Ecological Research Being Conducted

Date April 8, 2008

The Hantu Blog yesterday received an email from ERM, an environmental consulting agency, requesting the following information:

  1. average number of divers that go to the island week
  2. which of the areas are the most popular for diving
  3. average number of boats that visit the island weekly (plus number of people per boat)

Apart from explaining that their “company is conducting an ecological study for the Pulau Hantu area” they were unable and have refused to divulge further information about the purpose of the study and for whom this study is being conducted.

This was the Hantu Blog’s reply:

I understand your predicament and and sympathise with you being unable to divulge more information as much as I am unable to receive the info I want.

I can’t think of another group to refer to you as no one visits Pulau Hantu more regularly and frequently than us.

While I am unable to give you information on your questions (1) & (3) because we haven’t done such a traffic survey of the island, I’m also certain that those figures can be easily gained by monitoring the island over the next few months as these are the months of average visitorship. Visitors to the island increase during the season of the Northeast Monsoon.

As for question (2) however, the site near the former Bayan reefs, fringing the north of Hantu Kecil are definately the most preferred site for divers. We call this the North reef. This is not because of the slack current, which varies with the tide. There are times when diving at the North reef are not recommended. This goes for all the reefs that surround Hantu Island. We dive them according to the suitable tide. The North reef is possibly the most biologically diverse site, sheltering some of Hantu’s most sought after, rare and spactacular species up to a depth of 20m. You can view some of these species on our website. We refrain from mentioning the exact positions where the photographed specimens are shot to deter poachers. In addition, otters have only ever been sighted fishing the the North reef.

Another site with intense diversity is the South reef (the reef that faces south) on Hantu Besar. That site is less accessible because of prevailing strong currents but it is still dived as often as possible whenever there is a slack tide. There are some species here that aren’t found on the North reef (as there are some species in the North we don’t find in the South), and because the currents flush the area consistently the corals develop very differently from any other sites around Hantu.

Finally the reef that faces west, the Western Fringing Reef and the Western Patch Reef house their own unique fauna. A certain species of anemonefish and seaslug is found no where else. Turtles and sea snakes have also been observed to feed frequently in the area.

If you need more specific information about the species in the various areas and how tides affect diveability in the various areas, I’d be more than happy to meet with you, either on Hantu island or at your convenience. It’d be very reassuring to know that your company, which I understand to be one of the world’s most renowned, does compelling field research along with gathering data vicariously.

If your company would like a presentation of Hantu’s marine or terrestrial fauna, I’d also be happy to oblige. As much as it would be ideal for companies to value information exchange, I understand that you are a consultancy with terms not governed by you but your client. The Hantu Blog practices very much on the contrary, believing that withholding information only leads to ignorance, which is why I’m offering you this opportunity to gather as much information as you’d like on Hantu Island. It’s our job.

I’m concerned about why this information is being sought after and am particularly wary because of the manner in which the information was requested and how further details have been declined.

Together with other local NGOs, the Hantu Blog will be looking into the matter and will contact relative companies and organisations that should or might have details about the research and its purpose. I’d also encourage Pulau Hantu enthusiasts to keep themselves alert to the matter and check the local newspapers for possible developments.

To reiterate the email to ERM, the Hantu Blog exists to gather and distribute information about the island. We believe that information can empower people to make (hopefully) positive changes to safeguard our natural heritage. But there is nothing more effective and powerful than the efforts of a collective people – you. If you are concerned about Hantu, make your concerns known. Email us or contact one of the following organisations, expressing your concerns and asking for details of the study to be released.

2 Responses to “Ecological Research Being Conducted”

  1. ria tan said:

    Just to share with you, I received exactly the same email from Anna.

    I called Anna to ask her what the info was for.

    She said it was for an “ecological study of the impact of effluents on divers” that ERM had been engaged to do.

    When I asked, she would not say anything more about the project. I asked about ERM and she said it is an environmental consultancy (the biggest in Singapore she said).

    I asked and she would not say what the effluents were or who engaged them to do the study or why there was a study at this time.

    She said she only needed to confirm whether 200 divers go to Hantu every week.

    I’m glad you engaged her, Debby.

    And it’s good to suggest that those who care about Pulau Hantu ask for more information about this study (and the cause of the study) from the authorities.

  2. David Trimble said:

    As a regular diver around Pulau Hantu I agree with your concerns regarding the lack of information concerning the reason for the research.

    I’ve dived a number of times with Hantu Bloggers and I have also dived Pulau Hantu with other dive operators. In addition I am in the process of organizing regular weekend dives with my local dive club.

    Each time I dive Pulau Hantu I always find something new of interest, as well as the “standard” favourites such as various nudibranches and of course my particular number one, sea horses.

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