Year 4 semester 1 came and gone. And I’m gearing up to embrace the holidays! OK, maybe I did already gear up during exam preparations considering how I went on and on about diving, watched US dramas every now and then…


Yknow how difficult it is for me to go on a dive trip? It’s a rare interaction effect: Term break X Fencing break (I only get these twice a year) X Parents’ consent X A friend to share the room (and therefore cost) with. So you can imagine what JOY it must be when this happened. 😀

I’ve made plans to head to Manado for a 6D5N dive trip with Scuba Republic. Unfortunately, my flight hasn’t been confirmed since Wee Chin and I are currently on the waitlist for our Silkair flight. Please, please let us have them seats! We’ve also planned a trip to Phuket mid-Dec, so my backup plan is to dive while in Phuket, then maybe again when we return, granted we get those seats. This is called, “Die die must dive”.

Oh, Jerome recently completed an article on the Blacktip Reef Shark. It’s a good an informative read, coupled with videos! I would like to see those sharks when I head to Manado.

Alrighty, that’s all for now. Batam tomorrow for an unknown relative’s wedding. I hear there’s really nothing to do over there, but oh wells, at least I’ll get to spend some time with my parents and I’ll bring The Office along.

Halfway there…

Was invited to my friend’s family gathering and treated to a buffet dinner at Riverview Hotel’s River Palace Chinese Restaurant. The buffet included a bowl of Shark’s fin per person and I’m proud to say that I did not consume that slice of shark’s fin in it!!! 🙂 Nevertheless, I did have a few mouthfuls of the chicken soup- it was clear and without any trace of fin. I stand by my no food wastage rule if I can help it.

However, while my take towards shark’s fin was clear, and clearer that my friend openly announced that I am an anti-sharksfin advocate, I did not have enough courage to voice my opinion to the rest. It was frustrating and scary at the same time… how do you go about broaching the subject when there’s a grandma and 2 elders at the table PAYING FOR YOUR MEAL? It might be easier if I was the host, then I could say ‘Hey guys I’m not ordering that free bowl of sharksfin because _____”. It might also help if someone at the table voiced out about eating sharksfin and we could back each other up.

Anyway, my friend’s verdict about that slice of fin is that it’s rather lousy and tasted ‘floury’. All the more no reason for Riverview to serve it because 1.If it’s as bad as my friend proclaims, then having complimentary shark’s fin will not the deciding factor for people to revisit the restaurant, 2. It’s FREE- major incentive for some people who die die must get freebies whether they like it or not, 3. Taking shark’s fin out of the menu would help cut costs and if that translates to a lower price for customers, there is added incentive for people to revisit the restaurant.

Anyway, I’m really glad that this call to save sharks has been gaining momentum in Singapore. I hear it on the radio and a colleague at the office even passed me his copy of Asian Divers knowing that I’m an advocate of this cause. Yes, he might be nonchalant about it at the moment, but I think that knowing that there’re people around you who stands for this would help ease him into accepting it in the future. You know, like if you hear enough of people saying ‘I don’t drink gassy drinks’, someday you’ll buy that message too and you wouldn’t feel like an outlier when you decide to get Heaven and Earth’s Green Tea instead of Coke.


The Small and Large…Who Would Have Thought?

Since my whale shark adoption, I’ve been getting interesting e-news from WWF. “Whale shark” caught my eye in today’s issue, and again, I’m reminded of my bucket list of “Things To Do Before I Die”.

Oh, how I miss diving.

Sidetracking a little, I noted that my NSA’s president, Nicholas Fang (also an NMP), has joined the FINished with Fins movement. Nice!! Need more prominent people to lead the way. I had the chance to share about my stance too during Thursday’s office lunch gathering, and the revelation that 6 months ago I was still having my bowl of shark’s fins hit me. I felt so strongly about this cause when I was telling my colleagues about it, it seemed as if I’ve never had shark’s fins before. And I thank God for giving me the wisdom- knowing what to say, how to convince my colleagues- to reach out to people in opportunistic moments.

I would like to continue to chart my journey in this blog, regardless of a blog audience. It’s important, because I do feel that nonchalance creeping up on me. It’s a gradual thing that comes as I go about with daily work- internship, fencing, chilling out at home, meeting friends over the weekends, indulging in shopping. All these urban-ness just points me towards self-gratifying and being materialistic. I need moments to contemplate about life in other parts of the world and other food chains.

Below, the website copy and paste.


By Catherine Plume, Coral Triangle Director

I arrived riverside at dusk in Donsol, an island town in the Philippines. The world was just taking on its magical evening spell as our boat pulled away from the pier and headed up the river.

The night itself was spectacular—no moon, a million stars, and the hush of the river with only the sound of the sputtering motor as we glided along. Soon we cut power and our boatman poled us towards shore.

As we neared the riverbank, I detected a faint twinkling in the trees. The flashing grew more intense until it became a swirl of tiny rotating lights—fireflies!  But these were like not like fireflies I’d ever seen: they flashed both on their own and also together. The sight was mesmerizing—like strings of dancing white Christmas lights. Looking up into the trees, it was hard to tell stars from fireflies.

As we watched this firefly dance, our boatman softly said, “Now put your hand in the water”…and we did. We expected merely to feel the river’s warmth compared to the now chilly night air. Instead, we were met with yet another treat—light was emitted and a bioluminescence was created by our fingers as they moved through the water.

Our boat moved slowly up river to an even larger swarm of fireflies.  We marveled again at the sheer beauty and let our eyes go from the stars to the fireflies to the glowing water trailing our hands.

After a while, the boat turned around and we headed back toward the pier. It was an oddly melancholy trip back down the river. I had a sense that I was leaving something very special behind that I may not ever encounter again. A trifecta of nature’s sparkle left twinkling on the river.

