Rare coastal horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus gigas) badly entangled by discarded fishing lines at East Coast Park

5 July 2015 – I went down together with Jonathan Tan (Youth For Ecology), Sankar A. and Law Ingsind (Herpetological Society of Singapore HSS and NUS Toddycats) to check out the coral reefs of East Coast Park. The tide was to be at 0.0m at 7.00am that morning, and would reveal the reef and much marine life.

Coral reefs are diverse ecosystems comprising of coral colonies which host a large number of marine species. Despite a loss of some 65% of our reefs to land reclamation and coastal development, Singapore does have reefs left! But the pollution is a source of stress on these remaining patches. One of our first encounters on the shoreline were two of our rare coastal horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus gigas), badly entangled by a discarded fishing line.

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Removing the fishing line was tricky as the filaments had twisted into many complicated knots around the pincers. With patience, we did manage to free the precious horseshoe crabs.

In addition to the fishing line pollutions, six irresponsibly abandoned drift nets were found by the rock wall. These drift nets were extremely heavy, and over time had accumulated barnacles. We took great care when removing the nets.

Tachypleus gigas RiaTan
The coastal horseshoe crab, Tachypleus gigas, an endangered species in Singapore;
data deficient internationally. (Photo by Ria Tan)

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Left: One of the drift nets along the rock wall.
Right: A short stretch of beach polluted with plastic.

We were unprepared for the heavy load, so were only able to remove two nets before the tide rose. As we left, we hoped that unsuspecting marine life would not fall prey to this irresponsible ghost nets.

We had visited East Coast Park in the hope of examining the coral reefs, but instead spent most of our time removing nets and fishing lines which should not have been there in the first place. We hope people will realise that irresponsible habits – even littering in urban areas can affect our previous, surviving marine life.

Working together like this, we foster a keen sense of camaraderie and purpose. Even veteran ICCS Coordinator Sivasothi aka Otterman said he felt motivated by the purposeful action we took to protect marine life as our reports on Facebook reached a wider audience. As we work to figure out and implement upstream solutions as well, these encounters on the coast remind us that we are in the midst of a battle!

If you’d like to take an active role in tackling marine trash along our coastal habitats, join us for our National Day Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang!

Attend the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV on Sat 01 Aug 2015 @ NUS

BoSS IV 2015 publicity poster

ICCS conducts public education about issues pertaining to threats faced by marine and mangrove ecosystems. To expose yourself to other issues in the local biodiversity scene, the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium is a full day event held every four years by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. It aims to update the Singaporean community of changes to the local biodiversity landscape, and if you would like to find out more about them and past symposia, do visit their webpage at biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com/about.

The fourth Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium, to be held at NUS University Auditorium 2 on Sat 01 Aug 2015 explores the theme of “What’s Next?”, alluding to the changing Biodiversity and Conservation landscape of Singapore. Researchers, managers, educators and conservationists will share you news from Singapore’s biodiversity landscape and inspire youth to play a greater role in biodiversity and the environment in Singapore.

SIGN UP FOR BOSS HERE!

To defray costs, the symposium registration fee is $10/person and $6/student. Two hefty teas to mingle over are provided between sessions, so you will be well fed!

To find out more about BoSS IV, visit biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com or email boss4@nus.edu.sg.

Celebrate National Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove (Fri 07 Aug 2015)!

Singapore celebrates her 50th year of independence in August and once again, volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) celebrate National Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove. This time we are working on first day of the Jubilee Weekend – Friday 7th Aug 2015: 8.00am – 10.30am.

Sign up by 4th August 2015 to join us! Transport will be provided from Kranji MRT to the cleanup site @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove

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Why do we conduct coastal cleanups? Habitats along Singapore’s coastlines host an amazing biodiversity and trash present in these areas impact our wildlife adversely and devalue the natural beauty of the landscape. Coastal cleanups conducted by volunteers around the world remove this trash, raise awareness about the impact of marine trash, and motivate us to work towards solutions. including sustainable daily practises. Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove is an unprotected but precious patch of wetland, located in the northwest of Singapore. Incoming trash from the Johor Straits is regularly deposited on the shoreline and impacts the animals, plants and the organisms of the ecosystem there.

