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Mon 27 Nov 2006

Wed 29 Nov 2006: 6.30pm - Nest fidelity & Conservation of Bintan's Turtles

Category : marine

IOSEA Year of the Turtle Seminar
Wednesday 29th November 2006: 6.30pm

Multi-Purpose Hall, Pierce Road (see map below)
National Biodiversity Reference Centre
National Parks Board

I: "There's No Place Like Home: Investigating Nest Site Fidelity in Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)."

II: "Bintan Resorts Turtle Conservation Initiative: identification of issues and preliminary results."

Host: Jeffrey Low

Talk 1: "There's No Place Like Home: Investigating Nest Site Fidelity in Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)"

By Eric Nordmoe
Associate Professor, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Visiting Scientist, National Institute of Education/Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

About the talk - Do nesting leatherback sea turtles have a favourite spot on the beach? While there is general consensus that a female leatherback typically returns to nest at her natal beach, there is less certainty about whether she displays fidelity to a specific location on the beach. As leatherback populations in many areas of Asia are declining, the answer to this question may have important implications for sea turtle conservation methods. Using individual nest site selection data collected over 13 seasons at a nesting beach in Central America, I will discuss applied statistical modeling work investigating whether leatherbacks do indeed exhibit "nest site fidelity," the tendency to repeatedly nest at or near the same location on their nesting beach. Possible implications for conservation efforts in Asia will be considered.

About the speaker - Eric Nordmoe is an Associate Professor of Statistics at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. After completing his bachelorŐs degree in economics at the University of Chicago in 1981, he worked in the market research industry for seven years. He returned to academics and completed at PhD in statistics at Northwestern University in 1993. He was a lecturer in Singapore with the department of economics and statistics at NUS from 1993 to 1996.

Since 1996, he has been with Kalamazoo College in the US teaching introductory and advanced statistics courses and carrying out research in statistics education and applications. In 2002, he began collaborating with a student and a biologist colleague studying leatherback sea turtles nesting in Central America. He was delighted to find that his experience developing models to study brand loyalty in market research applied directly to the problem of investigating site fidelity in sea turtles.

Since 2002, he has been actively involved in the application of statistical models to the analysis of sea turtle nesting data. He has continued this work during his sabbatical year 2006 as a visiting scientist with NIE/NTU with the immensely valuable support of his host, Professor CH Diong.

Talk 2: "Bintan Resorts Turtle Conservation Initiative: identification of issues and preliminary results"

By Ranan Samanya
Senior Manager, Environmental and Health Division, PT. Bintan Resorts
Cakrawala

About the talk - An effort to bring back the good old days of the turtles in northen Bintan Island, Indonesia, was initiated by Bintan Resorts back in 2004.

Potential landing sites were determined, and a hatchery was set-up. Several issues encountred during the course of time were identified, and the paths being taken to overcome them are discussed. Preliminary results of the three years work in turtle survey and hatchlings releases are also explained.

About the speaker - Ranan Samanya finished his bachelor's degree in freshwater biology from Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga, Indonesia in 1989.

After completing his MSc. in marine ecology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, in 1991, he joined the Belgian Institute of Nature Conservation, where studies were done to enhance the environmental condition of the Scheldt Estuary.

In 1997 he returned to Indonesia and worked for several geothermal and mining companies to mitigate environmental issues in Java, Bali, and Sumbawa islands. He has been with Bintan Resorts since 2001.

The IOSEA Year of the Turtle Committe, Singapore is a partnership between several government bodies, university institutions and non-governmental organisations in Singapore: NIE/NTU, Underwater World, BWV, WildSingapore, AVA, NParks, NSS and NUS RMBR.

Location map of the
National Biodiversity Reference Centre,
National Parks Board

Posted at 1:54PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 31 Jul 2006

Sea Turtles to be released in the South China Sea for satellite-tracking

Category : marine

See the Channel NewsAsia article.

In commemoration of the Indian Ocean - South East Asia (IOSEA) "Year of the Turtle", Underwater World Singapore (UWS) has collaborated with the National Institute of Education (NIE)/Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to launch a Sea Turtle Conservation Gallery and released 12 sea turtles fitted with satellite-tracking devices.

Dr C H Diong, a professor with National Institute of Education/NTU, will be releasing the 12 turtles fitted with tags into international waters in the South China Sea in an effort to study aspects of their biology and migratory behaviour.


