40 new sponge records for Singapore!

SINGAPORE'S only sponge expert has uncovered 40 new records of this primitive life form in local waters over the past year.

This is just a fifth of the total number now known in Singapore, says Mr Lim Swee Cheng, 31.

'It was rather easy to find them. Every trip I made to places like Cyrene Reef and Pulau Semakau, I'd see 20 to 30 species. Our tropical waters make the biodiversity very rich with species,' the researcher said.

The new finds all come from the inter-tidal zone - the shoreline which receives the most exposure to the elements with the rise and fall of the tide.

RED MAIDEN FAN: Arguably Singapore's prettiest sponge, the Oceanapia sagittaria is just 7cm high. The fanlike protuberance is not always present and its body is buried in soft sediment, making it hard to spot despite it being common in local waters.

Read the full article!

A spongy kind of love
Expert finds 40 new species to add to rich haul in local waters
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 30 Aug 08
full article also on the wildsingapore news blog

Sea turtles and Singapore's reefs!

Today it was reported that another Hawksbill sea turtle has been radio tagged at Malacca as part of the ongoing study to better understand these wonderful marine creatures.
Data from the radio tracking shows that some of these sea turtles spend their time in Singapore waters!

More details on the wild shores of singapore blog

Cyrene Reef mapped!

This fabulous map was kindly shared by Dr. D. Kumaran Raju based on his GPS mapping of Cyrene Reef on in May and July. Dr Raju also shares that the total area of Cyrene Reef is 45.7 hectares.

More about the mapping of Cyrene on the wild shores of singapore blog.

This fabulous map and Dr Raju's other amazing maps are hosted on wildsingapore.

More about Cyrene Reef on the wildsingapore website.

Southern Haunt: video clip of talk

Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers gave this talk at Reef Celebrations on 9 Aug 08

IYOR 2008 - Debby Ng - Southern Haunt - The Hantu Blogs from sgbeachbum on Vimeo.
All about the beauty of our very own wild reefs at Pulau Hantu!

Thanks to Andy who filmed and uploaded the clip on his sgbeachbum blog.

Are there reefs left in Singapore? - video clip of talk

Jeffrey Low gave this talk at Reef Celebrations on 9 Aug 08.

IYOR 2008 - Jeffrey Low - Does Singapore have Coral Reefs? from BeachBum on Vimeo.
Find out all about our living reefs!

Thanks to Andy for filming and uploading the video on his sgbeachbum blog.

Speak up for our reefs for a Sustainable Singapore

At mid-point of the call for public feedback for a Sustainable Singapore, more than 700 responses have been received.
Please add your voice for our reefs and shores! We have until the end of October to give feedback.

Here's more background on this feedback exercise and how you can make a difference.

On 28 Aug (Thu), Green Drinks is also planning to discuss "How Sustainable is Singapore's Vision?" to consolidate some feedback on the issue. More details on this event.

There's also a quick look at the 600+ responses on the Sustainable Singapore website, on the wild shores of singapore blog. There are few voices for conserving our wild places. In fact many suggestions may harm them. And many many show quite a poor understanding of key sustainability issues. Some are downright disturbing.

Wishing upon a Star: video clip of talk

Chim Chee Kong and Tan Sijie gave this talk at Reef Celebrations on 9 Aug 08.

IYOR 2008 Singapore - Wishing upon a Star by Ivan Tan Sijie & Chim Chee Kong from BeachBum on Vimeo.
All about the Knobbly sea stars and those on Cyrene Reef.

Thanks to Andy for taping and uploading the clip on his sgbeachbum blog.

26 adopted stars with a Name!

Each of the 26 adopted stars now have their own blog entry!
Star Trackers @ IYOR 08
The entries are up on the star trackers blog

Check the star trackers blog for updates on these named stars as well as all the other stars on Cyrene Reef!

More about Cyrene Reef on the wildsingapore website.

Life and Death at Chek Jawa

Loh Kok Sheng gave this talk as part of Reef Celebrations on 9 Aug 08.

IYOR 2008 Singapore - Life & Death at Chek Jawa by Loh Kok Sheng from BeachBum on Vimeo.

