Marine debris is a problem on all our shores. And Pulau Semakau is no exception. In our long exploration we discovered a stretch of shore that had accumulated a large amount of debris that had floated in.There was a patch on Semakau full of planks. Which had to be negotiated carefully as these often have vicious rusty nails poking out to impale careless feet.
This litter did NOT come from the landfill. The landfill is well managed and only incinerated waste and construction waste is buried there and properly done so that nothing escapes into the sea. A great deal of garbage floats in the sea, improperly disposed on land or from ships all over the world.
As is usually found on many of our shores, there were accumulations of plastic and styrofoam debris.
Marine litter can kill.
Styrofoam breaks down into little particles that eventually may enter the food chain and into our seafood.Similarly with plastic bags. And tragically, these often resemble jellyfish or other floating animals that are mistakenly eaten by marine life such as sea turtles. These may kill such marine life.
Abandoned nets and ropes entangle and drown marine life too. Recent sad examples of death by litter include a whale in Australia, a whale in Pahang and a dugong in Phuket. More media articles about marine litter on the wildsingapore news blog.
A bewildering array of trash had floated in.A tea kettle.A life vest.A cluster of mattresses. A very sad example of a 'sea bed'.
A refrigerator.A motorcycle helmet and large plastic containers.Even a large plastic safety barrier.The high spring tide had even brought large litter into the forested area, while winds probably brought more smaller bits in.
The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore effort collects data about the trash that lands up on our shores. Here is their latest data for 2008 on their blog.
In the most badly littered areas, we found mangrove trees that were obviously sick.One very large Sonneratia tree was infested with white insects, probably scale insects.Here's a closer look at the insects on another mangrove tree in the area.One Rhizophora tree had oddly patterned leaves. JC Chua said it probably meant some sort of mineral deficiency.Another Rhizophora tree had a pink propagule! The propagule is the long green seedling that grows on the mother tree. A pink propagule shows that all is not well with the tree. Chay Hoon has more details about this on her blog.
Elsewhere on Semakau, a large oil rig is parked just off the shore.This area off Semakau is designated for parking oil rigs for maintenance and repairs. Here's the public notice about the latest oil rig to be parked there.Pulau Bukom's industrial installations are also just off Pulau Semakau.These extensive installations lie just off the mangroves of Pulau Semakau.Our Southern islands lie next to major shipping lanes where huge ships ply in large numbers. Here's a container ship passing Pulau Jong which is just next to the Semakau Landfill.
This is why it is important to scientifically monitor the health of our shores. These include efforts such as TeamSeagrass that scientifically monitors our seagrasses as an indicator of shore health, and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore that collects data on marine litter. These efforts are part of global monitoring with methods that are standardised, tested and audited and generate valid data for assessing the health of our shores and guiding management and policy decisions.
These efforts rely on volunteers, so each one of us can make a difference simply by participating in these programmes.