08 November 2010

Seagrasses dying at Cyrene?

Two small teams headed to Cyrene Reef yesterday. I was with TeamSeagrass to do the regular monitoring of seagrasses there.
While a small NParks team were there to check out Cyrene and match the ground situation with satellite readings.

The NParks team arrived separately and made a landing at a rather high tide!
The seagrasses at Cyrene were not doing well at all! Most of the Tape seagrass blades (Enhalus acoroides) were broken off very close to the sand surface. In the lagoon where Collin does his survey of pipefishes, there is virtually no more seagrasses. Previously the lagoon was thick with Tape seagrasses.
On some parts of the shore, there was a layer of fine scummy stuff with lots of air bubbles trapped in them. I had noticed this already during our previous Cyrene monitoring in July. It frighteningly reminds me the scummy layer I see on the shores at Tanah Merah that have been hit by the oil spill.
Fine hairy stuff is still seen in patches, as on our last trip in August. Here's some growing on Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis).
Teams at both monitoring sites felt the seagrasses were not as lush as usual.

After I finished monitoring I head off towards the beacon which is near Pulau Bukom and the petrochemical plants there. To check for driftnets, fish traps and the coral bleaching situation.
There are still lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) on Cyrene. Although they are widely dispersed now.
I saw a large patch of leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) that looked alright.
This one also seems to be OK.
Some leathery soft corals, however, were still somewhat 'too yellow'.
And some didn't look very healthy, with hairy growths on the edges.
I saw large colonies of hard corals which were no longer bleaching.
A pair of hard corals that looked alright.
In fact, most of the soft and hard corals and other cnidarians I saw on my short check seemed to be unbleached.
It was a relief not to come across any driftnets or fish traps. But I saw an abandoned makeshift anchor on the reef flat.
All too soon it was time to leave. Andy retrieves an abandoned driftnet and we meet up the Siti who has spent time chatting with a man who has been harvesting Fan shell clams (Family Pinnidae) from Cyrene for a long time. It seems he also collects these from the submerged reefs off Pulau Semakau.
Rain is seriously falling nearby and the sun is setting. So goodbye to the folks left on Cyrene as we take the first dinghy trip back to the big boat!
We are using a much smaller dinghy these days. But still do the crossing safely with Jumari and Thai looking after us.
The seagrass situation at Cyrene is disturbing. Let's hope things will return to normal. This is why it's important to regularly check up on all our shores!

More about Cyrene Reef and the TeamSeagrass trip.

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