Earthfest2018 x TDE

The Dorsal Effect will be partaking in Earthfest2018!

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 13.17.20

Visit us at our booth and enjoy a day out with your family and friends. It’s going to be a awesome time eating and witnessing a future we can all look forward to. All you need to do is click here and you’ll have the ticket.   

Now, you must be wondering what EarthFest is all about. Here’s what we know!


At EarthFest, it offers us a glimpse into what our future could look like with the backing of science, a little innovation and an open mind – it’s not about giving things up! It prides itself as a low-waste festival that uses biodegradable & compostable cutlery sets and utilizes technology to distribute information!

Catered to people across age groups, gender and background, there is something for everyone. Sit back and enjoy live performances or walk around and look at the yummy spread of plant-based international food fair and local sustainable businesses! Participate in their hands-on workshops or take a break and listen to guest speakers.

Located at Marina Barrage which was awarded the Green Mark Platinum Infrastructure Award, the top award at BCA awards, it is one of the most beautiful sustainable buildings in Singapore and it is the perfect place to host EarthFest 2018! Its green roof is made of 100% recycled plastics & eco-friendly drainage cells and double-glazed glass panels reduced heat penetration and minimized the need for air conditioning system. Moreover, the Solar Park alone generates enough energy to power 180 average households in Singapore … and more!

So, what are you waiting for?

Join us on January 14 (Sunday) and be a part of EarthFest 2018 (:

Official Message from EarthFest:

EarthFest is having it’s third edition on January 14, 2018!  Just like the first two, it has been designed to be sustainable, fun, and inspirational for all ages!  Featuring a food fair of delicious international and new age planet-friendly foods, a Farmer’s Market of local businesses with more sustainable products, an eco-carnival of engaging low carbon games, as well as other various opportunities like talks, screenings, etc.  We will have over 120 stalls this year and expand into a third floor.  There will be something for everyone and all interests – all packaged in one of the most sustainable and beautiful venues in the world: Marina Barrage!


Highlights and additions to the festival this year include:

  • New bands on stage, including local artist Christiane Mikaela
  • Our first hybrid food truck will be part of the food fair
  • New talks and workshops curated by Green is the New Black!
  • PitchFest by Awesome Foundation – win $1000 for your sustainable project
  • NEA Exposition on Climate Change + Waste
  • Screening of Landfill Harmonic by Singapore Eco Film Festival
  • Singapore Really Really Free Market
  • Exhibition of the Green Warriors by The Wedge Asia
  • WWF Eco-School exhibitions
  • Bookswap hosted by Secondsguru
  • Used cooking oil collection for biodiesel production by Alpha Bio Fuels
  • Try e-schooter sharing by Popscoot


Are we really serious about sustainability?  This is how we’ll stand apart: Our food fair will use 100% compostable material – and we’ll actually compost it!  The food is all planet-friendly requiring less water, land, and food inputs to produce while still being delicious and healthy (and from some of Singapore most highly rated restaurants!)  We’ll feature only reusable bags and no pamphlets can be handed out – they have to do digital distribution!  And all that haze we’ve been breathing in?  Well that’s due to palm oil – so it’s banned at EarthFest!  More than that we’re the first comprehensive sustainability festival that unites many organisations and businesses together at once.  You’ll have access to information on fair trade, buying local, organic, responsible investing, planet-friendly and healthy food, transportation, biodegradable & non-toxic options, overfishing, waste, electricity usage, water and much, much more!  Most importantly, we’ll inspire you with the effective ways you can make changes to really make a sustainable and modern future possible!


Excited?  We are and hope you are too!  We hope to see you on February January 14, 2018 from 11 am to 4:30 pm for EarthFest!  The limited tickets are FREE and available at  You can also see all the businesses that will be there by visiting!  This is a community-based event – so if there is something YOU want to contribute or run, let us know and we’ll try to find a way to make it happen! Thanks to Singapore Press Holdings for being a sponsor this year!


Hope that we’ll be seeing you guys there!

Bad thoughts good thoughts

There’s something about rich sunset hues over wide skies and sprawling beaches that brings forth the urge to blog again, that urge I had been seeking for a while. Many a fleeting thought passed for the months since my last post but never an inspiration of a moment to expound on them further nor feeling the desire to be cathartic.

