Thank you for Partnership Award, Bukit Batok Secondary School!

23 Apr 2021 – the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore was gratified to received a Partnership Award from Bukit Batok Secondary School (BBSS).

There to receive the award was North East Zone Captain Keterina Chongm Dy Coordinator/Data Captain Airani S and ICCS Coordinator N. Sivasothi aka Otterman. Keterina organises the mangrove cleanups in that north-east zone and ensures BBSS has a smooth session at the coast byliasing with NEA’s PHC and NParks.

ICCS_BBSS_awardMr Syam Lal Sadanandan, Mr Phua Huat Chan, Otterman & Keterina Chong

Led by President Award teacher Syam Lal Sadanandan, BBSS have been an inspiring long-term partner, an indefatigable force battling marine debris, who expose and motivate their students about the issue in the great outdoors.

We chatted with Principal Mr Phua Huat Chan who shared plans about highlighting the heritage of the area, given that the school and town had emerged together, about 30 years ago.

ICCS at BBSSICC Otters, Airani S, N Sivasothi & Keterina Chong

Thanks BBSS, for for alway being such a strong and inspiring member of the community!

Auntie Oscar’s Field Experience Tips for Chek Jawa Coastal Cleanups – perfected over a decade of TLC Part 2

Following the previous blogpost on the useful tools, Auntie Oscar continues to share her invaluable experience with some practical field tips for a messy mangrove cleanup:

Bags Area  – Centralize bags together so that volunteers do not have to carry them while working. Appoint a volunteer (usually the data recorder) to look after the bags.

Get a Pole –  In every cleanup we can always find a strong pole or branch for our weighing.  The spare hook here allows us to hoist up the weight using the pole instead of sheer muscle man so girls can do the job too!

Losing your Sole – Classic example of a good shoe ruined by the mangrove. Usually volunteers with inappropriate shoes will be tasked as data recorder and sit near the dry area to guard our bags and monitor time.

Large Tire – [Operation Tire] took about 40 mins to extract as it is buried in compact sand. After some loosening, the tire resurfaced and adds onto our collection of treasure.

Buried Barrel – It took 6 people to dig for 30 mins for the barrel to surface. Hence tools are essential such as a foldable shovel.  We yell for [Operation Barrel] as a code to rally nearby volunteers to support. 😉

Marine Life – This large crab attacked us as he escaped from the barrel we dug up. We are happy for the feisty creature and set it free after a photo record.

Entwine – The tussle ends of large marine rope are often found wrapped around mangrove roots. Volunteers can wriggle free some parts but eventually cutting tools such a handsaw would be needed in this instance.

Silent Killer – It is amazing to see how plastics can choke up the mangrove tree roots as the tides comes in and goes out daily, the plastics find their way to wrap themselves tightly, suffocating the roots.

Sorting Area and workflow:  In muddy mangroves such as at Chek Jawa Central Sites, it could get a little difficult to record and pick up marine trash at the same time. Hence I have created the following workflow:

  • S1:safely briefing & group forming
  • S2: gathering of trash (no recording)
  • S3: bring all trash to Sorting Area
  • S4: sort out types of trash
  • S5: count trash collectively (data recording)
  • S6: packing & weighing (data recording)
  • S7: move  trash to trash disposal point.
  • S8: take group photo

That ends my field experience tips for a cleanup at mangrove sites. If you have any other questions, do chat with auntie Oscar:

– Auntie Oscar

Auntie Oscar’s Toolkit for Chek Jawa Coastal Cleanups – perfected over a decade of TLC

Auntie Oscar speaks:

“Every year I look forward to raiding the mangrove with my team of volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and over the years, we realized that a pair of scissors is just not enough! Gradually over the years we have a good collection of tools for our team.

Below is a glimpse of “barangs” which I have learnt to bring to my field site over the past decade of Organising volunteers for the ICCS, and I hope this helps you prepare your team with adequate tools for a cleanup. Clean and maintain the tools and they will last you during repeated visits over the years.”

Sturdy bags – One for dry items and another for wet & dirty items. Large opening means you can find and store things easily in an emergency.

Clip Board & Writing Material  – Clip board is handy for data recording. Always bring spare pen and go for the cheap ball point without caps instead of those ink type with caps that you can easily lose in the environment. Have a spare felt tip marker for labeling items, just in case. A plastic folder is useful to protect your data in a rainy weather.

Personal Bag – A change of clothes in case you get really dirty, sun hat, towel, water bottle filled up – no point buying mineral water and add on to more trash, insect repellent, sun block, candies for energy and loose change for the bum boat and van ride to Chek Jawa. The calculator is for the group final check, you can use your mobile phone (if your hands are clean).

