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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.


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Fri 02 Sep 2005

Dolphins sighted off St. John's Island

Category : marine

02 Sep 2005 - Once again Jani Thuaibah of The Blue Tempeh spots dolphins in our waters! She starts sending me SMS' at 12.50pm (I can almost hear her screaming, and the first two messages were in all block caps.):

"Argh! I am looking at dolphins breaching the water, jumping, playing, so near the shore, sometimes 5 to 10 metres away but I have no camera! How frustrating is that? Argh!"

[Where are you?] "St. John's Island Jetty! Argh! Argh! Argh! They're so beautiful! Argh! Argh!"

[How many?] "About five, one pink baby, one pink and grey, the rest all grey.

TL [Loh Tse-Lynn] might have a video. Quite blur though. Breaching"

"For a day with maximum one metre visibility, the dolphins were playing for over an hour!"


From handphone-video footage (x2 zoom) by Loh Tse-Lynn.
Click image to play 16s QuickTime video or ctrl/right-click to download.

Loh Tse-Lynn managed to capture some footage on an overcast day without a camera or video (you can hear her say, "eh, bring your camera leh!") - so its blur and dark but still it gives some impression of what they saw and how happy they must have felt! Jani later said,

"Here's a short video of the dolphins jumping. It's BLUR... and it's DARK....and it's SMALL.. but it's THERE... and they were JUMPING. WARGGHHH!!!

SO EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was laughing and screaming and tearing at the jetty ALL ALONE while TL and my buddies were still diving... ARGHHHHHHHHH

SO COOL SO COOL SO COOL!"

It's best you download the footage and enlarge the playback; then you see the dolphins leap and splash back into the water twice!

This is the third reported sighting in 2005 of dolphins in our southern waters. The first report caught video footage. The best photos are by far Chim Chee Kong's relatively close shots in March 2004! Thank goodness for those - we show both during "Marine Life in Singapore" school talks in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, to the shouts of disbelieving students who go "Photoshop! Photoshop!" Viddeo then usually silences them, but for a second or two only!

Posted at 1:30PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sun 03 Jul 2005

"Two groups fear new Shell plant will endanger marine life."

Category : marine

"Two groups fear new Shell plant will endanger marine life." By Radha Basu. The Straits Times, 04 Jul 2005. - Pulau Hantu one of Singapore's last marine beauty spots.

"Two local marine conservation groups have written to oil giant Shell to raise concerns over its plans to build a petrochemical plant on reclaimed land near Pulau Hantu, one of Singapore's last remaining sites teeming with marine life.

The Blue Water Volunteers and Hantu Bloggers fear the colourful sea creatures and age-old coral in the area will die if the reclamation proceeds without proper environmental safeguards.

Both groups, one of divers and the other of nature enthusiasts, were formed last year to make Singaporeans aware of their diverse but fast-disappearing marine wealth.

In a letter to Shell Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang, the groups pointed out that Singapore has already lost more than 65 per cent of its live coral cover.

Coral reefs, which are known as the rainforests of the ocean, are fertile spawning grounds for a variety of sea creatures.

Continuous reclamation work around the Southern Islands in past years, the groups said, has increased sediment in the water, reducing visibility from more than 10m in the 1960s to no more than 2m today.

'In light of this, we are dismayed to learn that yet another reef, which existed from even before Singapore was founded, is going to be destroyed,' said the letter, signed by Blue Water Volunteers coordinator Loh Tse-Lynn and Hantu Bloggers founder Debby Ng.

Members of the two groups have dived in the area, sometimes as often as once a week.

When contacted, a Shell spokesman told The Straits Times the company is in discussions with the Economic Development Board to set up a petrochemical cracker - part of a refinery - on reclaimed land on Pulau Ular, near Hantu.

The land will be reclaimed by JTC Corp, as part of a government plan to create more land for the chemicals industry.

The spokesmen added that environmental care and responsibility are part of Shell's commitment to sustainable development.

'We'd like to assure the public that we'll act responsibly in conducting our business activities.'

Acting responsibly, said eminent National University of Singapore marine expert Chou Loke Ming, means using silt screens - which block sediment from reaching the coral - as well as relocating rare species of coral elsewhere.

JTC said it is likely to do that, if the project, which is still in the planning stage, gets the final go-ahead. Reclamation is yet to start.

A spokesman said JTC will consider closing the water channels around the reclamation area by building 'bunds' or embankments to prevent the silt from spreading towards Hantu, besides studying whether any coral needs to be relocated.

This is heartening, said the conservationists, adding that they would like to be briefed on more details of the reclamation activities.

'We want to know the extent of reclamation planned and the possible impact involved,' said Ms Loh.

