Chek Jawa: The Future?

Chek Jawa was January's shore of the month! As we round up the articles on Chek Jawa, it seems appropriate to consider the fate of Chek Jawa.

While death by burial has been postponed, is Chek Jawa free of threats?

Thoughtless fun on Chek Jawa?

Although the water between Pulau Sekudu and Chek Jawa are now restricted, there appears to be little compliance. Canoeists and sailing boats continue to land on Pulau Sekudu, and use Chek Jawa. Jetskis zoom up and down, while in the waters nearby fishing, drift netting as well as laying of fish traps continue. More photos on the reddot blog.

Litter on Chek Jawa

Marine debris (i.e., litter on the shore) continues to impact Chek Jawa. Litter seen include styrofoam bits, plastic beverage bottles, used noodle containers, snack packaging, even a tube of sunscreen. Could some of these be tossed by inconsiderate users of the Chek Jawa boardwalk? A photo of a styrofoam noodle container with left over noodles in it suggests this could be so.

Abandoned drift nets kill until they are removed

Abandoned fishing nets remain a threat to marine life on Chek Jawa. Although many volunteer cleanups have been conducted at Chek Jawa, there is a constant inflow of abandoned nets as well as accumulation of old debris.

During one visit in Aug 07, volunteers came across an abandoned net full of living horseshoe crabs that were recently trapped in the net.
In Jan 08, a few volunteers visited to specifically deal with the abandoned fish net problem. They immediately tackled the nets entangled among mangrove tree roots. These nets trap crabs, prawns, small fishes and other animals that naturally shelter among such roots at high tide.
Out on the shores were more nets. This is one of the large accumulations of nets, overlooking Pulau Sekudu.
The net seemed to have entangled and killed this large eel-tail catfish.The nets were massive.Removal was hard going as the ground was soft.The best efforts of the small team resulted in quite a pile being dragged out during the short low tide window. Still, it was just a tiny proportion of the nets that are still out there.
What is the future of Chek Jawa? in the longer term

Reclamation has been deferred for 10 years from Jan 2002 and assurances have been given that Chek Jawa will not be reclaimed so long as it is not needed.

This is the plan that was published in 1991, in the book The Next Lap.
It shows in industry (in pink) and high density housing (in orange) for Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong with an MRT line (in red) from the mainland to both islands. As Singapore's population grows and more land is needed, this might indeed, eventually be the fate of the two islands and Chek Jawa.

As it is, with the recent reclamation, Pulau Tekong already has the shape depicted in the plan.

So come, visit Chek Jawa and see it for yourself while you can!

Better yet, make a difference and volunteer for Chek Jawa. Volunteers are always sorely needed. Be a volunteer guide to share this wonderful place with as many people as possible while we can.

Or come help us clean up Chek Jawa so that marine life can thrive there.

Visiting Chek Jawa
More about Chek Jawa's ecosystems on the wildsingapore website
Information for visitors to Chek Jawa how to get there, what to do, on the wildsingapore website
Guided intertidal walks on Chek Jawa by the Ubin NParks volunteers
Guided Chek Jawa boardwalk tours by the Naked Hermit Crabs
Blogs about Chek Jawa visitors, volunteers and more from the wildsingapore google reader

Volunteering for Chek Jawa
Chek Jawa guide with Ubin NParks
Internationational Coastal Cleanup Singapore
The Naked Hermit Crabs

Other IYOR articles on Chek Jawa
Pulau Sekudu: a part of Chek Jawa
Chek Jawa: Death and Life in 2007
Chek Jawa: The Boardwalk
Chek Jawa: After Deferment of Reclamation
Old Chek Jawa
Chek Jawa: Jewel of the northern shores

Pulau Hantu Reefs are alive!

The Hantu Blog shares photos and stories of their first dive of 2008 on this fabulous living reef in Singapore!

"Despite the turbid water conditions, our enthusiastic divers were totally excited about reaching the depths of Hantu and navigating its dark and tricky seabed for the chance to see a tigertail seahorse!"

Debby shares more! ...

"We had all sorts of wacky currents running at various depths in the water and we had an over cast sky that threatened rain the whole morning!