Diong (light-blue shirt) explaining the research basis to Minister Mah Bow Tan (in jacket) as Prof Leo Tan (with tie) looks on.

If the turtles look a mite restricted, not to worry. They are in a cargo ship right now, heading out to the South China Sea. By the late morning of Tuesday, 1st Aug 2006, they will be released and be free-swimming once again.

Where will they go hence? Diong and others will be monitoring the sea turtles and hopes to share approximations of their positions on the internet.

The turtles were of three species - the Loggerhead Caretta caretta, Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea and Green Chelonia mydas. Two loggerhead turtles were brought to Underwater World Singapore as hatchlings from Nagoya, Japan. After nine years of captivity, will they eventually head back to Japan? More details soon.

Meanwhile, Prof Leo Tan's welcome address included a whimsical comment on the persistent arrivals of mature female turtles to lay eggs in Singapore, after the 20-40 years it has taken them to mature. Singapore has a lot to offer even to migrating sea turtles, let alone our youth!

Posted at 5:43PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sat 29 Jul 2006

"God gave us such a beautiful gift. Why are we destroying it?" - PM Malaysia

Category : malaysia

"Lay off Sipadan." By Elizabeth Looi. The Star Online, 27 Jul 2006.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi lashed out at Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman for going ahead with the RM4.5mil clubhouse project at Pulau Sipadan despite his objection.

"I was very angry with Musa. I told him not to build it. I said so many corals are dying and he promised that he would look into the project," said Abdullah, who openly expressed his disappointment and frustration with Musa.

He said the corals would attract tourists and divers from around the world but they would not visit the country if the corals were destroyed. Abdullah was referring to the construction of a clubhouse, toilets and sewage facilities that started on the island two months ago. It caused serious concern among divers when there was gradual destruction of the coral reefs.

On May 14, a barge from the construction fell onto the seabed and flattened 372.94 sq m of coral reef at the island's drop-off point in the north.Ę Musa ordered construction of the project stopped but later allowed it to continue, provided environment-friendly building materials were used.


See Habitatnews, 19 May 2006: "Sipadan's reefs damaged"

Abdullah said he was upset with the general quality of environment in the country, and that Malaysians should learn to appreciate the environment as it was a gift from God.

"God gave us such a beautiful gift. Why are we destroying it?" Abdullah said in his speech when attending the Malaysian Professional Centre annual dinner here last night.

He said more tourists would visit Malaysia if the environment was kept clean. "Tourists want to enjoy places with beautiful beaches and clean water," Abdullah said. "But now they are all destroyed. We do not know how to value (the environment).

"Giant leatherback turtles used to lay eggs on the Terengganu shores but now they are not there any more."

He said he was very upset that the majority of the country's rivers were polluted and waterfalls had dried up, such as the ones in Penang. "Penang used to have a waterfall but now you cannot find it any more. It is a dirty place," he said.

Citing the Gombak-Klang river as another example, Abdullah said Malaysia was fortunate to have a river that ran through the city as it was a beautiful sight. He said, however, the river was now too polluted. "If you throw a crocodile into the river, the crocodile will die."

© 1995-2005 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)

Thanks to Hey Adrienne! via Little Straycat.

Posted at 5:29AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 14 Jul 2006

Two dead turtles, guts choked with marine rubbish (Australia)

Category : coastalcleanup

"Turtles choked with marine rubbish." University of Queensland News Online, 12 Jul 2006.

A recent spate of small turtles washing up on Australia's eastern shores has highlighted concerns about marine debris by scientists and animal welfare groups.

Two turtles, one found on North Stradbroke Island in Queensland and a second found at Fingal Head NSW have triggered alarm bells. Both animals were around 20cm long and died with guts choked with marine rubbish.

"The first turtle was a tiny 22 cm green turtle brought into The University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station on North Stradbroke Island for care," Station Education Officer Dr Kathy Townsend said.

"The emaciated immature female was extremely weak and severely dehydrated and was suffering from floating syndrome which is where food trapped by foreign material starts to decompose, leaking gases into the body cavity and causing the animal to float.

"After dressing the turtle's wounds and placing her on a drip, we kept her under observation over night. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her illness and died the next morning."

A necropsy (autopsy) was performed on the turtle and discovered that her gut was choked with decomposing seagrass and marine rubbish.

