Jun 30, 2008

"Remember Chek Jawa": an interview with director Eric Lim

Remember Chek Jawa, an independent film which took about six years to produce, shows an alternative side of urban Singapore and the congregation of the human spirit to save what is left of our natural environment.

Once destined to be put up for reclamation, Chek Jawa has won the hearts of people from all walks of life and has since averted it’s terrible fate. Through their undying determination and great efforts, the film embraces the power of human will and how one person can make all the difference. Eric Lim talks more about his experience.

Find out Eric Lim's thoughts about questions such as...

In the process of making this documentary, what were some of the difficulties you faced?

In the film, Mr Joseph Lai mentioned that “not many Singaporeans took the effort to go and find out things” which is partly the reason why Chek Jawa was only discovered recently, despite so many “nature groups and academics”. He went on to say that there is “something missing”. What do you think is this missing factor in Singapore society?

How has making this film changed you? In terms of your perception on conservation and ‘the human spirit’.

Full interview on the Sinema Old School website

See also the Remember Chek Jawa website for more about the film.

Thanks to an alert on the Singapore's Heritage, Museums & Nostalgia blog

More links

Shell is looking into a new petrochemicals facility

How big will the facility be? "to be economic, the new SMPO investment should ideally be as large as Shell Chemical's world-scale, US$500 million Ellba Eastern joint venture with Germany's BASF on Jurong Island".

Where in the world will it be located? "Singapore is being considered as the investment site, but has to compete with others in the Middle East and Asia".

If in Singapore where will it be located?
"A factor favouring Singapore for the SMPO investment will be the availability of feedstocks like ethylene, propylene and benzene from Shell's new US$3 billion petrochemical cracker which is currently being built and scheduled to start operations in late 2009 or early 2010. Having an integrated manufacturing hub will be an advantage in the competitive SMPO market".

This cracker is probably the one on Pulau Bukom, which next to Pulau Hantu and near Cyrene Reefs.

What is the output of the facility? "Chemical intermediates used to make final products such as polystyrene containers and rubber soles."

Shell seeking JV partners for new plant
Singapore being considered for the SMPO facility
Ronnie Lim, Business Times 30 Jun 08;

SHELL Chemicals is talking to potential partners for a significant new styrene monomer/propylene oxide (SMPO) facility - expected to cost at least US$500 million - which could be built in Singapore, a senior executive told BT.

Its general manager for SMPO & derivatives, Fang Yea-Yee, said that the strong Asia-Pacific demand for SMPO - which are chemical intermediates used to make final products such as polystyrene containers and rubber soles - underpins the project.

'A lot of work is going on, and we are in discussions with possible joint venture partners,' he said, elaborating on news that first emerged last month of the planned SMPO investment.

Iain Lo, its vice-president, ventures and developments for the Asia Pacific/Middle East, had told BT in May that a 'decision is expected soon' on the project.

Singapore - one of Shell's main refining and petrochemical hubs - is being considered as the investment site, but has to compete with others in the Middle East and Asia.

While Mr Lo did not give project details, he indicated that to be economic, the new SMPO investment should ideally be as large as Shell Chemical's world-scale, US$500 million Ellba Eastern joint venture with Germany's BASF on Jurong Island.

Ellba has a production capacity of 250,000 tonnes of PO and 550,000 tonnes of SM.

Mr Fang declined to say which companies Shell Chemicals was trying to get aboard its latest SMPO project, and whether it was considering different joint venture partners depending on the site chosen.

A BASF spokesman contacted by BT earlier last week said that it was not in discussions with Shell at this point of time on the latest SMPO investment.

A factor favouring Singapore for the SMPO investment will be the availability of feedstocks like ethylene, propylene and benzene from Shell's new US$3 billion petrochemical cracker which is currently being built and scheduled to start operations in late 2009 or early 2010.

Having an integrated manufacturing hub will be an advantage in the competitive SMPO market, Mr Fang told a petrochemicals conference in Bangkok recently.

'Shell believes the strong growth in Asia-Pacific demand for both styrene and propylene oxide will continue to create attractive opportunities for new SMPO investments,' he said.

Overall, regional growth remains robust - especially with China remaining the major global growth engine for styrenics - and Shell sees this trend continuing for the long-term, he added.

full article also on the wildsingapore news blog

More about petrochemicals and our southern islands.

