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

Screenshot 2015 08 15 19 06 36

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.


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.

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!

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.49.46 pm
Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.47.49 pm
Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.49.03 pm

Source: Channel News Asia

sperm whale plastic 2 sperm whale plastic

Source: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musuem Facebook page

Stranded dolphin at Kota Kinabalu, dies with 4.25 kg of plastic in its stomach

News from Sabah shared the heart-wrenching reason for the death of a stranded dolphin – 4.25 kilograms of plastic materials inside its stomach.

Borneo Post  4 25kg plastics in dolphin

Screen shot 2015-03-29 at AM 12.22.54Location of Likas Bay in Malaysia, click image to visit Google Maps.

Villagers found a stranded dolphin in the shallow waters near Likas Bay in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, barely able to move, on Thu 19 March 2015 at 5.30am. The dolphin was treated at the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) at  Universiti Malaysia Sabah. identified to be a male Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), he succumbed to chronic starvation and died on 25 Mar 2015.

The cause? 4.25 kilograms of plastic pieces in its stomach, severely impairing the gastric muco. Asst Director Dr Sen Nathan at Sabah’s Wildlife Department explained plastics prevented the digestion of food “leading to severe malnutrition. … The dolphin may have ingested these plastics, having mistaken them for squids due to “similar textural or visual quality of the plastics to squids,” Dr Nathan added.

Read the original article, ” 4.25kg of plastics in dolphin,” by Jenne Lajun. Borneo Post online, 28 Mar 2015.


Never stop caring about the environment

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote about “Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Red Box” in a touching tribute about his service to the country.

In his essay, a story reflects the focus and action which it took to push Singapore towards a clean and green country. This goal requires continued effort, and is a motivation worth emulating.

“In 2010, Mr Lee was hospitalised again, this time for a chest infection. While he was in the hospital, Mrs Lee passed away. Mr Lee has spoken about his grief at Mrs Lee’s passing. As soon as he could, he left the hospital to attend the wake at Sri Temasek.

“At the end of the night, he was under doctor’s orders to return to the hospital. But he asked his security team if they could take him to the Singapore River instead. It was late in the night, and Mr Lee was in mourning. His security team hastened to give a bereaved husband a quiet moment to himself.

“As Mr Lee walked slowly along the bank of the Singapore River, the way he and Mrs Lee sometimes did when she was still alive, he paused. He beckoned a security officer over. Then he pointed out some trash floating on the river, and asked, “Can you take a photo of that? I’ll tell my PPS what to do about it tomorrow.” Photo taken, he returned to the hospital.”

Read the whole article here.

Three oil spill incidents near the Southern Islands in two weeks in Jan and Feb 2014

First, there were two, now a third collision adds to the toll of oil spilled in Singapore’s Southern shores.

The first two collisions occurred between chemical tanker “Lime Galaxy” and container ship “Feihe” o 29 Jan 2014 and between container ship “NYK Themis” and barge “AZ Fuzhou” on 30 Jan 2014. A total of 680 metric tonnes of fuel oil were spilt near the beaches of Kusu and St. John’s Islands. MPA reports that the affected areas have since been cleaned up by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and other agencies.

A third spill occurred on 10 Feb 2014. MPA reported that container ship “Hammonia Thracium” and chemical tanker “Zoey” collided off Sebarok Island, resulting in a spillage of 80 metric tonnes of bunker fuel.

oil slick at seringat-kias

Oil slick at Seringat-Kias from St. John’s Island Marine Laboratory

While all the involved vessels are now in stable conditions, the same is not certain for Singapore’s reefs. Our shores boost a rich biodiversity of over 200 species of hard corals and other organisms such as sea stars, sponges and anemones, many of which are endemic to the region. They remain susceptible to acute and long-term physiological effects due to oil contamination and a destabilization of the fragile ecosystem.

With about 1000 vessels in Singapore waters at any one time, the risk of a catastrophic accident remains ever-present. Yet, the devastating news of the oil spill is but one of many challenges that Singapore’s marine biodiversity faces. From marine litter choking our waters to land reclamation resulting in habitat loss, the survival of Singapore’s unprotected marine life is constantly under threat.

However, the outlook on the health of our precious coastal habitats need not be invariably despondent. While we may not be able to do much about collisions of vessels, you can make an effort to keep up to date on the latest information and be conscious in your daily actions to minimize the impact on the environment.

You will find more updates on the oil spill and information about the biodiversity of our Southern Islands on Wildshores and a preliminary assessment of the situation on Kusu Island by Peiyan.