We had an interesting bunch of divers for this trip, 4 teachers at secondary and Junior College levels, and 2 researchers - one terrestrial (our volunteer Ming Sheng) and another who’s doing a study of the rabbit fish in local reefs!"

Read more about the dive and see more gorgeous photos on the pulau hantu blog.

Registration is open for the next Hantu dive on 17 Feb (Sun). Sign up now or sign up with the hantu blog mailing list to be updated on upcoming dives.

IYOR: Introducing Singapore’s Coral Reefs 「シンガポールの珊瑚礁を紹介する」


Lin Juanhui shares about Singapore's reefs in Japanese!

She says "Since this year is the International Year of the Reef, I thought that I should try blogging about Singapore’s coral reefs in Japanese."

Thank you Jun! Read all about it and see more of her wonderful photos on her ashira blog

Reefs in Brief: International Year of the Reef: US launch

The Celebrations begin in the US, but with sombre news.

The future for corals does not look bright. That’s the message from the first in-depth analysis of 2005’s widespread coral bleaching in the Caribbean by the IUCN.

The report warns that the only way for corals on reefs around the world to survive is to manage direct pressures, such as fishing and pollution, then hope that some coral species are able to adapt to a warmer environment.

The report marks the beginning of the International Year of the Reef 2008.

What can one person do about this?

Meanwhile in Hawai'i, "They're valuable, they're awesome, they're spectacular, and they're in trouble," said Randall Kosaki, research coordinator for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, during the Hawai'i launch.

Hawai'i has hundreds of thousands of acres of living reef, home to more than 5,000 known species of marine plants and animals. About one in four of these species is found only in Hawai'i.

But reefs in Hawai'i and around the world are under threat from alien invasive species, overfishing, land-based pollution and ocean debris.

Hawai'i's 1.2 million residents and about 7 million tourists each year have put increasing pressure on the state's coral reefs, and a number of urban areas and popular visitor spots have suffered from land-based pollution, "significant fishing pressure," recreational overuse and alien species, according to a 2008 report on "The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Main Hawaiian Islands."

The report, scheduled to be released this summer, said that despite these human stressors, "many of Hawai'i's coral reefs, particularly in remote areas, are still in fair to good condition."

What can one person do?
Here's the list for Hawai'i, many of which are stuff we can do in Singapore too.

What you can do to protect coral reefs

Don't use chemically enhanced pesticides, fertilizers and cleaning products. Use natural cleaners: white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice.

Keep it clean. Keep green waste and other debris out of storm drains and waterways. They can wash down streams and drains and smother coral reefs. Participate in volunteer cleanups. Recycle.

Dive and play responsibly. Don't touch or step on coral reefs. One step on a coral may damage it; two to nine steps will kill it. Don't disturb sediment at the bottom; it can smother corals.

Fish responsibly. Fish help keep the reef healthy; take only what you need. Don't leave lines, nets or other fishing equipment on the reef.

Conserve water. The less water used, the less runoff and wastewater that make it into the ocean.

Don't anchor on the reef. If near a coral reef, use mooring buoy systems when available.

Prevent alien species. Clean boat hulls regularly and properly dispose waste.

Source: NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative Research Program, state Division of Aquatic Resources


Corals: facing the death sentence

IUCN website 24 Jan 08;

Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs after Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005

Hawai'i: It's the Year of the Reef
Lynda Arakawa, Honolulu 24 Jan 08;

Save coral reefs for future generations

Statement on International Year of the Reef by The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International
Stephanie Meeks, Carter Roberts and Peter Seligmann
Miami Herald 25 Jan 08;

International Year of the Reef: US launch
Researchers looking at coral threats
Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press Yahoo News 25 Jan 08

Celebrating Lunar New Year: Abalones

We all know that sharks' fins are uncool to eat. If you don't, here's more information.

But what about our other favourite seafood delicacies? Particularly enjoyed during the Lunar New Year.

Did you know that abalone is a snail? Yup. It is NOT a clam!

Do you know WHERE your abalone comes from?

Abalone is currently farmed in many countries. However, due to the high demand and price, illegal over-collection is rampant and puts severe pressure on wild populations. Some species, like the one in Africa, are on the verge of extinction. The illegal trade in abalone is huge and often involves organised crime.

