SINGAPORE - A lagoon on St John's Island will soon be opened to the public for research, education and conservation activities.
The 3.9ha Bendera Bay, which was previously inaccessible to the public, consists of a lagoon with a variety of mangrove, coral, seagrass, sandy shore and rocky shore habitats.
Access to the fenced up area will be allowed via scheduled programmes only, as part of efforts to safeguard it. These planned programmes will be carried out from early next year, subject to Covid-19 restrictions.
Bendera Bay was launched by National Development Minister Desmond Lee, together with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin, on Sunday morning (Dec 13).
Its name was inspired by Pulau Sekijang Bendera, the indigenous Malay name for St John's Island.
The Friends of Marine Park community, which comprises stakeholders and volunteers such as divers, anglers, boat owners, academics and government agencies, will schedule programmes that will take place there.
The activities, supported by the National Parks Board (NParks), are centred around four themes: research, recreation, heritage, and education.
For instance, researchers from the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory are conducting research on seagrasses. Other research opportunities in the works involve the connected mangrove, seagrass and coral areas at Bendera Bay.
Beach clean-up activities will be held to inform the public about the impact of marine trash. More educators will be encouraged to develop and conduct nature and culture-based activities there.
Recreation programmes include workshops for the community to learn about importance of sustainable fishing. Citizen science dives will also be organised for people to understand and experience what researchers do underwater and how they can help.
On heritage, former islanders will conduct more guided walks on St John's Island and share stories about life there.
At the opening of Bendera Bay, the community held some activities as a trial for future events to come, including an intertidal walk to showcase the seagrass and marine biodiversity there.
Participants will be providing feedback to refine the activities before they are opened to the public.
Mr Tan, who was formerly a senior minister of state at the Ministry of National Development, said he is heartened to see the spirit of collaboration and stewardship has continued to grow since his time at the ministry.
Community stewardship is integral in Singapore's marine conservation and outreach efforts, he added.
He added the bay's variety of habitats makes it an excellent location for the public to appreciate the country's rich biodiversity, and for researchers to carry out studies.
However, there is still a need to restrict access to the bay to protect the habitats within it, he noted.
Asked about the use of planned programmes to control public access to the area, Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the Friends of Marine Park, said it is "not a destination they are trying to promote for tourism".
"The intent is more for the public to have an idea of how to interact responsibly with the environment," he added.