Singapore to have its first Marine Park on Sisters' Islands

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 12 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: A Marine Park, the first of its kind in Singapore, will be set up by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Called the Sisters' Islands Marine Park, it will serve as a platform for outreach, education, conservation and research activities related to Singapore's native marine life.

This is the latest marine biodiversity conservation initiative by NParks.

The 40-hectare park encompasses the land and waters surrounding the islands, and also covers the western coasts of both St John's Island and Pulau Tekukor, the site of a former ammunition dump.

Managed by NParks, its development will involve several non-governmental organisations (NGO), universities, schools and other marine nature groups.

So apart from featuring amenities such as educational storyboards, it will also host programmes such as workshops, guided walks and dives.

NParks also plans to charter boats from the mainland for participants of the guided tours it plans to conduct.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said: "Collectively, as a society, we are contributing to the protection of our shared heritage. The park will not just be an outdoor classroom, but an underwater one as well."

The activities aim to engage and educate visitors so that they will gain an appreciation for the hundreds of marine life species Singapore plays host to.

Those include over 350 species of reef fish and hard corals, as well as the rare Neptune's Cup Sponge which have only been found live in Singapore's waters.

Dr Lena Chan, director of National Biodiversity Centre, said: "With marine biodiversity, you can't see. And what you can't see, you can't love. We need to involve everybody in this very great effort in the conservation, in learning more about our marine biodiversity."

NGOs agreed with Dr Chan. Ria Tan, founder of WildSingapore, said Sisters' Island was a good, accessible first step in improving appreciation for marine biodiversity.

"Once people see it and they appreciate it, they will know this belongs to Singapore. You don't have to go to Australia or Indonesia to see it. It is our marine life. It is something we can appreciate and enjoy," she said.

Though the park is only slated to be completed in 2015, NParks and other nature groups will be organising twice monthly group visits to the islands starting next month.

Members of the public can join the guided walks subject to weather and tidal conditions.

There are no plans to charge for these tours as of yet.

Those who are interested can sign up online at www.nparks.gov.sg/sistersislandsmarinepark, as places are limited to 15 people per visit.

Transportation to the islands will be provided.

- CNA/fa/nd

Singapore to get first marine park
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Jul 14;



Singapore's southern Sisters' Islands, and the waters around them, will be the site of the country's first marine park.

The 40ha park, the size of about 50 football fields, will include the western reefs and intertidal zones of nearby Pulau Tekukor, a former ammunition dump, and St John's Island, which currently houses research and recreational facilities.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced this yesterday morning at the annual Festival of Biodiversity, a nature-education fair held at the VivoCity mall this weekend.

"With the new Sisters' Island Marine Park, I hope that even more Singaporeans will enjoy and value our natural richness," he said. "The charm of the Sisters' Islands is in their undeveloped character, and... the marine environment is fragile."

Apart from letting more people enjoy its charms, designating the area a marine park also means that research and conservation activities will be ramped up there.

The area was picked for its variety of habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass areas and sandy shores, and is rich in marine life such as sponges and giant clams.

In 2011, for instance, the neptune's cup sponge, long thought to be extinct here, was rediscovered off St John's Island.

The Sisters' Islands have been marked out as a marine nature area in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Parks and Waterbodies Plan since it was introduced in 2003. Nature areas are high-biodiversity areas that are kept as long as possible till they are needed for development.

As a public park, the marine park will be managed by the National Parks Board (NParks), which will take over from Sentosa Development Corporation.

People will be able to sign up for guided walks from next month by visiting www.nparks.gov.sg/
sistersislandsmarinepark.

The details are being worked out, said National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan, but there are plans for downloadable trail guides, explanatory signs and live streaming of the islands' wildlife.

Currently, there are no regular ferry services to Sisters' Islands and boats need to be chartered for those who want to get there.

Other activities planned for next year include workshops, camps and talks at an outreach and education centre on St John's Island.

The National Biodiversity Centre's coastal and marine deputy director, Dr Karenne Tun, said NParks would be doing a feasibility study to fully map the islands, take a census of reef life and work out how many visitors can be allowed without harming wildlife.

NParks also plans to use the park for research and conservation, and to reintroduce giant clams and corals to its waters.

Those lobbying for Singapore's blue space to be better protected were encouraged by the news.

Said Professor Barry Halliwell, deputy president for research and technology at the National University of Singapore (NUS): "Marine biologists have long advocated for the establishment of such a park and this is very good news.

"NUS and NParks have collaborated on many projects over the years and we look forward to more joint projects after the marine park is established."

Nature enthusiast Ria Tan, 53, who runs popular wildlife site wildsingapore.com, said: "It's the first marine park that Singapore has, so it's something to celebrate. And hopefully it's the first of more."