Tarp Sheet – I carry this for volunteers to leave their bags on a clean base instead of allowing the volunteers to carry their back pack when they are working (not safe and not convenient). The tarp is also useful for emergency as a stretcher if anyone gets hurt, it can also be use as a temporary shelter if a sudden storm comes in.

Cotton-Latex Gloves – Ah my famous orange hands. I have been using these gloves for past 8 years and after a good washing and store properly, they still look as new! My team avoids industrial welding gloves because of their poor fitting. The cotton part is breathable even when it is wet; the latex part is still safe enough for us to pick up cut glasses.

Weighing Tools – I always bring extra to ensure the weigh is accurate and use the largest scale for trash such as thick marine ropes.

Hooks – Come in handy for holding up water bottles or bags off the ground, and can be used with the weighing scale as an extension.

Scissors and Cutters -I usually ask volunteers to bring their own scissors or cutters, they are useful for cutting off fishing lines and plastic bags that are caught on the mangroves. I also carry a plant trimmer (yellow) for thicker ropes. They must be promptly clean and oil with WD40 after use so that they can be reused.

Long Tongs – Useful for volunteers with bad back and for reaching that rubbish that is stuck between hard to reach places. The mini shovel is use to dig up edge of buried item.

Foldable Shovel –Extremely useful for a quick digging in muddy site and also used for leveraging hard or rusty trash that is stuck in mud.

The pick edge is also use for prying up rocks and other debris. Safe for sorting trash too.

Hand Saw -Used for trimming plastic drums and larger items that is half buried in the mud.

Measuring Tape – This optional tool helps us to measure size of peculiar trash or dead marine life.

Trash Bags – There are different grades of trash bags, the best are good quality black industrial ones. I will carry about 20 units. Usually I will ask volunteers to bring 2 standard super market bags for their walk around collection and dump it at our sorting and counting site before we weigh them collectively. The green recycle bag is too thin for use so please avoid them.

First Aid Kit – It is essential for a team leader to bring this for the team. Volunteers are asked to bring their own plasters in case they have small cuts. My first aid kit has gloves, elastic and triangle bandages, Opsite spray , antiseptic cream, tweezers for splints and micropore tape.

Storage Box – In order to keep your group tools and materials in order, do pack them neatly into a carton box and label it so that you can get ready for the next ICCS!

Footwear – It is essential to have the right footwear not only for your own safety but also not to create more trash!

The 4 pairs on the left are GOOD choices as they cover the toes, hang on to your feet tightly and can be washed after the cleanup.

The 4 pairs on the right which are light materials means you will get stuck in the mud! They are BAD choices as you might slip and fall or have to give up your ballet flats after the clean up.

Have a meaningful and effective coastal cleanup everyone!”

– Auntie Oscar

Goodbye Seba Sheavly, tireless advocate for the marine environment

It was a with a saddened heart that I learnt of Seba Sheavly’s passing from Ocean Conservancy’s Sonya Besteiro.

sebaSeba Sheavly and Jean Michel Cousteau
Thanks to Annie Crawley for use of the photo

Sonya had corresponded with international organisers as staff of the Centre for Marine Conservation from the 90’s (see this CNN interview from 1999).

CMC later became the Ocean Conservancy and continues to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup. Meanwhile, as founder of Sheavly Consultants, Seba remained involved and contributed to several papers on marine debris.

John B. Davis, President of the Marine Affairs Research and Education (MARE), USA wrote (04 Jun 2012):

“Dear MarineDebris.Info community,

I’m writing with the sad news that Seba Sheavly, a leader in the marine debris field for two decades, passed away last Thursday after a long battle with cancer and lung disease. She was a keystone figure in our community.

Seba worked tirelessly as a marine environmental advocate. She edited or contributed to most of the major marine debris-related reports of recent years, including ones from UNEP, UNESCO, GESAMP, US EPA, and the National Academy of Sciences.

As principal of Sheavly Consultants, she provided advisory services to multiple institutions: the European Commission, Project AWARE Foundation, NOAA Marine Debris, Ocean Conservancy, Blue Ocean Sciences, SEA/WHOI, Project Kaisei, Clean Virginia Waterways, and many more. In her final days, Seba was developing an online education tool on marine debris in the Caribbean.

I met Seba in person at last year’s International Marine Debris Conference, an event that she was instrumental in convening despite her illness at the time. What impressed me most was her willingness to work behind the scenes to get things done, without asking for personal accolades.

A scholarship fund is being established in Seba’s honor. Guidance on donating will be posted soon.

Best wishes,

I thought I’d remember the passing of this tireless warrior for the marine environment by suggesting we read (or re-read) her 2010 “Lessons Learnt” report prepared for the EPA:

I think she’d like that.