Nature guides may soon need to be certified

From the article below, main points of the certification move are:

Why? "to eliminate the risk of shoddy tours and ill-informed guides", "to standardise the quality of information" among the rapidly increasing number of guides due to "rapidly growing number of eco-tourists". "This is meant to be a comfort to the public who want to engage a service, so they will know that the person doing the guiding has a consistently high level of knowledge".

Applies to whom? "all those conducting eco-tours will have to go for training".

Any exemptions? "will not apply to teachers and their students, or people who want to share what they know with friends".

For which locations?
"apply to the roughly 300 green spaces under the jurisdiction of NParks " including "Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin".

What are the details?
"The details of the programme have not been established", said Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NParks chief operations officer

How much will certification cost?
NParks "has not come up with the cost of the proposed training programme, nor has it decided if there will be a difference in what professional guides and volunteers will have to pay for training". "The fee would be more than $100 but would not be onerous. Subsidies will be made available to locals".

What's next? "
Consultations will be held with eco-guides later this year before its plans are cast in stone"

Nature guides may soon need to be certified
Proposed NParks rule designed to raise quality of guides
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 30 Jun 08;

BY THE end of next year, all nature guides who show local and foreign tourists around Singapore's parks and reserves could need a certificate from the Government.

The proposed rule, designed to eliminate the risk of shoddy tours and ill-informed guides, would apply to the roughly 300 green spaces under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Board (NParks).

The list includes some of Singapore's biggest and most popular parks, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin.

NParks chief operations officer Leong Chee Chiew said: 'We would like to standardise the quality of information given out to those who are interested in nature.'

NParks said a big reason for its proposal was the rapidly growing number of eco-tourists visiting its parks and reserves. The demand has prompted a need for more people - both volunteers and professionals - to get into the guiding game.

NParks said there are 1,600 registered volunteer guides, but it is unclear how many are active. There could be hundreds of other private volunteers, according to some estimates.

Most guides are nature lovers or members of conservation groups who offer free tours. But there are a handful of professionals who charge about $100 per hour for excursions.

Eventually all those conducting eco-tours will have to go for training, though the details of the programme have not been established, said Dr Leong.

NParks' director of industry, Mr P. Teva Raj, said this will not apply to teachers and their students, or people who want to share what they know with friends.

'This is meant to be a comfort to the public who want to engage a service, so they will know that the person doing the guiding has a consistently high level of knowledge,' he said.

Seven experienced nature guides who spoke with The Straits Times agreed that training would be valuable.

But they were riled by the idea that they might require accreditation. Some see it as an insult after decades of promoting Singapore's natural heritage, while others think it goes against the spirit of volunteerism.

A guide certified by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Mr Grant Pereira, 59, said: 'I don't see a reason for external guidelines. I am a certified guide by the STB, I am extremely good at the few guided tours I specialise in. Why is this necessary?'

It appears that not every eco-tourist needs licensed guides. Nature lover Nassera Guerroumi, 36, who is from France and came to live in Singapore two years ago, does not think certification is necessary beyond training in first aid.

'Why formalise it? People who do this love nature or they wouldn't bother sharing their passion. I don't need Latin names of plants, or someone talking all the time, I just want to be safe and know where to go to have an experience,' she said.

NParks has not come up with the cost of the proposed training programme, nor has it decided if there will be a difference in what professional guides and volunteers will have to pay for training.

Mr Raj, when pressed, said the fee would be more than $100 but would not be onerous. He said subsidies will be made available to locals.

President of the Nature Society of Singapore, Mr Shawn Lum, 45, said that, in principle, NParks' idea is excellent.

'It ensures that NParks, as a custodian of our natural heritage, has an idea of who are leading walks and if they're being done responsibly. The devil is in the detail which stakeholders would want to help the authorities pin down. But this is worth it,' he said.

Mr Raj said consultations will be held with eco-guides later this year before its plans are cast in stone.


'Some of the ideas like safety training are great, but I'm afraid the certification might become a barrier to volunteerism. Having to pay may discourage people and certificates cannot guarantee quality in content-delivery and style.'