"Bits of plastic shopping bags, black plastic rubbish bag, parts of plastic bottle tops, plastic thread, party balloons - and even a bit of a flip flop (thongs) were found lodged in the animal's gut," Dr Townsend said.

"Over 40 individual pieces of rubbish were accounted for, the majority of it plastic-based. "The final cause of death was identified as gut impaction and septicaemia caused by the marine rubbish."

A week later a slightly smaller turtle (19cm shell length) was treated by the Australian Seabird Rescue Wildlife Link Centre, at Ballina, NSW.

Lance Ferris, the Centre's Director and long term wildlife advocate, said this turtle also died from the consumption of marine rubbish. "We found over 70 pieces of plastic and small bits of fishing line in its gut," he said.

"Turtles that are between 5 and 25cm shell length disappear from our view in a period known as their 'lost years' where they are rarely seen close to shore. These juvenile turtles feed on jellyfish and squid found in the great ocean currents. The plastic that these animals would have consumed would have been located in the open ocean."

Craig Bohm, Campaign Coordinator with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the two turtles highlighted the impact of human rubbish has spread beyond the shores. "Animals such as these juvenile turtles go for years without seeing land, yet they too are being affected by human rubbish," he said.

Dr Townsend said that according to advice from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, there were many things people could do in their chomes, at the shore and on their boats to reduce the impact of rubbish on marine life.

  • In homes - avoid using plastic bags, ask for a box and recycle wherever possible.
  • On the shore - pick up rubbish and don't use bay and beachside rubbish bins if they are already overfull.
  • Onboard - stow rubbish carefully and don't let it blow over the side. Be particularly careful with fishing bait bags and other plastic items.

Note: If you feel motivated to do something about it, the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore is looking for volunteer coordinators!

Posted at 5:05PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 14 Jul 2006

Sat 15 Jul 2006: 3pm - "Dolphins, Turtles and Otters"

Category : marine

Woodlands Regional Library, 3.00pm, Sat 15 Jul 2006. "Dolphins, Turtles, Otters and Other Secrets of Singapore!"

"Trekking in the mangroves, I spied a Smooth otter swimming silently through a river channel. Resting on sand ledge, a crocodile took in the warm rays of the sun. Dolphins burst through the waves,sea cows grazed the sea grass offshore and turtle hatchlings struggled over sand to reach the waves and safety of the sea."

Join zoologist N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman, Research Officer, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research as he reveals these unbelievable scenes and more secrets of Singapore's marine life.

Free admission and no registration is required. Organised by Eco@Woodlands, National Library Board. Contact: National Library at 6332 3255

Posted at 11:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 20 Jun 2006

Traffic Southeast Asia and WildAid commend Singapore's actions

Category : trade

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and WildAid
commend Singapore's actions as a key step
in the global fight against illegal wildlife smuggling.

"In terms of penalties in the region, Singapore's law enforcement authorities now have more power with which to combat unscrupulous traders," said TRAFFIC's Regional Director, James Compton.

"We hope neighbouring countries will emulate this effort to both
seize illegal cargo and prosecute criminal activity."

"Singapore's Harsh Penalties Set Regional Precedent Against Wildlife Smuggling."

Kuala Lumpur, 18 Jun 2006 - Singapore's seizure of an illegal cargo of freshwater turtles on June 13 was the first significant confiscation since the island State's revised Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 2005 (ESA) came into force on March 1, 2006 [see report in The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2006].

Within three days of interception, the captain of the Indonesian ship had pleaded guilty to illegally transporting 2,520 South-east Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis), and was sentenced to a term of 5 months imprisonment and fined SGD20,000 (approx USD12,545).

South-east Asian Box Turtles are listed on Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means trade in this species is legal only with a valid CITES permit.

Acting on a tip-off, enforcement officers from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the CITES Management Authority of Singapore, inspected a ship which arrived at the Jurong Fishing Port from Tembilahan in Sumatra, Indonesia on June 13 and found the illegal reptile consignment.

This is the first case in Singapore involving trans-shipment without a valid permit from the exporting country; an enforcement action that would not have been possible under the previous legislation.

Working with the Port Authority and the Police, AVA seized 72 crates containing the turtles. A fake CITES permit was produced in an attempt to evade prosecution. The ship's Indonesian captain was charged under Section 5 of the ESA, and will likely spend two additional months in prison because he is unable to pay the fine.

