Blue Plan to save Singapore's biodiversity-rich coral reefs ready

Conservationists urge Govt to step in to save what's left
Grace Chua, Straits Times 24 Apr 09;

THE most comprehensive proposal yet to save Singapore's coral reefs was released yesterday. It called for the Government to formally recognise the richness of reef habitats like Raffles Lighthouse and Cyrene Reef in the southern islands.

Over 60 per cent of coral reefs here have been lost to development, and the rest is under threat from climate change and pollution.

The remaining 5 to 10 sq km of reefs harbour more than 250 species of hard corals, 120 species of fish and 12 seagrass species - almost on a par with the rest of South-east Asia's hot spots for biodiversity.

The marine conservation Blue Plan, over a year in the making, was compiled by a team of academics, environmental organisations and civil society groups.

They intend to seek public feedback and release a final version in late May to the National Parks Board, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and other government agencies.

Mr Farid Hamid, chairman of the Blue Plan committee, said: 'These reefs are part of our national heritage, and we have a moral and ethical responsibility to pass that heritage on to generations to come.'

He added that the Blue Plan was a step towards protecting other marine habitats, such as mangroves and rocky shores.

The committee's main recommendations to the Government include conserving what remains of Singapore's natural coastline, conducting a biodiversity survey of reefs, and reviewing laws about reef-damaging practices, such as the use of drift nets, which can ensnare turtles and dolphins.

Mr Francis Lee, chairman of the International Year of the Reef Singapore campaign and who contributed to the Blue Plan, said: 'Protecting reefs is not a zero- sum game, and it need not be development against conservation.'

Marine areas here are home to a broad variety of species, with more found each year.

At least three new species of fish - including the 2.5cm-long broad-barred mangrove goby - have been discovered here since 2001, while boaters and divers spot dolphins and sea turtles regularly.

In addition, reefs play an important role in protecting coasts from the effects of sea-level rise due to global warming.

They could also be a tourist attraction or a source of drug discovery - last year, a researcher here found a compound in blue-green algae from Pulau Hantu that killed cancer cells.

Calls to save Singapore's reefs date back to the 1980s and 1990s, so the Blue Plan is one more in a long line of proposals.

In fact, the current Blue Plan builds on recommendations from a previous version, submitted to the Government's Feedback Unit in 2001.

Experienced marine biologist Chou Loke Ming, who contributed to the proposal, was optimistic that it would be implemented.

'Starting in the mid-90s, you saw sustainable development projects like (offshore landfill) Pulau Semakau. So attitudes have changed for the better, and we're no longer seeing the unnecessary destruction of coral reefs,' Professor Chou said.

Mr Lee added that public awareness and interest was another encouraging sign.

Each year, about 100,000 people go on guided reef walks or dives here, and about 3,500 are marine-conservation volunteers.

The Blue Plan was released at the opening of the Asia Dive Expo 2009 at the Marina at Keppel Bay yesterday.

It can be downloaded at the International Year of the Reef 2008 Singapore campaign's website at iyor08singapore.blogspot.com

Feedback can be sent to blueplan.singapore@gmail.com before May 14.

Save Singapore reefs
Grace Chua, Straits Times Breaking News 23 Apr 09;

THE most comprehensive proposal to save Singapore's coral reefs yet was released on Thursday, calling for the government to formally recognise the richness of reef habitats like Raffles Lighthouse and Cyrene Reef in the southern islands.

Over 60 per cent of coral reefs here have been lost to development, and the rest is under threat from climate change and pollution.

Yet the remaining 5 to 10 square km of reefs harbour more than 250 species of hard corals, 120 species of fish and 12 seagrass species - almost on par with the rest of South-east Asia's hotspots for biodiversity.

The marine-conservation Blue Plan, over a year in the making, was compiled by a team of academics, environment NGOs and civil society groups.

They intend to seek public feedback and release a final version in late May to the National Parks Board, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and other government agencies.

Mr Farid Hamid, the chairman of the Blue Plan committee, said: 'These reefs are part of our national heritage, and we have a moral and ethical responsibility to pass that heritage on to generations to come.'

He added that the Blue Plan was a step towards similar proposals for other marine habitats, such as mangroves and rocky shores.

The committee's main recommendations to the government include conserving what remains of Singapore's natural coastline, conducting a biodiversity survey of reefs, and reviewing laws about reef-damaging practices, such as the use of drift nets, which can ensnare turtles and dolphins.

Mr Francis Lee, chairman of the International Year of the Reef Singapore campaign and who contributed to the Blue Plan, said: 'Protecting reefs is not a zero-sum game, and it need not be development against conservation.'

Read the full story in Friday's edition of The Straits Times.

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Draft Blue Plan seeks your feedback


"The Draft Blue Plan is a proposal to the Government and people of Singapore from the members and organizations that form “International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008 Singapore” – interested members of civil society concerned about the conservation and management of Singapore’s coral reef heritage. Contributions and advice from the leading marine biologists in Singapore have been incorporated. It was released on 23 April 2009. Members of the Public can download a copy of the Draft Blue Plan here.

Comments and suggestions from members of public are invited. You may email us at blueplan.singapore@gmail.com before the closing date, 14 May 2009. The Blue Plan will presented to the Government with the collated and edited comments in late May 2009.

Please note that blueplan.singapore@gmail.com is designed to receive emails only. While we will give every opinion/comment due consideration, due to human resource constraints, we are unable to respond to queries and may not be able to include every comment into the final Blue Plan due to editorial considerations. Please contact the Marine Conservation Organisations Listed in Annexes B & C of the Draft Blue Plan if you are keen to find out more about the wide range of activites and programmes that are being organised. We apologize for this inconvenience."

See also
Blue Plan to save Singapore's biodiversity-rich coral reefs ready
Conservationists urge Govt to step in to save what's left
Grace Chua, Straits Times 24 Apr 09;

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IYOR Singapore closes at ADEX, 23-26 Apr

Singapore's efforts for International Year of the Reef 2008 will officially come to a close at the Asian Dive Expo 23-26 Apr at Marina at Keppel Bay.

The events will include a presentation on a Blue Plan.

from the ADEX website

Opening Ceremony

1330 hrs : Address @ EcoVillage by Mr Herman Ho, Managing Director, TMX Show Productions Pte Ltd

1340 hrs : Special Presentation, Mr Emory Kristof, Deep Sea Explorer, Photographer, National Geographic, Fellow Explorer Club

1425 hrs : Closing Report of IYOR Singapore 08, Mr Francis Lee, Chairman, IYOR 08 Singapore Organising Committee

1435 hrs : Keynote Speech on the initiatives for Blue Plan I & II, Edwin Khew, Nominated Member of Parliament

1445 hrs : Speech on the Coral Triangle – Marine Conservation in the Asia Pacific
Lida Pet-Soede, Leader of WWF’s Coral Triangle Network Initiative

1500 hrs : Presentation of Outline of Blue Plan II, Farid Hamid, Chairman of Blue Plan Sub-Committee

More details on the ADEX website.

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