Blankets of silt churned up by reclamation activities could block access to both sunlight and food, smothering the coral reefs to death, she said.

Divers in the area have spotted rare sea creatures such as the gorgonian shrimp and bob-tailed squid. Dolphins, black-tipped reef sharks and different types of clownfish have also been seen.

'Despite the silt, sometimes you see some incredibly rare and beautiful creatures in Singapore's waters,' said Ms Ng. 'We simply don't want to let them die.'"

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

See "Shell is looking at land reclamation around Pulau Ular." Habitatnews, 03 Jun 2005 and the Hantu blog's June archives.

Posted at 11:52PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 27 Jun 2005

Yellow-lipped Krait photgraphed on St. John's Island

Category : marine

This news from the lucky (well they keep their eyes open) guys who previously brought you photos of raptors and dolphins off St. John's Island.

This time, Chim Chee Kong writes,

"Hi Siva,

Me and my two colleagues (Lim Swee Cheng & Jeff Chouw) were very lucky to meet this amphibious sea snake (Laticauda colubrina) near the jetty of St. John's Island on last Friday (24 Jun 2005).

Staff of TMSI [Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS] have had two previous encounters but this is the first time a photograph has been taken.

It was a cloudy morning (around 10am) with no raptors hovering above.

There were some bulges on the snake's body and the snake was twisting and turning "uncomfortably", so I guess it was digesting a meal.

Cheers,
Chee Kong"

The Yellow-lipped Sea Snake is also known as the Amphibious Sea Snake. Sea Debby Ng's underwater photo at the Hantu Blog, and read more about it at Ecology Asia and at Aquatic Snakes of Southeast Asia.

Posted at 1:45PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 14 Feb 2005

US Senators Introduce Ocean Trash Bill

Category : envt

"Senators Introduce Ocean Trash Bill." By Jeannette J. Lee, Associated Press, 14 Feb 2005; first seen on ENN.

HONOLULU A bipartisan group of U.S. senators from coastal states introduced legislation Thursday calling for removal of the thousands of tons of ocean debris that wash up on U.S. shores each year.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said the bill is intended to protect marine ecosystems and human health from ocean-borne trash, including discarded fishing gear, equipment abandoned by commercial fleets and cargo that has washed overboard.

The measure would authorize up to $50 million over five years for a debris prevention and removal program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and up to $25 million over five years to strengthen Coast Guard enforcement of laws banning ship-based pollution.

Discarded long line nets and fishing line are most responsible for damaging coral reefs and killing marine animals, including seals, dolphins, turtles and seabirds, according to Seba Sheavly, director for the International Coastal Cleanup.

About 40 percent to 60 percent of debris collected in more than 100 countries during the program's annual worldwide cleanup is abandoned fishing gear, Sheavly said in a telephone interview from Virginia.

"A lot of fishermen are very responsible, but some are not," Sheavly said. "Fishermen by their trade and their own ethics don't want to leave their nets and gear behind. But things happen and there's not always disposal options for a damaged net out at sea or in port."

Isolation doesn't protect the largely uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from mounds of ocean waste. Pacific currents funnel thousands of tons of refuse and debris to the eroded volcanic islands and atolls. When explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau visited the islands in 2003 he found hundreds of tons of trash and thousands of dead seabirds.

Seabirds find floating bits of plastic and bring them back to feed their young. They can accumulate as much as 10 ounces of plastic in their stomachs before they die, Cousteau has said. Larger debris, such as fishing gear, can trap endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles.

"In a high-tech era of radiation, carcinogenic chemicals and human-induced climate change, the problem of the trash produced by ocean-going vessels or litter swept out to sea must seem old-fashioned by comparison," said Inouye. "Regrettably, that perception is wrong."

Other sponsors include Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; John Kerry, D-Mass., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., from Atlantic Coast states.

Source: Associated Press

Posted at 2:12PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 08 Feb 2005

Dolphins off Pulau Senang, 4th January 2005

Category : marine

The pleasure of the first record of dolphins in Singapore waters in 2005 has been provided by a group from the NUS Marine Lab out on a dive trip in the southern islands of Singapore on 4th January 2005.

With them was Fran Saborido-Rey, a visiting researcher from Spain, who shot a 30 seconds video with his digital camera from the deck of The Mudskipper, the boat of the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS. [Link - 18.5MB avi file]

They watched several dolphins break the surface repeatedly. A smaller, shorter (13 seconds) clip, is provided here as a 7.7MB mov file.

To get a good look at the dorsal surface of the dolphins, it would be better to right-click and download the video to your desktop. Increase the size by double when you view it with a video player such as the free QuickTime Player (this is available for Windows as well).