The recent sudden, unexpected passing of dear Rob Stewart who has inspired me on this path, definitely shocked my system a fair bit…yet I couldn’t help feeling too if conservation is something for the privileged or only the privileged has time or money to afford to be in. I love Rob Stewart to bits for his Sharkwater that has been most moving, yet if he didn’t come from a place of privilege to be able to experience diving and the oceans at a young age, would he have been able to have walked on this path with such dedication and commitment? I really hate how being on this path is such a struggle every single day mostly due to financial struggles. Are my convictions waylaid? Don’t get me wrong, I love Rob Stewart deeply and am very very affected badly by his premature passing, but nagging general thoughts about conservation and privilege remain.

So I have reached this stage where I am starting to feel tired that The Dorsal Effect is, in a sense endless and I can’t really run away from it or wrap it up yet also feeling frustrated about keeping in going and not having the capacity to think about expansion or growth or development. I feel guilty for harbouring such frustrations too but sometimes I just want to disappear into the ground.

I get frustrated when people ask me how do I change the fishermen’s minds or why is the boat trip so expensive. I did not change their minds not did I set forth to change anything in the fabric of their being. All I did was asked questions and helped them find out for themselves what are possible alternatives that they would be open to and then making sure I pay them well for that alternative. And the thing about it being expensive? If it is not as lucrative or even more lucrative than shark hunting, why on earth would the shark fishermen want to convert? I definitely am not here to cheapen the value of the alternative livelihood of ecotourism and I think only with good pay will the fishermen be more open to the needed regulations of ensuring people snorkel responsibly and carry out the trip responsibly as well (shall expound on that in a bit).

I feel like my heart dies a little now every time I am back in Lombok. I see other boat operators who are not necessarily ex shark fishermen, copying our snorkel trails and beach stops as well, yet they are so irresponsible about it, taking too many tourists to certain sites, or dropping their anchor on the corals, or allowing their guests to throw traah in the ocean or the beaches or even feeding the fishes and picking up the shells and marine life. Was so saddened to see a dead knobby sea star at the intertidal walk today, I can’t help but wonder if it was the doing of other irresponsible tourists and boat operators who were all too keen for a photo opportunity with the sea star, or maybe a boat docking crushed it in its path.

ravaged reefs from irresponsible tourists snorkelling
ravaged reefs from irresponsible tourists snorkelling


I guess a lot of negativity fills this post but in the heart of my being open and honest to all my posts, I figured I needed to be up front about my thoughts and feelings with myself and everyone else as I confront these demons over and over again. But I think I need to be clear about one thing too, and that is that change doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes or rather most times, the path of conservation exists on a spectrum than working towards a focussed end goal. Sometimes you pick other good things along the way of working towards something originally intended and that can be fulfilling too, like the children on The Dorsal Effect’s school trips being better acquainted with marine conservation or the need to protect sharks or awareness of sustainable consumption and reduction of plastics use even.

The fins we saw at the fish market on boat trip morning
The fins we saw at the fish market on boat trip morning


I cried when I saw a man on the streets of Lombok throw a rock at a stray dog and then having to see the dog cower in fear then wait a distance away for the man to leave before going to his spot to scavenge the food scraps of the bag of food he left behind, to the very depths of the paper bag. Why do the dogs here have to live such cruelly harsh lives without ever really knowing love and affection from humans?

I think more and more so, my heart is no longer with humans because of their negative impact on the world but I still really wish we could all start to see that we as humans are not apart from the animals we abuse, mistreat and harm indiscriminately but that we are all a part of this world together. I am heartened by the young and spritely couple, Vig and Shan, on this trip though, as I see them buying biscuits from the provision store to distribute out to the stray dogs on the Kuta streets. They help me see there is hope in humankind and they move me deeply with their compassion.

I am not giving up as I am already thinking of which group of students or corporates I should next work with doing up boards of responsible tourism guidelines for the sites we visit on the boat trip but yes my soul is saddened and my heart of heavier this very moment as I wish I could do so much more and so much quicker for the sharks and the stray dogs…but yes, don’t stay fixated on the end goal, focus on the process of hitting different markers in the spectrum, no matter how fluid or out of control it may sometimes get.

  1. No use of non reef safe sunscreen that would bleach corals
  2. No kicking or stepping on corals (dead zones are a very sad sight and corals take a very VERY long time to regrow)
  3. No touching, picking up or harrassing of marine life, please respect them in their natural habitat
  4. No dropping of anchor or corals
  5. No feeding of fishes at snorkel sites
  6. Please regulate the number of people who should be in the water at any given time
  7. No picking of shells or taking home of anything from the beaches or snorkel sites (the hermit crabs need their homes!)
awesome bunch of NSS boat trippers who love the oceans and animals so much!
awesome bunch of NSS boat trippers who love the oceans and animals so much!