Connection Between Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Mangrove Forests

The fireflies I saw that night congregate in huge colonies to feed in mangrove trees along the riverbanks. Mangroves are significant because they keep the rivers healthy and release important nutrients into the water. These nutrient-rich waters feed microscopic plankton—the source of the bioluminescence.

Out where the river meets the bay of Donsol, large masses of plankton can be found. Whale sharks gather in schools there to feed on the plankton.

Donsol attracts huge numbers of whale sharks compared to other places in the world. As a result, locals benefit from a booming ecotourism industry. WWF has helped with whale shark tourism since 1998. Programs have created jobs and provided a seasonal but steady source of income for the community.

In 2011, WWF spearheaded an effort to plant 10,000 mangrove seedlings. The mangroves will enhance and protect habitat shared by fireflies and whale sharks. By restoring mangrove forests, WWF keeps rivers healthy, ensures habitat for fireflies and food for whale sharks. In turn, fireflies and whale sharks attract tourists and generate important income for local communities.

Written by Catherine Plume, WWF’s Coral Triangle Director. Her boat ride was part of a firefly cruise, one of the successful ecotourism enterprises in the region.

FINished with Fins.

For more information, check out http://www.sharksavers.com.sg/ please.

My dear classmates, as you go about the second round of blog votes, may all these shark information and my personal journey be of impact to you, as they were to me. SharkAid Singapore 2012 is just around the corner; this Labour Day, in fact! I know that it is unlikely we could attend since the exams are not over, but if knowing about the sharks’ plight meant something to you, I strongly urge you to take the I’m FINished with Fins Pledge. Show your support for the event, because we know pledges DO MATTER, right?

(Conservation psych keywords: Social norms, social support, incentive, making public promises, community initiative, policy involvement, long-term solutions, overcoming behaviour inertia)

If any of you took the pledge, I’d be happy to know about it- please, leave a reply on this post? Make it a written+public commitment!

On a last note, I’m thankful that this has been more than a school assignment, that it has led me on journey that is life-changing. Conservation psychology has taught me that sometimes, we all need that pause to contemplate about our role as humans.

Whale Shark Adoption

Look who came by post today!

Whale Shark facts:

Whale sharks can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world, with the exception of the Mediterranean Sea. Measuring up to 45 feet in length, these giants subsist on a diet of krill, squid and small fish. It is thought that whale sharks may have a lifespan of 100 to 150 years. The whale shark is a filter feeder, one of only three species of shark that feed by sucking water through its mouth and expelling it through the gills, trapping millions of plankton. These gentle creatures are at risk from commercial fishing for food.

Information from: http://www.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Whale-Shark.aspx

I’m pleased. And I do hope that these chaps out there are feeding and swimming freely.


Saw this on Project: FIN’s Facebook page:

“Singtel mio TV subscribers! You would be able to catch the award-winning documentary, SHARKWATER, anytime, only on mio TV from this Sunday April 15 till 14 July, for FREE! 

mio TV customers who wish to access the movie would just need to press the VOD button on the remote control, then go to Movies > Favourite Movie Hits > Family.

This initiative is part of SingTel’s environmental campaign Project LESS (Little Eco StepS) 2012 which runs from 15 March to 30 April.”


Do catch the documentary if you can. It was very insightful for both my mum and I (read The First Step). Beyond illustrating the plight of sharks, this documentary would certainly allow you to be a better informed consumer of seafood.

My Story

At every Chinese wedding I’d attended, I’ve always had a bowl of shark’s fin soup, or two, if there had been more to go around. It never bothered me. Then again, why should it? It was tradition. There are some dishes that are considered standard fare in a Chinese wedding, and shark’s fin soup is just about as standard as that 3-tiered wedding cake. (If it isn’t on the menu, the wedding couple is likely to be labeled ‘cheapos’, or cheapskates in colloquial terms)

So what sparked Coup for Shark’s Fin Soup?

In January this year, I was invited to a house party by a teammate. Dinner ended with shark’s fin soup. Two teammates who were with me refused their portions and were pretty surprised to see me having mine with sheer nonchalance.

“Joan, you diver right? I thought divers are anti-shark’s fin?”

“Yeah I’m anti-shark’s fin…  But I’m also anti-waste-food what! It’s not like I would deliberately order it. It’s already been cooked. I can take a stand for all I want, but this bowl of soup is either gonna be eaten or thrown away!”

Oddly though, their words struck a chord with me.

Two non-divers watching me dig into my bowl of shark’s fin soup. What does it mean to claim that I love diving, hate that corals are dying and grumble that I should have been diving 8 years ago, because then Malaysian waters had whale sharks and now I rarely even see any big fish? I spent that night pondering. What does it take for me to pass on the next bowl of shark’s fin soup?

I reached an epiphany – it wouldn’t be food if it mattered to me.

I sure wouldn’t eat my dog even if she was served on a golden platter.

And thus my journey of shark education began. I started from ground zero – knowing nothing besides the fact that they’re endangered. But I gained a little more knowledge through research and talking to people who know a thing or two about sharks and the fin industry.

May Coup for Shark’s Fin Soup strike that same chord it had with me, with you.


From the girl who wishes to see a whale shark,



Jerome Kok, Ong Ruolin, Nicole Chin and Aaron Wong, for their personal stories, the idea sharing and photos.




The writer is currently an undergraduate (Psychology) at Nanyang Technological University. As a national athlete, she is blessed with opportunities to compete abroad and an exposure to life beyond the urban setting. It nurtured her understanding and appreciation for nature. In July 2010, she began scuba diving and has taken a deeper interest in conservation issues since.