A total of 5420 freshwater turtles came on the vessel; 2900 of which were declared legally as non-CITES listed Malayan Softshell Turtles (Dogania subplana) and Asian Leaf Turtles (Cyclemys dentata).

The captain and another crew member claimed that the ultimate destination market for the Southeast Asian Box Turtles was Hong Kong via the Indonesian island of Batam, according to AVA's Wildlife Regulatory Branch Head, Lye Fong Keng.

"We are working closely with the Indonesian authorities to repatriate the box turtles, and see that the exporters in Sumatra are apprehended," said Lye. "We hope this case will deter potential smugglers from using Singapore as a conduit for trans-shipping illegal cargoes of animals and plants."

This crackdown signals Singapore's commitment to deal more seriously with wildlife offenders. Under the revised ESA, illegal traders dealing in endangered species now face higher fines up to SGD50,000 (USD31,362) per specimen, subject to a maximum of SGD500,000 (USD313,620), and with a maximum jail term of two years upon conviction.

Singapore has joined Indonesia and all Member Countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN*) in the newly launched ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). The success of this regional initiative depends on strong wildlife law enforcement at the national level, and co-operation between government authorities dealing with CITES, Customs and Police jurisdictions to counteract wildlife crime.

"Singapore is fully committed to the goals of ASEAN-WEN, and we will continue to work with Indonesia and other partners in the region to increase active disruption of illegal wildlife trade operations," said Lye Fong Keng.

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and WildAid, two NGOs working to support ASEAN-WEN, commended Singapore's actions as a key step in the global fight against illegal wildlife smuggling.

"In terms of penalties in the region, Singapore's law enforcement authorities now have more power with which to combat unscrupulous traders," said TRAFFIC's Regional Director, James Compton. "Given Singapore's primacy as a trade hub, the move to impose harsher penalties strengthens the government's commitment to regional wildlife trade law enforcement Đ and we hope neighbouring countries will emulate this effort to both seize illegal cargo and prosecute criminal activity."

Thanks to Loretta Ann Soosayraj (Communication Consultant, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia) for the press release; thanks to Nick Baker of Ecology Asia for the photo.

See also: "Wildlife Trade in Southeast Asia. WWF, 02 May 2006.

Posted at 10:39AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sat 17 Jun 2006

"Jail and fined for shipping endangered turtles"

Category : trade

"Jail and fined for shipping endangered turtles." The Strait Times, 17 June 2006.

AN INDONESIAN boat captain was jailed for five months and fined $20,000 yesterday for transporting more than 2,000 endangered turtles without a valid export permit.

Sustrisno Alkaf, 58, is the first person to be prosecuted for transhipment of scheduled species here since the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act was amended in March.

One of the main amendments enables enforcement action to be taken against illegal transhipments through Singapore of wildlife species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

Penalties have also been raised from $5,000 to $50,000 for each scheduled species, up to a limit of $500,000, or a jail term of up to two years.

Sustrisno was arrested at the Jurong Fishing Port on Tuesday with 72 crates containing 2,520 live South Asian Box turtles, which he was shipping from Sumatra to Batam without a valid Cites export permit.

Of the 5,420 soft shell turtles found on board, 2,520 were found to be Cites-protected.

He had stopped in Singapore to unload 2,900 non-scheduled species of soft shell turtles to three importers. The 2,520 illegal South Asian Box turtles, worth about $10,000, were destined for Hong Kong.

Pressing for a deterrent sentence, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan said this illegal trade was hard to detect and damaging to Singapore. In meting out the sentence, District Judge Danielle Yeow took into account the large number of turtles Sustrisno had.

He will spend an extra two months in jail as he is unable to pay the fine.

Arrangements are being made with the Indonesian authorities to return the turtles either today or tomorrow. As of yesterday, more than 30 have died.

Posted at 12:55AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 24 May 2006

Hawksbill turtle hatchling rescue at East Coast Park

Category : marine

23 May 2006 - NParks was alerted by a member of the public at about 9pm - about turtle hatchlings crawling inshore and getting stuck in drains! Derek Yap of NParks called me and I called others and soon a bunch of NParks staff, the members of public who originally alerted us, staff and volunteers from Raffles Museum, Nature Society (Singapore) and Blue Water Volunteers joined hands to scour the area of hatchlings.