'I've seen exceptional guides but I've also seen guides who allow tourists to stay close to a bird's roosting site for too long, not knowing such behaviour will prompt the birds to abandon the site. This does not help the precious wildlife we have left.'

NParks to consult Australian institute on guide training scheme
Straits Times 30 Jun 08;

THE National Parks Board (NParks) has turned to an Australian tourism body to help it establish what information guides should know about Singapore's nature reserves.

Recommendations from the government-linked William Angliss Institute Specialist Centre for Tourism are likely to form the basis of a proposed NParks scheme to accredit guides.

NParks recently put 19 of its senior nature guides and staff through a week-long review by the Australian institute that tested their knowledge.

Guides had to demonstrate their skills in guided walks at the Singapore's new HortPark, and traditional haunts such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the central catchment area and the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

NParks' senior outreach officer, Ms Karen Teo, 35, went through the test, the results of which are expected in the next few weeks.

She trains some of the 1,600 volunteers registered with NParks.

'I've not really had formalised training, so it was good to find out I was doing a lot of things right and that...I could do more to promote larger campaigns, for example, against climate change,' she said.

The Australian institute said shortcomings were spotted in areas of risk management, including how to handle someone with heat stroke.

When ready, Singapore's new accreditation programme will likely set a minimum standard of general knowledge for guides and require them to know first aid.

They will also have to understand how to minimise the impact of tours on the environment.

full articles also on the wildsingapore news blog

Jun 29, 2008

EnviroFest 2008: Day 2

EnvironFest continues to bring in the crowds on the second day!

At the Naked Hermit Crabs booth, Andy shares about the shores with a family interested in visiting. (We are overwhelmed by the huge interest in visiting)I grab a chance to visit some of the booths I missed yesterday. The friendly ladies at the Cat Welfare Society are doing incredible work for our community cats. My three cats came via their good work (including Tootsie the polydactyl cat), so I really appreciate what they are doing. Bravo!
And the equally hard-working folks at the Water Ways Watch Society who toil tirelessly to share the message on keeping our waterways clean.Here's one of their snazzy hard-hitting messages.The Raffles Museum Toddycats continue to get tons of 'business', with lots of attention on their specimens.Especially the pickled baby dugong, apparently the poor thing was inside its mummy when the Mama dugong was killed by a boat propeller. Tragic.Our marine heritage is also one of the Toddycats' key messages.Over at the NParks booth everyone was cheerful and enthusiastic despite the heat of the afternoon.Their kids' activity corner remained very popular.Alas, at the booth was displayed the remains of the cute baby colugo that was rescued in 2006 but which didn't survive the brutal attack on its mother by a thoughtless poacher.This is what it looked like when it was still alive and being cared for by NParks officers. Read more about the baby colugo on the For the Future of our Forest blog by the Central Nature Reserve volunteers.It's sad that our wildlife is not appreciated and are mindlessly killed.

Indeed, this was the message of the talk by Karen Teo of NParks this afternoon. That we have special Singaporeans that we don't know about. And that we should do our part to protect them.Lots of people came specially to listen to this afternoon's talks.And there was even one person who insisted on interrupting the talk to have another look at the Banded leaf monkey.And what a real treat it was to have Chay Hoon next up, sharing about our shores above and underwater, on behalf of the Hantu Bloggers.She shared not only photos but also video clips and had lots of interesting stories and facts to share with us.The kids were particularly fascinated by all the colourful photos!

The talk went smoothly, even though this grandpa walked right infront of the screen!It was a real special two days chock-a-block with happenings and opportunities to share and learn. And to meet everyone working for the environment. We are such busy people that it's almost impossible to get everyone together except for such rare moments.

All thanks to Boon Wah and team for organising this event! And here's Boon Wah presenting Chay Hoon with a lovely token of appreciation.It's really inspiring to see all the different groups working together for common purpose!

Jun 28, 2008

EnviroFest 2008: Day 1

Today, almost all the wild people were at EnviroFest 2008!