Thanks to Andy of sgbeachbum blog for filming and uploading the video.

Scuba Divers are Willing to Pay More to See Healthy Corals, Sharks and Sea Turtles

New Survey Finds Economic Incentive for Protecting Ocean Resources
Oceana website 21 Aug 08;

Washington, D.C. -- Oceana released the results of a new study today that finds a strong economic incentive for protecting living ocean resources. Sea the Value: Quantifying the Value of Marine Life to Divers shows that scuba divers are willing to pay more to see healthy corals, sharks and sea turtles.

"Divers are personally invested in the oceans and truly understand the importance of safeguarding marine wildlife and habitats," said Suzanne Garrett, dive program coordinator at Oceana. "Divers are avid participants in ecotourism and show a great willingness to protect all that inhabits the oceans."

Scuba divers contribute more than $4.1 billion dollars to local coastal economies alone each year through dive-related vacations. As part of Sea the Value, conducted in collaboration with Duke University, scuba divers were asked the maximum amount of money they were willing to pay, in addition to their normal dive costs, for the increased likelihood of seeing a particular species. Information was obtained from more than 500 scuba divers from across the United States who responded to a 25 question, web-based survey.

Average additional amount scuba divers are willing to pay per dive to view wildlife and the total annual value across all six million dives taken in the United States

Average Per Dive (U.S. $)
Sea Turtles: $29.63
Sharks: $35.36
Healthy Corals: $55.35

Total Annual Value (U.S. $)
Sea Turtles: $177.8 million
Sharks: $212.2 million
Healthy Corals: $332.1 million

Scuba divers find personal value in seeing healthy marine life when they explore the underwater world. Quantifying this value is important, in part because it provides economic justification for the protection of marine wildlife. In fact, divers are valuable participants in ecotourism and provide economic incentives for coastal areas to protect and preserve the oceans. Many non-coastal cities and states also are home to scuba divers and dive shops that rely heavily on healthy oceans, benefiting from the economic activities of the dive community.

"Divers are great advocates for the oceans because they see first hand what's happening in the water," said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana. "Failure of ocean managers to decrease pressures from commercial fishing, pollution and climate change continues to threaten the health and future of the world's oceans."

When asked whether the U.S. government sufficiently protects its dive sites, most divers said no. Scuba divers saw pollution as the most damaging threat to ocean health, followed by unsustainable fishing, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity and, finally, climate change. These are all areas where divers feel the U.S. should improve ocean conservation and management to help better protect marine habitats.

For more information on what you can do to help and to view a full copy of the report, please visit http://oceana.org/dive.

Second chance for Singapore to save its rare species

The rediscovery of 'extinct' wildlife serves to motivate nature enthusiasts
Kimberly Spykerman, Straits Times 22 Aug 08;

WHEN it comes to wildlife native to these shores, it seems people here just do not know enough, grumbles Miss Toh Chay Hoon, a 31-year-old nature enthusiast.

In her spare time, the accountant does her bit to introduce people to the flora and fauna here by leading nature walks on offshore islands such as Pulau Ubin and Pulau Semakau.

She recalled an incident at Changi Beach last year, when a beach-goer found a threatened species of marine snail commonly known as the Bailer Snail, so named because its large shell is said to have been used to bail out water from leaky boats.
She said with dismay: 'He was going to take it home and cook it - even after I told him it was an endangered species! People have to learn to appreciate animals in their natural environment.'

People here are not aware of the rich variety of animals and plants in these parts, largely 'because because they don't get out there and explore', she said.

And given that some animals native to these shores have staged a 'comeback' in recent years, nature enthusiasts like her believe it is time Singaporeans sat up and took notice of the creatures that share their environment.

Miss Toh, for one, is always on the lookout for a great find.

In June last year, she thrilled the local scientific community by spotting the multi-armed starfish called the Basket Star while on a pre-dawn trip to the coral reefs off Sisters Islands.

A relative of the common Sea Star, it had not been seen in waters here since 1896. Its distinguishing feature is the basket-like shape formed by its many arms.
Miss Toh said of her find: 'I never expected to see a Basket Star. Till then, the only one I'd seen was a skeleton at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity.'

