters, after their Lola makes cake)!

Mais Queso Ice Cream by Magnolia Foods. Photo from www.ramarfoods.com

And my favorite?  It is the uniquely Filipino, ice cream combination of corn and cheese!  Yes indeed, corn and cheese was my favorite as a little kid, and it still is among my favorite ice cream concoctions now that I am a Lola (grandmother) of two beautiful boys.

I don’t see my favorite Filipino ice cream flavor on Mitchell’s current menu. However, it is easy enough to find at most Asian/Filipino stores.

A popular Filipino brand is  “Magnolia” by Ramar Foods.  Magnolia brand ice cream is made here in the U.S, at Ramar’s Pittsburg, California headquarters.  Magnolia’s ice cream fruits are also sourced from the Philippines, for the most authentic flavors.

Ramar’s Magnolia Ice Cream line features 16 flavors, including a “halo-halo” flavor (see previous post) and my all time favorite, corn and cheese — though they call it the Spanish  “mais queso”.

I know it sounds weird — well perhaps not so weird if you are of a Filipino background — but corn and cheese ice cream is really tasty.

The corn pieces give the creamy ice cream added unique texture and flavors, and along with the combination of slightly tart, orange-colored cheese bits…well, you will just have to trust me and try it.

But, I do understand if that sounds truly too strange for you to venture into the land of tropical ice cream.  So instead, you might just try:

  • Avocado ice cream — avocados have long been eaten as a “sweet” in the Philippines, as in avocado icicles, or ice pops, or the iced-avocado, sugar and milk snacks of our childhood.  And now, I am seeing avocado cheesecake recipes in magazines!  So finally, it seems…..Americans are trying avocado beyond its role as a vegetable, in guacamole or as ingredients for a salad and sandwich.
  • The mango, jackfruit or coconut flavors (like buko or macapuno)
  • The delicious ube — or purple yam.  Thanks to this purple yam, you will see a good share of Filipino snack foods in shades of purple .  Ube is used not only in ice cream, but also sold as a preserve (nothing like purple yam jams!) and stuffed in breads and added to many Filipino rice-based desserts.
  • And if you can’t decide and want to be adventurous, try the “halo-halo” ice cream, which translates to “mix-mix” or “to mix”, and where many ingredients are thrown in the ice cream mix (again, see prior post on halo-halo).

Growing up in the Philippines, I remember buying ice cream from the sorbetes man, scooped fresh, from his colorful push cart.

Jingling bells signaled the arrival of the sorbetes man on our street, and we would pop outside to let him know we would like to buy, and dash back inside to get our money, and favorite drinking glass, bowl, or cup, to contain the ice cream.

I can’t remember if there were even ice cream “cones” sold by sorbetes man back then, only that we would buy whatever scoop quantity we wanted and he would scoop it directly into our chosen containers.

Back inside and spoon in hand, we worked fast to eat our quickly melting ice cream.  Fresh ice cream from your favorite mamang sorbetero — the ice cream man — has to be one of the best snacks to eat on a warm, Philippine afternoon.

We did not know it, but back then, this was a very “green” method of getting a snack or treat, no waste of plastic packaging or paper trash to deal with.

Hmmm…I do wonder….can one still buy ice cream this way in the Philippines?

Halo-Halo: Saveur’s Recipe Comix

Is Filipino food going mainstream, finally?  The March, 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for the quintessential Filipino national dish, the chicken adobo (also noted by Local Nomad).

And earlier this week, Saveur Magazine’s website featured this halo-halo cartoon recipe (as they note, proof that a recipe does not have to be just words on paper).

Halo-Halo translates to “mix-mix” and is a much-loved, icy, Filipino treat, perfect for the hot Philippine climate, especially in the mid-afternoon.  It is also delicious as a dessert.

The artist for this recipe comix is Toronto-based Michael Deforge.

Halo-Halo is available at Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area.

In the Monterey Bay, Lola’s Kusina — not THIS Lola — on 265 Reservation Rd, in Marina (831)384-2600 is a good place to get your halo-halo fix.  My grandsons enjoy their halo-halo topped with their ube (purple yam) ice cream.

For a step-by-step (from scratch) halo-halo recipe, please visit Jun Belen’s blog,  http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/10/10/how-to-make-halo-halo/  Jun Belen is a Philippine-born, San Francisco-based professional food and cookbook photographer.         I have been a fan since learning about Jun’s Saveur-nominated blog — a collection of his Filipino recipes with narratives, and his absolutely beautiful photographs.