The Naked Hermit Crabs had a booth featuring our living shores, and highlighting Cyrene Reef. Here's Sam sharing more about our shores with the young ones.The Hantu Bloggers were there also highlighting our fabulous reefs, especially Pulau Hantu.The Raffles Museum Toddycats were out in force with lots of attention drawing specimens to highlight our marvellous biodiversity. The baby dugong was of particular fascination.
The Toddycats also highlighted the terrible situation with marine litter.NParks also had a fabulous booth with posters of our wildlife, a table for kids' drawing and puzzle making, as well as lots of interesting specimens of our forests such as rattan, chengteng fruit.As well as roadkills of some really pretty snakes, which Sam is taking a closer look at.Nature Society (Singapore) also had a booth with a huge pile of nature materials for sale.The Nature Trekkers had a really nice booth with a TV and big shiny banners sharing about our wonderful wildlife.
Acres also had a booth highlighting the plight of wildlife as a result of our consumer choices. The exhibit about the cruelties of bear bile is heartbreaking.SPCA was also there (but I forgot to take a photo of their lovely booth).

The event was a great chance to meet up with everyone. And here is the very HOT Siva showing us the greener way to get around, on a bike!The event also highlighted "Simple Way I Take to Change my Habits" or SWITCH.Highlighting some issues and ways each of us can make a difference.There were also panels about climate change, its causes and what it means for us.Uniquely Singapore, the explanations were in Four Official Languages!The event was graced by Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who stopped by the various booths. At the Naked Hermit Crab booth, we of course told him about Cyrene and invited him to visit with us. He gamely accepted!

The event was organised by Boon Wah and her able team.from the Kolam Ayer Youth Group CC. Boon Wah was a winner of the "I Want to go to Cyrene" blogging contest and came with us to Cyrene recently. She did a lovely poster of the trip and displayed it at EnvironFest 2008!Bravo Boon Wah! For creating this wonderful opportunity to showcase our wild nature and living shores, and for doing so much too for Cyrene Reef!

EnviroFest is still on tomorrow, so come by and learn lots of wild stuff! More details about the event.

Jun 27, 2008

Nemo no more?

Let's join some dots ...

  • Nemo is not eaten by people.
  • Nemo is taken from the wild only for the aquarium trade.
  • Since the film "Finding Nemo"...
  • Demand for Nemo in the aquarium trade rose sharply.
  • Wild populations of Nemo dropped sharply.
  • Nemos are now candidates for listing as endangered and could become locally extinct where they are overharvested.
More in this article ...

I can't find Nemo! Pet trade threatens clownfish
Hannah Strange, The Times 26 Jun 08;
full article on wildsingapore news

Five years after the hit film that endeared the clownfish to audiences the world over, Nemo is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

The lovable tropical species, immortalised in the smash Pixar movie Finding Nemo, is facing extinction in many parts of the world because of soaring demand from the pet trade, according to marine biologists.

Parents whose children who fell in love with Nemo at the cinema are seeking out the clownfish in ever greater numbers, leading to over-harvesting of wild specimens because captive breeding programmes cannot cope with demand.

Dr Billy Sinclair, of the University of Cumbria, who has been studying clownfish populations for five years, says the species should now be listed as endangered.

Studies of clownfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have revealed a dramatic population decline since the release of the movie in 2003. Shoals that used to number dozens of clownfish have dwindled to just a few specimens, leaving them with difficulty breeding, Dr Sinclair says.

“In one coral reef we looked at in Keppel Bay, clownfish populations have dropped from 25 to just six in two years,” he says. The number of clownfish caught accidentally by commercial fishing operations had also seen a large drop since the movie’s release.

Over-harvesting for the pet trade at a time when many reefs are starting to die back from bleaching - caused by rising sea temperatures - is thought to be the main culprit.

Dr Sinclair said the film – the best-selling DVD of all time at over 40 million copies – had done much to educate children about marine life. But as the tiny, brightly-coloured creature had since become a “must-have” pet, captive breeding programmes could now only meet about 50 per cent of demand. The rest are captured from the wild.

“I am not saying it is solely down to over-harvesting as climate change is clearly having an impact on the coral reefs and anemones on which the clownfish live,” Dr Sinclair says.

“But existing harvesting programmes will have to be reviewed in the light of what is happening to the reefs or we could see local extinctions in the near future.”

Following the release of
Finding Nemo, it became a favourite screening at snorkelling and diving hotspots around the world. But within months, the scuba diving industry was reporting a steep decline in sightings of the diminutive creature, while some pet suppliers saw an eight-fold increase in sales.