She left the fragile starfish where she found it, and came away with just memories and a few photographs.

full article also on the wildsingapore news blog.

East Asian Seas Congress 2009 Photo Contest

With the theme, "The Coast, The Ocean, My Community", they're looking for entries that demonstrate local actions. There's categories for youth, amateurs and professionals.

More about the photo contest and submission forms.

Here's more about the East Asian Seas Congress 2009

The five-day EAS Congress 2009 will include the Third Ministerial Forum, the International Conference on Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Development, the EAS Partnership Council Meeting, Exhibition on Good Practices and Innovative Technologies, the 2nd EAS Youth Forum, Business Forum, Field Visits, and other side events or activities.

International Conference on Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Development(23-25 November 2009)

The International Conference will gather various stakeholders – policymakers, resource and economic managers, business professionals, scientists, members of the academe, local and international NGOs, youth and community representatives and other members of civil society from within and outside the East Asian Seas region – to engage in knowledge sharing and partnership building.

Third Ministerial Forum (25-26 November 2009)

The Third Ministerial Forum is expected to provide policy direction for improving and strengthening the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA), i.e., the adopted regional strategy of the PEMSEA Country and non-Country Partners. The Ministers from PEMSEA participating countries are expected to deliver updates on their countries' efforts in sustainable coastal and ocean development, and reconfirm their individual and collective commitments to continuously address existing and emerging challenges besetting the East Asian Seas.

EAS Partnership Council Meeting (27 November 2009)

The Third EAS Partnership Council Meeting will be conducted as part of the EAS Congress 2009. This policymaking body, which is composed of 11 PEMSEA Country and 16 non-Country Partners, convenes to monitor and assess overall progress related to the implementation of the SDS-SEA. Based on the recommendations and commitments by the Partners and the Ministerial Forum, the Council will formulate a work program and identify partnership arrangements that further strengthen individual country and regional efforts in sustainable coastal and ocean development through the implementation of the SDS-SEA.

Second EAS Youth Forum (21-27 November 2009)

Specifically designed for young environmental enthusiasts, the 2nd EAS Youth Forum builds on the success of the 1st EAS Youth Forum in 2006, whereby the Youth Agenda for the Seas of East Asia was formulated and adopted. The 2nd EAS Youth Forum hopes to provide a platform for the youth of the EAS region to converge and be involved in a dynamic discussion of key issues and actions for the sustainable development of the coastal and ocean environment of the region. In line with the EAS Congress theme, the 2nd EAS Youth Forum will focus on the role and contributions of the youth on coastal protection and development in their respective communities in support of the Youth Agenda.

Exhibit on Innovative Technologies and Good Practices (22-27 November 2009)

The EAS Congress 2009 hopes to further strengthen understanding and appreciation to various actions and innovations undertaken in line with sustainable development of coasts and oceans by integrating the environmental exhibition with workshop and seminar discussions. Through the synergy of exhibit images and workshop discussions, the EAS Congress introduces an innovative manner of engaging Congress participants on coastal and ocean management discussions.

Strange moon and other marvels: highlights of the lows

During the recent series of low tide trips, explorers not only saw more marine marvels, but also a lunar eclipse!

What's MORE adorable than a Nemo? What's happening on Cyrene Reef?

The lunar eclipse was quite an interesting phenomenon for shore explorers out that night. Although the tide at Changi was not as low as expected, there were still interesting finds including a dead shark.

What could be more squeal inducing than a 'Nemo'? Really tiny baby Nemos! False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris) are quite regularly seen in our sea anemones, and of course, they must surely have babies! Marcus shares this photo and story of the babies on his budak blog.This same trip to the Sisters Islands also involved encounters with strange fishes, masses of mushrooms and pinching hermit crabs.

The last trip to Cyrene at sunrise for the year included lots of first timers.They had a quick look at the wonderful reefs and shores there, despite the ominous weather.While the Star Trackers continued to work hard to monitor the magnificent Knobbly sea stars on Cyrene. Dredging is now ongoing next to Cyrene Reefs, as well as reclamation works nearby at Pasir Panjang Port.

