31 May 2010

Oil spill updates: Shore lovers checking up on our shores

In a flurry of trips, ordinary people who care about our shores checked up on their favourite shores and shared what they found.
Most of the low tides over the last few days were predawn.

Here's a compilation of what has been shared, links also on the Oil Spill Facebook page

28 May

Wei Ling visited Tanah Merah on 28 May and shared this on the Oil Spill Facebook page:
The impact area is actually quite large. Also, some globules of oil have already sunken and rolling on the sea floor. Marine creatures there were lethargic due to the lack of oxygen in the waters. Dead and struggling creatures were also seen...sad. However, we saw plenty of common sea stars...they seem to beholding up better.

29 May

Sam Yeo checked out Changi Carpark 7 on 29 May during the predawn super low tide. This is what he shared on facebook:
Truth be told, Changi looked clean. Well, as in there were no huge patches of oil on the shores (but litter and can still be found there...an abandoned fridge even!). There were also no mass die offs of animals like worms, crabs, fish or molluscs. Well, for now at least.

As dawn broke, I could clearly see more denizens of the sea. Sea urchins, various crab species, sea cucumbers, a few worm mounds. The sea grass meadows of spoon and fern sea grasses, thankfully, were not covered in muck and look lush as ever (though sedimentation and litter is always a problem). And I saw at least 7 pink sand dollars (Peronella lesueuri). Apparently, this is an uncommon species but I did wonder whether they were feeling stressed out hence I could see so many of them. Saw quite a bit of clams above the sand so I reckon they were feeling unwell.
I love Sam's photo that shows the lush seagrass meadows that are found at this shore.
As it got brighter, I could see more signs of the slick. Those dispersants used to clear the crude? Well, what they do is create or form globules of oil and these either sink into the sea or wash up onto the shore. And yes, there were many globules found at Changi. Some groups of cleaning crew were there and have started clearing the crude from the high water mark (which could explain why I didn't see so much muck).
Meanwhile, Ivan made a trip to Tanah Merah on 29 May too, and shared his encounters on his blog.
This is one of the areas where the oil first hit the coast, so it is particularly important to see how the various marine animals are coping with the large amounts of crude oil that have suddenly washed up here.

Before I even set foot on the sand, I could notice 2 things. The first was the overwhelming smell of petroleum. The second was the long stretch of black deposits on the sand, which I correctly guessed was the result of oil being washed up onto the beach.
Among Ivan's observations "the worms (to use the term in general) are in really bad shape." He too saw many pink peanut worms had emerged from their usual buried situation. Some of them were very large.
Ivan's most exciting find was the spotted box crab (Calappa philargius). He explains "All past sightings of this crab have been at Changi, so it is a first for Tanah Merah. It's also my first time seeing this species. Not to mention that the others have not seen this crab in years; apparently, the last recorded sighting was in May 2006."

30 May

Sam Yeo made another predawn trip and checked out Changi Carpark 1 on 30 May and had this to share on facebook:
Either the cleaning crew had been extremely efficient or reports were rather exaggerated but this part of the Changi was SLICK FREE and CLEAN. Well, of course, you get to see the usual litter which was more depressing than anything else but no die offs as observed yesterday once again.

Critters seen: biscuit stars, all sorts of anemones, loads of sea cucumbers, many plumes of peacock anemones, pipefish and even an octopus!
And they looked stress free and I did not see anything covered in oil slick.
However, that being said, we still do not know what the long term effects the oil slick will have on marine animals, for instance, in terms of their growth or on their ability to reproduce. But this morning, it was heartening to see a rather normal shore scene, one normally encountered on many of our shore trips.
Liana Tang visited a different part of Changi on 30 May despite her busy schedule. She shared her photos and stories on her blog, and her relief "to be greeted with a relatively healthy shore. While this stretch of shore may not be representative of Changi Beach considering how long the whole beach really is, it was a real relief to still see all these beautiful animals alive and well, minding their own business. I do hope the oil does not spread to this stretch and any further."

Among her many sightings were of many Pink sand dollars, just like Sam did. So far we have only encountered this sand dollar regularly on Pulau Sekudu. And like Sam, she also saw the more delicate creatures like bright pink Thorny sea urchins on Changi.I was glad to see that she encountered healthy Moon crabs on Changi as these crabs did not do very well at Tanah Merah after the spill hit that shore.

Andy Dinesh shared of a clean up operation on Tanah Merah that he observed on 30 May on his blog. This included how the 'Vacuum Tanker' is operated on oil in a canal, and response to sighting of new slick on Tanah Merah.
Andy says "If the slick moves south, then it is likely that East Coast Parkway will need another clean up within a day or two."

Eugene Tay shared photos taken at East Coast beach from chalets to jetty on 30 May from 11am to 3pm on facebook. Among his observations were of marine creatures washed up on the high shores. These included 'at least 10' dead fishes and a pile of many peanut worms.

Chay Hoon checked out Pasir Ris on 30 May and there was no sign of spill there. She shared this on the Oil Spill Facebook page:
Pasir Ris shore (near carpark E) is cleared of oill spill.
31 May

The most recent report on the shores is by Cynthia Wong who visited Chek Jawa this morning and shared on facebook:
Thank goodness the damage was only confirmed to a small site at Chek Jawa. Affected area is already under control and requires monitoring. The rocky shore, coral rubble, sand bank, seagrass area & mangroves are safe. Chek Jawa looks intact & healthy.

We saw stars, corals, snails, fishs, birds, etc.
She even saw a healthy icon of Chek Jawa! The Knobbly sea star!
The carpet anemones she saw look happy and healthy still.

It is thanks to their efforts that we have a better idea of how our shores are coping with the oil spill, and whether any new shores are being affected. Bravo!

You CAN make a difference for our shores!
Simply visit your shores at high or at low tide and share what you saw on the Oil Spill Facebook page. Even if your favourite shore is unharmed, hurray! Share that information too.

Or if you prefer not to use Facebook, you can email me your photos and stories for posting on the wild shores of singapore blog hello@wildsingapore.com.

Can ordinary people help to monitor the health of our shores?

Yes, you can. Monitoring of seagrasses have been ongoing since 2007. TeamSeagrass is made up of ordinary people who volunteer to watch the seagrasses in various sites in Singapore, including Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau, Cyrene Reef, Labrador, Sentosa and Tuas.

You can also help monitor our marine life in other ways. ReefFriends is programme by the Blue Water Volunteers to do regular surveys of our reefs. They welcome dedicated and serious volunteer divers.

For more thoughts about making a difference for our shores, read Mei Lin's post "Oil of death - Where were YOU when the shores need you..." on her Psychedelic Nature blog, and my post What can shore lovers do about the oil spill?

1 comment:

  1. Ria I am so pleased to see citizens taking a keen interest in the health of your shores. I am a little disappointed at some of the comments made by Singapore's media that downplay the significance of this spill. I think your suggestion that people can help by recording the spills impact on your shores and sharing their images is excellent.

    My respect to the many people like yourself who have worked so hard after the spill to lessen its effects and record its impact.



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