Saturday, May 29, 2010

Blacktip Reef Sharks Trapped in Drift Net at Semakau

This morning, we conducted another Project Semakau survey and I spotted a drift net. A little worried that some animals might have been trapped by the net, I decided to walk along the net towards the landward side to check. The scene I saw later was simply shocking and depressing.

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
There was a Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) trapped in the net! Unfortunately, it was already dead.

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
I looked around, and saw another one further ahead - also dead.

Queenfish (Family Carangidae)
I quickly head towards the seaward side to check in case there were more of them. There was a trapped Queenfish (Family Carangidae), and sadly, dead as well.

Queenfish (Family Carangidae)
But still, I decided to cut the net and release it into the sea. As least the nutrients will be returned back to the ocean...

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
Towards the seaward end of the net, I found a third dead Blacktip Reef Shark trapped in the net, and decided to release it as well.

Batfish (Family Ephippidae)
Along the way, I also found what looked like a Batfish (Family Ephippidae). This one was still alive, though it was very weak.

Batfish (Family Ephippidae)
When I released it, it was still able to swim around. Hopefully it would survived.

With Luan Keng and later Marcus Chua's help, we managed to roll the entire drift net back to the upper shore. At the end of the survey, the other volunteers helped to carry the net up to the main road. Robert, who had a pair of scissors with him, cut up the net to prevent anyone from using it again. It was a really huge net though. We eventually managed to get the NEA staff, James, and the friendly driver, Jack, to help dispose off the net.

Drift net
While we were trying to destroy the net, we saw a boat stopping in the nearby shallow waters. Some of the people appear to be fishing. Not sure if these were the same people who set up the drift net, though I think those with the smaller boats were probably the culprits. We had met them before, and they appeared to be foreign workers living on the nearby petrochemical islands. I doubt these people were aware that possession of fishing nets were illegal in Singapore, unless they were given special license by AVA. But unfortunately, this regulation was not really enforced, and we had been seeing drift nets on almost every shore of Singapore.

This is also part of the reason why we are working so hard under Project Semakau, hoping to eventually propose to the government to better protect the island.

Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

And here's one last look at 2 of the sharks... It's really sad that while most Singaporeans do not even know that these top predators of the marine ecosystem exist in our waters, poachers and illegal fishermen are happily removing them...

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