After three hours, we managed to salvage and release 76 from the track, drains and shore. Two died and one will be preserved and deposited into the Raffles Museum's Zoological Reference Collection.

I called resident turtle expert C H Diong from NIE/NTU; he was of the opinion a nesting site was nearby; but we were unable to find it. NParks staff will try to look for it again in the morning. He also suggested we release the hatchlings the same night, but allow them to crawl down a dark beach and head into the sea. Finding a dark beach in Singapore is not easy and we settled for Changi Beach extension which was relatively near.

It was wonderful seeing the hatchlings swim away but we wondered if they'd make it out to sea; the light pollution from the shore disorientates this animal that would otherwise follow starlight out to sea and relative safety.

It was heartwarming to note that the original group of youth who saw the turtles clambered all over the track had helped to collect the turtles, call NParks, find pails, clamber head first into the drain etc., and had even tried to return the turtles to sea. Their final act was possibly thwarted by the presence of artificial lights on shore that sent the hatchlings in the wrong direction in the first place.

The marine volunteers who were activated at sudden notice all turned up cheerful and eager to help. When we finished at about 1am, they thanked me for alerting them! Had there been more hatchlings, I'd have rounded up more than the dozen who came and I know they would have come enthusiastically just like these ones did. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of heart!

If any of the hatchlings survive the many trials of life at sea, they will eventually return to Singapore in about 30 years! Wonder what sort of shore will greet them then. And I wonder too, about their mother, who silently came ashore one night, without detection and laid he clutch.

Thanks for the date correction, Jeff Low. This was posted at 3.25am after I came back, and it was a struggle to stay awake long enough to string sentences together. Kept fallling asleep mid-sentence, waking up and getting it wrong all over again!

Posted at 9:11AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 01 May 2006

02 May 2006: 10am - Pilcher on "IOSEA Year of the Turtle: The Sea Turtle Crises and Singapore"

Category : marine

The Year of the Turtle Committee, Singapore, presents:

"IOSEA Year of the Turtle: The Sea Turtle Crises and Singapore"

Dr Nicolas J. Pilcher
Marine Research Foundation, Sabah, Malaysia
Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group

Tuesday, 2nd May 2006: 10am - 11am

Conference Room, Department of Biological Sciences
Block S3, Level 5, Science drive 4
National University of Singapore
See map
You can park at Car Park 10
(cash card required)

Host: C. H. Diong,
Chairman, Year of the Turtle Committee

National Institute of Education,
Nanyang Technological University

All are welcome!

About the talk
Marine turtles are long-lived, slow growing reptiles with low population replenishment rates. They are found throughout the tropical waters of the world, and many populations are in decline following intensive direct harvests of adults and eggs, incidental captures in varied coastal and pelagic fisheries, habitat loss or alteration, and oceanic pollution. In Southeast Asia their numbers have declined precipitously due to increased pressures from human population expansion, and unregulated and overexploited harvests of eggs and adults. As an example of the far reaching consequences of turtle harvests, turtles landed in Bali originate from throughout the Southeast Asian region and as far away as Australia, having decimated populations nearby. It seems things just couldn't get worse... or could they?

Populations subject to long-term conservation measures are starting to rebound. Governments are becoming more aware of management intervention needs. Scientists and conservationists have taken great strides in the past three decades to better understand turtles, to better conserve them. Our ability today, as the highest order of our planetŐs meta-ecosystem, to take mitigating steps in the decline of turtles has never before been so strong. What can each of us do? How can we have a positive impact in a similar far-reaching manner as the turtle harvests and make repairs for times past? This talk will explore some of the options and opportunities to interact with conservation initiatives which will benefit turtles in our seas, wherever they may be from.

About the Speaker
Nicholas Pilcher is the founder and Executive Director of the Marine Research Foundation, a non-profit agency established in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, to carry out studies which lead to the conservation of marine resources throughout the South East Asian and Indian Ocean regions. He currently is working on projects in Eritrea, Qatar, Oman, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia, to name a few.

Nicholas has a PhD in marine turtle conservation from Southern Cross University in Australia, and has been in Malaysia for the better part of the last thirteen years. He spent seven of those based in Kuching, Sarawak, where among other things he published a book on Layang Layang and edited another on marine turtles of the Indio-Pacific. Dr. PilcherŐs work on turtles has spanned much of the globe, and today he is the Co-Chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the worldŐs authority on sea turtle conservation and biology. He is married to a Sabahan, Carmen, and together they juggle the complex web of projects a the Foundation and the raising of their three children.