The second sighting of a pod of dolphins in 2005 was reported earlier by Lim Swee Cheng, off St. John's Island, on 1st February 2005.

Thanks to Fran Saborido Rey for generously providing the video to the NUS Marine Lab, to Peter Todd for alerting me to this and for copying the video for me, Elsie Wong for the field trip date, Loh Tse-Lynn for the location and Dionne an November for corrections.

Posted at 4:18AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 02 Feb 2005

Dolphin's off St. John's island

Category : marine

Dolphin's were spotted by Lim Swee Cheng, on Tuesday, 1st February 2005. More details as the become available. But no photos this time, unfortunately!

See the famous sighting off St. John's Islands with photos, on 12 March 2004 and the sighting off Sister's Islands on 24 Jun 2004.

Posted at 12:17PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 24 Jun 2004

Dolphins sighting at Sisters islands on Tue 22 Jun 2004

Category : marine

"It was SO amazing to see dolphins frolicking in Singapore waters! They were doing flips and jumps, cocking half their bodies out of the water too! Approximately 10 of them were just playing around that area and we sat there and watched them for about half an hour. AMAZING!"

"It was an experience of a lifetime! Even when I saw dolphins in Australia, the feeling is different: to see dolphins in our own backyard, and in the wild, means so much more than to see it anywhere else."

- Jani Thuaibah, who was on a field trip with other members of the Marine Biology Lab, NUS Biological Sciences. She had left her camera behind that day, so Chim Chee Kong's photos are still the best we have of dolphins in local waters.

Sister's Islands are south-west of St. John's Islands, are also known as Pulau Subar laut and P. Subar Darat and are administered by Sentosa Development Corporation. Records of dolphin and other interesting sightings are also maintained at the "Anecdotal observations of marine life" page in the Coral Reefs of Singapore site.

Keep looking and reporting everyone!

Posted at 9:00AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 07 Jun 2004

Drowning in an ocean of plastic

Category : envt

Stephen Leahy writes about "Drowning in an ocean of plastic" in Wired News, 5th June 2004.

"The United Nations has turned its attention to the oceans for World Environment Day, and one of the main evildoers is a familiar one -- plastic. Marine trash, mainly plastic, is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year, said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement."

- Plastic bags, bottle tops and polystyrene foam coffee cups are often found in the stomachs of dead sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and others.
- Fulmars, a type of seagull, had an average of 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
- Big pieces of plastic look like jellyfish or squid, while small pieces look like fish eggs.
- Albatross parents fly huge distances to feed their young a deadly diet of plastic bottle caps, lighters and light sticks.
- In the middle of the North Pacific, six pounds of plastic found for every pound of algae.
- About 20 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships or offshore platforms; the rest is blown or washed off the land.
- Plastic kill marine animals that eat it or get tangled in it and drown, but it also damages and degrades their habitat.
- Plastic can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals like biphenyl A.
- Most plastics don't biodegrade.
- Microscopic pieces of plastic can even be found inside plankton, the keystone of the marine food chain.
- The amount of plastic particles in the oceans has at least tripled since the 1960s.

"It's just dawning on people that the oceans are in deep trouble."

Posted at 3:28AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sat 13 Mar 2004

Dolphins sighted off St John's Islands

Category : marine

"Yes Siva,

Dolphins were sighted once again in St. John's Island waters!!!

Date: Friday 12 Mar 2004. Time: 1200hrs - 1300hrs

Location: Channel between St. John's Island & Lazarus Island

Number: 5 adults and 1 juvenile. All grey except 1 white adult.

Environment condition: Relatively clear water, cool weather, quite sunny. Reclamation works still going on at Lazarus Island. Quite busy channel with vessels using the St. John's Island jetty.

The dolphins were less than 50 metres away from me at some point of time. I couldn't capture any close up photos as the camera I am using couldn't zoom far enough. Nevertheless, its still better than nothing!!

Cheers!

[Chim] Chee Kong"

The second, third and fourth photo were brightened.

Look carefully to see all six dolphins in the third photo.

This is a wonderful addition to our arsenal of answers to the question, "Is there marine life [worth protecting] in Singapore?"" Thanks Chee Kong!

Will they stay? Will we retain our battered marine life? It's going to be a challenge - ironicallly, today's Straits Times carried a report which says, "The Southern Islands - made up of the two Sisters Islands, Pulau Seringat, Lazarus Island and St John's Island - have already been enlarged by reclamation. They will be linked to Sentosa by boat or by a bridge, and further reclamation will be done to create the development." - ["Top-draw resort for southern isles." By Audrey Tan, Straits Times, Sat 13 Mar 2004]

Posted at 2:28AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news