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These riotous colours, often
missed by boaters and others,
thrill and amaze divers and
snorkellers all over the world
Photo by Leong Kwok Peng
Celebrate Our Oceans

By Chua Sek Chuan

Chairman, Marine Conservation Group
Nature Society (Singapore)


Singaporean hearts were touched last August (22 August 1998) in quite an unexpected way. Many of the thousands that visited the "Celebrate Our Oceans" exhibition held at Marina Square were sufficiently moved by the graphic photos of wanton and aimless slaughter of marine animals (fish, sea turtles, whale sharks) to write their thoughts on a sheet of paper provided by the organisers, the Marine Conservation Group of the NSS.
It was an eye and mind opening display for many who did not realise how beautiful and fragile our oceans are.

Yet, while oceans cover about 75% of the planet's surface, less is known about our underwater environment than is known about outer space and the moon. In fact, fewer explorers have been to the deepest parts of our oceans than have gone to space!

Our oceans not only provide food for our tables, but it also acts as a carbon dioxide sink (just like our forests) and climate regulator.

It is also home to a vast array of marine creatures that are as much a part of the web of life as any other life of the 25% of the planet that is on solid ground.

Vivid images by some of Singapore's finest underwater photographers brought the beauty of the seas around us to life.

There were also many pictures that showed the curious and strange adaptations that some creatures adopt to ensure their survival. For instance, the boxing crabs carry anemones on each claw as a deterrent against predators.


But what seemed to move the public most were the pictures that showed how much of the Southeast Asian region's coastal and marine habitats, including our own, have been severely degraded by development and pollution.

Because we seem to have an inexhaustible supply of seafood in our markets and restaurant, many of us—until this display uncovered some ugly truths—did not know of the effects of habitat loss and pollution on our oceans and its inhabitants.

We bring to you some of the images displayed in this exhibition. You will see some of the exquisite and wondrous animals that can still be found in our seas, yes, even in Singapore's much trafficked and murky seas.

But much needs to be done if we are to lose these creatures. Overfishing is another big problem that needs to be addressed.

This "Celebrate Our Oceans" exhibition was sponsored by our Care-For-Nature corporate friend Hong Kong Bank.

It was our (the NSS Marine Conservation Group) contribution to the United Nation's "International Year of the Ocean" theme to awaken people to the beauty and importance of our planet's oceans.

Sea turtle
Photo by Victor Tan
One of the last surviving animals of an ancient age, sea turtles are the remaining members of a marine race of reptiles. All species of sea turtle in the world are now endangered due to human activities and some are on the critical list.


Porcelain crab
Neopetalisthes spp.
Photo by Leong Kwok Peng
Sea fans or gorgonians are home to many smaller animals that hide and feed within the branches. This small crab is one such. As currents bring food to the sea fan, the crab takes the opportunity to feed off the same food source


Blue-spotted Ray
Taenius lymma
Photo by Victor Tan
Rays are among the odd-looking fish in the sea. Although in the same group as sharks, rays look entirely different. Largely flattened, having a long tail with a spine about halfway along its length, rays don't swim as 'fly' through the water.


Pygmy Seahorse
Hippocampus
bargibanti

Photo by Wiliam Tan
It is one of the smallest seahorses in the world. Found only in Southeast Asia and in Indonesian waters in particular, they range between 2-3 cm in length and can come in different colours such as
red, yellow and varying shades in between.


Boxing Crabs
Lybia tessellata
Photo by William Tan
These pugnacious-looking crabs carry anemones on each claw as a deterrent against predators. The crab has formed a mutual symbiosis with the anemone, gaining protection from its stinging cells, while the perks of the anemone are food and transportation


Christmas Tree Worms
Spirobranchus spp.
Photo by Leong Kwok Peng
These belong to the bristleworm or polychaete family and are living in this boulder-type coral.


Nudibranchs
Chromodoris bullocki
Photo by William Tan
This pair are investigating each other for possible mating prospects. Being hermaphrodites, like most molluscs, they should have no problems. These molluscs are brightly coloured to warn predators of their "bad" taste


Oriental Sweetlips
Plectorhincus orientalis
Photo by Victor Tan
These fish are known as 'Grunts' in other parts of the world


Stonefish
Synanceja horrida
Photo by William Tan
With a face that only a mother could love, it is one of the most venomous fish in the world. Belonging to the same family as the scorpionfish and lionfish, stonefish spines contain potent venom that cause death in a matter of minutes


Polyclad flatworm
Pseudoceros spp.
Photo by Leong Kwok Peng
Among the brightly coloured marine animals, flatworms advertise themselves in the same way as some of the Poison Arrow Frogs in South America. The flaming orange and bright blue of this flatworm warns off predators that it tastes bad and may be poisonous

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