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.

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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.


Celebrate Earth Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Pasir Ris Beach 6!

In conjunction with Earth Day, volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) will be conducting a cleanup at Pasir Ris Beach 6 on Saturday, 18th April 2015: 4.00pm – 6.00pm.

Registration has closed! Thank you to those that have signed up!

We will meet directly at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E before walking over to the cleanup site together

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What is Earth Day? Earth Day is an annual event to celebrate our Earth, proposed by peace activist John McConnell. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now commemorated by 192 countries every 22nd of April.

Why Cleanup? In Singapore, our coast lines host innumerable amounts of biodiversity. Trash present in these areas impact our wildlife adversely, releases toxic chemicals and devalue the natural beauty of the landscape. Coastal cleanups are conducted by volunteers around the world to remove this trash, raise awareness of the plight of our oceans, and motivate us to rethink our habits in daily urban living towards sustainable practises.

Pasir Ris 6 is a beach located in the East of Singapore, next to Pasir Ris Park. It is not frequently visited by members of the public, and the beach is therefore not regularly cleaned.

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Meeting Point All participants will meet at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E, before walking over to Pasir Ris Beach 6 together. Below is a map for reference: Pasir Ris Beach 6 Directions from Pasir Ris MRT to Carpark E

Directions from PR MRT to bus stopParticipants can take Bus 403 from Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, a short walk from Pasir Ris MRT. They will alight at “opp Unit 104″ bus stop, (BUS CODE: 77129) after the bus goes around a roundabout, 10 stops later.

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Left: The roundabout that the bus will go around before it stops at “opp Unit 104.”
Right: Water Venture, which lies at the side of the Carpark. The Carpark E sign is visible at the left side.

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This is what the participants will see opposite “opp Unit 104.”

We will have volunteers dressed in bright red shirts, standing at the bus stop to guide you to Carpark E. See below:

People to look out for


16:00 – All participants to meet at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E, start walking to Pasir Ris Beach 6
16:15 – Briefing and identification of Trash Collection Point (TCP). Brief of wet weather plans (which is to carry on unless there is a lighting threat). Organize everyone into groups of 4, apply insect repellant, collect gloves, trash bags, ICCS data cards, and other required logistics.
16:30 – Cleanup begins
18:00 – Transportation of trash to TCP.
18:15 – End of clean-up. Trash is weighed and discussion/ reflection time.
18:30 – Participants clean up. Toilets are available at Pasir Ris Park, a short walk away.

Things to note

  1. You must wear hard-soled covered shoes or booties to to protect your feet from hazards.
  2. A change of clothes is recommended after a sweaty workout.
  3. Long pants are recommended to protect your legs from insect bites, but bermudas are fine.
  4. Water-proof your belongings, in the case of bad weather.

Things to bring:

  1. Water bottle (with at least one litre of water)
  2. Hat and/ or sun block
  3. Raincoat/ poncho (we will work in rain)

Be prepared:

  1. Sleep early the night before
  2. Have a decent lunch – it’s hard work!
  3. Be punctual – we are unable to wait for latecomers; tide waits for no one!
  4. Refer to this recce report of PR6 for more information on the cleanup site.

Thank you for caring for our planet this Earth Day!

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Our World Water Day Celebration at Sungei Pandan Mangrove!


21 Mar 2015 – 41 participants from all over Singapore came together to commemorate Singapore World Water Day with a Mangrove Cleanup at Sungei Pandan. Covering some 100m along the mangrove, we picked up 42 bags of trash, consisting of 283 kg of trash and 7,785 pieces of trash.

Top of the charts were plastic bags, with 3,719 pieces and second was 1,124 pieces of foam pieces (expanded polystyrene or EPS) which were collected and disposed.

Despite the threat of bad weather and a lost bus driver at the Kent Ridge pick-up point, the cleanup went smoothly and we wrapped up operations before the storm blew in! It was a heartening sight to seeing so many individuals from all around Singapore come together with the shared goal of removing whatever trash we could from the mangrove, inspiring Kai Scene to blog immediately after the cleanup!

WWD1Here’s Liz, who has been actively participating in ICCS events for awhile now!