It was really good visiting Paul Friese from Bali Sharks again though. Everytime the craziness of politics gets in the way of NGOs and good work and I wonder why organizations just don’t collaborate together for win-win and working ourselves out of what we do (as Warren Buffet says, the best philanthropic businesses are the ones where you work yourself out of business, or something like that, a reminder from Paul). So it is always heartening to speak with like minded friends who are passionate, like Paul. I totally don’t mind if The Dorsal Effect ceases to be relevant anymore simply because there is no more shark hunting and consumption happening or if the fishermen find other sustainable alternatives or even if they run the eco tours on their own co-op model but ethically and responsibly with attention paid to sustainability of the environment, reefs and sharks. Let’s start working towards win win with positive open sharing and collaborations now instead of selfish hoarding of resources, or coming to another country thinking you can make a positive change quickly, or coming with a saviour mentality of making a tangible change now (no thanks to how YEP is run sometimes..)

Some hope as we swim with the white tip reef sharks at Paul's Bali Sharks sanctuary.
Some hope as we swim with the white tip reef sharks at Paul’s Bali Sharks sanctuary.

PULSE Speaks to Kathy Xu


After a memorable encounter with a whale shark and volunteering with Shark Savers Singapore, Kathy Xu, 31, founder of The Dorsel Effect, decided she wanted to do something more so that future generations could still see sharks alive rather than from picture books.

What sparked your interest in shark conservation work?

I have always been interested in the environment as a child. I can’t really pinpoint it to one particular moment. My weekends were spent mainly at the public library and that exposed me to a plethora of books. I grew up wanting to be an environmentalist. The turning point for me was a holiday in Australia in 2011 where I swam with a whale shark off the Ningaloo Reef. The experience was surreal and beyond amazing.

I loved how the tour operators were very strict about us keeping our distance from the whale shark and let the marine scientists conduct their observations first before we went into the water. The level of respect for the oceans and marine creatures in their natural habitats of the tour operators inspired me to run my eco tours as strictly and responsibly as them too. We offer snorkeling and marine conservation boat trips based in Lombok as an alternative source of livelihood for shark fishermen.

You left your job as a schoolteacher to work on The Dorsal Effect in 2013. How has the journey been so far?

It has been difficult, though not without little milestones. I do get my moments of cynicism and despair, wondering if I am making any impact at all. But it is the moments of seeing the fishermen excited about picking trash off the reefs while snorkeling or free diving on the trip with the boat trippers and having the boat trippers feedback about how much more they have learnt about sharks and the marine ecosystem after the trip — that makes the difficult financial situation, the toughness of implementing new things, worth the while.

What keeps you going?

Being in the ocean every single time, be it snorkeling or diving. That sense of awe, fear, respect and love for the oceans, wanting more and more people to experience this amazing experience without disrupting it. That beauty keeps me going.

What does success mean to you?

Being able to play a part, big or small, in making the oceans more thriving and beautiful and spreading a wide awareness in people to be responsible travellers who respect the oceans and understand that their impact on the planet can be a good one.

How do you sustain your passion?

When you are convicted to a cause, you never, ever, ever give up… You just keep going and going and going amidst the heartbreak, tears, joy and beautiful moments.

What’s your vision for The Dorsal Effect?

I used to think it was to convert as many shark markets in the world as possible, but over time, I think the real vision for The Dorsal Effect would be that there wouldn’t be a need for it to even exist because sharks are no longer in danger of extinction and that everyone travels responsibly with respect for the oceans and nature.

case study 4

– The importance of marine conservation.
– The need to raise awareness about marine conservation.


“Pristine waters, secluded beaches and bonus prize”

It’s really something when you can take it amazing vistas, visit amazing, secluded beaches, and snorkel in pristine waters without other boats around, people selling things or any of the other usual tourist distractions. Back to nature with the assurance of able English-speaking guides, personal service and genuine interest in sustainable eco-tourism and conservation, not just some marketing gimmick. Kathy and Ogus, along with their boat team, were excellent and attentive. I highly recommend this full-day boat trip. The bonus prize? I was doing good just by being on the trip. The Dorsal Effect is a social enterprise trying to give fishermen who hunt shark a viable alternative livelihood in eco-tourism.