No significant wildlife casualties in areas hit by oil spill on St John’s, Lazarus islands

SINGAPORE - No significant wildlife casualties were observed in the oil-slicked areas of St John’s and Lazarus islands on June 16, but conservationists say they are on alert for longer-term ramifications for nature as it could take time for the impacts of oil spills to manifest.

The situation on both islands – connected to each other by a bridge – was much improved from the day before as clean-up efforts progressed, although oil slicks could still be seen in certain lagoons and bays.

A strong smell of oil still lingered in certain parts of both islands, and there were barnacles and snails coated in oil.

But no dead fish or oil-drenched creatures were spotted by volunteers and marine scientists who took part in a biodiversity survey coordinated by the National Parks Board (NParks). Some participants even observed fiddler crabs and a black-tipped reef shark in the waters off St John’s Island.

Dr Karenne Tun, director of NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, told The Straits Times: “Floating oil patches were still sighted on the seawalls of Lazarus Island.

“No significant impact to marine biodiversity had been observed, though oil was observed on the roots of some mangrove plants in the area.”

Mr Kua Kay Yaw, one of the volunteers who took part in the June 16 survey, said: “It is a good sign that we did not see any wildlife in distress today, but we will have to monitor the situation. It could take a while before we see the true impacts from the oil spill.”

For example, oil slicks at Bendera Bay – an enclosed lagoon on St John’s Island where seagrass beds and coral tables for marine research are located – could affect the life there, said Mr Kua, who is from the Nature Society (Singapore)’s marine conservation group.

He added: “From what I saw, I’m still rather optimistic that the impact is not that bad. But we will need further investigations and surveys after the oil slick is cleaned up to determine the actual impact.”

Embed Facebook

Facebook

This morning, some volunteers from the Friends of the Marine Park joined my colleagues to do a survey of the Southern...

Posted by Desmond Lee on Saturday, June 15, 2024

St John’s and Lazarus islands, located about a 40-minute boat ride from Marina South Pier, are part of Singapore’s southern island chain. They were among the locations worst hit by the oil spill, which was caused when the Netherlands-flagged dredging boat Vox Maxima hit the Singapore-flagged bunker vessel Marine Honour, which was stationary, at about 2.20pm on June 14.

The damaged cargo tank on Marine Honour – which was next to a container vessel berthed at Pasir Panjang Terminal – leaked oil into the sea.

By the morning of June 15, the thick oily sludge had made its way to St John’s Island and sparked concerns among marine conservationists and scientists about its impact on marine life in the area.

NParks coordinated the biodiversity survey on June 16 to document the extent of the oil spill, and to keep an eye on whether any wildlife was in need of rescue. About 20 experienced volunteers, including marine scientists and conservationists, fanned out across St John’s and Lazarus islands for about four hours in the afternoon.

Singapore’s southern waters are a hot spot for marine biodiversity. Most of the nation’s coral reefs are found in the area, which is also where animals like dolphins and sea turtles can be spotted.

no significant wildlife casualties in areas hit by oil spill on st john’s, lazarus islands

A lagoon with oil slick on Lazarus Island. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

Mr Stephen Beng, chair of the Friends of Marine Park community – a voluntary network that includes marine scientists, boaters and ocean-dependent business owners – said the oil spill happened right at the start of the nesting season for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

These marine reptiles nest on sandy seashores, and it is still unclear what impact the toxic oil could have on their eggs.

Turtles also need to come to the surface of the water to breathe, and could potentially ingest the oil in the process, Mr Beng noted. Coincidentally, World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide on June 16.

NParks’ Dr Tun said the board’s marine turtle conservation programme includes carrying out research, monitoring and conservation efforts together with the community, such as with researchers, Friends of Marine Park, and through a biodiversity beach patrol where the community helps report sightings of sea turtles along Singapore’s shores.

“Furthermore, monitoring of turtle sightings, nests and hatchlings is carried out regularly,” she said.

Dr Tun added that the biodiversity beach patrol scheduled for the morning of June 16 was cancelled due to the closure of the beachfront at East Coast Park areas B to H for oil spill clean-up works.

“The patrols will resume once the areas are reopened,” she added.

Remote video URL

[video_shortcode_youtube src="/media/oembed?url=https%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DiYLoE1q_TR0%26rel%3D0&max_width=0&max_height=0&hash=RD56N3yTD1vKYqidFSLtujn20Ooy_yiqJ57w453BGzQ" itemprop="image" content="/media/oembed?url=https%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DiYLoE1q_TR0%26rel%3D0&max_width=0&max_height=0&hash=RD56N3yTD1vKYqidFSLtujn20Ooy_yiqJ57w453BGzQ" data-src="/media/oembed?url=https%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DiYLoE1q_TR0%26rel%3D0&max_width=0&max_height=0&hash=RD56N3yTD1vKYqidFSLtujn20Ooy_yiqJ57w453BGzQ"]

The spill comes about a month after Singapore announced plans to designate its second marine park – which will comprise the southern part of Lazarus Island and the reef off Kusu Island – in its southern waters.

Parts of the first marine park – the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park – were also affected by the spill, with rocky shores at St John’s Island’s western end coated in oil.

Dr Jani Tanzil, facility director of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, was relieved to find that the seawater supply to the marine lab on the island was not affected by the oil spill.

“Our researchers are monitoring how badly their study sites on the island are affected by the oil spill,” she said.

Dr Tanzil and researchers from the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University also collected samples of water and nerite snails – algae-eating creatures commonly seen on mangroves and rocky shores – to assess the impact of the oil spill on the marine environment.

no significant wildlife casualties in areas hit by oil spill on st john’s, lazarus islands

Oiled-up nerite snails collected by marine scientists from St John’s Island on June 16. PHOTO: JANI TANZIL

A coral reef scientist, Dr Tanzil said the surveys showed that the sub-tidal corals – referring to corals which are always submerged underwater and not exposed to air at low tide – would likely not be too badly affected by the oil spill since oil floats on water.