Our youngest participant at 6 years old found something to bring home from the mangroves!
This is the “reuse” part of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”


Some of our participants sank deep in the mud
and struggled to remove their wellys after the cleanup!

Sungei Pandan was heavily polluted in the 90’s, and when ICCS began operations in 2008, volunteers removed high loads of accumulated trash, typically collecting over a tonne in 90 minutes. In more recent years, even as plastics and styrofoam continue to be recruited into the habitat, the overall situation has improved tremendously with just a third of a tonne of trash removed in the last two cleanups!

In 2012 you can see how a low load of plastics can still dominate the landscape – Lim Cheng Puay, the ICCS South Zone Captain remembers this well.

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Coastal cleanups should not have to be necessary. Our Saturday cleanup reminded us its critical for us to reflect on our day-to-day practices and adopt more sustainable alternatives. Simple things, like questioning whether we truly need that plastic straw in our teh-ping or milo-ping the next time we’re at the coffeeshop or hawker centre – we collected 362 straws and stirrers that Saturday. We use these for a mere 10 minutes, before disposal. With so many, some get into our marine environment to leach plastics and persist for a long time.


Thank you to everyone who came down to fight the good fight, and a big thank you to those who stayed to wash gloves and help with logistics!

Until the next cleanup!

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.

Celebrating the spirit of the Independents on World Water Day!

Independents are volunteers who sign up for coastal cleanups independently of any organisation. They are motivated individuals who turn up to help at coastal cleanups without fanfare, goodie bags, t-shirts or souvenirs. They are only promised hard work, team work and the satisfaction of helping the planet.

ICCS Zone Captains who work alongside them are always gladdened by the experience!

My first close encounter with Independents was in 2010 when we worked at the coastal cleanup at Pasir Ris 6. I enjoyed the experience so much that wrote about it! Each time since, it has been just as heartening and yesterday, at the World Water Day mangrove clean-up at Sungei Pandan, hardworking Independents brought me great joy and motivation once again!


Some Independents hard at work

The five friendly independents with me focused on the task as soon as we stepped into the mangrove. They took turns to record data and all ensured accuracy when categorising the trash. We steadily worked one area to the next, supporting each other. We had just met, but the high level of motivation about a common goal resulted in great effectiveness. 

Some of the great people in my team

Some of the great people in my team

With the right people, even data collation is fun!

With the right people, even data collation is fun!

Throughout the mangrove that afternoon, Independents worked with dedication and tirelessly until it was time to halt. The ICCS Otters were exchanging notes later in the night and were feeling glad to have met such individuals.

As Zone Captains, we work with many different people and groups. Some require more encouragement and support than others. Independents who show such great spirit, team work and effectiveness, motivate us to keep going with the task of coordination. ICCS Otters are in this for the long haul and many have kept working for over a decade – so it is important for us to work with such dedicated individuals.

To the Participants of World Water Day clean-up 2015, thank you for your enthusiasm and hard work. See you at the next cleanup!

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“Take care of the ocean as if your life depends on it, because it does.” – Dr Sylvia Earle shares her thoughts on single use plastics, marine pollution, and the value of our oceans

Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle shares with Zoe Loftus-Farren of Earth Island Journal the most pressing of marine-related issues, and how we can translate knowledge into action so as to take steps in protecting our oceans – read the article!

“Plastics were a novelty when I was a kid, but now they have become a plague in the ocean. They still serve us well in so many respects. It’s not that all plastics are the problem, but single use plastics where you use something once and throw it away.”

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At the age of 79, Dr. Earle has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater, giving her the first-hand experience of witnessing radical changes in our oceans such as “the global reach of plastics pollution.”

Noting that while the level of awareness on plastics in the ocean has risen since the 1950s, the scale of loss, destruction and change has escalated along with it. The evolution of single use plastics for example, where plastic items are disposed off almost immediately, has introduced habits that, for the sake of the ocean, “has to stop.”

“It isn’t just trash, not just the unsightliness of it, or even the entanglement of animals that is the problem. It’s is also the influence on the chemistry of the ocean there too. Many toxins are introduced, toxins concentrated around bits and pieces of floating plastic.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle

Despite the destructive habits of our daily lives, Dr. Earle comments that the lack of communication and conversation within the community is the main problem. By not understanding the importance of the oceans, not knowing what exactly it is we are doing to the ocean, and most importantly by not drawing the link between “between the decline of the ocean and the perils that presents to the future of human civilization,” we will see a continuation in the decline of our oceans.