Jun 26, 2008

The sea bottom off Pulau Sudong is being measured

from PORT MARINE NOTICE NO. 123 of 2008 dated 24 June 2008

26 Jun 2008 to 04 Jul 2008, 0800 to 1700 hours daily excluding Saturdays and Sundays at Selat Pauh Anchorage

There will be measurements of ocean water and sea-bottom properties by unmanned vehicles and surface craft. The unmanned craft will be operating in a 500m radius of the work boats. Acoustic communication tests will also be carried out in the working area. A safety boat will be in attendance during the entire period of experiment at the anchorage. Further enquiries relating to the project can be directed to Ms Regina Chan, the project coordinator, at Tel 9835 1615 or email: regina@smart.mit.edu

wildfilms note: this area is just off Pulau Hantu and the natural shores on Pulau Semakau.

This project continues in Sep 08. More on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Sorting out names of marine life

What's behind the scientific name of marine creatures? Here's an article outlining some of the issues in naming lifeforms.

Scientists seek to sort sundry names for sealife
Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press 26 Jun 08;

The underwater world and the underworld have at least one thing in common — lots of aliases. The Census of Marine Life, an effort to catalog all species of life in the oceans, has validated 122,500 species names so far, as well as 56,400 aliases, different names that have been applied to the same species over the years.

"Convincing warnings about declining fish and other marine species must rest on a valid census," Mark Costello of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said in a statement.

"This project will improve information vital to researchers investigating fisheries, invasive species, threatened species and marine ecosystem functioning, as well as to educators," the scientist said. "It will eliminate the misinterpretation of names, confusion over Latin spellings, redundancies and a host of other problems that sow confusion and slow scientific progress."

Modern scientific naming was introduced in the 1750s by Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in an effort to organize the list of living things.

The idea was good, but over the years different scientists "discovered" and named what turned out to be the same thing, resulting in more than one scientific name for several species.

Halichondria panicea — the breadcrumb sponge — is the champ so far, having been given 56 names in the scientific literature since it was first named in 1766, according to researchers compiling the census. Among them: Alcyonium manusdiaboli (1794), Spongia compacta (1806), Halichondria albescens (1818) and Seriatula seriata (1826).

Not even Linnaeus was exempt, research shows. It turns out that over time he assigned four names to the same species of sperm whale.

So the census is compiling a World Register of Marine Species to sort out the nomenclature, a project that shed light on the many aliases of sea creatures.

When they discover marine species with more than one scientific name, the oldest one wins, but the others are listed in the register for cross reference.

The register is being hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute in Belgium.

"Describing species without a universal register in place is like setting up a library without an index catalog," said Philippe Bouchet, a census scientist.

The first Census of Marine Life is expected to be released in 2010 including more than 230,000 species, but that is only a fraction of the species thought to exist in the oceans.

Researchers are cataloging about 1,400 new marine species each year, a rate experts say will take more than five centuries to complete the total list.

World Register of Marine Species: http://www.marinespecies.org

Jun 25, 2008

Singapore is getting greener; now for a bluer Singapore

extracts from Singapore is getting greener
by Arti Mulchand, Straits Times 25 Jun 08;
full article on wildsingapore news

The area of the island covered by greenery has gone up from 36 per cent in 1986 to 47 per cent last year, despite the country's population shooting up from 2.7 million to 4.6 million during this period.

One reason: 10 per cent of the land here is set aside for nature reserves and parks, allowing for biodiversity in habitats including lowland rainforests, freshwater swamp forests and coastal forests to be conserved, said NParks chief executive Ng Lang.
Over the years, a network of park connectors, streetscape and waterfront greenery has also added to the shades of green.

This means Singapore's rich biodiversity has been able to flourish as well - the island is now home to over 2,900 species of plants, 360 species of birds and 270 species of butterflies, with more species of flora and fauna yet to be identified.

It means that despite rapid population growth, Singapore has been able to recover from the loss of species to an extent that there is a balance, Mr Ng added.

Singapore's greening even got the nod from Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity, who gave a presentation on cities and biodiversity at the World Cities Summit yesterday,

'Unsound urban management is not the unavoidable destiny of cities. Sound urbanisation and ecologically managed cities can exist. Singapore, the garden in the city, is indeed living testimony of this reality,' he said.

