Relocated Corals Thriving at New Sites

25 July 2015


Relocated Corals Thriving at New Sites
Volunteers lauded for their efforts in local coral conservation

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and volunteers from various environmental interest groups have completed the relocation of 2,300 hard coral colonies from Sultan Shoal, south west of Singapore, to three southern sites at St John's and Sisters' Islands to protect them from the impact of the Tuas Terminal development. It is estimated that there are about 2,800 hard coral colonies at Sultan Shoal[1].

In addition, about 92 percent, or 1,150 coral fragments[2], that have been reared in coral nurseries at Lazarus and Kusu Islands have survived and grown in size up to twice their original diameter. Of the 1,150 coral fragments, 420 have been transplanted and reattached to the substrate at the same location.

These encouraging findings were shared at an event today to appreciate the efforts of volunteers in local coral conservation. The event was graced by Mrs Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport. At the event, Mrs Teo also gave out prizes to winners of MPA's Conserving Our Corals T-shirt Design Competition held earlier in May 2015. The competition which attracted more than 130 entries was organised to raise awareness of MPA's coral conservation activities.

The coral conservation programme, which includes coral relocation and setting up of coral nurseries, is part of MPA's efforts to ensure sustainable development of the new Tuas Terminal. Chief Executive of MPA, Mr Andrew Tan, said, "The coral conservation programme is a good example of our commitment to develop our future port at Tuas in a sustainable manner without compromising on our environment. I thank our partners and volunteers from Blue Water Volunteers, Hantu Bloggers, Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore Boating Industry Association, Singapore Environment Council, Singapore Reef and Marine Conservation Committee and Wild Singapore for their active support in the coral conservation efforts. Their efforts will allow future generations to appreciate the diverse marine biodiversity in Singapore's waters."

Since September 2013, about 50 volunteers spent many of their weekends to help in the coral conservation programme. They participated in diving activities at Sultan Shoal to harvest the targeted coral colonies, attaching the relocated corals to the suitable solid substrates, setting up coral nurseries underwater, maintaining coral nurseries and transplanting corals from the nurseries to the substrate. The coral relocation programme was completed in August last year. MPA also worked with DHI Water & Environment (Singapore) Pte Ltd and the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) from the National University of Singapore to monitor the health of the relocated corals.

One of the volunteers, Mr Peter Connell from Nature Society (Singapore) said, "The programme has deepened my interest in marine environmental protection. It demonstrated that industrial development can go hand-in-hand with environmental conservation. It is not just one or the other."

Professor Chou Loke Ming from TMSI said, "Apart from the major relocation of entire coral colonies, the research opportunity with the coral fragments arising from the translocation of entire colonies is useful to help us investigate some scientific questions that will be useful for future translocation initiatives. The research so far showed that coral fragments can be an important source of material for restoring degraded reefs or create reefs in areas not previously known to have corals. The nursery phase is important to improve survival of transplants[3]. We will be publishing some of these findings in academic journals."

In an environmental impact assessment study commissioned by MPA in 2012, it was found that corals around Sultan Shoal could be affected by the development of Tuas Terminal. In the long term, MPA will consolidate all container port activities at Tuas. The Tuas Terminal will be able to handle up to 65 million TEUs per annum, offering sufficient capacity for Singapore to meet the longer term demands as a premier global hub port.

[1]Estimate is from a marine environmental impact assessment study commissioned by MPA and conducted by DHI Water and Environment (Singapore) Pte Ltd.
[2]A total of 1,251 coral fragments were reared in the coral nurseries.
[3]The study showed 99.5% survival after 7 to 8 months and the overall survival rate for the entire nursery-rearing effort was 92% after 1 year.

Annex A-About TMSI research
Annex B-Winning Designs of MPA's Conserving Our Corals T-shirt Design Competition

Mrs Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport with the grand prize winner of the Conserving Our Corals T-shirt Design Competition

Group photo with volunteers

Group photo with diver volunteers from the MPA TMSI Volunteer Programme

Taking a closer look at the corals from the coral nursery

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