Just another day in a marine park

By Serina Rahman

It was a cool Saturday evening and the sky glowed a warm purple-orange as the sun began to set over the glassy horizon. We were on Pasir Panjang beach taking in the tangy scent of saltwater and the infinite beauty of our bountiful seas…

When suddenly – (sound of cars screeching/ glass shattering… mental panning of idyllic beach clatters to a stop) – we bumped into Irene and See (two of our most favourite Project Aware participants) livid from an encounter with our least favourite type of Marine Park visitor.

They had come across a pair of ardent underwater photographers – except that their method of taking photos was to catch the marine life in a plastic bag, bring it up to shore and their resort and pose with it. After trying unsuccessfully to explain to these tourists that the clownfish they’d caught was suffering and should be returned to where it came from, Irene had to resort to warning them that what they were doing was illegal and that she would report them.

It was then that she and See ran into us and our ever-ready Marine Group coordinator and Head of Parks marched down to the perpetrators to catch them red-handed and give them a good telling off. Our hearts and mouths fell when we arrived and saw them tossing a full plastic bag about like a beach ball – but thankfully there were no longer any clownfish in it. The fish had been returned to its anemone (they said) – no harm done (they tried to have us believe) – but they were given an appropriate lecture anyway. We can only hope that it registered.

Just another day in the Marine Park …

* While the above contribution was written tongue-in-cheek, every word of it is true. Sadly, on the same trip Irene also came across another pair of visitors trying to trap a damselfish with their towel and together we tried to remove damaged, abandoned nets smothering and hanging off coral, fresh mooring ropes (tied around coral) and fresh rubbish, plastic bags and food packaging both underwater and floating on the surface. Unfortunately, all of the above are not isolated incidents and much more needs to be done to educate a rather ignorant (and indifferent) public on what can and cannot be done in a Marine Park .