Sundays June 6 and June 13, 2004 ■ CatholicNews


The seas are polluted, the garbage is piling up, there’s a
1. Oceans cover 70 per cent of the earth’s surface. 2. More than 90 per cent of the planet’s living biomass is found in the oceans. 3. Eighty per cent of all pollution in seas and oceans comes from land-based activities. 4. Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters cost the global economy US$12.8 billion (S$22 billion) a year. The annual economic impact of hepatitis from tainted seafood alone is US$7.2 billion. 5. Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year. 6. Sea creatures killed by plastic decompose, the plastic does not. Plastic remains in the ecosystem to kill again and again. 7. Harmful algal blooms, caused by an excess of nutrients – mainly nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers – have created nearly 150 coastal deoxygenated ‘dead zones’ worldwide, ranging from 1 to 70,000 square kilometers. 8. An estimated 21 million barrels of oil run into the oceans each year from “The World Environment Day theme selected for 2004 is Wanted! Seas and Oceans – Dead or Alive? The theme asks that we make a choice as to how we want to treat the earth’s seas and oceans. It also calls on each and every one of us to act. Do we want to keep seas and oceans healthy and alive or polluted and dead? “The marine environment is facing challenges that, if not addressed immediately and effectively, will have profound implications for sustainable development. Society can no longer view the world’s seas as a convenient dumping ground for our waste, or as an unlimited CNS photo source of plenty.”
– Kofi A. Annan, United Nations Secretary-General FILIPINOS scavenge the mountain of garbage called the Promised Land in Manila. CNS file photo

“It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excess goods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living in conditions of misery at the very lowest level of subsistence.”
– Pope John Paul II

street run-off, effluent from factories, and from ships flushing their tanks. 9. Pollution, exotic species and alteration of coastal habitats are a growing threat to important marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. 10. Studies show that protecting critical marine habitats – such as warm- and coldwater coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves – can dramatically increase fish size and quantity, benefiting both artisanal and commercial fisheries. 11. Reefs protect human populations along coastlines from wave

and storm damage by serving as buffers between oceans and near-shore communities. 12. The major causes of coral reef decline are coastal development, sedimentation, destructive fishing practices, pollution, tourism and global warming. 13. More than 70 per cent of the world’s marine fisheries are now fished up to or beyond their sustainable limit. 14. Populations of commercially attractive large fish, such as tuna, cod, swordfish and marlin, have declined by as much as 90 per cent in the past century. 15. Destructive fishing practices are killing

hundreds of thousands of marine species each year and helping to destroy important undersea habitats. 16. As many as 100 million sharks are killed each year for their meat and fins, which are used for shark fin soup. Hunters typically catch the sharks, de-fin them while alive and throw them back into the ocean where they either drown or bleed to death. 17. Shrimp farming, too, is highly destructive. It causes chemical and fertilizer pollution of water and has been largely responsible for the destruction of nearly a quarter of the world’s mangroves. ■ United
Nations Environment Programme

“While in some cases the damage already done may well be irreversible, in many other cases it can still be halted. It is necessary, however, that individuals, States and international bodies take seriously their responsibility. The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. Often, the interests of production prevail over concern for the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. Delicate ecological balances are upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources. All of this, even if carried out in the name of progress and well-being, is ultimately to mankind’s disadvantage.”
– Pope john Paul II

Sr Wendy Ooi, fsp interviews Mr. Leong Kwok Peng, Marine Conservation Group, Nature Society Singapore What is the state of the sea in Singapore? Leong Quite bad actually. There has been ongoing land reclamation for Tuas and Jurong Island as well as some reclamation at our southern islands like Lazarus, Seringat and St John. Pulau Tekong is also under reclamation. As a result of the reclamation and the

The state of Singapore waters
associated dredging work our waters are constantly silted up. Too much silt will reduce water visibility and cut off sunlight to coral which require sunlight for growth. The silt can also settle on the coral causing stress and in the worst case completely bury them. What can be done by the government and public to improve the state of our waters? Leong The government and its agencies like JTC, SDC and HDB should be conscious that there is a rich marine biodiversity in our waters especially around our southern islands. Any reclamation and dredging should be properly controlled to reduce the effect of siltation and at all cost avoid dredging in close proximity of existing coral reefs. The public especially boaters, divers and anglers should be speaking out to protect our remaining marine areas against adverse impact by coastal development. What does the Marine Conservation Group in Nature Society do? Leong In the past, MCG of NSS has carried out coral relocation. One of these is the relocation of corals from Pulau Ayer Chawan to Sentosa during the 1993 to 1994 period, almost every weekend – bits by bits using volunteer divers and helpers. This





was done due to the formation of Jurong Island which buried a vast expanse of coral reefs. We have just published a coffee table book “Singapore Waters – Unveiling Our Seas” which showcase the marine biodiversity left in our waters. It also highlight some of the conservation effort undertaken to protect our waters. We also give public slide talks as a public awareness programme.

What are some of the tips you can suggest to help keep our waters clean and help marine life thrive? Leong The main cause for the demise of marine life is still land reclamation where whole habitat is taken out for land development. The government should look into creating marine protected areas especially in some of the southern islands. The public should be aware that we still have marine life in our waters and there is still hope to save them. ■