The country is also taking a step forward in the global protection of biodiversity.

Early next year, a panel of experts and policymakers will meet in Singapore to craft a 'Cities Biodiversity Index', so cities can better manage biodiversity and integrate it into urban planning.

The idea for it came from Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan at the Bonn Diversity Summit in Germany last month, to assist cities in benchmarking their biodiversity conservation efforts.

Commenting on it, Mr Ng said: 'You can't manage what you can't measure. So it will create a more scientific approach to helping countries know where they stand relative to others.'

The index will be ready before the next UN biodiversity conference, to be held in Nagoya, Japan in 2010. Countries will then assess their progress in achieving previously set biodiversity targets.

Their progress is crucial, said Dr Djoghlaf, who added that the rapid urbanisation of the world has led to an unprecedented loss of biodiversity, and that as the population of city dwellers balloons, the level of urgency escalates.

'The battle to protect biodiversity - and life on earth - will be won or lost in cities,' he said.

But it is not just species in danger - the jobs of three million people are at risk, for example, if marine life is lost, he added.

'We need to re-engineer our approach to development...People must realise that the loss of biodiversity will also have an economic impact and threaten livelihoods. We are conserving the economy of tomorrow,' he said.

Related articles

Bringing wildlife back to the city: Singapore’s idea
Sheralyn Tay, Today Online 30 May 08

Unfortunately for our shores, reclamation and coastal development has not had an equally happy result. Here are maps taken from the book "Singapore Waters—Unveiling Our Seas" by Nature Society (Singapore).

This was the coastline in 1950.And the coastline in 2002.Hopefully if the same attention to terrestrial biodiversity can be focused on our marine heritage, we can reduce the losses and perhaps even encourage a recovery in some of our coastal habitats.

Our shores at EnviroFest 2008

Learn more about our shores without getting your feet wet!

The Naked Hermit Crabs will host a photo exhibition of our shores featuring Cyrene Reef as well as our other shores at their booth at EnviroFest 2008. Lots of photos of our shores and happy Crabs to share stories about them.
"Singapore shores: Got things to see meh?"
Our very own wildfilms member, Ms Toh Chay Hoon will also be giving this talk about our shores on 29 Jun (Sun) 2.30pm at the event. Come and find out more about shores above and underwater as Chay Hoon shares photos and stories about our wonderful marine life.

About Chay Hoon
An indefatigable intertidal explorer as well as diver, Chay Hoon has probably been to every Singapore shore that is possible to reach. She has an uncanny eye for spotting the most marvellous marinelife no matter how tiny or well camouflaged they are. Besides being a stalwart member of wildfilms, she is also a volunteer guide on the shores of Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau, Sentosa as well as the Chek Jawa boardwalk. She also regularly dives our reefs with the Hantu Bloggers. She participates in scientific monitoring of our shores as a member of TeamSeagrass and the Blue Water Volunteer ReefFriends underwater survey programme. She is also a key member of the Naked Hermit Crabs.

More about EnviroFest 2008
EnviroFest brings together a huge number of groups active in conservation and environmental work. This is a great opportunity to learn more about our environment and what you can do to make a difference.

The list of exhibitors include:

  • National Environment Agency
  • National Parks Board
  • Public Utilities Board
  • National Library Board
  • Sembwaste
  • Nature Society (Singapore)
  • Waterway Watch Society
  • Animal Concerns Research & Education Society
  • Raffles Museum Toddycats!
  • Cat Welfare Society
  • Naked Hermit Crabs
  • Hantu Bloggers
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Nature Trekker Singapore
  • Exhibits from the Asean Youth Festival Photography Competition
  • Singapore Polytechnic Environment Club
  • National Junior College Greenlink
  • Hwa Chong Institution
Time: 11 am-8 pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Amphitheatre (in front of Toa Payoh Community Library)
Website: http://www.kolamayeryouths.sg/envirofest2008/
Contact: boonwah_chan@KolamAyerYouths.sg

Other blog entries about EnviroFest

Jun 24, 2008

What happens to reef life when fishing is banned?

Here's a montage of extracts of various reports.
Full reports on the wildsingapore news blog.

