Monday 29 June 2015

Joyful June at the Sisters Islands Marine Park, with a tinge of sadness

It has been a busy joyful June! New dive trails at the Sisters Islands Marine Park were announced at the Festival of Biodiversity last weekend!
Photo by Ria Tan
Lots of happy families visited during the June school holidays for the public walks at the Park. Alas, this is tinged with sadness. We are heartbroken that the Giant clam on the public walk trail has died.

Volunteers once again stepped up to help raise awareness of the Marine Park and the new dive trail. Kwan Siong and Collin of NParks brief the volunteers about this exciting new initiative so they can share the good news.
Photo by Ria Tan.
 Volunteers from the Hantu Bloggers also turned up to help share about the new trail
Photo by Adriane Lee.
More about the Dive Trail from the NParks press release (also on wildsingapore news):
"To encourage a deeper appreciation for Singapore’s marine biodiversity, NParks will be opening Singapore’s first dive trail located at Pulau Subar Laut or the Big Sister’s Island, Sisters’ Islands Marine Park in the third quarter of 2015.
Graphic from Straits Times
"The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Pilot Dive Trail will be marked with underwater signboards that will serve as both station markers and underwater educational resources. Divers will also be encouraged to contribute towards the upkeep of the dive trails, for example, by helping to sweep off accumulated algae on the station signboards using the attached cleaning brushes. 
NParks will be conducting pilot dives with a selected group of leisure divers with varying levels of experience to assess the suitability and functionality of the dive trail and to implement activities that will provide the best dive experience. 
Dive windows and regulations
NParks will work with dive operators to facilitate guided dive trips at the Pilot Dive Trails that they can offer to their diving customers. NParks will regulate the diving activities based on suitable dive windows and will maintain a cap on the number of divers allowed during each window to ensure minimal damage to the reefs and avoid overcrowding at the trails. Dive windows will be limited to periods when currents are suitable for diving, which will be determined using hydrodynamic predictions for the site. It is estimated that there will be several days with suitable dive windows in any given month. 
To ensure dive safety while safeguarding the reef habitat, only dive operators that meet all necessary criteria and who agree to adhere to regulations will be approved to conduct the guided dives. Regulations that include prohibitions on the removal or collection of any living or non-living components of the reef will be imposed to safeguard the reef habitat and biodiversity within the Marine Park. The cost of the dive trips will be set independently by operators, and may differ based on the types of packages and the services they offer. 
Visitor information
The pilot dive trail will be ready for public access by end September 2015. Interested members of the public can sign up for the dive trails by contacting the list of approved operators, which will be finalised and announced on the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park website."

Here's MORE photos of the happenings at the Festival of Biodiversity 2015 thanks to Adriane Lee.

There were also public walks at the Marine Park in June! With lots of happy families. Visitors keep to the high ground of mostly bare sand, where there are still interesting marine life to be seen. With the help of experienced and trained guides, you will get to see them.
Photo by Adriane Lee.

Among the interesting finds during the walks, this banded mantis shrimp! These secretive creatures are rarely spotted. Photo thanks to Jason Poon.
A White-spotted orange hermit crab! This colourful creature is usually only found near corals.
Photo by Adriane Lee.
'Nemo' or the Clown anemonefish is never far from the large sea anemone where it finds safety and shelter among the stinging tentacles that will kill other fishes.
Photo by Adriane Lee.
You will see more and do less damage to the shore if you go with an experienced guide. Here's more about why you should go on a guided walk instead of visiting on your own. MORE about the walk on 20 June thanks to Adriane Lee.
MORE about the walk on 21 Jun thanks to Adriane Lee.
MORE photos of the guided walk thanks to Richard Kuah.
Sadly, the Giant clam that is the highlight of the public walk was found dead this month by Dr Neo Mei Lin, our Giant clam expert.
Photo by Neo Mei Lin.
This is the second Giant clam to die at the Park. In April, the wild Giant clam nearer the seawall which is in deeper water was found dead.
Photo by Richard Kuah Boon Tiong on facebook.
Dr Neo Mei Lin did a blog post to explain what might have caused its death. These include: reduced visibility in the water (these clams need sunlight to make food), sedimentation, disease as well as stresses such as high water temperature.
In fact, high water temperatures are predicted in 2015, which results in coral bleaching that can kill corals and animals like the Giant clam. Dr Karenne Tun has started coral bleaching monitoring in Singapore, read more about it in this facebook post. More about coral bleaching and why it matters on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog.

In fact, some pale corals were seen during the June walks, photos thanks to Richard Kuah.
Visitors during the walk look sadly upon the remains of the dead Giant Clam in June.
Photo by Richard Kuah.
Vincent Choo did a great tribute to this Giant Clam. RIP. I can't seem to share the video on this blog. Please visit the Sisters Islands Marine Park facebook page to view it.
The Marine Park is a great place to learn about Singapore's amazing marine life. As well as the many threats they face. As usual, thanks to all the volunteer guides and NParks officers for making the public walks possible.
Photo by Richard Kuah.
Catch up with all the happenings at the Marine Park through the Sisters' Islands Marine Park facebook page. You can share your encounters, ideas and thoughts for the Marine Park here.
Share your finds on the facebook group called 'Things found in Sisters Islands'.
More about guided walks at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park on the NParks website.

More about what to expect at a guided walk.

Why should I visit with an experienced and trained guide? Why are places limited on a public walk? Which other shores are accessible to the public? and more in this wildsingapore page.

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