Working Together to Save Our Seas

Date May 22, 2021

Marine groups and enthusiasts were very encouraged by the swift and committed response from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to retrieve the abandoned fishing net that was reported by boaters last week. This was a wonderful example of what we achieve when private, government and independent stakeholders are willing to work together and share information.

This response was forthcoming, but is not a solution to preventative and enforcement measures that are desperately needed to enhance management of catch quantity and size, equipment used by recreational fishing in Singapore. Management is essential to keep fish available for all of us over long term.

Sam Shu Qin, founder of Our Singapore Seas, photographed this massive coral colony in Singapore, ensnared by an abandoned fishing net.

Singapore Salvage Engineers together with MPA Singapore, and community volunteers, including Our Singapore Reefs, finally managed to remove the 100 m gill net from seabed off Pulau Hantu. The massive net required six men supported by a winch to haul it from the seabed off Pulau Hantu and onto the marine barge. Mostly marine sponges ensnared.

The excellent team patiently and delicately disentangled what they could from the net and returned most of the caught marine life back to sea.

The net was first reported on Apr 23, almost a month ago. In that time, the net trapped and drowned an endangered hawksbill turtle (below). It’s possible that more marine life was caught before the net was finally removed, but could have already decomposed or been consumed by other small organisms like crabs.

Video courtesy: Roy Kairos, 2021

As the saying goes, it’s easier to kick a door down than to build it. Nets like these are cheap, easy to deploy and lose, but the external costs that are borne by our community, and wildlife are high. The 100m net required heavy equipment to assist in its removal.

This is the second time that community groups have collaborated with the team at MPA Singapore to remove marine debris from our seas. In 2013, Hantu Blog volunteers identified massive amounts of construction debris that had been illegally discarded onto the reefs at Pulau Hantu. Hantu Blog volunteers assisted MPA’s contractors for the salvage operation, and supported MPA with their investigation to identify the company that was responsible for the debris found on the reef. News of the effort was covered by Challenge, a publication of the Singapore Public Service.

Gratitude to Sam Shu Qin from Our Singapore Reefs for her photos and videos, and for connecting community stakeholders with MPA’s CSR team.

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