And if you have a favorite Bay Area halo-halo spot, please comment and share.

Do you think one day, Filipino food will be as common — and as readily available — as Chinese or Thai food here in the U.S.?

Shopping For Rice

Years ago, shopping for rice in the U.S. was pretty straightforward, as there was not much to choose from.  Usually, you had a pick of Calrose — the stickier sort we think of when eating Japanese food — Thai Jasmine, or Texas Long Grain.

That is no longer the case, and rice, in an array of choices — sold in 25 lb or 50 lb sacks — are now sold at most Asian markets or Filipino stores.  The photo below is from the rice section aisle at the Filipino chain supermarket, Seafood City.

Seattle location of Filipino supermarket chain Seafood City

So far, Seafood City has 19 locations in California, 4 in Nevada and a new store in the Seattle Area.

The original Seafood City was established over 20 years ago with the opening of its first store in San Diego.

They bill themselves as a “home away from home” for Filipinos and Asians in the United States.

The larger stores also have Filipino restaurants or tropical bakeries and dessert shops nearby, or within the strip mall area of the supermarket.

The Seafood City Supermarket I visited in Milipitas, California has well known, Philippine-based restaurants such as Goldilocks, Max’s of Manila and Chow King.

There were also Filipino cafes, a Valerio’s Tropical Bakery (famous here in the San Francisco Bay area for their Pandesal and “merienda” or snack items) and a Filipino Desserts Plus, which is new to Northern California (they have 3 stores in the San Diego area).

If you are looking to buy rice and are not near an Asian or Filipino supermarket, your mainstream type grocery store will still have several options (and sizes) available.  Just look in the Asian / Mexican Food or Ethnic Food aisle, and you will usually see a variety of rice to choose from — the photo below from the chain store, Save Mart.

rice is located in the Mexican & Asian food aisle at chain store Save Mart

Rice is also sold in bulk at markets like Whole Foods, along side other grains.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice choices locally include California “sushi” rice, brown California basmati rice, jasmine rice, sweet brown, and white arborio rice.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice we buy for our family here in the U.S. is usually the Milagrosa or Thai Jasmine type — fairly easy to find at local stores, and even available in 25 or 50 pound sacks at most Costco stores.

Shopping for Rice at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

It is interesting to see the opening of new supermarkets in California, targeted to the ever-growing Filipino and Asian-American population here.

At the same time, there are American or Western Style malls and grocery stores opening up in far-flung provinces and places in the Philippines.

It is just part of modern migration trends and much more diverse, global communities living….well, everywhere!

In the Philippines, these new, Western style grocery stores — even outside major metropolitan areas — also serve  the needs of foreigners and Filipino-Americans retiring and/or deciding to move and live in the Philippines, and perhaps looking for the same, familiar, grocery stores from years living in the U.S. or abroad.

While in the Philippines, we went shopping for rice that our Mother might like, similar to the Thai Jasmine variety, sold here in the U.S.   A new Western style mall about an hour and a half drive from our Mother’s home, had just opened, and we went to check it out. There was a new grocery store inside the mall, and we were able to buy pretty much anything we needed and things you would find as a “staple” here in the U.S.

In particular, we were happy to find yogurt, and a nice selection of cheese, which was not so common just a few years ago, and non-existent there when we were growing up.

Rice Varieties and Pricing at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

However, the rice varieties at this new grocery store —  though also sold in large sacks — were limited to Dinorado, Well-Milled, Sinandomeng or Whole Grain.

Dinorado is a popular, traditional aromatic variety of rice.  Sometimes, unscrupulous sellers will pass off lower quality rice as higher quality, and more expensive varieties like Dinorado.

Hopefully, that is not the case with these sacks of rice sold at the new and shiny grocery store.

We will check it out again during our next trip to see if they have more rice choices.  We also heard a new mall has opened just minutes away from our Mother’s place…so perhaps we do not need to drive far to get those U.S. style pantry basics.

Photo Source: IRRI

For more about rice — a staple food for more than 3 billion people who eat it every day — visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website, here, or click on the bowl of rice photo.

Also, more rice articles are available in the “Rice, Rice and more Rice” Category.

Blog Birthday

This month — and March 6th to be specific–  marks LolaKo.com’s 1st year anniversary.