RIP Seba.

Tanmaya Kabra, SEVEN years in ICC Singapore and on to the US next!

I have met many Singapore American School students over the years and have always appreciated their participation in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore as they are hard workers on our shores. After two decades, that’s something like 3,000 American students who have pitched in for the marine environment here. They would have gone on to make a difference in the environment wherever they are in varying degrees as they moved on to colleges in the US and then on to careers and life.

Both the Middle and High Schools of the Singapore American School participate so there are some students who have had a long record of participation. Thus it was with great pleasure that I met a student veteran of SEVEN years!

Tanmaya Kabra accompanied veteran-teacher Martha Began to received the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium Award for the SAS High School’s for 20 years of dedicated service under the enthusiastic supervision of Martha, Steve Early and others. The Middle School which has been led by ICCS founder Kate Thome too received the Symposium Award, which is an acknowledgement by the community to exemplary effort.

SAS 7th Year ICCS

This is Tanmaya’s last year in ICCS as he heads off to college but he has told me he will be seeking out the ICC there in the US where it originated. There are programmes in all the states, although getting to a cleanup site could involve a bit more traveling to get there!

Tanmaya has been blogging at Green Notings and made posts about the SAS’ 20th year at ICCS and the receiving the Symposium Award.

Besides being a pioneer in the ICCS, SAS has provided an opportunity for continuity for participation in the programme as highlighted by Tanmaya.

This sort of involvement of experienced students in ICCS to help mentor and supervise others is something we have always encouraged as involving students in planning and execution better prepares them for independent environmental protection effort. And it provides support for overburdened teachers!

In the years ahead, I think we should look into surveying how widely this has been done and actively encourage this.

Well done Tanmaya, and I’ll look forward to your report from the US next year!

Congratulations to Jack Chong (Woodlands Ring Secondary) for his stalwart record of nurturing students

Ten years ago, Jack Chong, whom I had know from his university days in the department and in the Biological Sciences Society, signed up 30 Secondary two and three students from Woodlands Ring Secondary School for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore at Kranji Mangroves. Together with other groups, 278 participants removed 2,673 kg of trash (excluding bulky items) in 368 trash bags on 8th September 2001!

But Jack never came back!

You see, with that experience under his belt, Jack initiated the mangrove cleanup in the northeast of Singapore at Loyang Mangrove – now, Woodlands Ring Secondary is a 11-year veteran of the coastal cleanup and this year once again, Jack will lead 120 students to the shore to protect the mangrove and they will learn about marine life, the impact of marine debris and how all of us can make a difference.

Jack and Woodlands Ring Secondary are a fuss-free, competent organisation, address holistic educational goals, register and submit data painlessly each year. The present Northeast Zone captain, Ng Kai Scene, always speaks of them with a smile!

We have known all this while that Jack is a very busy man at school, working industriously and whole-heartedly. So he is mentioned warmly at meetings but I have probably not spoken to him for almost a decade!

Well I stumbled across some pleasant news today – Jack received the President’s Award from Singapore’s President S R Nathan this evening! This is the highest honour for educators and the newspaper report reads:

Pauline Chong
Photo by Pauline Chong

“Five teachers who have displayed exceptional dedication to their profession have been awarded with the 2011 President’s Award for Teachers.

They are Madam Dianaros Majid from Haig Girls’ School, Ms Serene Han from Montfort Junior School, Madam Chua Mui Ling from Woodlands Ring Primary School, Mr Ganesan Raman from Fairfield Methodist (Secondary) School and Woodlands Ring Secondary School’s Chong Jack Sheng.

This annual award established in 1998 recognises the commitment of teachers towards the development of their students and to nation-building, and is the highest honour for educators here.

Said Mr Chong, 37, a Biology teacher who also heads the Character and Citizenship department in Woodlands Ring Secondary: ‘I feel blessed and honoured to have been given this award. I felt quite overwhelmed initially but now that this has sunk in, the reality is that pursuing excellence in teaching is what I do, with or without an award.

‘I want to continue to help my students and nurture them to their fullest, even beyond their fullest potential.’

The winners received the award from President S.R. Nathan at the Istana on Friday evening. “

– “5 receive President’s Award, highest honour for educators,” by Leow Si Wan. The Straits Times, 26 Aug 2011 [pdf]

Woo-hoo! Congratulations Jack, from all of us at the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, past and present!

In celebration, I dug up some photos from his 2001 foray in Kranji Mangrove, from before Kranji Nature Trail was opened and it was no man’s (state) land. As you can see, we had some fun in those days, just getting to and from the site!

Meanwhile, is Jack resting on his laurels? His wife writes, “Jack’s going down to set up site for ICCS tom! Busy busy busy!”

