Saturday, 6 September 2008

Wild Ocean @ Omni-Theatre

September is generally the "slack" month for the intertidal volunteers in general, with the tides not being quite low enough for decent guided walks, so September's generally our training month so to speak. But what else do the volunteer guides do when off the shores? We party, of course! And watch movies! So this fish found herself back at our Science Centre with sunflower and lizard of our local wildlife menagerie to catch the latest IMAX movie.
The catchphrase of Wild Ocean, "where Africa meets the sea", sums the show up nicely. The focus of the film is the annual sardine run that occurs on the south-western coast of Africa (around the Wild Coast) during their winter months. Nice amount of info and outreach/awareness packaged into a 40min show for the general public, including family groups with young children. We get a quick 101 course on ecology and the food chain, on how the combined interactions of warm and cold currents push the sardine shoals further up north along the east coast of South Africa, as well as closer to shore.

The film starts off by a quick overview of fisheries all over the world, about the decrease in catches, and how this part of Africa is still rich in sardines. Also leads to the point about how much more land have been delegated nature reserve status as compared to marine protected areas. The film doesn't bring up the more complex issues of regulating and enforcing laws and all in the protected areas but I guess the first issue to address would be to actually increase the protected marine environments on paper before even tackling the problem of managing the protected area. The closest that Singapore has to a "marine" protected area would be Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Chek Jawa, but these are more intertidal in nature than being actual marine environments....

My heart goes out to those many many many sardines as it seems that every year during their sardine run, there are just SOOOOooooooo many predators coming from all directions to feed on them. Hundreds of dolphins, sharks, fur seals, penguins, and gannets all lying in wait for the appearance of humongous shoal of sardines. *shudder* Just glad this particular fish ain't a sardine.... The chaos is somewhat felt as I watched predators sweeping into the bait ball, and the shoal behaviour just reminds me of my undergrad days when we were discussing modelling and herd "intelligence". To put it simply, this "intelligence" arises from the collective behaviour of each individual sardine, each reacting to the movement of it's neighbour, each trying to get to the "safest" place of the shoal (which is assumed to be the centre), in a strategy to avoid predators. This chain effect is surprisingly good and, to a certain extent, result in some sort of collective intelligence!

Since these super large shoals of sardines are being pushed into shallower waters, the communities living along the eastern coast of S.Africa also benefit from the abundance, so the show's not just about wildlife. There's also some inter-dispersion of the human effects along the coast. How the fishermen look out for gatherings of dolphins and gannets that indicate the arrival of the sardine, meaning a feast for the two-legged ones as well. I particularly like the ending portion when there's a sand sculpture of a sardine can, and kids lying inside, just like little sardines! The film ends on a note that there is hope yet since NZ and S.Africa seem to be leading the way when it comes to designating marine protected areas, and that if each country is able to set aside a portion of their sea(s) to be protected, we might still be able to the immense action and numbers that are still seen at Wild Coast.

My Thoughts
(Man, why am I making this sound like some school reflection thing?!) Firstly, I am just so glad that I have never really liked to eat sardine. After seeing the poor little fellas being chased by so many natural predators, seeing them squished into a teeny can ain't really that appetizing..... However, I would have to be more conscious of my seafood choices. I do love seafood, sashimi and sushi, so I am definitely part of the cycle that is causing the depletion of global fisheries. I am unlikely to stop eating seafood altogether but I will definitely cut down on eating roe and some of the more "exotic" seafood (spider crab, lobster, marlin....), and as far as possible fish in general. You may think this is not much, but if everybody does the same, the demand for seafood (especially the rarer marine critters) would decrease, and with a decrease in demand, the stress on fisheries can be lessened a lot. Won't say that this movie impacted my life greatly since I have already been exposed to many more in-depth documentaries, as well as the fact that marine conservation and related stuff has been pretty much part of my life since uni. What I actually took home with me is the sheer scale of the bait balling and the marine life just off the African coast. To me, the mention of Africa has always brought to mind savannahs and lions, pretty much a Lion King kinda thing. Nice visuals that try to sneak in little take-home messages, and rather enjoyable, especially in view of some of the exhibitions at the Science Centre itself. Do give it a try, especially since there is a promo bundle price for the Omni-Theatre and Science Centre entry! The 3 of us have certainly enjoyed ourselves there, and we were there the entire day!


marine maiden said...

Tha kind of movie I usually won't watch in the theatre... Usually I'll watch the DVD version. But from what I read, it's more to discovery series isn't it?

It's rare to have that movie in theatre actually... I'm not even sure it'll be up here's theatre....

juanicths said...

IMO, it's not quite in-depth enough to be a discovery series thing. More for the everyday person who wants a glimpse into the wild side.

Plus this ain't your run-of-the-mill theatre. It's the one that's attached to our Science Centre, and makes use of a circular screen, giving a totally different feel for action shots ^^ Check here for more details:

Tristan said...

It's wonderful to sea this movie of the sea. I feel like see the fish i the real sea.

thank you so much.
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