But she raised concerns about fishermen using driftnets which entangle horseshoe crabs and other marine life. In response, Dr Chan said details of the budget, manpower and enforcement plan for the new park were still being finalised. Dr Tun said NParks would work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to engage fishermen on the issue.
In 2009, civil society groups presented a Blue Plan to the Government, calling for several areas including Sisters' Islands, Pulau Hantu, Cyrene Reef and Pulau Ubin's Chek Jawa to be formally designated high-biodiversity areas.

Dr Tun would not say if there was scope for other marine parks.

"The role now is just to make this park a success," she said.

Limited spaces for guided walks at low tide on Aug 14 and 15 are available.

Singapore to establish first marine park
AsiaOne 12 Jul 14

SINGAPORE - Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced today that Singapore will establish its first Marine Park.

Progress is underway for this latest conservation initiative by the National Parks Board (NParks), which was unveiled this morning at the Festival of Biodiversity 2014, launched by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The Sisters' Islands Marine Park, which will span about 40 hectares around Sisters' Islands and along the western reefs of both St John's Island and Pulau Tekukor, serves as a platform for outreach, educational, conservation and research activities related to our native marine biodiversity.

The location was chosen due to its variety of habitats including coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass areas.
A number of nature groups have come on board to offer outreach activities like intertidal walks and guided dives to encourage greater appreciation of Singapore's native marine biodiversity.

Following the introductory guided walks held this year, more activities are being planned for roll out next year. These include workshops, seminars, camps and talks at the outreach and education centre on St John's Island. School groups can also be involved in monitoring programmes which will contribute to data collected for marine biodiversity research.

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee said, "Much work has been done over the years to conserve our biodiversity. The Singapore we know today is one that is not only replete with greenery but one that is also teeming with various species of wildlife and marine life. Of course, more can be done and I am heartened to know that the public agencies, NGOs and the community are all working together to further conserve our rich biodiversity. The new Sisters' Islands Marine Park will strengthen this partnership and allow people to make a real difference to the environment by ensuring the survival of our precious native species."

Kenneth Er, NParks CEO shared, "The annual Festival of Biodiversity celebrates our rich natural heritage, and also the joint efforts between the National Parks Board and partners like universities and NGOs to encourage appreciation of our local flora and fauna. With the Sisters' Islands Marine Park, we hope to provide a wider range of opportunities for the community to contribute to citizen science by documenting biodiversity data which will support our conservation efforts."

As visibility of the marine life is subjected to tidal patterns, visitors interested to join the guided walks are encouraged to register early at www.nparks.gov.sg/sistersislandsmarinepark from today onwards.

Introductory guided walks next month will be held on Aug 14 and 15, 2014.

Latest marine biodiversity conservation initiative by the National Parks Board unveiled at Festival of Biodiversity
NParks media release 12 Jul 14;

Singapore, 12 July2014 - Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced today that Singapore will establish its first Marine Park. Progress is underway for this latest conservation initiative by the National Parks Board (NParks), which was unveiled this morning at the Festival of Biodiversity 2014, launched by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, which will span about 40 hectares around Sisters’ Islands and along the western reefs of both St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor, serves as a platform for outreach, educational, conservation and research activities related to our native marine biodiversity. The location was chosen due to its variety of habitats including coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass areas.

A number of nature groups have come on board to offer outreach activities like intertidal walks and guided dives to encourage greater appreciation of our native marine biodiversity. Following the introductory guided walks held this year, more activities are being planned for roll out next year. These include workshops, seminars, camps and talks at the outreach and education centre on St John’s Island. School groups can also be involved in monitoring programmes which will contribute to data collected for marine biodiversity research.

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee said, “Much work has been done over the years to conserve our biodiversity. The Singapore we know today is one that is not only replete with greenery but one that is also teeming with various species of wildlife and marine life. Of course, more can be done and I am heartened to know that the public agencies, NGOs and the community are all working together to further conserve our rich biodiversity. The new Sisters’ Islands Marine Park will strengthen this partnership and allow people to make a real difference to the environment by ensuring the survival of our precious native species.”

Kenneth Er, NParks CEO shared, “The annual Festival of Biodiversity celebrates our rich natural heritage, and also the joint efforts between the National Parks Board and partners like universities and NGOs to encourage appreciation of our local flora and fauna. With the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, we hope to provide a wider range of opportunities for the community to contribute to citizen science by documenting biodiversity data which will support our conservation efforts.”

As visibility of the marine life is subjected to tidal patterns, visitors interested to join the guided walks are encouraged to register early at www.nparks.gov.sg/sistersislandsmarineparkfrom today onwards.

Introductory guided walks next month will be held on 14 and 15 August.

Sisters’ Islands Marine Park
MEDIA FACTSHEET on the NParks website
Also here

Map of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park


Singapore’s first Marine Park, the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, will span about 40 hectares around Sisters’ Islands and along the western reefs of St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor. The location was chosen due to the variety of habitats including coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass meadows.

