Beachgoers reminded on etiquette during low tide in Changi Beach

Dawn had not yet broken at 6am yesterday but people were already out on the mudflats of Changi Beach, exploring the area at low tide.

As they peered into tiny holes in the seabed and sought marine creatures among the seagrass, volunteers and staff from the National Parks Board (NParks) kept a close watch.

"Just look, don't touch," Madam Doreen Foo, 44, one of the volunteer guides, was overheard reminding a family of four.

The marketing assistant manager was among more than 50 people who volunteered with NParks over the weekend to remind beachgoers not to handle marine life in a way that could be harmful.

About 70 NParks staff were also stationed at various locations to advise the public on intertidal etiquette and marine life conservation.

Patrols were also conducted in other places such as the beaches at Pasir Ris Park, East Coast Park and Sembawang Park.

Tides on Saturday and yesterday were low, exposing large tracts of the seafloor and their bounty: sea cucumbers, anemones, sea stars and many different types of crabs.

The patrols come after crowds were seen flocking to the intertidal areas of Changi Beach, during the last low tide on June 13.

Touching marine creatures causes them unnecessary stress, and soft-bodied organisms could also get injured.

Dr Karenne Tun, director at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said the board is working to raise awareness on the detrimental effects of touching, collecting or trampling on marine wildlife.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who was also at Changi Beach yesterday, told ST that instead of closing off areas and stopping people from visiting sensitive habitats, a balanced approach is preferred.

This includes public education, galvanising volunteers and the community to reach out to Singaporeans "who are maybe for the first time exploring natural areas of Singapore".

"So please come properly attired, be safe, enjoy and marvel at the rich biodiversity that urban Singapore has to offer. Because we are a City in Nature after all," he said.