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Meeting Point: Participants can meet at the bus stop outside Kranji MRT (Bus code: 45139) and will be transported to the cleanup site at Lim Chu Kang road end, or meet us at the venue itself.bus-pick-up-point Itinerary 

07.45am – Bus pick up at bus stop outside Kranji MRT (Bus code: 45139)
08.15am – Bus arrives at the Lim Chu Kang Road end. Apply insect repellant, collect gloves and trash bags. Safety and procedure briefing.
08.30am – Cleanup begins
09.45am – End of cleanup; transport trash bags to TCP.
10.00am – Trash is weighed followed by the debrief.
10.15am – Participants clean up. There are no public amenities in this area. Your legs must be clean to enter the bus. 10.30am – Bus departs for Kranji MRT.

Things to note:

  1. Transport to Lim Chu Kang Beach, gloves, trash bags and weighing scales are provided.
  2. You must wear hard-soled covered shoes or booties to to protect your feet from hazards, else you cannot work in the area.
  3. A change of clothes is recommended after a sweaty workout. You must be clea to enter the bus – bring a cloth and extra water to do this.
  4. Long pants are recommended to protect your legs from insect bites.
  5. We will continue the cleanup in rain (bring rain gear) but cease if there is threat of lightning.

Things to bring:

  1. Water bottle (with at least one litre of water)
  2. Hat and/ or sun block
  3. Reusable raincoat / poncho (we will work in rain)
  4. Towel to wipe off sand and mud
  5. Change of clothes for public transport.

Be prepared:

  1. Sleep early the night before
  2. Have a decent breakfast – it’s hard work!
  3. Be punctual – the bus is unable to wait for latecomers; and the tide waits for no one!
  4. Refer to this recce report of Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove.
  5. Please read our advice to participants to prepare yourself for the cleanup!

Thank you for caring for our planet!

Plastics in the gut of the sperm whale carcass in Singapore – “a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste”

Staff of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum salvaged a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) carcass (10 Jul 2015) with the help of the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and National Environment Agency (NEA), and have been working since Friday 10 Jul 2015 to extract tissue for genetic work, gut contents to understand diet and preserve the skeleton for display in the museum gallery.

While working on the carcass, museum staff found “pieces of plastic food containers and wrappers in the whale’s gut, a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste” and to ensure “proper disposal of these items.” Museum Officer Marcus Chua and Conservator Kate Pocklington were on Channel News Asia on 14 July 2015 to update Singapore  about the carcass salvage, and highlighted the issue of marine trash with some of the gut contents – numerous squid beaks and a plastic cup.

Do watch their segment between 33:00 to 38:15 here, and follow the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page to keep updated on their progress. You can also learn more about The Singapore Whale here!

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Source: Channel News Asia

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Source: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musuem Facebook page

Plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags: How we celebrated Youth Day

11 July 2015 – ICCS celebrated Youth Day by conducting a Marine Biodiversity and Sustainability Workshop, as well as a cleanup at Sungei Pandan Mangrove (Site 1). 23 participants joined us for the workshop held at the Learning Lab in Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which started off with a specimen show-and-tell session. These specimens reflected the mangrove biodiversity of Sungei Pandan, and gave our participants greater insights into animals such as the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda), the Mud Lobster (Thalassina anomala), and the Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rynchops).

11722161_1008211915864312_933592595218142248_oSpecimen show-and-tell session with ICCS Intern Becky Lee, and Veteran Toddycat Alvin Wong.

Following the specimen show-and-tell, N. Sivasothi aka ‘Otterman’ (Siva) gave a talk on Marine Biodiversity and Sustainability in the context of Singapore. Siva, who has coordinated ICCS since 2001 shared about natural habitats that still exist in Singapore and their ecological importance. Dr Amy Choong from the Department of Biological Sciences in National University of Singapore rounded off the workshop by sharing about waste management practices in Singapore, and sustainable habits each individual can take up to protect the environment.

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Left: N Sivasothi aka ‘Otterman’ sharing about mangroves that can still be found in Singapore.
Right: Dr Amy Choong speaking about waste collection and incineration in Singapore.

After the workshop, our participants got ready to head off to Sungei Pandan for the mangrove cleanup. More volunteers came to join us in the cleanup effort. With a total of 31 volunteers, we removed more than 200kg of trash in 50 trash bags! It was a muddy affair and an intense workout, lifting the trash laden bags out of the mangrove. But everyone pulled their weight and lent each other a helping hand when needed.

