09 October 2011

A lovely evening at Semakau

Yesterday, I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Semakau Landfill! It was my first time attending NEA's annual CEO Semakau Run.
'Al-fresco dining' on the Landfill, in front of the Transfer Station, with a view of Pulau Jong, the city and Pulau Bukom. Who would imagine this was possible on a landfill?!

With this event, NEA raised $280,000 to support environmental and charitable groups! A very large group of guests headed out to Semakau Landfill in two huge ferries. My first time, a life vest demo on the ferry. Safety was a big priority throughout the event.
A big boom rang out when we arrived at the Southern most tip of the Landfill. Nothing to be worried about, its just military testing on Pulau Senang.
We then gathered around for a group photo taking. Which was a challenge as the group was so large. But dad gives a hand so junior could be seen in the photo!
While everyone else headed out for the run, a few of us took a slow stroll. I took the opportunity to take a closer look at the shores in this part of Semakau that I rarely visit. There is a Terumbu or submerged reef that is enclosed within the landfill walls. Mangroves are growing on it! Margie Hall from the Nature Society (Singapore) had set up a scope and showed everyone the Greatbill heron that was foraging on the Terumbu. NSS runs regular birdwatching and other nature walks on Pulau Semakau and the Landfill.
Mr Aw of the Sports Fishing Association of Singapore (SFAS) pointed out some new sticks that he noticed in the lagoon. Have they been set up by people who intend to string up fishing nets there? Oh dear. We must keep an eye on this. The SFAS conducts catch and release fishing at the Landfill and are just as concerned as we are about irresponsible use of driftnets.
Mr Tahir of NEA pointed out to us splashes of big fishes in the sea outside the seawall! The gentlemen from the Fishing Association suggest these may be mullets. I was hoping for a dolphin or two to swim up and eat the fish, but no luck this time.
I also took the opportunity to take a closer look at what is said to be the biggest fish farm in Singapore that lies just off the seawalls of the Landfill.
A closer look at the pens set up to hold the fishes. I also learnt from Mr Aw that the farm has equipment on the landfill to raise fingerlings to a larger size before they are transferred to the pens.
A low floating structure at the farm seems to be loaded with nets. Hmm...
I was the last to arrive at the meeting area and managed to catch up with Grace of the Singapore Environment Council who had a great booth to showcase some of their latest efforts, some of which feature biodiversity issues. Great! I also caught up with Sean from NEA who shared some interesting nature sightings.
Then it was time for prize presentations and other formalities. Before we were bused off for dinner.
There's lots of food for everyone!
One of the activities related to this event was a photography competition organised by the Nature Society (Singapore) for ITE students. How nice to see so many great photos of the wild parts of the Semakau Landfill and natural Pulau Semakau.
The second prize winner seems to have photographed a cluster of Magnificent sea anemones. Possibly taken on the northeastern side of the natural shores of Pulau Semakau!
All too soon, it was time to go home. I had a great time, especially with Mr Aw and Eddy of the Sport Fishing Association of Singapore. I learnt a lot from them! Thank you to friends from NEA for a unique experience on Semakau! More about this event on Channel NewsAsia.
It didn't seem too long ago when I got involved in the opening of Pulau Semakau to nature activities in 2005. Here's a very old post about the official opening. Among the first experiences I had of working on Semakau's wild places was during the Semakau survey in 2005. I then helped the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research start guided shore walks. It was exciting to set up TeamSeagrass monitoring on Semakau and to get involved in work for the book on Semakau written by Marcus Ng with Alicia.  Semakau is also one of the sites for our Project Driftnet. There's a lot to do still for Pulau Semakau!

Earlier in the day, I was kindly invited to a briefing about exciting new plans at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It was great to catch up with everyone!
After the meeting, Siva gave me and Jim a quick update of the plan for volunteer mobilisation during an oil spill. This is based on our experience during the May 2010 oil spill and we hope to be better prepared for the next one.
While waiting at Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal, I bumped into the volunteers from the Mega Marine Survey, coming back from another interesting lab session at St. John's Island sorting out our many fascinating finds during our mudflat surveys. Rene already shared photos of their work on facebook! Thanks Rene!
On the way to Semakau, I had a closer look at the massive reclamation works for the new Pasir Panjang Container Terminal. It's huge!
It was nice to meet up with so many people, and check up on many aspects of our shores, all in one day!

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