Blog is my garden

So one year later, blogging is still fun.  I have learned much more about topics important to me, and met new friends through the blog.   Highlights for the first year:

Ginamos and Bananas - Photo by Karlhans

A story I posted called “Luggage with a special kind of stinky”, about my mother’s mishap bringing fermented fish (ginamos) from the Philippines to San Francisco turned out to be popular.

And at the same time, it was helpful to those wondering if they can bring dried fish (and ginamos) from the Philippines to the United States…
.

A story about old school  ironing “Hot iron for your undies” connected a person from France who rented his flat from the same family — and the “Oma” (grandmother) who took such great care of my then baby daughter, Dominique — when we were stationed near the town of Dudeldorf, Germany.

The funny part for me….are people landing on the blog by typing the words lola+undies, who, I imagine, may be very, very disappointed when they find out “Lola” means grandmother in Tagalog (Filipino), not some hottie “Lola” from a European country.  And that the article is about the uber sexy topic of…. IRONING!  Ha, serves them right.

The most popular search term bringing people to this blog last year has been….very oddly….the term “walis ting ting”.  This is all because I mentioned Filipino ting-ting and tambo brooms in an article about how products got their names, including the Procter and Gamble product, the Swiffer!

Though this year, the terms “plastic problem Philippines” and Philippine eagle and Philippine national symbols are quickly catching up.

And though this is not a food blog, I do love cooking for my grandchildren, so I include favorite recipes, now and then.

Two food related posts often visited are:

Whole egg leche flan with coconut milk.…turns out I was not the only person wondering if I really have to separate all those egg yolk and egg whites to make flan!

A story about “Banana leaves and sweets” on suman and puto, after my grandson Jun-Jun bit into a banana leaf and asked if he could eat it.

My penchant for charts and graphs (something I carry over from my past work presenting accident statistics) continues, but this time covering conservation, and human development topics.  I created a new category “Lola’s Pies” for this collection.

As of today, I’ve posted 125 articles, some short, some long.  For me, a blog is about exploring topics I feel are important and having my own little place — in this big but more connected world of ours — to collect, contain and share information important to me, and in the process (I hope) interesting and helpful for others too!

My goals the 2nd year:

As always, thank you for visiting!

San Francisco Arboretum

Philippine plastic garbage problem

If this photograph from Joshua Mark Dalupang, published with the Guardian’s article “Tide of plastic bags that started wave of revulsion”  does not convince you about the plastics problems in the Philippines….well, I don’t know what else will.

Plastic pollution in Manila Bay, the Philippines. Other countries including South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and China have introduced bans on single-use plastic bags. Photograph: Joshua Mark Dalupang / EPA

It truly is sad — and at the same time revolting — to see this anywhere, let alone my dearly loved Philippines, especially that plastic bags are a preventable type of pollution.

Are there programs in place to address this…or at least projects in the works?  If you live in the Philippines, in Manila or other large cities with this problem (and solutions), please comment — and especially if you live in a city that has banned plastic bags.

Note: Plastics never fully biodegrade: the estimates above refer to the time it takes for plastics to break down into smaller pieces. Graphic from www.saveourshores.org

We really have to ask ourselves — is the convenience of single use plastic bags worthwhile, when we know the resulting pollution it creates?   We already know that it does not biodegrade fully — and as you can see from the above photo, rarely recycled.

What do you think happens to these plastic bags?   Where does the plastic end up?  In an ocean environment, these bags

  • will break down into smaller and smaller pieces
  • absorb other toxic substances
  • is ingested by wildlife and creatures living in our oceans (sea turtles mistake these bags as jellyfish and accidentally ingest the bags)
  • then enters the ocean wildlife food chain — including OUR food chain when we eat seafood

I posted an article titled Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor, after reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.  The book is about the history of plastic and our love of plastic products, and delves into — among other fascinating topics — the problem of plastic bags and plastic waste.

Related posts:

Francis-Malasig-photo-philippine plastic trash problemSee Lola Jane’s article on the “burden of civilization’s excess” and 5gyres.org – for more on the  plastic trash problems in the Philippines.  River of trash photo by Francis R. Malasig, via 5gyres.org

Resources and information on plastic bag bans at the end of my post “12 Minutes” (twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag).

Link to article about Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story and photographs of plastic packaging at a typical seaside market in the Philippines

Trash and plastics vortex now the size of Texas (about the North Pacific trash gyre)

Seahorses – Magical Fish

More on the magical seahorse on this video from the California Academy of Science, with Healy Hamilton discussing the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.