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A trash-ridden mangrove, filled with plastic bottles, plastic straws and plastic bags.

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During our cleanup, many of us got a special glimpse into the biodiversity of Sungei Pandan Mangrove. Sesarmine Crabs (Perisesarma sp.), Red Berry Snails (Assiminea sp.) and mud mounds by the Mud Lobster (Thalassina anomala) were aplenty! The stretches of mangrove in Sungei Pandan is precious to us, and despite it being reduced to 3 small, unprotected patches in the South West, it still holds much mangrove life and gives us much to be proud of. In our last cleanup, some of our participants were lucky to get a glimpse of the Smooth-coated Otters (Lutrogale Perspicillata) in the river!

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A big thank you to everyone who joined us for a meaningful Youth Day celebration!

The awful sight of trash in the Sungei Pandan mangrove

15 June 2015 & 7 July 2015 – We headed down to Sungei Pandan Mangrove (SP1) in preparation for the Youth Day Mangrove Cleanup on 11 July 2015. We had previously organised a cleanup at Sungei Pandan Mangrove for World Water Day on 21 March 2015, where some of our participants reported sightings of the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) in the river!

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Despite great news of otters in the habitat, the sight of plastic bottles amongst the vegetation still gets extremely depressing. The patch of mangrove is small and unprotected, and it is rarely cleaned. Trash therefore accumulates, making the ecosystem inhospitable for biodiversity to thrive.

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After examining the trash load and determining how much manpower and logistics would be needed on Saturday, we admired the Tree-climbing Crabs (Perisesarma sp.), Rodong Snails (Telescopium telescopium) and Red Berry Snails (Assiminea sp.). Despite it’s located in an industrial area, Pandan Mangrove still has mangrove life!

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Our participants on Saturday will not only take away the message of marine trash and the impact it has on the natural environment, but also the value of our local mangrove habitats. Singapore isn’t just a concrete jungle, but our surviving ecosystems deserve recognition! Here’s to a successful Youth Day celebration!

ICCS 2015 Organisers’ Workshops: Why and how do we conduct coastal cleanups?

1 – 3 July 2015: 7.00pm-9.30pm @ NUS Faculty of Science Active Learning Room [S16-03] — 42 ICCS Organisers attended the 2015 workshops to learn more about why and how to organise coastal cleanups. Three consecutive nights of 150-min workshops conducted by 6–8 zone captains each night ensured small group interaction and adequate attention especially for the first-time organisers.

At the last Site Allocation Meeting (SAX3), ICCS Otters discussed the design of the workshop. N. Sivasothi aka Otterman reorganised workshop slides for brevity and adjusted session design to increase interaction. Zone Captains, some new at instruction, prepared their lesson plan based on this format to ready themselves for action! The workshop format also ensured Organisers had plenty of time to clarify queries.

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Each day began with an introduction into local marine biodiversity and the impact of marine trash. Despite a history of reclamation at out shores and a busy shipping port, Singapore has six different aquatic ecosystems and much marine life whic has survived this impact. Knowledge of our marine life motivates us to conduct coastal cleanups, as we realise otherwise that many animals such as sea turtles and horseshoe crabs ingest plastic, or get entangled in trash.

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Left: Sankar A, Ubin Zone Captain shares about the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Right: Joys Tan, Tanah Merah Zone Captain reveals what non-recreational beaches in Singapore actually look like.

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Left: Tan Chia Wu, Changi Zone Captain talks about the organisational process behind a conducting coastal cleanup.
Right: Airani S, Data Captain runs through the ICCS Data Card, familiarising everyone with the different categories.

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The group break-out sessions were extremely helpful, providing first-time organisers the opportunity to consult our Zone Captains, as well as the more experienced organisers who imparted useful advice!

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Our Zone Captains also role-played – here, they demonstrated the human-chain – an effective method in transferring heavy trash bags from the cleanup site to the Trash Collection Point (TCP).

We ended each day with a very important chapter – solutions for sustainability after the coastal cleanup. Cleanup events are very importantly about education. The exposure iotaof participants to the reality of marine trash must be coupled with useful ideas about daily life – thinking about the necessity of disposable water bottles or recycling.

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Next up for ICCS Organisers are their site recces. ICCS 2015 is picking up speed!