3,500 volunteers in 68 organisations registered for September’s International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore

As of today, 3,542 volunteers are signed up through 68 organisations (schools, agencies, corporations and other groups) to tackle some 61 sites around Singapore. The date of the cleanup? On or near the international date set by the Ocean Conservancy on the third Saturday in September – 19th September 2015.

This will be the 23rd year of the international coastal cleanup in Singapore.

We began with a recruitment exercise for new site captains in March, then ICCS Zone Captains processed Organiser’s registration and allocated sites mostly in the first half of the year. About that time, they recce’d cleanup sites to ensure all was in order, and after three rounds of site allocations, we conducted three days of workshops for organisers, and amidst various talks at organisations, zone captains went on final site recces with Organisers.

We will next be updating various agencies – NParks, SLA/SPF, NEA’s Department of Public Cleanliness and the Public Hygiene Council – to update managers about specific event dates and locations, clear permissions for access where needed, avoid overlaps and secure help for trash removal at prearranged Trash Disposal Sites (TDPs).

See last year’s results.

So while in the midst of double-confirming details, here are some numbers:

  1. North West (6 sites, 10 organisations) – 526 volunteers
  2. North East (11 sites, 14 organisations) – 595 volunteers
  3. Pulau Ubin (16 sites, 12 organisations) – 566 volunteers
  4. Changi (4 sites, 9 organisations) – 580 volunteers
  5. Tanah Merah (7 sites, 11 organisations) – 590 volunteers
  6. East Coast (12 sites, 5 organisations) – 685 volunteers
  7. South (5 sites, 6 organisations) – 220 volunteers

And who is lending their elbow to this effort? The 68 groups are from mostly educational and corporate groups but also include community groups and to smaller extent, nature and environmental groups and government agencies.

  • 26 groups (1,960 volunteers) – educational institutions,
  • 27 groups (1,175 volunteers) – corporate groups
  • 7 groups (520 volunteers) – other communities
  • 4 (205 volunteers) – nature/environment groups
  • 4 (122 volunteers) – government agencies

To view the details, visit status.coastalcleanupsingapore.org

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Showing our love for Singapore: National Day Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang

7 August 2015, Friday — It was the first day of the Jubilee Weekend, and ICCS was down at Lim Chu Kang Beach and Mangrove celebrating National Day in our usual fashion; with a coastal cleanup! Altogether 48 volunteers showed our love for Singapore by removing 749kg of trash in 92 trash bags out of her Lim Chu Kang habitats.

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Northwest Zone Captain Adriane Lee and I arrived on site earlier with the logistics, and did a quick recce before the participants arrived. Trash was abundant on the coastline, with various types of plastics hanging from branches and strewn under the trees.

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Left: Plastic bags, raffia string, and a deflated balloon trashed!
Right: Plastic pieces strewn over the pencil roots of Avicennia sp.

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Our hearts were filled with accomplishment at the sight of a mangrove relieved of trash so early that morning. We transferred trash bags to three Trash Collection Points (TCP) for weighing and formed a chain to transfer the weighed bags to the Trash Disposal Point at the edge of the jetty. This prearranged point with NEA’s Department of Public Cleanliness would be where the contractor would collect later.

Throughout the cleanup, we encountered mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) moults and we used the specimens to introduce these amazing mangrove critters to the cleanup volunteers. I also talked about other cleanup and guiding efforts conducted by NUS Toddycats. ICCS Coordinator Sivasothi aka Otterman rounded up the session with the conservation and research history of this site, the importance our remaining mangrove patches and the value of the morning’s effort at relieving the site of impactful trash.

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Left: Talking about mangrove horseshoe crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) using moults we found. Right: Cleanup volunteers listening intently to Sivasothi’s stories about Mandai and Lim Chu Kang mangroves in the 80’s and 90’s and how as an NUS undergraduate in the 80’s, he was was dismayed by the phenomenal amount of pollution there.

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Otterman’s large Singapore Flag had disappeared this year – so the red and white shirted participants arranged themselves into a flag!

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Do you see the flag?

Thank you to everyone for a sensitive and effective cleanup at Lim Chu Kang, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our nation’s 50th birthday!

Photos on Flickr.

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.

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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!