When asked about the one ideology she would instill in people about the ocean, she says “Take care of the ocean as if your life depends on it, because it does.”

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Battling the curse of marine litter – a challenge we will face with determination!

I joined the ICCS team as the IKEA Intern in early February but had yet to experience an actual cleanup until the Tanah Merah Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup! As part of the GEM1917 Understanding And Critiquing Sustainability module, RVRC student volunteers were led by their lecturer and ICCS Coordinator, N Sivasothi aka Otterman to Tanah Merah Beach 7 on Thursday 26th February 2015.

Toddycats SG50 Interns Sankar and Lynn joined me on this important outing as we spent the morning with students and lecturers, inserted ourselves into wild pandan and other coastal plants, indefatigably pulling out the plastic bottles and styrofoam bits insulting our shores!

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After the safety briefing and collection of logistics by students, we walked to the Tanah Merah beach, which initially appeared untainted, except for a few plastic bags and bottles.

Lynn thought to herself, “what are we going to clean up? Seaweed?”

Once we looked into the coastal forest, however, we were appalled by the countless number of disposable bottles, styrofoam bits, ropes and fishing nets littered the forest floor.

At once we spread ourselves along the beach and began working – calling out the type and number of trash items to the data collector, and storing everything in the heavy duty trash bags. Some volunteers dove into the wild pandan to retrieve the bottles, bottles and more bottles buried amongst the roots and underneath leaf litter.

Sankar later said, “despite trying to help Mother Nature out, she seemed to be working against us. We were assaulted by colonies of ants, sharp Pandanus leaves and a hot sun!”

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The presence of various polymers, be it styrofoam or plastic was harrowing! Even more distressing were the tiny bits of styrofoam that had broken down into pieces less than 5mm in size. These were impossible to completely remove from the strandline – they were interspersed amongst leaf litter and roots and buried in soil and sand. We tried our best to pick up the tiny pieces, but there was a limit to what we could do.

“It really is frustrating to think that people will so casually dispose of styrofoam into the sea, where they will break apart and either be ingested by fish or litter the beaches,” Lynn protested.

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The antidote to the distressing scene was the view of students and lecturers working hard non-stop throughout the beach, removing trash with a determination. It certainly did give us a glimmer of hope.

“Lynn said “it was heartwarming to see everyone work hard together to do their part for the environment.”

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The other glimmer of hope was the persistent presence of marine life – amidst the busy work, we saw land hermit crabs, a carpet anemone (attached to a plastic bag), and a thunder crab! Nature’s persistence in the face of pollution is something we should respond to.

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We removed some 6,700 items weighing more than 386 kg of trash, consisting mostly of single use plastics a 50 kg 50 metre rope! All that trash piled into 43 trash bags from just 90 minutes of activity made us pause to reflect on many of the things we do on a daily basis – I overheard an RVRC student say he’d never use styrofoam boxes again!

“It made me realize the seriousness of human actions on the environment at a closer basis.”
– RVRC Student Wong Shuyii

“I cannot say I “enjoyed” our morning at the beach. The words that come to mind are more like “gobsmacked”, “shocked”… Very educational for me personally. So thanks very much for that.”
– Lecturer, Hugh Anderson

Tanah Merah Beach 7 is a non-recreational beach and the piles of trash recruited everyday is a symptom of the larger problem of marine trash in our oceans. It is critical that we reflect on our actions and make a change to our lifestyles, share the message and ideas about battling this curse which ails the planet.

And it begins with the very small things – do we really need that plastic straw? Or that bottled water?

ICCS will continue to organise beach and mangrove cleanups for immediate relief to the habitat and for long-term educational impact. Physically though, the extent of marine pollution is immense and will require more ideas, action, influence and lots of determination!

Sankar felt “we as a society need to take a good hard look at where our trash goes. I hope that one day, ICCS will not be necessary to keep our shores clean.”

Making a positive change for our oceans is a tough goal, but we will meet this challenge with determination!