In Africa, the abalone species Haliotis midae is found nowhere else. Called perlemoen, this species was listed on Appendix II of CITES in May 07 as it was threatened by over-collection. According to TRAFFIC "Illegal exploitation of abalone in South Africa is believed to be the most criminalized wildlife trade in Africa today". Ironically, a ban on collection may actually push the African abalone to extinction as it will spur illegal collection.

In Australia, despite aquaculture of the native abalone species, overharvesting of will caught abalone remains high and is also associated with criminal activities. The situation is similar in New Zealand, where "The Ministry of Fisheries expects in the year 2004/05, nearly 1,000 tons of abalone will be poached, with 75% of that being undersized".

So what should we do about eating abalones?
  • Find out where your abalones come from.
  • Tell your supplier and supermarket you prefer abalones from sustainable sources.
  • Eat less abalones.
  • Eat what you take. Don't throw away abalones! (or any food for that matter).
Links to more information

Five things not to eat for Chinese New Year
TRAFFIC 9 Feb 07

Abalone to come under international trade controls
TRAFFIC 5 Feb 07

South Africa: Ban May Push Abalone to Extinction
Miriam Mannak, Inter Press Service (Johannesburg) 24 Jan 08;

$40,000-a-table reunion meal of endangered wildlife
Straits Times 20 Jan 08;

Seashore Blogging Workshop for Young People

Happy participants

25 January 2008 saw over 40 happy participants and tutors from NIE green club attending the Seashore Blogging Workshop for Young People organized by The Leafmonkey Workshop and NIE green club in conjunction with IYOR 2008.

A trip to the seashore the Wednesday before culminated in our young participants with their mummies and daddies writing about our shores on their very own blogs. They have also pledged to blog about our reefs for the entire year of 2008 in celebration of the International Year of the Reef.

Here is a list of our newest and possibly youngest shore bloggers on the block!
Seashells and Starfish
Starfish Playground
10 Dollar Coin
Just Natural
Hermit's 1st Post
At-At Walker
The Seashore
This Is My Father's World
Caleb's Adventure
Nothing <(-_-)>
Mark's Nature Journal
Shark Sea
Gold Water
Beach Walk
Cookie Monster
Shanil Lee-Bas
Marine is What Matters
Dragon Jeff
Amateur Blogger

Drop by their blogs and leave an encouraging comment!


More about the workshop on the nie green club blog and flying fish friends blog.
More photos of the workshop on Jun's flickr

Otters sighted on Pulau Ubin!

Hot off the blog!

Adelle shares a sighting today of otters on Pulau Ubin!

Adelle shares "I was just in time to spot 3 otters swimming in the waters!
The tide was high and they were swimming and surfacing and disappearing into the waters quickly. They were swimming away, around the corner of Jelutong campsite".

more on the ubin volunteers blog

Adelle, unfortunately, couldn't take photos of the otters she saw. These photos were by mphil, also of otters on Ubin and kindly shared on the focus ubin website.

Pulau Sekudu: a part of Chek Jawa

Pulau Sekudu has gorgeous natural rock formations, a little patch of mangroves, fabulous seagrass meadows. It lies just off Chek Jawa (the white Chek Jawa beacon is in the left corner of the photo) and is thus an important part of the Chek Jawa ecosystem.

Pulau Sekudu means "Frog Island". Why does it have such a name?

Why Frog Island? A local legend tells of the tale of a frog, a pig and an elephant who decided to race across the Johor Straits. The elephant went first, and didn't make it. The pig went next, and also came to a sad end. Finally, the frog made a leap for it, but alas, met with the same fate (local sea legends tend to be rather tragic). The pig and elephant became Pulau Ubin, while the frog became Pulau Sekudu. (Yes, I hear you say "But Pulau Ubin is one island and not two!" Here's a more eloquent telling of the tale and an explanation of the two-in-one island on the Pulau Ubin Stories blog).

Pulau Sekudu does indeed have a frog-shaped rock on it (on the right corner of the photo above).
Here is a closer look at the "Frog Rock", someone had added eyes and a smile. Oh dear.