Meanwhile, Kok Sheng encounters a star-studded shore at Pasir Ris. Although NEA has closed this shore to swimming due to poor water quality. There were sea stars small and big as well as lots of other marine life.
The crocodile at Pasir Ris that has been in the news in the past week or so.
seemed to have been caught today.

More blog entries about trips to our shores during the last two weeks

N. Sivasothi updates on the marine conservation community during the IYOR launch, 8 Aug 08

IYOR 2008 Singapore - Update on the Singapore Marine Conservation Community by N. Sivasothi from BeachBum on Vimeo.

N. Sivasothi gave a presentation on the marine conservation community in Singapore with a focus on the youths involved, new groups and some of the challenges faced.

Thanks to Andy of sgbeachbum blog for filming and uploading the clips.

Siva was recently also featured in the news as one of the ordinary people making a difference for our shores. Read more about Ordinary Singaporeans lead the green charge, by Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 16 Aug 08;

International Coastal Cleanup: you CAN make a difference

It won't just be volunteers in Singapore that hit the shores that day, volunteers in countries around the world will be taking to the beach as well, in order to data for a global perspective about marine trash.

At this stage of beach and mangrove recces are being conducted by Zone and Site Captains and with organisers at beaches and mangroves in preparation for the actual day. And a briefing for Site Buddies who help supervise operations will be conducted on 13th September 2008.

More details on the current site and participant status for ICCS on the habitatnews blog.

More news updates will be posted to the ICCS blog at coastalcleanup.wordpress.com.

Hope for coral reefs in Singapore

Just one species gone; concerted effort can reverse extinction trends
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 16 Aug 08;

JUST one coral species out of more than 250 has disappeared from Singapore waters in over 100 years, despite the fast and furious pace of urban development here.

Quantity-wise, the figures are dire: About 60 per cent of local reefs has already been destroyed, and another 15 per cent is expected to be wiped out through current coastal development. However, the rich diversity present makes experts hopeful of reviving the reefs.

Professor Chou Loke Ming, a marine biologist with the National University of Singapore (NUS) said a concerted effort made now by the Government, business sector and those in civil society can reverse current trends towards extinction.

Speaking last Saturday at the second International Year of the Reef

(IYOR2008) event, the pioneer conservationist said that to make this happen, 'development agencies must treat reef protection as a real exercise and not just for public relations, and draw up improvement plans at the same time as their development plans'.

Before the latest study by NUS, scientists had thought at least 50 species had been lost to development work.

Prof Chou envisions a marine paradise by 2018, with many large young thriving reefs lining Singapore's shores. He noted that restoration efforts had begun over the last decade.

One example is on Pulau Semakau, where screens were set up to protect existing sun-loving coral reefs from being choked by sedimentation during the creation of a landfill there.

Another is the work by Keppel Industries, NParks and NUS teams to build a coral nursery near the Southern Islands using fibreglass as a base for coral fragments to grow.

'Today's restoration efforts are a start but they still have to go beyond saving small coral colonies here and there,' Prof Chou said.

Environmental companies which can take on such work, he said, should also be given ample time to carry out assessments and save more corals standing in the way of land reclamation.

'Two weeks is not enough to tell them to get organised, and to take what coral they can before closing the whole place.'

To reverse the damage done, Prof Chou suggested a mix of preserved natural, newly created and restored sites, supported by development agencies.

Already, better private-public sector partnerships are springing up, he said, with resorts in Bintan and One deg 15 Marina interested in saving corals.

Sentosa Development Corporation has even considered how to grow corals in its canals. He added: 'We have a rich heritage; why squander it?'

Prof Chou's audience was made up largely of nature enthusiasts from non-governmental organisations as well as those from the Government and business community who support conservation issues.

About 500 visitors attended the weekend event at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Chairman of IYOR2008 Francis Lee said a proposal from the people, private and public sectors to conserve Singapore's marine life will be submitted to the Government by the end of this year.


Video clip of Prof Chou Loke Ming's keynote address
on the singapore celebrates our reefs blog.

