Speech by Minister Desmond Lee on plans to designate a new Marine Park at Lazarus South-Kusu Reef

May 9, 2024

Thank you for joining me. We are here in the Southern Islands, specifically on Lazarus Island.

10 years ago, in 2014, we announced the designation of our first national Marine Park, Sisters’ Island Marine Park. That was significant because, as you know, Singapore is a small island, with limited land, but we also have limited sea space.

Our waters are one of the busiest waterways in the world, serving one of the busiest international ports in the world. There are many demands on our waters – for commerce,  shipping, industry, food and aquaculture, for research, recreation, fishing, outdoor, nature, and adventure activities.

But also, our waters are rich in marine biodiversity. We have about a third of the world’s hard coral species, and lots of other marine life in our waters. So precious waters, heavily used, and therefore, just as we master plan very carefully for our mainland, we also have to plan very carefully for our waters. Therefore, when we do our Draft Master Plan and our Long-Term Plan, we also plan for our waters.

In 2022, when colleagues undertook and completed the Ecological Profiling Exercise (EPE), this was carried out on land and in our marine areas.

And the key is to understand which is the important and biodiverse areas in Singapore, both on land and in our waters. We also wanted to identify ecological connectivity between our biodiversity hotspots, because that will allow flora and fauna to disperse and to traverse respectively.

The southern islands are rich in biodiversity – coral and other species. The EPE identified the Southern part of Lazarus Island, or Lazarus South, as well as the coral reefs on Kusu Island as being especially rich in coral biodiversity, and so today, we plan to designate our second national Marine Park – Lazarus South, as well as Kusu Reef.

This would include the foreshores which contain coral reef in the Northern and Eastern parts of Kusu Island, as well as the Eastern Part of Lazarus Island South.

But this national Marine Park will also encompass terrestrial land as well. Lazarus Island South contains one of the few remaining rocky shore habitats in Singapore, as well as a very significant native-dominated mature secondary coastal forest, with some rare tree species.

Therefore, we thought it is important, the science, the data tells us that it is important, to protect and conserve these areas, and we intend to designate Lazarus South Island as well as Kusu Reefs, as our second national Marine Park.

All this is work in progress, and work started many years ago. In 2014, we designated out first national Marine Park, Sisters’ Island.

In 2018 our marine community came up with the Blue Plan, a very major piece of work that pulled together a large body of knowledge, and lots of experience, lots of energy and enthusiasm, and lots of data and science. We had lots of very good recommendations in there.

In 2020, the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory did a horizon scan around St John’s Island and they too felt that the areas that we are talking about today are important biodiversity areas.

In 2023, we announced the enhancement of Plant-A-Coral, Seed-A-Reef Programme, where we intend to plant up to a 100,000 corals in our Marine Park in order to strengthen coral restoration and coral conservation.

All this is important because the two Marine Parks – the first, and when we finally designate the second Marine Park – it will enable us to strengthen marine and terrestrial conservation, will provide tremendous opportunity for education and research, and provide spaces for nature-based recreation done sensitively.

This is also very important in an era where climate change and its impact are more keenly felt. All this will also facilitate marine science research, and strengthen our position as an island city-state that cares for its blue spaces well, and also ensures that we conserve areas for the future. So all in, a big plus for marine and nature conservation.

In terms of next steps, we will be working very closely with the nature community, and working closely with experts and researchers to do a more detailed study, so that we can delineate the boundaries of this second marine park.

We will be working with heritage experts and the heritage community because on Pulau Sekijang Pelepah which is Lazarus Island, there is a lot of history, both of the Orang Pulau, Orang Laut, Islander history, and also the history of Colonial Singapore – where we had ammunition dumps on the island as well. All in, a multi-textured, many-layered marine park – marine, terrestrial, but also heritage.

Thank you.