Pulau Sekudu has surreal rock formations.
Joseph Lai has a lovely article about these rock formations at Ubin on his

To the south of Pulau Sekudu you can see the housing estates of Punggol and Pasir Ris in the distance.
To the north, just across a narrow channel is House No. 1 on Chek Jawa!

Being rather inaccessible, Pulau Sekudu is an important sanctuary for plants and animals. Should something happen to Chek Jawa, such as the mass death in early 2007, Pulau Sekudu could be an important source of recovery.

And indeed, on a visit after the mass death, we found that Pulau Sekudu was not as badly affected as some parts of Chek Jawa. There were still many large carpet anemones

Living sea stars ...
And colourful sponges too!Pulau Sekudu also has wonderful seagrass meadows.
Tiny Pulau Sekudu lies next to a major shipping lane leading to Pasir Gudang and Sembawang Shipyards and naval facilities. This lane is used by commercial vessels as well as military ones.
This beautiful and fragile island has also been subject to much harvesting. Fishermen regularly set fish traps and driftnets all around the island.

A group of volunteers visited in Dec 07 to remove as much driftnets as they could.
Abandoned nets are found everywhere, even among the huge boulders in the middle of the island where fishermen usually hang out.
Just as heartbreaking is the ugly graffiti that is found on almost every surface of these gorgeous natural rocks.

Suddenly, someone yells "Monitor lizard in a net!" It was still alive and struggling badly in a net that was wedged in a narrow crevice between the boulders.We had a hard time trying to get the poor little animal out.
The guys managed to gently cut it free of the drift net.

On this trip two kayakers were also encountered.

One of them had a bucket full of soft corals (photo by Andy). They were made to return this bucketful. But who knows how often or how many people come to remove marine life from this beautiful island?

Several huge fish traps were also hauled out.
A fisherman who came up to the island while the volunteers were there had quite a haul.In his boat, he had a bucket full of flower crabs, a large catfish and two Noble volutes (photos by Andy).
He was later also seen in the distance placing driftnets in the waters near Chek Jawa.

Pulau Sekudu is now off limits!
A permit is now required from NParks to land on Pulau Sekudu (see this word document on the NParks website) and the area indicated on the map above is now known as “Chek Jawa Wetlands”, is managed by the National Parks Board (NParks), under the Parks and Trees Act 2005 and the Parks and Trees Regulations 2005.

Unfortunately, the regulation is not strictly enforced. Kayaks, sailing boats, even jet skis not to mention fishermen and other collectors continue to land on Pulau Sekudu. Here's an account of such landings on the reddot blog.

Ironically, if Pulau Sekudu and Chek Jawa are left unmolested, there will be more fishes in the sea for the fishermen. The seagrass meadows and other intertidal habitats of Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu provide shelter and food for young fishes and other seafood. Here they can grow up before moving off into deeper waters.

More links
Taking nets out of Pulau Sekudu with 12 comments. This post was also submitted to
wildfilms trips to Pulau Sekudu with links to other blog entries about trips to Sekudu.
photos of pulau sekudu on wildsingapore flickr

Changi: our living shore for the whole family!

The first special IYOR event is a happy family outing to Changi beach.

Joseph Lai was out at Changi to introduce this marvellous living shore to the Homeschool Families group.

It often surprises Singaporeans to learn that this reclaimed shore has seagrasses and abundant marinelife. Joseph Lai of led the field trip for the home school group.

This will be followed by November Tan's workshop on blogging for nature, held in collaboration with the NIE Green Club.

What a great way for kids to learn and share about our shores!

More about the trip on the wildfilms blog and NIE Green Club blog and the Flying Fish Friends blog.

February IYOR events: Reefwalk at Kusu Island and Dive Pulau Hantu

These events are now open for registration. Book now as places fill up quickly.

8 Feb (Sun): Reefwalk at Kusu Island with the Blue Water Volunteers
registration closes 29 Jan

17 Feb(Sun): Dive Pulau Hantu with the Hantu Bloggers
Now open for registration.

8 Feb (Sun): Reefwalk at Kusu Island with the Blue Water Volunteers

Our wild and wonderful coral reefs are just too exciting to be enjoyed by divers only! Non-swimmers are most welcome, as we only visit the reefs during low tide, so you only expect to get wet around your ankles at most.