However, these corals are still suffering from a bleaching event caused by higher-than-usual sea surface temperatures, she said.

Mr Beng said the oil spill adds to the human-caused stress factors confronting marine life in Singapore.

“They’re facing a triple whammy of rising sea surface temperatures caused by climate change, pressure from human activities such as overfishing, and now one of the most environmentally damaging forms of pollution that can cause long-term side effects to our local ecosystems.”

Protecting the ocean is not just about protecting marine biodiversity, although it is important, said Mr Beng.

no significant wildlife casualties in areas hit by oil spill on st john’s, lazarus islands

Bleached corals under an oily sheen seen from Lazarus Island. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

The oil spill’s impact on businesses such as boat charterers and anglers, as well as members of the public out to enjoy the sun, sand and sea, shows the importance of maintaining the health of the ocean, he added.

“As long as people rely on the ocean in some form or another, the health of the ocean would have an impact on them.”

That the community could rally so quickly in times of crisis, working with NParks to document the impacts of the oil spill on the marine environment, was testament to the trust and relationship built up over the years since Friends of Marine Park was set up in 2017, Mr Beng said.

“We all see the value in protecting what ocean resources remain, and leveraging good relationships helps us respond better,” he said.

Ms Keterina Chong, a volunteer from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore who was part of the NParks survey, said it was fulfilling to be able to help out with it.

“Being physically on-site to witness the impact of the oil spill is a good experience. While we didn’t see any fauna in distress as a result of the oil spill, it was sad to see coral bleaching. The mangrove patch near the St John’s Island jetty also had oil stuck to its roots, which makes me wonder how it will impact the trees.”

OTHER NEWS

56 minutes ago

Gutsy wins put sevens men in box seat as Games begin

56 minutes ago

Eye-watering cost of EV transition

56 minutes ago

Munster all clear for Storm return as Eels lie in wait

56 minutes ago

Tesla's best bet for growth has nothing to do with cars or AI

56 minutes ago

Competition Bureau investigating retail gasoline consultancy Kalibrate

56 minutes ago

Elon Musk says Trump ending EV tax credits would be 'devastating' for rivals — but not Tesla

56 minutes ago

Amazon Revamps Prime Video: New Look, AI Smarts & More

56 minutes ago

Mercury may have 10-mile thick layer of diamonds beneath its surface, NASA craft discovers

56 minutes ago

Joe Biden tacitly admits he dropped out because his party just didn’t want him anymore

56 minutes ago

‘RHONJ’s Teresa Giudice Makes Call To “Stop Engaging” With “Hate & Toxicity” On Social Media; Melissa Gorga & Rachel Fuda Share Shady Posts

1 hour ago

Chicago Sky co-owner on the WNBA’s success, Angel Reese – and hotel minibars

1 hour ago

Kering posts 11% drop in Q2 sales, sees weak second half

1 hour ago

Alberta wildfires: Crews working to save Jasper from 2 blazes

1 hour ago

Watchdog finds no improper influence in sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone

1 hour ago

Ford shares fall sharply after-hours as EV division posts $1.14 billion loss

1 hour ago

Delta CEO Addresses Mass Cancelations in Memo Before Flying to Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics

1 hour ago

Angel Reese Becomes Latest WNBA Star to Join New 3-on-3 Basketball League: 'The Barbie Is Unrivaled'

1 hour ago

Britain’s Crown Estate post record profits on offshore wind licenses

1 hour ago

Bulldogs confirm interest in wrecking ball

1 hour ago

Southwest Airlines deals with exploding soda cans caused by intense summer heat

1 hour ago

Canada imposes cap on residential school searches

1 hour ago

From Landa and Carapaz to Almeida and Yates: These men will light up the Vuelta and ensure an exciting, open battle

1 hour ago

Blue Line's Bill Baruch: I believe in Tesla

1 hour ago

Kevin Hart Has Tom Brady Roast Regrets, Vows To Do Things Different In Future Prep

1 hour ago

Suspect in custody after hours-long standoff in Schaumburg following shooting stemming from noise dispute

1 hour ago

Singapore PE manager Seraya adds $969m offshore wind company to its renewables platform

1 hour ago

US spot Ether ETFs make strong market debut in another win for crypto industry

1 hour ago

NSW Police called to Lawrence after truck enters Clarence River

1 hour ago

AQWA: Police probe as video shows people fishing out of Hillarys aquarium

1 hour ago

‘He deserves some respect’: Trent Barrett locks in Clint Gutherson at fullback over Blaize Talagi for rest of the year

1 hour ago

Global tech slump knocks Asia shares

1 hour ago

Suns owner Mat Ishbia wants to bring NHL back to Phoenix

1 hour ago

Gina Carano Beats Disney’s Move To Kill ‘Mandalorian’ Firing Suit; Now Trial Looms

1 hour ago

Colman Domingo Shares ‘Euphoria’ Season 3 Update & If He’ll Reprise His Role Of Ali

1 hour ago

Crown argues accused in Coutts murder-conspiracy trial prepared for war

1 hour ago

Store clerk stole $1M lottery ticket from unsuspecting winner, police say

1 hour ago

Letter: Please explain the draw to Donald Trump

1 hour ago

India budget highlights main issues but doesn't devote resources to them: Former central bank governor

1 hour ago

Top U.K. rider out of Olympics after horse-whipping video surfaces

1 hour ago

Braxton Kuntz makes Manitoba golf history with 4th straight amateur crown