The new initiative aims to give Singaporeans a first-hand experience of our rich biodiversity which are submerged most of the time. The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park will protect Singapore’s coral reefs, which support an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, sponges and other marine life. More than 250 species of hard corals can be found in Singapore’s waters out of over 500 species within the region. Being located in close proximity to one of the world’s busiest ports, the Marine Park will provide a safe refuge for the teeming biodiversity around the Southern Islands and its surrounding waters, as well as safeguard our natural heritage.

Biodiversity
Singapore’s waters are home to:
=More than 250 species of hard corals (32% of hard coral species found worldwide)
=More than 100 species of reef fish
=About 200 species of sponges
=12 seagrass species

Interesting species
1. Neptune’s Cup Sponge (Cliona patera)
=Large sponge with a prominent goblet shape cup sitting on a robust stem
=Can reach up to a metre in height and width
=Thought to be extinct for more than 100 years until it was rediscovered off Singapore’s coast in 2011

2. Giant Clams (Tridacna spp.)
=The largest living bivalve molluscs in the world
=Individuals display a variety of colourful mantle
=Three species are still found in Singapore

3. Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.)
=Swims vertically upright
=The male broods the young in their pouch
=Require calm waters with many hiding places, such as seagrass meadows
=Have bony plates just under their skin instead of scales

4. Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens)
=Distracts predators by detaching part of its skin when stressed or attacked
=Becomes completely limp when out of water for too long, and might completely disintegrate
=Able to reverse this process if returned to water in time

5. Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
=Grows up to 1.8 m in length
=Easily recognised by black-tipped fins
=Feeds on a variety of marine creatures like fish, octopuses, squid and crabs.

The Marine Park’s multiple roles and functions

Outreach

- Outreach activities will bring marine life closer to the public to foster greater understanding and appreciation of the marine habitats and their biodiversity

- The public can also sign up as volunteers to assist in marine biodiversity programmes such as
o International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) – gathers data on marine debris found on our beaches and mangrove areas
o Citizen science programmes that will be rolled out as part of the Marine Park’s activities

Education

- Educational programmes will be available for interested participants to learn about marine biodiversity. These programmes include
o Remote monitoring programmes for schools
o Workshops, talks and seminars

Conservation

- Enhancement activities will be carried out to improve existing marine habitats and enhance biodiversity
- Examples include nurseries for corals, giant clams, Neptune’s cup sponge and other iconic marine organisms
- Monitoring works conducted regularly

Research - Marine research will be centred around the Marine Park, focusing on various aspects of marine biology, ecology and restoration

Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, at the Launch of the Festival of Biodiversity 2014 on 12 July 2014, 11am
NParks media release 12 Jul 14;

President Tony Tan

Mr Kenneth Er
CEO, NParks

Friends of the nature community

Ladies and gentlemen

1. A very good morning to all of you. I am pleased to be here with everybody at the launch of the Festival of Biodiversity 2014. We are all extremely privileged to have with us, for the third year running, our President, to launch and grace the pinnacle event in our biodiversity calendar. Sir, we are very privileged and honoured by your presence today.

Festival of Biodiversity – A Collaboration with the Community

2. Since 2012, the National Parks Board (NParks) has been collaborating with the Biodiversity Roundtable - a partnership of nature groups and the National University of Singapore (NUS) - to hold this annual Festival. The Festival of Biodiversity is a celebration of the community’s efforts to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage. This year, almost 40 partners, including non-government organisations (NGOs), interest groups, schools, organisations and individuals, are involved in the Festival. Some of these partners have been supporting the Festival since its inception in 2012. Today, we also have students from 9 schools with us, running our children’s workshops and participating in the exhibitions. I am delighted and very proud of the time and effort put in by all of you to spread the conservation message among Singaporeans. This is a true measure of how much our natural heritage on our island city matters to you.

Biodiversity Conservation – A Constant and Conscious Choice

3. As a small country, we are always innovating to make the most of our limited land resources. Even as we intensify our urban land use, we will set aside 9% of our land for our nature reserves and parks by 2030. This is a conscious choice – one which is never easy, especially when you consider the competing uses for housing, industry, defence and transport infrastructure. We consciously do so for the benefit of all Singaporeans, because a connection to nature is a must-have, not a good-to-have.

4. In fact, Singapore has done more to conserve our natural heritage than a nation our size might be expected to do. We have a land area of slightly over 700 square kilometres. Yet on our small island, more than 10 types of ecosystems can be found. The Chek Jawa wetlands in Pulau Ubin alone has 6 different habitats. On this little red dot, we have primary and secondary forests, rivers, mangrove forests, inter-tidal mudflats and coral reefs, teeming with wildlife and thousands of different plant and animal species.