The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.

All species of seahorses are internationally protected and no one is supposed to be harvesting seahorses…but the problem of course…..is enforcement.

INTRODUCTION: The destruction of coral reefs, trawling and the use of seahorses in Chinese medicine is leading to their decline. How do we stop this near-mythical sea creature from becoming extinct? “Wired” interviews Academy researcher, Healy Hamilton, to discuss this unique fish and the dangers that threaten them.

Also…here again is the link to Alex Pronove’s blog and his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market.  Click  here – or click on his photo below.

Photo by: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

Don’t forget…the Seahorse Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be closing this summer. Click here for more information.

Wild World Weather January 2012

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) NCDC State of the Climate Report publishes a chart of significant climate anomalies and events.  Here is the chart for January 2012.

Chart Source: NOAA - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

Click on the chart or here to view a larger version of the January 2012 climate anomalies chart.  Highlights:

  • Global Temperatures are 19th warmest on record for January, since record keeping began in 1880.
  • Arctic sea ice extent was the fourth smallest extent on record for January, at 7.5 percent below average.
  • January 2012 marks the coolest month since February 2008. However, January 2012 also marks the 26th January and 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.

In Australia - coolest maximum January temperatures since January 2000, and 13th coolest since national record keeping began in 1950

In the Philippines – torrential rainfall since mid December 2011 (and after the already devastating Typhoon Sendong) led to another mudslide in January, killing 30 people and leaving 40 others missing on the island of Mindanao.

In southeastern Brazil – heavy rains led to flooding and landslides, killing eight people and forcing over 13,000 people to evacuate the area.

Germany had its sixth wettest January since record keeping began in 1881.

While the contiguous United States experienced the 4th warmest January since record keeping began in 1895, parts of Alaska experienced record cold temperatures and snowfall.

In Spain, January 2012 was the 6th driest January in the last five decades.

Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-blended-mntp/201201.gif

  • Monsoonal rains brought heavier-than-average rainfall to southwestern and southeastern Australia.
  • Rainfall was also well above average in south Asia, part of eastern Russia, and southwestern Greenland. Much drier-than-average conditions were observed across northern Canada, the north central United States, eastern Brazil, and northern Sweden.

Males who get pregnant and give birth? Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In case you live in the area and have not been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in a while, now is a great time to visit.  With much less crowds, you can relax, take in the beauty of the exhibits, get inspired and take pictures of your favorite creatures with ease.

Also, it is a good opportunity to check out the fascinating exhibit, The Secret Lives of Seahorses, which will be closing in August this year.

I posted an article about seahorses and our visit to the aquarium with our grandsons last year (click here to view).

And yes, there really are  males in the animal kingdom who become pregnant and give birth.  It’s the extraordinary seahorse!

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the seahorse exhibit:

Seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefishes come in many shapes and sizes, but beneath the surface they’re all fish, with fused jaws and bony plates in place of the scales normally associated with fish.

Perhaps what most distinguishes seahorses from the rest of the animal kingdom is their unique life history—the males become pregnant and give birth. Seahorse fathers shelter their young in protective pouches, while sea dragon and pipefish fathers carry their young on spongy patches on the undersides of their tails.

And on a related topic, I recently learned about blogger Alex Pronove— who returned to the Philippines and now lives in the Palawan area, and writes about “discovering my new island home”.  Check out his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market here – or click on his photo below.

Photo: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

 

Vanishing Birds of the Philippines: Art Exhibit at The Bone Room

The artist David Tomb of the conservation group Jeepney Projects Worldwide will speak about his artwork and connection with the Philippine Eagle Foundation at 7:00 PM, on Thursday, February 23 at The Bone Room.

Philippine Eagle Print by David Tomb - www.JeepneyProjects.org

Art by David Tomb will be available at The Bone Room Presents until February 28th, 2012.  The Bone Room is located at 1573 Solano in Berkeley, CA 94707 (Tel. 510-526-5252).

From the Jeepney Projects website:

This exhibition will feature works on paper of the iconic and critically endangered Great Philippine Eagle and the other beautiful endemic birds of the Philippines, including the Rufous Hornbill. There will be living plants and an audio installation that will highlight sounds of the Mindanao jungle. The show shines a light on the rare and beautiful Philippine birds, and the challenges and tension these creatures face to survive and share a sustainable future with an ever-growing Filipino population.

Rufous Hornbill by David Tomb - www.JeepneyProjects.org