Trained and enthusiastic volunteer guides will introduce you to the marine life found on Kusu Island and share reef stories.

More details. Registration closes 29 Jan

17 Feb(Sun): Dive Pulau Hantu with the Hantu Bloggers

A unique and educational dive experience in our local waters. Discover what is truly, uniquely Singapore!

Your support helps us monitor and document Hantu's reef on a regular basis! Let's see what's waiting for us out there this time!

More details

Celebrating Lunar New Year: Prawns

Planning your New Year dinner soon? Prawns sure are yummy!

But what is the true price of the prawns in your dinner?

While traditional small scale prawn farming is sustainable, the explosion of large scale prawn farming has destroyed many mangroves and coastal habitats. With a particularly enormous price paid when these coasts are impacted by disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones.

How do large scale prawn farms impact the environment?
  • Large tracts of mangroves are cleared.
  • Non-native prawns are used (requiring foreign exchange).
  • The prawns are fed with wild caught fish.
  • The prawn ponds are treated with antibiotics, pesticides and water additives.
  • Water from these farms, laden with prawn waste and chemicals, further damage the surroundings.
  • Diseases that develop resistance to antibiotics devastate not only prawn farms but also other aquacultures and marine wildlife.
  • Salt water from mangrove clearance intrudes inland, affecting supplies of drinking water and inland farmlands.
How do large scale prawn farms impact the local population?
  • These farms are capital-intensive and do not generate jobs for the low income low skill people that live near the mangroves.
  • The farms displace these locals, who previously relied on the mangroves for food and income.
Why should we care that mangroves are lost?
  • Mangroves provide income and food for subsistence coastal dwellers. These families are displaced in such developments.
  • Mangroves are an important part of the spectrum of marine ecosystems that extend to reefs. Many commercially important fish and other seafood spend their younger days in the shelter of mangroves.
  • Mangrove protect the land from events such as tsunamis, cyclones and high waves.
"The economic value of mangroves is high (because they play such a pivotal role in coastal protection from storms and tsunamis compared to the cost of recovery in their absence). However, these benefits are only felt locally, whereas the profits from shrimp farms line pockets around the world. " Journal Watch Online 17 Jan 08

How is traditional prawn farming conducted?
A live, hands-on demonstration of this is conducted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The earliest upcoming demonstration is scheduled for 15 Mar (Sat). Bring the kids, it's a fun and very educational activity.

How about prawns caught by trawling?
  • Dragging trawl nets on the ocean floor to catch prawns is equivalent to strip mining the reefs and shores.
  • In some estimates, for every 1kg of prawns caught, 9-12kg of 'by-catch' are thrown away, amounting to 55 000 tonnes of discards every year. The 'by-catch' includes juvenile fishes and sea turtles.
  • Trawling is seen by some to be a key cause of the decline of some sea turtle species.
So what should we do about eating prawns?
  • Find out where your prawns come from.
  • Tell your supplier and supermarket you prefer prawns from sustainable sources.
  • Eat less prawns.
  • Eat what you take. Don't throw away prawns! (or any food for that matter). Many marine animals have died and people have suffered to put that prawn on your plate!
More links

Shrimp Farming will Ruin Nigeria’s Environment
Akie Hart and IH Pepple, thisdayonline 14 Jan 08;
with lots of details and case studies of the impact of large scale prawn farming in various countries.

A little bit of shrimp farming is OK, environment economists say
Journal Watch Online 17 Jan 08;

Top Tips for ethical eating
On the Environmental Justice Foundation website with a Prawn Consumer Guide (PDF file) of how to make a choice about the prawns that you buy.

Food detective: Tiger prawns
Sheila Keating, The Times 5 Jan 08;

Rainforests of the sea: mangrove forests threatened by prawn aquaculture
Alfredo Quarto, The Environmental Magazine Feb 1994

Great Barrier Reef Prawn Trawling Campaign - The Toll of Trawling
on the Wilderness Society website