16 Aug (Sat): "Remember Chek Jawa" DVD launch

"Remember Chek Jawa" a film by Eric Lim will now be available in DVD. At this launch, various clips from DVD will be shown. Eric (Filmmaker), Joseph Lai (Leader of survey) and Jeffery Low (Blue Water Vounteer) will talk about the film and answer questions. Ten autographed posters will be given away.

Part of DVD sales proceeds will go to local marine conservation work endorsed by Blue Water Volunteers

Time: 2 – 2.45pm
Venue: Kinokuniya Bookstore @ Takashimaya
Website: http://chekjawa.net
Contact: Kenny Lim (Objectifs Films) 82887501

The DVD release will also be held on 22 Aug (Fri)

Venue: Books Actually Bookstore, No. 5 Ann Siang Road; Telephone no: 6221 1170
Time: 7.30–8pm
Website: http://chekjawa.net
Contact: Kenny Lim (Objectifs Films) 82887501

Creating a Coral Paradise in Singapore Within 10 Years

ZaoBao.com 12 Aug 08;
translation from the ashira blog

Members of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) Singapore Organising Committee have a dream, and that is to create a coral paradise in Singapore within the coming years.

Professor Chou Loke Ming (Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore) believes that even though it would be difficult to achieve the aim of "Singapore, Coral Paradise 2018", it is not impossible. If this dream can be achieved, Singapore's marine life would be revived, with all kinds of fish returning, allowing us to become a diving hotspot.
He expressed these thoughts during the launch of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR).

IYOR is celebrated once every 10 years, and the first IYOR was launched in 1997, with the aim of raising awareness about the destruction of coral reefs. At that time, various groups from over 50 countries were involved and more than 100 research publications arose from the event.

The various groups and organizations taking part in this year's IYOR are equally enthusiastic and passionate, and comprise of many NGOs, water activity interest groups, individuals, as well as the National Parks Board.When interviewed, the chairman of the IYOR Singapore Organizing Committee, Mr Francis Lee, mentioned that, "The protection and conservation of Singapore's green spaces has been done very well, and air quality has been managed adequately. However, when it comes our marine heritage, too little has been done."

Development of the Blue Plan
With this aim in mind, the committee drafted a Blue Plan 5-6 years earlier, with the hopes of being able to work together with the government in conserving Singapore's marine life.

This year, the committee will once again draft out a new Blue Plan, including discussions/suggestions on how to allow ordinary people to treasure the ocean, as well as to share the knowledge of marine ecology with fishermen and divers alike. For example, if a caught fish is deemed too small, the fishermen could release them back to the sea.

The Chairman of the Blue Plan cluster, Mr Farid Hamid, states that the committee aims to submit the Blue Plan to the government by the end of this year, and have various discussions with the government, including a proposal for marine protected area(s), similar to Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, situated on mainland Singapore.

Situated in the south of Singapore, Sisters' Islands and Pulau Hantu are both within the consideration of the Blue Plan. These two islands are established offshore leisure grounds.

The committee members also aim to organize the existing database of our coral reefs, as well as to update the information, with the eventual aim of setting up a national database of Singapore's coral reefs.

60% of our local coral deaths due to reclamation works
Professor Chou also notes that the Tuas-Jurong area of Western Singapore originally possessed a large area of coral reefs but is now reduced to 40% of its original area.

Sedimentation reduce photosynthesis
Around 60% of Singapore's coral reefs have been destroyed between the 1970s and 1990s, with the main culprit of this destruction being sediments resulting from reclamation works.

Some of these sediments assumulate on the coral reefs, smothering the hard corals, and reducing light penetration which in turn decreases photosynthesis within the corals, leading to the eventual death of these coral colonies.

In addition, when the sediments settle on the seabed, they would also cover any coral larvae (and gametes) present, preventing the growth of new coral colonies.

Mr Ivan Choong, an avid diver who dives frequently in Singapore, said that the silt accumulating in on the seabeds of local waters can be as deep as a human's arm length, and the visibility of local waters are generally low. He notes that when diving locally, visibility is usually around 3-5m, and that he can only see the vague shadow (lacking a distinct outline) of his dive buddy.