Early marine trash numbers and effort from four zones

We have eight zones in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2013 and by Tuesday morning, the data submissions from four zones are complete and have been published with details at iccs-status.rafflesmuseum.net.

This is testament to the efficiency of the Organisers who put in the effort to send us consolidated data immediately after the cleanup so that we can work on it over the weekend.

While these are pre-verification numbers, the collated figures begin to give you some sense of the effort put in by volunteers:

  • ICCS East Coast Zone: 563 volunteers cleared 38,918 items weighing 629kg in 100 trash bags over 6.7km [link]
  • ICCS Chek Jawa Zone: 155 volunteers cleared 6,121 items weighing 1.046 tonnes in 150 trash bags over 590m [link]
  • ICCS South Zone: 235 volunteers cleared 4,607 items weighing 1.341 tonnes in 266 trash bags over 2.765km [link]
  • ICCS North West Zone: 513 volunteers cleared 23,171 items weighing 3.895 tonnes in 423 trash bags over 1.075km [link]

Thus far, for the four completed zones (representing about half the participants), 1,466 volunteers categorised 72,817 items of marine trash weighing 6,911kg in 939 trash bags, covering s distance of 11,130 metres.

Meanwhile, 18 photo albums have been published on Flickr in the ICCS2013 Collection.


International Coastal Cleanup Singapore – status, data and photos up on the web!

The scheduled day for the International Coastal Cleanup around the planet was the third Saturday of September – yesterday, 21 September 2013. Most of our sites around Singapore were busy and only a few organisations executing their cleanups earlier or later.

Zone and Site Captains hit the shores to support or manage sites around the island. This is the result of work since the second quarter of the year and very much anticipated!

With the actually cleanups completed, the focus then shifts to ensuring the data which volunteers recorded is compiled, represented, and readied for submission.

We try to do this as quickly as possible after the cleanup to minimise subsequent work for the Organisers, and also for the volunteer coordinators who are engulfed by our day jobs when the weekend is up! Although we want to do this quickly, accuracy is more important.

We returned to the lab at the National University of Singapore to wash gloves and hunker down to process data yesterday afternoon. The data submissions by Organisers came in fast and furious by email, which was lovely to see.

Gmail - ICCS

The data submission rate was not as good as previous years. By Sunday morning, we are still awaiting data from a several sites in our eight zones:

  1. Pulau Ubin West – data not in yet
  2. North East – 5 sites left
  3. Changi – 4 sites left
  4. Pulau Ubin – 3 sites
  5. South – 2 sites left
  6. North West – 1 site left
  7. Tanah Merah – 1 site left
  8. East Coast – all in!

We’ll work with Organisers to improve this next year. Maybe an easier data submission form – we have been using an Excel submission form for more than a decade – form reports are not as good but new options have emerged.

Meanwhile Zone Captains are following up with Organisers.

As the data is compiled, we can observe the variation between registered numbers and the actual turnout of volunteers. This helps us estimate how much we can increase the registered site capacity, as actual numbers are often (but not always) less than registered numbers.

ICCS 2013

The ICCS Status page (iccs-status.rafflesmuseum.net) now also tracks if Organisers have submitted their cleanup data and if we have processed and published this data.

This is our current priority.

We had a brief hiccup yesterday afternoon as NUS servers were down for some exercise. Thankfully we were able to resume publishing in the evening. Then we will ask Organisers to check if their data is represented correctly.

As results are published, links go live in the results page at coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/results/2013

21st International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

This is a simple index page which links to the data reports for each site. Data reports are generated per Organisation, per site, per zone as a total for Singapore.

See the site results for Lim Chu Kang East mangrove below, which compiles data from four Organisations over two days of cleanups.


Also streaming in are photos. These are hosted on a Flickr Pro album after following a file-renaming and tagging protocol. We want for anyone to be able to figure out a photo’s location and origins in future without having to consult us, so this is really useful.

The Zone Captains contribute the first albums from their sites and other albums are submitted by Organisers. It is lovely to flip past the years to see old friends but even more is achieved – we use the photos for reports, blog posts and to orientate new Organisers to the site in future years.

Collection: ICCS2013

Zone Captains will write blog posts about their sites which do more to inform and acknowledge. These posts are referred to during reports and site analyses. I hope we will see some blog posts emerge beyond the volunteer coordinators – Facebook posts reach friends effectively but are unavailable to others and will be lost from the newsfeed within days.