5. We have protected more than 3,300 ha (or 33 square kilometres) of our land in four nature reserves which represent our key indigenous ecosystems, like the primary lowland forest in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the freshwater swamp forest in Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the mangrove forests in Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, and the coastal hill forest in Labrador Nature Reserve. We have also designated 20 nature areas with significant biodiversity that will be retained for as long as possible. These places are full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered – whether it is the sight of a spiderweb gleaming like a necklace, the smell of the fruits, flowers and damp forest soil, the sound of the crickets singing in the leaves, or the sighting of a species (such as the Straw-headed Bulbul) that is globally vulnerable and nationally endangered. Nature can awake that sense of wonder which makes the world such a marvellous place.

Community Involvement in Biodiversity Conservation

6. Besides retaining our nature reserves and nature areas, we are actively conserving and rejuvenating their flora and fauna. NParks has been replanting our forests, restoring our habitats and recovering native species such as various birds and dragonflies. Many of you in the community have been volunteering your efforts in this area, and working alongside NParks. Collectively as a society, we are contributing to the protection of our shared natural heritage.

7. More and more, the Government is involving the community to protect our biodiversity, because it belongs to all of us. One recent example is what we’re doing for Pulau Ubin. Over the years, NParks has been working with the community to preserve the thriving biodiversity on Ubin, and sensitively provide access so that the public can learn more about the richness of our biodiversity while enjoying the island. Earlier this year, I shared that we would be consulting widely on how we can further enhance its rustic charm and natural beauty. Just One-and-a-half months ago, we launched a microsite to allow everyone to submit ideas on what they would like Ubin to be. We have received good feedback, so keep the ideas coming. There is an exhibition here on The Ubin Project where you can also give ideas. I encourage all of you to pay a visit and tell us, among other things, how to enhance its natural environment and the overall visitor experience.

Sisters’ Islands Marine Park – Singapore’s First Marine Park

8. Thanks to the partnership between the Government, our nature interest groups and the community, more and more Singaporeans now know that we have a treasure trove hidden in our forests and terrestrial nature areas. Fewer, however, know that we are equally blessed in our seas, which are among some of the busiest waters in the world. For instance, we have more than 250 hard coral species in Singapore’s waters, which accounts for about a third of the world’s total. Most of these are located in waters off the Southern Islands, which are also home to colourful reef fish, giant clams, sponges and other marine organisms.

9. We have conserved significant natural habitats on land, and we will now do more, in a completely new area. We will conserve areas of rich biodiversity in our seas as well. Today, I have the pleasure of announcing that NParks will be establishing Singapore’s first marine park – the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. This new marine park will span about 40ha, around Sisters’ Islands and along the western reefs of St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor.

10. What will we be doing to the waters around these islands? For almost a year, we have been asking our marine nature groups this important question. Together with representatives from WildSingapore, the ToddyCats, and Nature Society Singapore, we have come up with some ideas. Remembering that the charm of the Sisters’ Islands is in their undeveloped character, and that the marine environment is fragile, we think that our first marine park can serve three objectives, where the activities can be carefully managed and any new facility that is built is done so in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.

11. First, outreach and education. The best of nature is hidden, but we will make it easier for you to find and study them. NParks is working with the marine nature groups on guided intertidal walks and dive trips where you can be awed by the variety of coral, fish and other marine life in our waters. For a start, we will be organising guided walks at Big Sister’s Island starting from next month.

12. NParks will put in place basic facilities for outreach and education activities on St. John’s Island, such as educational storyboards and classrooms where we can conduct workshops, talks and camps. The marine park should be an opportunity to teach our young the wonder of biodiversity, and give them a sense of curiosity and discovery. The park will not just be an outdoor classroom, but an underwater one as well.

13. Second, the marine park can help our conservation efforts. Maritime activities within the marine park will have to be properly managed so that it can continue to be a marine life sanctuary. It will be a place where rare and locally-endangered marine species can be carefully cultivated and restored.We will establish nurseries to conserve marine organisms such as giant clams and corals, and reintroduce them into Singapore’s waters.

14. Third, the marine park will be used for research. With our diversity of marine wildlife, the marine park has so much potential for us to learn about our tropical marine ecosystems. The research findings can contribute to NParks’ understanding on how to conserve such marine environments, and play a small part in the preservation of fragile marine ecosystems elsewhere.

Conclusion

15. In closing, I would like to thank each and every one of you, our community partners, who have contributed your time, effort and ideas at today’s Festival and the design of the new Sisters’ lsland Marine Park. You have played your part to protect our natural heritage, both on land and in the sea, and to generate Singaporeans’ interest in our natural endowment. With the new Sisters’ Island Marine Park, I hope that even more Singaporeans of all ages will enjoy and value our natural richness. I look forward to seeing even more of you at next year’s Festival of Biodiversity.

Thank you.

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