Saturday, May 29, 2010

Murder of our marine life at Pulau Semakau

It was a depressing end to a Pulau Semakau trip that I had looked forward to. Witnessing the aftermath of a murder of our marine life was not what I intended to experience.

Not sure if this group was the culprit, but they appeared to be fishing with rods in their hands, in the vicinity of the island....

This huge drift net was the tool used for the act, and I bet these murderers didnt care that possesion of nets as a fishing gear is illegal in Singapore under the Fisheries Act.

A key criticism of the use of drift nets was its consequence of unsustainable fishing. In addition, this technique also caused excessive necessary harm to unintended targets such as marine mammals.

This morning, intentional or unintentional, the driftnet placed by the irresponsible caused the precious lives of 3 Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus).

Ironically, I had always wanted to sight these sharks previously. On many occasions, I had failed to see them despite my friends' attempts to point out the predators of the ecosystem swimming in the Phase 2 landfill cells. Today, my wish was granted in a brutal way.

This first shark that was caught in the net was about 1.5m long, had fairly fresh wounds on its body and probably died not too long ago.

The 2 other dead sharks were of smaller sizes, probably 0.5m - 0.7m long. I imagine them to be a family swimming together, unaware of the lurking danger. Perhaps they swam too quickly, failed to notice the net and ended up entangled.

It was really painful to examine the scars on the carcass caused by the driftnet.  

With the help of many, the drift net was cut and dispose of to prevent future repeated use. Regardless, this is a short term solution that will not stop history from repeating itself again. We destroy one, the irresponsible replenishes with a new one, and the crime begins again.

10 out of 10 of my friends were sure that sharks do not exist in our waters. If such irresponsible and unregulated fishing continues, this myth will become a reality. It is amazing that there is a lack of ownership of the issue, probably because this falls into a supposed grey area that doesnt come under anyone's purview.

While I often speak about the purpose of Project Semakau to many, this morning was a stark reminder of how real the urgency and importance of the project is.

The longer the status of our precious shore at Pulau Semakau remains status quo and not elevated to that of a marine park, the higher the risk we run of losing our rich biodiversity. This loss, is a nightmare I wish none of us will have to witness.