20 February 2017

Sisters Islands Marine Park in Parliament, what's next?

After Sisters Island, perhaps Chek Jawa, Sungei Buloh? For the first time, NParks was given jurisdiction over intertidal and subtidal areas at the Sisters Islands Marine Park!
The Sisters Islands Marine Park include waters around
the two Sisters' Islands, and western shores of
Pulau Tekukor and St. John's Island.
I celebrate this milestone, and hope the same can be extended at Nature Reserves such as Sungei Buloh and Labrador and important marine areas like Chek Jawa.

I am also heartened by Minister Desmond Lee's support to start close consultations with stakeholders on the future of our marine biodiversity.
Some of the volunteer guides and supporters of the Marine Park.
Photo by Richard Kuah.
If you love Singapore's shores, here's a chance to step up, speak up and make a difference!

The intertidal and subtidal jurisdiction of the Sisters Islands Marine Park was clearly outlined in amendments to the Parks and Trees (Amendment) Bill which were adopted on 7 Feb. This is the first time NParks jurisdiction is clearly extended over a portion of the sea.

Unfortunately, NParks still does not have similar jurisdication over marine areas even for coastal Nature Reserves such as Sungei Buloh and Labrador, and important marine areas like Chek Jawa.
Man seen laying a very long net in the middle of Chek Jawa
lagoon in Feb 2013. We reported to NParks who said
the matter was forwarded to the Police Coast Guard.
This was among the issues raised by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang (Nee Soon) who said in part, (from Hansard, I added the links and photos):

"I applaud the Bill for the inclusion of "marine parks" in the Parks and Trees Act (PTA), giving NParks - for the first time - jurisdiction over the seas. This will provide the Sisters' Island Marine Park with greater protection against destructive behaviour. Madam, while I stand in support of the Bill, I would like to seek some clarification and also offer some suggestions.
Volunteers dealing with driftnet on Sisters Island
Two nets found laid across reef flats
at Sisters Island in Oct 2011.
"Next, in order for NParks to fully protect our marine biodiversity from destructive behaviours, could the Ministry look into making similar amendments to extend full jurisdiction by NP arks to coastal Nature Reserves like the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Labrador Nature Reserve, as well as coastal parks such as the Changi Beach Park, Pasir Ris Park, East Coast Park and Chek Jawa."

"The experience with the designation of "Chek Jawa Wetlands" in 2007 suggests that amendments to the PTA are necessary to allow NParks to fully enforce the PTA beyond the high water mark."
Abandoned long fishing net at Chek Jawa
200m net freshly laid at Chek Jawa, May 2016.
"I understand from the green community that NParks Notice dated 24 September 2007 (Winword doc) and Port Marine Notice No 126 of 2007 attempted to designate Chek Jawa Wetlands by demarcating points in the sea and declaring via the Notices that these points were under the PTA."
Accompanying NParks Notice dated 24 Sep 2007
Coordinates marked out in the sea, but has no force of law?
"Probably because there was no actual corresponding amendments to the PTA, in practice, even after the Notices, NParks still has to send all reported misdemeanours beyond the high water mark to MPA to enforce. NParks could not enforce action on its own against blatant misbehaviour in broad daylight within the designated Chek Jawa Wetlands. These include laying fish nets hundreds of metres long, line fishing and laying of traps, speeding boats cutting across the seagrass meadows, boaters and jet skis speeding or landing on Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu. In most cases, there is little effective follow-up action as these may not be a key focus for MPA which is also under a different Ministry."
Isn't Sekudu waters a restricted area?
Jetski and fishing in between Chek Jawa and Pulau Sekudu
seen on 6 Jan 2008.
Net at Changi with 40 crabs in May 2014.
"These experiences underline the importance of embedding clear jurisdiction boundaries in the sea through amendments in the PTA, and not just via Notices. In this light, could the Ministry also look at amending jurisdiction for coastal parks, nature reserves and Chek Jawa, since it is now amending jurisdiction for the Sisters Islands marine park?"
Net laid at Labrador Nature Reserve on Nov 2012.

You CAN make a difference!

The Sisters Islands Marine Park was one of the outcomes of the Blue Plan 2009 that was submitted by the marine community which included many ordinary people.

Minister Desmond has announced that NParks will soon be starting a Friends of the Sisters Islands Marine Park group, for people who care about our Marine Park and our marine life. So here's your chance to make a difference for Singapore's shores!

Senior Minister of State for National Development Mr Desmond Lee said in part (from From Hansard,)   "The Bill will also enable NParks to make new subsidiary rules to regulate human activities in the Marine Park, in order to keep it as a sanctuary for marine life. For example, NParks can restrict diving and dropping of anchors at ecologically sensitive areas. Let me say upfront that because we are managing a marine park for the first time, we think it will be better for NParks to have the flexibility to enact subsidiary legislation governing marine parks. We will do so in close consultation with our marine conservation community and other relevant stakeholders, and continue to update and refine these rules as we gain experience."

Get the latest updates about the Sisters' Islands Marine Park from the facebook group, blog or on the NParks website.

Related links to the amendments to the Parks and Trees (Amendment) Bill

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