Having just returned from Christmas Island, Ivan observed that in comparison, the waters there are still crystal clear even at depths of 30-40m.

Decrease in population but diversity still maintained
Even though Singapore's coral reefs have decreased in numbers, the types of corals that have persisted are largely intact. Professor Chou said that despite having experienced so many years of harsh conditions, only one out of the 251 species of hard corals found locally has gone extinct. This is a pleasant surprise, giving hope and confidence in the dream of a local coral paradise.
Little facts about hard corals
  • Corals are animals, not plants
  • Many individual coral polyps form a single coral colony
  • The intestinal cavity of individual coral polyps contain unicellular sumbiotic algae (zooxanthellae). These algae make use of sunlight that penetrates the water for photosynthesis, and their waster products act as nutrients for the coral
  • Corals absorb calcium that is present in seawater, secreting this calcium in the form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons
  • Coral mass spawning occurs annually in Singapore on the nights of full moon during the months of March-April
  • Coral reefs are natural habitats that support one of the greatest number of plant and animal species on earth, and are thus, of utmost importance to biodiversity.

Keynote address by Prof Chou Loke Ming at IYOR Launch 8 Aug 08

IYOR 2008 - Prof Chou Loke Ming - Keynote Address from BeachBum on Vimeo.

Thanks to Andy of sgbeachbum blog for the videoclip.

12 Aug (Tue) onwards: Cyrene Reef exhibit at the Raffles Museum

Singapore’s Natural Heritage - Cyrene Reef

Located west of Labrador Beach, between Pulau Bukom and Jurong Island, Cyrene Reef is situated in the middle of a busy shipping lane. The wonders of this reef are only reveal at low tides. Flaunting a long sand bar flanked by lush sea-grass meadows and lagoons of coral rubble, Cyrene Reef is rich in marine diversity despite its proximity to offshore refineries and other developments.

This small exhibit showcases the beauty of Cyrene Reef and its inhabitants.

from the RMBR news blog

More about Cyrene Reef.

More about the RMBR public gallery and how to get there.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 9am-5pm
(Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays)
Location: Block S6, Level 3, National University of Singapore, Science Drive 2
Website: http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/
Contact: 6516-5082

Colouring madness at Reef Celebrations

The Colouring Station was a huge hit at Reef Celebrations. Here's MORE photos of this event.
It was the most popular activity at Reef Celebrations! With a crowd forming almost as soon as we opened.
Hard at work.With a little encouragement from Sam.
Reviewing our work.
Here's mine!
Posing with our work.With mum.
This dedicated colourist won our hearts with his patient work.
Jani, the marine biologist, presents a labelled final result with beautifully coloured marine animals.Here's Chay Hoon, the artist of the fabulous drawings, colouring too!

The nudis as they should be, by Chay Hoon.Only the eyes were coloured in...hmmm...

The drawings are simply irresistable.Even the volunteers HAVE to have a hand at some.And who is responsible for the "fiery" nudi?The artists with their handiwork.
A closer look.
Another wacky one done by the volunteers.
Abby does a more muted 'moo' version.

Wow, we sure had fun!

Stars of the Reef Celebrations

The Knobbly sea stars of Cyrene were the stars at Reef Celebrations! And 100 of them were up for adoption.

The first star was adopted by Prof Chou Loke Ming, Guest-of-Honour and marked the Launch of the IYOR in Singapore on 8 Aug (Fri)!Prior to that, November gave a short introduction to the stars.Assisted by the very lovely star ladies.There was a huge rush to adopt stars after the Launch. And a queue formed to get their favourite star!
It was more hard work sharing about our stars the following day at Reef Celebrations. November is our tireless Star Ambassador.
Vyna is also working very hard at the Star booth.The kids are intrigued by the stars!Here's some young adopters.
Sijie helping a young adopter add the name to her star.Stars are also adopted by groups, such as the Naked Hermit Crabs! (who have selected a star without knobs on the arms and called it 'nudistarre')And soon, many stars are adopted!At the end of the events, November is pleased to announce 26 stars have been adopted!

More about the adopt the star event: