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