17 June 2010

Two reefs in one trip: the submerged reefs off Pulau Semakau

Another glorious sunrise, marred only by the clouds that emerge from the petrochemical plants at Pulau Bukom.
We are here to explore not one, but two submerged reefs! While Mei Lin is doing FOUR!

Originally, the plan was just to visit Terumbu Bemban, our first time trip there. But Mei Lin has to check up on the clams that we've seen in the area, and she decides to visit Beting Bemban Besar AND Terumbu Raya while we do Terumbu Bemban. THEN, we headed to Terumbu Semakau to check up on the clams over there!
When we get near the destination, the tide is still high. Even though it's broad daylight, it's quite hard to figure out exactly which of the bits of rock sticking out of the water is Terumbu Bemban.
We pore over the map to figure out where things are and how best to get a whole lot of work done today. We're very grateful that Alex and Jumari are so patient with our itinerary!
After dropping us off, Mei Lin heads of with the very patient Jumari, to check up on her clams at Beting Bemban Besar AND Terumbu Raya. Mei Lin is indeed truly hardcore!
Oh dear, the water is still high again. And wow, we saw a shark swim by, again! Ah well, this skill in walking through murky deep water might come in handy when we decide to shop at Orchard Road during a flash flood.
Sadly, once the tide falls, we see a lot of bleaching on Terumbu Bemban. And also at Terumbu Semakau. So much bleaching that I've done a separate post about it.

But how is the rest of the marine life doing? Although some of the Chocolate sponges (Spheciospongia cf. vagabunda) seemed a bit pale to me, the rest of the common sponges seemed normal.
The ascidians seemed well and were their usual colourful selfs.
I saw one Giant anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), one Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) and one Wriggly star anemone and they all seemed unbleached. The Frilly anemones (Phymanthus sp.), however, seemed paler than usual.
I saw one Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.). Alas, it looks like it is bleaching.
I saw a completely bleached Bubble tip anemone (Entacmea quadricolor). And oh dear, nearby was a Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) that usually lives in the anemone.
The poor fish was swimming around seemingly lost.
It's difficult to photograph fishes during the day as they are more wary. But in deeper water, I did manage to see (but not shoot very well): A bright blue baby Three-spot damselfish (Pomacentrus tripunctatus), a small Yellow-banded damselfish (Dishistodus fasciatus) I didn't even see the filefish (Family Monacanthidae) until I processed the photo! And wriggly worm-eels (Muraenichthys sp.) are commonly seen on our reefs.
The rest also saw a seahorse at Terumbu Semakau!

The colonial anemones or zoanthids (Order Zoanthidae) seem alright too.
Some of the corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia), however, were rather pink and sickly looking.
Although it was bright daylight, I came across a little octopus on the hunt!
The only nudibranch I saw today was a Glossodoris atromarginata. Kok Sheng saw three of these with a great video clip of them, as well as more nudibranchs and flatworms 'penis fencing'.
Terumbu Semakau has probably the second best seagrass meadows of the submerged reefs! Here you can see Pulau Jong on the left and the Semakau Landfill transfer station on the horizon. To me, the submerged reef with the best seagrass meadows is of course Cyrene Reef!
Terumbu Semakau has the rare Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium), as well as Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata) and lots of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis). The Tape seagrasses seemed to have just finished flowering.

The seagrasses look healthy. But I'm rather worried seeing lots of these hairy cyanobacteria growing among the seagrasses.
Here's a closer look at the Hairy cyanobacteria taken by Sneaky Swimming Camera.
The seaweeds seemed as usual. I didn't see any that were bleached.
Bleaching is not the only threat to these reefs. Someone has also set up a large fish trap near this rich reef on Terumbu Bemban.
While on Terumbu Semakau, a huge trench seems to bave been gouged out in the middle of the reef, with dead corals tossed to the left and the right. Did some boat run aground here? Sigh.
But the saddest part of today's sightings were of bleaching corals.

More about bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore.

Other posts about this trip by:

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