Jack Chong, Woodlands Ring Secondary
@ ICCS Kranji Mangrove, 8th September 2001.

Woodlands Ring Secondary School students
– they would be 24 and 25 years old now!

Jack and the ICCS Kranji team supervising
the water crossing in the rising tide.

For more photos, see the ICCS 2001 albums and for the Kranji mangrove cleanup story see the RMBR Newsletter No. 2 (2002).

Biswajit @ Pandan mangrove [People at the ICCS]

Biswajit Guha standing in the mud at Pandan mangrove on Saturday morning, 11th September 2010. The Director of Zoology at the Singapore Zoo is an enthusiastic ICCS volunteer who never fails to get muddy at Pandan. This was the third year running and we’ve removed most of the larger items by now, leaving us to the back breaking removal of plastic bags, strapping bands and plastic pieces. Still it’s only 90 back-breaking minutes and he agrees the mud must be good for his complexion. Until our next mud bath in 2011 then, Biz!


It’s always a greatly enriching experience having good clean “dirty” fun
with friends while helping our local ecosystems!!
Photo by Ou Yang Xiuling

A hefty hoist and I’m up a tree for kite removal!

After one too many photos of strangled birds on the Bird Ecology Study Group blog, I just had to take that entangled kite down. Stuck up a young Casuarina tree on Ketam Beach 3, Pulau Ubin, we noticed the kite from the long string which extended to the shore, during the International Coastal Cleanup.

We had been working the shore for about an hour, with the industrious students of the NUS University Scholars Programme and the Delegation from the European Union. We had been doing a decent job tackling the trash on a beach strewn with thousands of pieces of styrofoam.


However for a brief moment, I was preoccupied not with the new Ketam Beach 3 shore, but rather with getting up that tree to clear away that low-hanging kite. I called rather optimistically on the light-framed Evelyn standing nearby, before the low-pitched guffaw of Kenneth Pinto caught my attention. He gamely ambled over and hoisted my almost 100kg weight far up that tree that I could reach for the lower branches.


His effort was so impressive it was funny!! His whole body shook with the effort and that nearly had me overcome with laughter – but that would have sent both of us toppling! So I held it in and was amazed to find myself up fa enough to start climbing.

I got to the kite easily with thin branches supporting my weight but found it hopelessly entangled in vines. I thought of the scissors and parang in my full pack and shrugged my shoulders and started chewing through two rather thick strands of some creeper that didn’t taste half-bad.


Finally in jubilation, I was able to call out to the data recorder below “one kite!” and threw the tangled mass of kite and vegetation down. She neatly avoided being hit by it and the other students bagged it. Then I slid down and found Kenneth ensuring my descent was graceful.

An alert Evelyn, released of the herculean task of hoisting me up that tree, took the earlier photos with Kenneth’s camera which he had handed over for safe keeping. He took over to record my ascent and they weren’t too undignified to share here.

The series amused the rest of the coordinators back in NUS Lab 7 later and I was cheered by the effort myself too. For I was glad we’d avoided at least one other strangulation.

The “Phua Chu Kang” effect [People at the ICCS]

A clean and cheerful Stephane Bayen from NUS just before the Pandan mangrove cleanup trying for the “Phua Chu Kang” effect. He had rushed out to get yellow booties the previous night to ensue he could work effectively and his wife had suggested adding the mole and curly hair. Wigs were in short supply so he gamefully went for the squatting effect for the camera.


Photo by Lee Bee Yan

Stephane is an environmental toxicologist working on bio-amplification of toxins in the mangrove food chain. This day he decided to take a macroscopic perspective by contributing to the cleanup. He’s not stranger to volunteering at the mangroves, having guided with us for the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk in 2002.

Size DOESN’T matter… Chek Jawa’s youngest hero! [People at the ICCS]

At 4 yrs and 10 mths, Jackie Lim was Chek Jawa’s youngest hero today. Accompanying her parents who were part of the Dow Chemicals ICCS 2010 contingent, she gladdened the hearts of all who saw her at work on Chek Jawa’s southern shore.

Taking full advantage of her light weight, she ventured onto parts of the muddy shore adults had to be cautious about for fear of sinking! Deftly using her pair of tongs under the watchful eyes of her parents, she made quick work of many pieces of plastic accumulated since last year’s cleanup.

Size DOES matter!
An early start to environment responsibility

Jackie volunteered to help carry one of the abandoned kelong fish nets retrieved by adults from the shore.  Calling out the items for the data recorder to note, Jackie showed that size doesn’t matter.

One can start caring for the environment at a very early age.

Kudos to Jackie Lim!

Andy Dinesh
ICCS Recce Captain