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Deadliest catch: Thailand’s ‘ghost’ fishing nets help Covid fight

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Underwater divers in plastic-choked waters off the coast of Thailand snip through discarded nets tangled around a reef — a new initiative helping protect marine life and aiding the fight against coronavirus.

The “ghost nets” discarded from the country’s lucrative fishing industry are a deadly source of plastic pollution, ensnaring turtles and cutting into delicate coral beds.

Left unattended, “they could stay adrift for decades, either entrapping or becoming the food of marine animals,” says Ingpat Pakchairatchakul of the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation.

Ingpat was speaking to AFP during a recent boat trip off the coast of Chonburi province, as a team of more than 30 divers hacked away at stubborn threads enveloping a reef 27 metres (90 feet) below the vessel.

She is part of Net Free Seas, a project that fetches used nets and turns them into new plastic products — in this case meeting the burgeoning demand for protective gear like face shields to guard against the pandemic.

Net Free Seas is a project that fetches used nets and turns them into new plastic products

Net Free Seas is a project that fetches used nets and turns them into new plastic products. Photo: AFP

It aims to prove that protecting sea creatures can be commercially viable in Thailand, one of the world’s biggest producers of ocean waste.

The initiative also comes in the wake of a growing local outcry over the lethal effects of plastic on marine life.

In one infamous example, a sick baby dugong named Mariam washed up in shallow waters two years ago and later died from an infection caused by plastic lining its stomach.

It prompted an online outpouring of grief among Thais who had spent months watching a live web broadcast of rescuers trying to nurse the creature back to health.

Mariam was among the nearly two dozen dead or injured large marine animals found beached on Thailand’s shores each year, according to Chaturathep Khowinthawong, the director of the kingdom’s marine park management agency.

“More than 70 percent of them are injured from the ghost nets and have cuts deep into their bodies,” he says.

“Once they get stuck, the chance of survival is less than 10 percent.”

Divers untangle a fishing net caught around a reef off the coast of Thailand. Photo: AFP

Divers untangle a fishing net caught around a reef off the coast of Thailand. Photo: AFP

‘We want to save the ocean’

Net Free Seas has salvaged 15 tons of waste netting from sea waters in its first year of operation.

That accounts for a tiny fraction of the 640,000 tonnes of lost and discarded fishing gear the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says finds its way into the oceans annually.

But the scheme has met enthusiastic support from local fishing communities.

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Somporn Pantumas, a fisherman in seaside Rayong city.

“The fishing community gets to have another source of income, the beach and the sea are clean, and the fishermen find a sense of camaraderie.”

The 59-year-old is one of 700 people in fishing communities across Thailand selling worn out nets to the scheme.

Somporn was easily convinced to participate, knowing the extent of marine pollution in the waters off Rayong — he says his nets often collect more plastic debris than actual fish.

“The more waste I collect from the sea, the more the current sweeps my way,” he tells AFP.

Collected nets are sent to be washed, shredded, mixed with other discarded plastics and melted into shape at Qualy Design, a small business that moulds homewares out of recycled goods.

Qualy is using the nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and table divider screens used in restaurants around Bangkok since the onset of the pandemic.

The breakthrough product has been plastic push-sticks, which allow people to press elevator buttons or public touchscreens like ATM consoles without risking infection.

Compared to other materials, nets are the hardest to work with and the most expensive, says the firm’s marketing director Thosphol Suppametheekulwat tells AFP.

“But we really jumped on it because we want to save the ocean as well,” he says.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210122/deadliest-catch-thailand-s-ghost-fishing-nets-help-covid-fight/58931.html

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Through the mailbox slot: Japanese theatre offers new viewing experience

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TOKYO — The lights dim, as at the start of any theatre performance, and the audience leans forward to look through a letter-box slot or peephole in the door in front of them as the performers break out into dance.

Japanese dance company Moonlight Mobile Theater has come up with a novel way of bringing people back to their avant-garde performances while maintaining social distancing.

Audience members sit on stools in separated cubicles surrounding the stage, each with its own door and letter-drop slots through which they can watch the dancers.

“We intentionally created small holes and slots resembling mailbox slots,” said Nobuyoshi Asai, the theatre’s artistic director and choreographer, explaining how limiting the scope of viewing allows the audience to become more absorbed in the performance.

The theatre company began this peephole viewing in December after cancelling most of its shows last year because of the pandemic. Since December, all 12 of the peephole performances have sold out.

Though this response has been encouraging, only 30 people are allowed in the audience at each show.

This does not cover the cost of the performance, including additional safety measures such as disinfecting the venue.

Government subsidies barely help the company make ends meet.

While acknowledging the difficulties, Asai is steadfast in the advantages of this idea.

“If we don’t do it, artists will lose opportunities to dance and act,” he said.

“We want to propose this as a model to bring audiences back to theatres.”

