[Repost from Psychedelic Nature – my other nature blog]

Together with the Council of Elders and the team of lead editors, 2M Desmond Lee launched the Singapore Blue Plan 2018. Photo by Tan Heok Hui.

(13 October 2018) Just about 2 months ago, the blue community, comprising the interest groups, stakeholders, marine scientists, environmental lawyers, and others, came together to launch the 2018 Singapore Blue Plan – the third iteration of its kind. The first and second Singapore Blue Plans were published in 2001 and 2009.

This particular edition of SBP2018 is unique in a number of ways:

  • A ground-up initiative led by a group of passionate marine biologists with the broad inclusion of other marine scientists, stakeholders, environmental lawyers, and members of the public
  • More than 100 people contributed to this document
  • SBP2018 is the most comprehensive document to date, describing the current status quo of Singapore’s marine environment, showcasing the biodiversity within these ecosystems, providing an overview of legislations, and finally, putting up recommendations to protect our marine environment

The early beginnings of marine conservation efforts in Singapore. Spot Prof Chou Loke Ming here! Photo by Tan Heok Hui.

Why does Singapore need a Blue Plan? (i.e. Why you should care!)

Singapore is a maritime nation, surrounded by coastal waters in all four directions. Our nation’s progress depended heavily on the utilisation of these waterways for supporting high-volume shipping of goods and services, as well as providing infrastructure for oil refineries.

Let us not forget that we also share these waterways with a myriad of marine wildlife that call Singapore their home, such as the charismatic dolphinssea turtles, dugongs, sharks, and rays! Despite being a small country, our marine scientists found over 100 new marine species in the five-year long Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Surveys. More spectacularly, the amazing Neptune Cup Sponge was rediscovered in Singapore in 2011 – not just 1, but at least 5 individuals have been located!

Neptune Cup Sponge with local sponge expert, Mr Lim Swee Cheng. Photo by DHI Water & Environment.

Given the intensive usage of our coastal waters for commercial (and military) purposes, the growing blue community hopes to inform our Government on why it matters to develop the marine environment in a sustainable manner that preserves our natural heritage and marine wildlife, while encouraging national development. The Blue Plans represent the vision of the community in Singapore that are presented to the Government. Every version differs as it is tailored to the current and expected usage of our marine environment.

So why (and how) should YOU care? I want to share a personal story. As a young environmentalist growing up in Singapore, I constantly questioned and asked what our Government can do for the environment, and why are they (and developers) removing tracts of forests and reefs to build more infrastructure? My turning point came when I attended the East Asian Seas Congress in 2009 as a young delegate representing my country, and that experience has since changed my world’s view-point entirely.

Together with my fellow Singaporean delegates, we attended the East Asian Seas Congress Youth Forum 2009 in the Philippines.

In a way, I began to take things into my own hands! 😀 I decided to empower myself by using my words and voice and knowledge to share why marine conservation matters to you and me. And you know what? People began to listen to me – hahaha! This journey isn’t that straight-forward as it took me nearly 10 years later to be taken more seriously. And I want you to know that there will ALWAYS be nay-sayers, but I chose to focus my energy on others who give me that chance.

What does the SBP2018 envision for Singapore’s marine environment in the next decade?

The report presents a multi-prong approach to tackling the management of marine areas in Singapore through SIX recommendations. These recommendations will focus on the active protection of remaining areas, support ongoing scientific studies that can inform management decisions, implement sound environmental policies based on previous data, and finally, encourage education and public outreach.

Adapting from Dr Zeehan Jaafar’s interview with Asian Scientist, here are the six recommendations in brief:

  1. To establish formal management systems for marine environments with legal provisions (such as Environmental Impact Assessments, EIAs), and allow for public participation to promote greater transparency and accountability in environmental governance.
  2. To support and provide sustained funds for research initiatives and long-term monitoring programmes.
  3. To enhance national and international legislation in protecting marine biodiversity and environment.
  4. To improve intra- and inter-agency coordination of a public marine database through a lead agency, supported by scientists and senior government managers, with a broad overview on the management and use of natural marine areas and biodiversity.
  5. To protect the remaining natural marine habitats from unnecessary biodiversity loss.
  6. To include and incorporate topics on natural environment and native biodiversity into school syllabus and promote science communication.

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What can an ordinary person do for the SBP2018?

Here are some ways to Support, Act, and Get involved!

Further reading: