18 May 2012

Sharing our shores with MPA

This morning I had a great time sharing about our shores with the Maritime and Port Authority!
In attendance was CE MPA Lam Yi Young, and the occasion was MPA's annual Technology Div CE Dialogue session. This year they were featuring marine conservation and invited Prof Chou Loke Ming and myself to speak. I was thrilled!

It was Mr Toh Ah Cheong, Director (Technology) who suggested that I give a talk at the session. He highlighted how we met during the Labrador coral relocation many years ago!
A special treat for me, for the first time, I got to listen to Prof Chou Loke Ming speak about our shores!
He shared some beautiful photos of our reefs long long ago, when one of  the main threats was overcollection for the aquarium trade.
The visibility was awesome, and there were corals growing to 12m! Prof sure has great photos!
Prof shared about the losses we have sustained since then, and many of the current threats. He also showed this rather alarming chart of potential future reclamation. Oh dear.
Despite all these threats, Prof highlights that today there is still lots of marine life in our waters, even if we can't see them. These days, there are stronger efforts by both government and NGOs to raise awareness of our marine biodiversity and to protect it. Also, we are learning that our marine life can be quite tough.
Prof also shared how our corals haven't given up yet. Every year, as he says, "they enjoy themselves". Indulging in an annual frenzy of mass spawning! He also shared about mass coral bleaching, and how our corals survived this global event.
We still have a good diversity of corals with 250 species of hard corals or one-third of global species. Of which, so far, we have only lost two species.
Overall, Prof expressed optimism for the future of our marine biodiversity, with potential to protect existing habitats, restore them as well as create new ones.
He shared his vision of a rich coastal and marine biodiversity in one of the world's busiest ports. Yes indeed, Singapore has awesome reefs right in the middle of our port and elsewhere too!
In my talk, I of course took the opportunity to highlight the marvellous Cyrene Reef which lies in the  middle of the Industrial Triangle.
Despite its location, Cyrene has great reefs, sandy shores and one of Singapore's best seagrass meadows!
We can see Knobbly sea stars bigger than my face, in large numbers, right in front of Pasir Panjang Container Terminal. Also lots of other interesting marine life! Some of which are more common in the north, so much so that Cyrene is somewhat the Chek Jawa of the South!
I took the opportunity to invite MPA to come and visit Cyrene and see this marvellous submerged reefs. I hope they will be able to visit soon!
I also took the opportunity to update on the impact of the oil spill on Tanah Merah. There's still amazing marine life on this shore, including the awesome reefs that have naturally settled at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. I also shared about the Plan that International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, Acres and I have put together to manage volunteers should there be (touch wood) another oil spill.
After the talk, there were some good questions. Thankfully Prof was there to answer some of the sciencey ones.
It was wonderful that the Tropical Marine Science Institute team who manage the Mega Marine Survey were also attending the talk. Yen-Ling gave a brief introduction to the Survey and how ordinary people can play a part.
After the talk, it was great to share more thoughts over a lovely lunch. Thanks to Mr Toh for the invitation to talk, and Daniel and Mark for all the arrangements.

I look forward to meeting MPA again, hopefully on Cyrene Reef!

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