About the Year of the Turtle

"The Indian Ocean - South-East Asia (IOSEA) 'Year of the Turtle - 2006' aims to unite nations and communities to celebrate marine turtles and to support their conservation. While increasing public awareness and understanding of the threats faced by marine turtles, the campaign will also highlight the work of dedicated organisations that are striving to conserve these ancient creatures and the habitats on which they depend. With a theme of Cooperating to Conserve Marine Turtles - our Ocean's Ambassadors, it is hoped the campaign will be a milestone in the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats of this vast region. The YoT campaign will begin officially on 1 March 2006, and will run through to the end of 2006.

In Singapore, a Year of the Turtle working group has just been formed. Comprising members from National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, National Parks Board, Underwater World Singapore and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, it hopes to initiate a series of local events to promote awareness about sea turtles, marine conservation and local efforts.

Join us!
The Year of the Turtle Committee invites partners to join the group and extends a warm invitation to existing individuals and groups involved in marine research, education and conservation who could modify existing programmes to support the theme. So do come down for the seminar and join us! We will be discussing ideas with Nicholas after the seminar.

Posted at 8:32AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 10 Feb 2006

Campaign to reduce wastage of plastic shopping bags

Category : coastalcleanup

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators Wei Song (Zone Captain), Airani (Data Manager), Chen Kee (Zone Captain) and Angeline (Dy Coordinator) responded to a last minute call to action just last Saturday and redesigned posters and recruited Toddycats for an event by NEA tomorrow.

Vilma D'Rozario of the Nature Society (Singapore) had asked for help to promote the issue of marine plastic litter and its impact on wildlife at the National Environment Agency's launch of "Why waste plastic bags, choose reusable bags" campaign at Parkway Parade Shopping Centre on Saturday, 11 Feb 2006.

The ICCS team will be sharing a booth with long time partners Nature Society (Singapore) and Raffles Girls Secondary School. With the help of a few more Toddycats who will be taking shifts at the booth, they will inform and educate the public about the problem with trash on our shores. Look out for updates on their blog.

Is there a problem?
Most people are not aware of the problem of coastal litter because highly frequented areas like East Coast Park and Sentosa are regularly cleaned up in the early morning by contract cleaners.

What the data tells us
The annual International Coastal Cleanup examines the kind of marine litter found, and from the data, the type and source of litter is determined locally, in the Asia Pacific and around the world. The data collected was based on the efforts of 2,000 volunteers on a single Saturday morning, amounting to some 7,000kg of trash collected island-wide along beaches and mangroves.

The three most frequent types of marine litter are styrofoam debris, cigarette butts and plastic items! Currently shoreline activities and washout from drainage systems play a large part in contributing to the waste buildup.

Consumers - both the problem and the solution
The public as consumers play a large role in regulating and managing the amount of trash ending up in our waterways, and the use of plastic bags is a significant issue.

The immediate factors that contribute to the consistent amounts of plastic bags found along our shores are:

  1. Improper disposal,
  2. Excessive use of plastics
  3. Insufficient recycling
  4. The non-biodegradable nature of plastics.

The mantra of reuse, reduce and recycle, and adopting alternatives have to be emphasized to curb the problem of marine litter. It is hoped that we can create awareness, inculcate a sense of social responsibility and influence consumer's choice in order to direct change.

Death by plastic
Not only is marine trash unsightly, it poses a real and continual threat to many marine animals. An autopsy of an adult albatross revealed various plastic items ingested and accumulated within the bird's digestive tract, probably leading to its ultimate demise by suffocation or starvation. Albatross chicks are also known to be fed with regurgitated plastic and die as a result.

"Marine trash, mainly plastic, is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year." - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Sea turtles are also known to ingest plastic bags floating in the sea, mistaking them to be jellyfish, one of their main food sources, and dying as a result.

The strength of plastic materials also caused many marine animals to be trapped, entangled or strangled when caught in it, such as abandoned fishing nets, nylon strings, 6-pack drink holders.

The actions of humans have had a direct and negative impact on the natural environment for decades and this has been amplified by plastic.

Marine animals are unable to protest or sound out their plight to us and it is thus up to us to raise this issue and clean up the mess.

Posted at 3:44PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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