We’re leading a coral relocation project to protect the corals surrounding Sultan Shoal from developmental impacts of the future Tuas Terminal. From Sultan Shoal in southwest Singapore, the corals will be moved to three different sites on the Sisters' Islands and St John's Island.
In a 2012 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) found that the development of the new Tuas Terminal near the shoals could harm the corals. MPA approached us for the relocation project in a bid to give the corals a fair chance at survival.
For the past seven months, marine biologists and volunteers have been diving into the waters around Sultan Shoal. These divers harvest coral from the reef piece by piece, transport them to their new home, and reattach them to the seabed with underwater cement.
We’re mainly moving the hard corals, which are the building blocks of a coral reef. The living tissue is only a very thin layer above the coral, below which lies the inert skeleton. So if done carefully, the process of removing coral from the seabed, does not actually damage the coral.
Just over half of the estimated 2,800 hard coral colonies on the reef will be relocated, and MPA said that divers have completed about 80% of the move so far.
However, Eugene Goh – principal marine biologist at DHI Singapore and the person spearheading the project – says that even though the transplanted coral have about 70-80% chances of survival, moving coral is still a last resort for conservation. "You can't totally transplant a reef,” Eugene explains. “It's just not feasible – there are organisms that are just not transplantable."
Even so, relocation may be the Sultan Shoal corals' best bet for survival and we’ll monitor the health of both the transplanted coral and the Sultan Shoal reef over the next five years.