A controversial decision to halt commercial and recreational fishing across vast areas of the Great Barrier Reef has proven remarkably effective for reviving numbers of coral trout.

On 1 July 2004 the Australian Government threw a protective net over the Great Barrier Reef by banning fishing in about a third of the marine park.

The move, which locked fishermen out of 100,000 square kilometres of the reef, created intense community debate, with the Government offering compensation packages to those affected by the ban.

This sweeping approach to conservation was the first of its kind--such a large-scale ban on fishing was unprecedented.

Surveys following the ban show that numbers of coral trout "have increased by over 60% in no-take areas around two groups of inshore islands – Palm Island and the Whitsundays – 18 months to two years after rezoning. By contrast, coral trout numbers in nearby fished areas did not change.".

A second team found that coral trout numbers had increased in no-take zones around reefs from 32 to 200 kilometres off-shore. "In four of these offshore regions, numbers of coral trout were between 31 and 64% higher compared to unprotected regions nearby, just two years after the zoning took place."

The two teams are monitoring 160 different species of fish, but so far only numbers of coral trout have changed since the rezoning.

Comments by scientists include:

"It's a very positive start, but full recovery of coral trout will take 10 to 15 years of really effective protection"

"Our results provide an encouraging message that bold political steps to protect biodiversity can produce rapid, positive results for exploited species at ecosystem scales"

"The study is encouraging, but no-take areas are only part of the solution. The risk is that this may not be adequate, in the long run, to sustain the ecosystem as a whole. Pollution, climate change, and water quality can also drive down fish numbers".

What is coral trout?
Coral trout is a term used for various kinds of groupers, among the favourite seafood in our part of the world.

from the CRC Reef Research Centre website

The term coral trout actually describes a number of different species belonging to Family Serranidae (Groupers) including:

  • Common coral trout or Leopard trout: Plectropomus leopardus
  • Blue-spot trout: Plectropomus laevis
  • Footballer trout: Plectropomus laevis (a different colour morph of blue spot trout)
  • Bar-cheeked trout or Island trout: Plectropomus maculatus
  • Passionfruit trout or Leopard trout: Plectropomus areolatus
Coral trout are the favourite target fish for all sectors of the fishery because they are a good eating fish and command high market prices locally and overseas. The total commercial catch of coral trout was reported at over 1500 tonnes in 1998.

Jun 23, 2008

Singapore's neglected heritage: Cyrene Reef as an example

Cyrene is in the news with a fabulous article by Liana Tang! Graced with a photo of Vyna by Marcus. Fantastic job by our volunteers, speaking up for Cyrene and our shores!

Liana Tang, Straits Times 23 Jun 08
full article on wildsingapore news.

WHAT makes Singapore unique? Is it our quaint shophouses, old buildings from colonial times, antique monuments or lush rainforests?

Singapore's heritage is a hotchpotch of cultural relics and natural beauty, and efforts towards their preservation made by the authorities are laudable.

However, I must speak for our more elusive natural heritage sites that are being neglected.

Reefs, seen only underwater or at low tides, are a marine heritage unknown to many Singaporeans.

If you have ever marvelled at the panoramic spreads in National Geographic and curious animals detailed in Sir David Attenborough's travels, know that you can view the same for yourself without even leaving our shores.

One such place is Cyrene reef, a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland.

full article on wildsingapore news.

Links to more about Cyrene Reef

A walk on Cyrene

Another sunrise start on our favourite shore! Just off the Pasir Panjang container terminals and the city centre in the distance.Today we were joined by lots of enthusiastic guests!It was a pleasure to have Jeff, Justin and Swee Cheng from TMSI, Vilma from Cicada Tree Eco-Place, Kelvin from RMBR , Dr Chua Ee Kiam our leading nature photographer and author, and the intrepid Star Trackers: Chee Kong and Sijie.

Our special guest is Boon Wah, winner of the "I want to go Cyrene Reef" blogging contest, with her fabulous blog entry about why she wants to go to Cyrene Reef. Boon Wah is also an organiser of the upcoming EnviroFest event, so she is mostly definitely someone who can make a difference for Cyrene!

