Practise good etiquette at the beach to help marine wildlife thrive: NParks

Habitats in intertidal zones are fragile and integral to the health of marine ecosystems. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Beachgoers should refrain from collecting or touching marine wildlife when visiting intertidal zones along the beach, the National Parks Boards (NParks) said in a statement on Wednesday (May 18).

It said that each species of wildlife have different functions in the ecosystem and contribute to the health of the marine habitats and that many were sensitive to any physical disturbance caused by touching them.

Intertidal zones are areas along the shore which experience both the high and low tides of the sea.

The statement added that the wildlife were unlikely to survive for long periods when taken out of their natural habitats and could pose a threat to safety as the public might not be able to recognise potentially venomous or stinging species.

Beachgoers are advised to wear covered shoes as well to protect themselves against stepping on sharp rocks or animals which have spines such as stonefish.

The advisory comes ahead of the June school holidays when many families typically flock to the beach, in particular during period of low tides which coincide with daylight hours.

Habitats in these intertidal zones are fragile and integral to the health of marine ecosystems, said NParks.

According to Dr Neo Mei Lin, a senior research fellow at NUS’ Tropical Marine Science Institute, removing certain species of marine wildlife from their habitat disrupts the food chain of the ecosystem.

“Removing sea urchins that eat seaweed can mean that the seaweed populations become uncontrolled,” said Dr Neo.

She added: “Soft-bodied invertebrates such as sea cucumbers and sea stars rely on seawater to support its body structure. Being away too long from its habitat can cause the animals to become stressed, which mostly leads to their death.”

In February this year, videos of beachgoers digging up sea creatures such as sea urchins at Changi Beach were posted by local science and nature education channel Just Keep Thinking.

A similar situation was seen last June when crowds descended on the same beach and were seen using tongs and buckets to collect various species of marine wildlife.

In response, NParks has stepped up patrols comprising staff and volunteers as well as erecting signboards to raise public awareness.

    To prevent overcrowding during peak periods, the agency said that access to certain beaches would have to be managed, if necessary.

    Members of the public who are interested to learn more about Singapore's marine life and habitats can take part in the Intertidal Watch citizen science programme or visit the NPark's YouTube channel where they can watch webinars, virtual tours of our intertidal zones and education videos.

    List of popular spots which have NParks' public engagement measures

    1. Sungei Dekar, Sembawang Park
    2. Punggol Point Park, Punggol Point
    3. Pasir Ris Park, Area E
    4. Pasir Ris Park, Sungei Loyang
    5. Changi Beach Park, Changi Boardwalk
    6. Changi Beach Park, Car Park 1
    7. Changi Beach Park, Car Park 6
    8. Changi Beach Park, Car Park 7
    9. East Coast Park, Area G

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