The documentation of the experience, whether it be data, photos or blog posts, is critical. It enhances the experience, provides tools to better understand the processes and situation. The material importantly supports downstream initiatives and this effort ensures a significant resource is available to anyone.

While the work continued into the night, it was nice to see news of cleanups in other parts of the planet emerge on twitter. A concerted effort around the globe to battle the curse of marine litter. A message to amplify beyond the morning of the cleanup.


THREE DAYS to the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore!

The big push to the shores to count, categorise and collect marine trash off Singapore shores have begun!

Some 3,500 volunteers from more than 70 organisations, groups and institutions participate this year.

Some Organisers have scheduled cleanups ahead of the 21st September date due to scheduling conflicts and we have begun receiving their data and photographs!

Meanwhile Organisers are feeling the build up to Saturday and a lot of final preparatory work is being conducted. Questions are being asked at a high volume and lightning pace as they remind themselves of information from the documents they read, procedures they learnt at the workshop and ideas they encountered during the recce.

Well, I have managed to hammer that inbox into submission, finally!

Tip of the iceberg of >70 Organisations

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: Zones & Sites - Google Maps

Message for Organisers: the new, 2013 Data Card for ICC Singapore

“Dear Organisers,

the international Coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy, has issued a new Data Card for use by all participants in the globe from 2013.

The card has been modified for our use and the Singapore version of the card is attached. The Data Card has also been condensed so that Organisers will only need print one side of the card for your participants. This means less work and allows us to reuse one-sided waste paper for printing.

The 2013 ICC Singapore Data Card is available on the Organisers Page of the ICCS webpage.

ICC_Singapore_Data_Card-2013 (page 1 of 2) ICC_Singapore_Data_Card-2013 (page 2 of 2)

Why the new Data Card?
After considerable review by Ocean Conservancy, this version was issued to respond to increased efforts and strategies in tackling marine trash problems around the world. More efficient for general use, the 2013 Data Card also provides a focus on various types of plastic – hard plastic, flim plastic (plastic bags, etc) and foam plastic (what we commonly refer to as styrofoam).

Categories in the new Data Card

  • “Most Likely To Find Items” heads the new card. These items occupy most of data recorder’s time when we are picking, counting and categorising trash. So data collectors will find the right category very quickly most of the time.
  • Three clearly identifiable groups follow – “Fishing Gear”, “Packaging Materials” and “Personal Hygiene”.
  • “Other Trash” now includes cigarette lighters, tyres, appliances and fireworks.
  • “Most Unusual Item Collected” and “Dead/Injured Animals” are familiar.
    “Items of Local Concern” has changed (see next).

Estimating “styrofoam” pieces, or rather, EPS
While film plastic is already accounted for, “Items of Local Concern” lists the other two main plastic types – hard plastic and foam plastic.

What we refer to as “styrofoam” casually is actually “expanded polystyrene” or EPS! Well, EPS or foam plastic is a significant problem in Southeast Asia, so Singapore has already listed this category on the previous version of the Data Card.

Styrofoam is numerous, so we have always asked participants to estimate the amount conservatively. While this invariably underestimates the amount, it is preferred to an unreliable over-estimate. Our data thus provides some indication of the problem.

Last year, we reported that 42,263 out of 173,574 items collected were foam plastic pieces with about half of this coming from East Coast and Tanah Merah. This sort of data is needed in efforts to encourage alternatives.

Cannot categorise?
Remember that any trash item you cannot categorise in the Data Card need not be counted, simply collected and removed.

Cigarette Lighter collection
This year, please collect and send me your cigarette lighters! It is for Japanese researcher Shigeru Fujieda who uses cigarette lighters as an indicator item to trace movement and distribution of marine trash in oceans. I will write more about this later.

Excel Data Submission Form
The Excel Data Submission Form which you will use to submit your totals is listed in the Organisers Page of the ICCS webpage. This has been updated to reflect this new Data Card. You will need that only in September, after your cleanup. We will email you a reminder closer to the date.

If you have queries, please write.

Participants and Organisers in Singapore have done a wonderful job in collecting, reporting and publishing our data in great detail for over a decade. This has been useful not only in Singapore, but to others battling marine trash elsewhere too.

All the best with your preparations!



N. Sivasothi
Coordinator, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

e: iccs@rafflesmuseum.net
w: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/
b: https://coastalcleanup.wordpress.com/
f: http://fb.com/iccsg/
t: https://twitter.com/coastalcleanup/