Sea urchin species spotted
A species of sea urchin that had never been recorded before in the nation was recently seen in waters near Kenting (墾丁), the National Museum of Natural Science said yesterday. The species, called Lissodiadema lorioli, was spotted by Huang Hsin-drow (黃興倬), an associate research fellow at the museum, when he was diving near the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County last month, the museum said. The sea urchin has been recorded at coral reefs within 50m of the water’s surface in many parts of the West Pacific, including at the Great Barrier Reef, Guam, Okinawa and Ambon Island in Indonesia, but Huang’s sighting was the first in Taiwan, the museum said. The finding also increased the number of sea urchin species recorded in the Kenting area to 24, the museum added.
Premier names Matsu ferry
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and his wife yesterday presided over the ceremonial christening and launching of a new cargo-passenger ship that is set to sail between Taiwan proper and Matsu later this year. Built by Kaohsiung-based Jade Yachts Shipbuilding Co at a cost of NT$1.44 billion (US$47.5 million), the 4,509-tonne Taima Star is 104m long and 16m wide, and can carry up to 646 passengers, 28 cars and either three mid-sized buses or one large-sized bus, the shipbuilder said. It has a special zone for women, a movie theater, a chess room and accessible facilities. Taima Star is expected to begin service by the end of this year, sailing between Keelung and Matsu.
CDC renews H5N1 warning
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cautioned the public about the ongoing circulation of H5N1 viruses and the risk of infection in certain Southeast Asian countries, calling on travelers to remain vigilant. Confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus have been recently reported in Cambodia and Vietnam. As of Sunday, five human cases have been confirmed in the two countries this year, three of which were fatal. All victims had a history of close contact with poultry, the CDC said, adding the countries have also reported several outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu in birds. The agency said the threat of human-to-human transmission of H5N1 virus is still present in certain areas, advising travelers to remain alert when traveling to high-risk regions. There has not been any confirmed case of H5N1 human infection in Taiwan, the CDC said, but the virus has made 655 people sick and caused 388 deaths around the globe, bringing the mortality rate to nearly 60 percent.
Long winter break next year
Schoolchildren can look forward to a longer winter break next year of 27 to 30 days starting in late January. Compared with this year’s 21-day break, the Ministry of Education has set a school break from Jan. 28 to Feb. 17, followed immediately by the Lunar New Year holiday from Feb. 18 to 23, said Chiu Chien-kuo (邱乾國) of the ministry’s K-12 Education Administration. The combined 27 days would make for the third-longest winter school break in history and could be extended by three more days if a proposal to prolong the Lunar New Year holiday is adopted. That would tie next year’s break with last year’s, which also came in at 30 days. The longest winter school vacation ever was in 2010, when students got 32 days off, Chiu said. Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) is set to hold in the middle of the month a cross-agency discussion of proposals to extend holiday time to give workers more time off.