While the scientists were off to do their stuff, Boon Wah, Vilma and Kelvin graciously agreed to let me test our guided walk route on them.A few steps from our landing point and we were already finding fascinating marine life which Vilma says reminds her very much of Chek Jawa: common sea stars, sand dollars on the sand bar; in the seagrasses lots of peacock anemones, carpet anemones, fan shells and window-pane shells. Indeed, Cyrene is very much the Chek Jawa of the South!We were fascinated to see large portions of the backsides of the buried worms that produce the typical coils of sand. These are acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta).
I managed to find the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) which hosts a 'Nemo'. Kok Sheng had found and marked it in our earlier recces. But the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) was very shy and was well hidden under the anemone host.The anemone shrimps in Cyrene Reef's other carpet anemones (Stichodactyla sp.), however, were less shy and we saw several anemones with a pair of these shrimps. The big one with obvious white spots is the Mama shrimp, while the Papa is more transparent. These shrimps are Periclimenes brevicarpalis.

Along the way, we saw lots of shorebirds.Vilma was in charge of looking at them as she had binoculars. There were various terns and egrets, and this dark coloured Reef egret taken with my not-long lens.

As we headed out to the deep pool festooned with seagrasses, we came across a little blenny.Alas, it disappeared among the seagrasses when Kelvin came to take a photo of it, so I don't know what it is exactly.

Near the edge of the pool, we saw again the hairy seahares (Bursatella leachii)!This time, they were found in huddles of many individuals. Hmm...looks like they are about to make more baby sea hares.

Cyrene Reef is indeed a giant nursery for all kinds of animals. Among the many nudibranchs we saw today was this tiny Discodoris boholensis! It's so tiny there was hardly any space between its rhinophores (the tentacles on the top of its head) and the flower-like feathery gills on its back! We also saw many Glossodoris atromarginata and the TMSI folks saw something that might be Discodoris lilacinia.

We also saw lots and LOTS of baby Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus).They are really adorable. "Sooo cute!!" Vilma exclaims.We suspect that the crunchy pink branching seaweed that is so abundant on Cyrene's seagrass area are among the food of the baby Knobblies. I'm sure the Star Trackers will find out more about this during their studies.

In fact, while we were exploring, the Star Trackers were busy marking and measuring lots and lots of Knobblies with little yellow flags!There were certainly more than 32 of them. Sijie shared that a large proportion of them were babies! Wow. Check the Star Tracker blog for the latest updates on their study of Singapore's knobblies.

Meanwhile, the four of us headed off for the reefs to catch the minimum tide.And the pools there were full of hard and soft corals. A Blue spotted stingray (Taeniura lymma) and us mutually alarmed one another as it dashed off into deeper waters. We walked carefully so as to avoid killing encrusting marine life and also Mr Stonefish (which we thankfully did not encounter).
There's certainly a lot to see on the reefs! Which is amazing as it lies just opposite the world-class petrochemical installations on Pulau Bukom!Among the many hard corals there, I saw a large colony of Anchor corals (Euphyllia sp.). These beautiful hard corals have polyps with U-shaped tips.Although it was broad daylight, we also saw octopuses!We also came across a bright green sea anemone that is probably Macrodactyla doreensis. Kelvin says it reminds him of chendol!Dr Chua has been busy taking lots of photos of all parts of Cyrene Reef. Although the reef is along major shipping lanes with humungous ships passing by, it has lots of marine life!On the way back to the departure point, Dr Chua finds a bright red Nepanthia sea star! This sea star is not commonly encountered and usually only on the Northern shores. But Cyrene seems to have a good population of them as we regularly see it on our visits there.
Alas, there was a few sightings of coral bleaching on small and big hard corals.And very long and straight furrows in the seagrasses in two different locations. They are probably not dugong feeding trails as they are very long and very straight. Could they be damage from small boats zooming over the reef at a lowish tide?

There is much to learn about Cyrene Reefs and its vulnerabilities.

All too soon it was time to go home as the tide rushed in. We had a wonderful day exploring Cyrene despite the ominous weather at daybreak.As always, we have Melvin and his crew to thank for saving us in the nick of high tide, and for giving us good weather on all our trips!

Read more about the fascinating marine life seen during the trip, and the Knobbly babies on Cyrene, on Sijie's nature scouter blog.

A fish seen during this trip is now posted on the Singapore Records at the RMBR. More about this on the wild shores of singapore blog