27 April 2009

Status of Singapore's reefs and what we can do: a talk by Dr Wilkinson

After the morning field trip, I went for the talk by Dr WilkinsonWilkinson on “Status of Coral Reefs in Asia and the World; the search for solutions to reef decline”.
Dr Wilkinson is an internationally recognised coral reef scientist responsible for coordinating the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), which is active in more than 80 countries. And he gave some insights into the situation in Singapore and what we can do.

After a rather sobering introduction to the state of reefs around the world, Dr Wilkinson shared the situation in Southeast Asia.
Things are not going well for our reefs.

The situation in Singapore seems bleak.We only have 5km2 of reefs?! But Dr Wilkinson says we have good coral diversity, mainly because of our location in the great currents between the two large oceans.And of course, here are the Big Questions that need to be addressed. Some of which remain to be answered.

Dr Wilkinson then shared more about the impending impact of climate change and gave some examples of how climate effects have impacted reefs elsewhere, with some bad news and some good news. He highlighted that other ongoing threats such as sedimentation, pollution and fishing remain. He also shared how the tsunami affected reefs in our region.

Turning back to the situation in Singapore,Dr Wilkinson points out that we have good resources in the government and academia on coral reefs, and that we have done some things right for our reefs. It is not only our job to conserve our own reefs, but also share the methods and knowledge with others in the region.

Indeed, I personally feel this is the way ahead for Singapore to only make a living, but also play a key role in Southeast Asia. In contributing to sustainable development efforts in this region with more than 62,000km of coastline, where 60% of the population live within 60km of the coast and the location of the priceless Coral Triangle. This was also my message in my talk to the Public Service Division on Earth Day (with some ideas and info that Karenne Tun shared in an earlier talk about similar issues). I'm quite glad to hear the same message from such an illustrious speaker.

Dr Wilkinson goes on to examine some of the threats to our reefs.and some of the work that lies ahead of us.His assessment on Governance, awareness and political will is quite heartening. We are half way there! But there's still a ways to go.And these are his main take home messages. There is indeed much that remains to be done.There was a lively Q&A after that. With questions from experts such as Siti (above) and ordinary people who wanted to volunteer for our reefs. Immediately after the talk, Jeffrey very quickly introduced her to our many volunteer opportunities.

Today I finally got the private joke on the back cover of the "Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008" report that Karenne Tun first shared in her talk. It is a subtle dig at the huge impact that climate change will have on our reefs.
There's a polar bear swimming in the reef! Can you see it?Here's closer look.

Btw, sorry for the microphone in the foreground. Didn't quite choose a good spot for sneaking snapshots of the slides during the talk.

Such talks are a great opportunity to catch up with many people. I found out that Bian (a botanist who will be running the upcoming Leafmonkey Workshop for Nature Guides) is also a diver!! After the talk, I had a quick chat with the ladies of TeamSeagrass to tie up our upcoming Seagrass Workshop at the end of this week. Wow, I'm sure going to have a very busy week ahead.

Links to more


  1. Haha, the polar bear joke is a good one. Let's wish this will never happen. I am shock to know that 40% of the coral is gone.

    Sabah has a lot of fishermen that are so stupid to kill the goose that lays gold eggs. Destructive fishing method such as fish bombing is still common, though enforcement claims that it is under control. People live near the island and coral hear it every day.

  2. Dr Wilkinson did talk at some length about bomb fishing. He showed very graphic photos too. It was sad.

    Fortunately this doesn't happen in Singapore.

    As it is, we only have a total of 5 square km of reefs! That's so scary.



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