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210303/through-the-mailbox-slot-japanese-theatre-offers-new-viewing-experience/59572.html

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Indonesia volcano belches huge ash column

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An Indonesian volcano erupted on Tuesday morning spewing a spectacular column of ash thousands of meters into a powder blue sky.

Vulcanologists recorded 13 separate blasts as Mount Sinabung leapt to life, belching debris up to 5,000 meters above Sumatra.

There was no immediate danger to life or property, authorities said, with a five-kilometer ring around the volcano having been left unoccupied over recent years.

No evacuation orders have been issued, and there has been no reported flight disruption.

But locals are taking no chances.

“The residents are scared, many are staying indoors to avoid the thick volcanic ash,” Roy Bangun, 41, told AFP.

Muhammad Nurul Asrori, a monitoring officer at Sinabung, said Tuesday’s plume of smoke and ash was the largest he had seen since 2010, and warned that it could still get bigger.

“The large lava dome at any time could burst, causing a bigger avalanche of hot clouds,” he said.

Sinabung, a 2,460-meter volcano, was dormant for centuries before roaring back to life in 2010 when an eruption killed two people.

After another period of inactivity, it erupted again in 2013 and has remained highly active since.

In 2014, an eruption killed at least 16 people, while seven died in a 2016 blast.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets, has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

It sits on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of tectonic plate boundaries circling the Pacific Ocean where frequent seismic activity occurs.

Mount Merapi on Java island, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, also erupted this week, spewing lava down one of its flanks.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210303/indonesia-volcano-belches-huge-ash-column/59571.html

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Thirteen die in collision of truck, crowded SUV near U.S.-Mexico border

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At least 13 people, 10 of them Mexican nationals, were killed on Tuesday when a tractor-trailer slammed into a Ford Expedition crammed with 25 adults and children in the dusty farming community of Holtville near the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.

Handmade wooden crosses stretched in a line across a patch of dry grass and dirt next to the highway, and a seat covered in what appeared to be blood lay near the SUV, as the desolate highway remained closed Tuesday afternoon.

The white tractor trailer cab with yellow trim was still smashed into the wrecked side of the maroon SUV. The entire driver’s side of the smaller vehicle was caved in, and the passenger side was flung wide open.

“Unfortunately, consular staff have confirmed the death of 10 Mexicans so far,” Roberto Velasco, the foreign ministry’s director for North America, said in a tweet in Spanish.

Mexicans were also among the injured in the crash, he said.

It was not immediately clear how fast the vehicles were going, or whether the SUV had observed a stop sign before heading into the intersection of State Route 115 and Norrish Road just outside of Holtville, about 10 miles (16.1 km) north of the border, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said.

Those killed, who included the driver of the SUV, ranged in age from 15 to 53, and minors as young as 16 were injured, said Omar Watson, chief of the highway patrol’s border division. He said the driver was 22 years old.

Several of the occupants were ejected from the vehicle and died on the pavement; others died inside the SUV, Watson said.

Most of the survivors are Spanish-speaking, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said. Despite the presence of CBP agents and Spanish translators, Watson said it was too early to know whether the SUV’s occupants were migrant workers or others who might have crossed from Mexico in the overcrowded vehicle.

Although it varies by trim and model year, the Ford Expedition typically is designed to hold five to eight people.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers investigate a crash site after a collision between a Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle (SUV) and a tractor-trailer truck near Holtville, California, U.S. in an aerial photograph March 2, 2021.  Photo: Reuters

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers investigate a crash site after a collision between a Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle (SUV) and a tractor-trailer truck near Holtville, California, U.S. in an aerial photograph March 2, 2021. Photo: Reuters

Watson said the CHP was working with the Mexican Consulate to determine who was in the vehicle and notify families of fatalities.

The CBP spokesperson, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the agency was not in pursuit of or aware of the vehicle until the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department asked for its help at the crash site.

The agency does not know and is not investigating the immigration status of the people at this time.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, which was earlier said to be hauling gravel but according to the CHP was not, was also hospitalized with moderate injuries, Watson said.

The logo of Havens and Sons Trucking of nearby El Centro was on the side of the truck cab. A person who answered the phone at the company told Reuters it had no comment at this time.

Several of the victims were taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center, the director of the hospital’s emergency room, Judy Cruz, said in a news briefing posted on Facebook.

Agriculture drives the economy around Holtville and El Centro. Known as the Imperial Valley, the area is a big producer of fruits, vegetables, grain and cattle despite being desert, thanks to irrigation from the Colorado River and a long growing season.

Hospital officials had previously said that 27 people were in the SUV, and that 15 had died, but Watson said there were 25 passengers and 13 fatalities.

Three victims were flown to other hospitals and seven others were brought to El Centro. One person died at the hospital, Cruz said.

In Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board said it will investigate the crash in concert with the California Highway Patrol. The agency’s investigator-in-charge was expected to arrive on Wednesday, the NTSB said.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210303/thirteen-die-in-collision-of-truck-crowded-suv-near-usmexico-border/59570.html

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