Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the Launch of the Turtle Hatchery at Small Sister’s Island

Sep 29, 2018 14:00

Good morning to everyone and thank you for joining us on Small Sister’s Island. 

We designated Sisters’ Islands as a Marine Park four years ago, in 2014, to conserve the rich marine biodiversity found in our waters. In tandem, we wanted to encourage a deeper appreciation of our marine biodiversity, by providing more outreach and educational opportunities for the public. Since then, we have been working closely with our community to explore sustainable and sensitive ways to fulfil these objectives. 

So, I am very happy to see many familiar faces today, celebrating another milestone for the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park – the launch of Singapore’s first turtle hatchery. This hatchery will serve as a safe nesting ground for our native sea turtles.  

Many Singaporeans, myself included, have been very fascinated by the videos of turtles nesting right here on our shores that have been circulating on social media. As of end August this year alone, NParks recorded 62 turtle nesting attempts around East Coast Park and the Southern islands. 18 of these were recorded right here at Small Sister’s Island. The documentation was supported by NParks’ Biodiversity Beach Patrol, which involved over 100 trained volunteers in the monitoring of key stretches of our beaches. In fact, the first turtle we recorded this year was spotted by one of our volunteers. 

But turtle eggs face many threats during the incubation period, especially so for those that are very critically endangered species. These include predators such as monitor lizards, or even the high tide itself, which can drown the porous eggs. Our highly urbanised environment may also confuse these hatchlings.  They may be attracted to light sources and crawl inland instead of out to sea. 

Therefore, we will relocate eggs laid in unsuitable conditions to this hatchery here on Small Sister's Island. Aside from already being a popular nesting spot, Small Sister’s Island is a protected area within the Marine Park that is zoned for conservation and research. This limits the disturbance to the nests caused by human traffic and light pollution, and also helps to maximise the number of hatchlings that are able to make it out to sea. 

NParks will also be able to study the turtle populations and their nesting patterns. This will further improve the management of the hatchery, and increase the survivability of the turtle eggs laid on our shores. We hope to see many more native sea turtles returning here to nest in the years to come.

At the same time, we also want the community to be able to come close and learn more about our turtles, in some of the busiest waterways in the world. This will be done through carefully curated programmes that NParks is developing with our schools and other interested groups, so as not to endanger the eggs and the hatchlings. 

The hatchery that we have today is made possible by our partner, HSBC. Their generous donation through the Garden City Fund has enabled us to provide this safe refuge for our turtles. And so let me express – on behalf of the marine community and in fact, all Singaporeans, our appreciation to HSBC. Thank you for supporting our key species recovery efforts.

I would also like to thank the Marine Turtle Working Group for your input and support on issues and activities concerning marine turtle conservation and management, including the Turtle Hatchery. This working group grew from a group of turtle enthusiasts initiated by Mr N Sivasothi in 2006. It now comprises academics from institutions such as the National University of Singapore, and interest groups such as Nature Society (Singapore) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. We look forward to even more collaborations with the group as the hatchery matures.  

Looking ahead, we have many more exciting plans for the Marine Park. NParks is working hard to sensitively enhance Big Sister’s Island and enable visitors to appreciate our marine life close-up. This will be done through specially designed boardwalks, intertidal pools and a floating pontoon, which will be ready in two years’ time, in 2020.

We will also continue to work closely with our Friends of the Marine Park community, chaired by Mr Stephen Beng from Nature Society (Singapore). This is truly a diverse community of stakeholders comprising boaters, divers, dive operators, scientists, fishermen, kayakers and educators. Yet, all share the common goal of safeguarding and managing the Marine Park as a place for all Singaporeans. Since they were formed last year, the community has been actively reaching out to the public through exhibitions and various forums.

In addition, we will collaborate with researchers to better understand Singapore’s marine ecosystem. For instance, NParks is working with TMSI, the Tropical Marine Science Institute, to use active and passive acoustic monitoring to collect data on marine mammals such as dolphins, dugongs and sharks. This is a more comprehensive way of collecting data than the traditional method of visual observations. The study will enable us to better understand the health of these creatures and their habitats, so as to formulate the necessary conservation strategies.

In conclusion, I hope everyone will continue to work together to protect our amazing marine biodiversity and natural heritage, as I said, it is among some of the busiest waterways you find in the world. Every small action counts towards making our city a biophilic one, and ensure that our marine biodiversity can be appreciated for many generations to come. With that, thank all of you for joining us here today. Thank you for your active partnership, custodianship and stewardship. Please enjoy the hatchery, and rest of your morning here on Small Sister’s Island.