26 March 2011

All-girl net removal at Pulau Semakau

Four females finally remove the abandoned driftnet that we have been seeing here.
The team was very small, the tide was higher than expected, the net was very long. But as things turned out, we managed to get the job done almost effortlessly!

The net is 100 metres long! We measured it! Having to use the 50m tape twice.
The net scrapes against some living corals.
Crosses over rich growths of sponges and other encrusting marine life.
The tide was still high when we arrived at the net. As over the last few days, the tide did not go as low as we expected. This has happened to us before when the low spring tide switches from evening to morning. So it was not a huge surprise. But I was worried it would make it difficult to remove the net.
As it turned out, the higher waters was a blessing! We found out that our big blue bags float very nicely in the water so we didn't have to carry the nets as we worked. In water, the nets were also easier to clear of sand, thus reducing the weight of the nets collected.
Since we are all demure ladies (haha) and can't possibly lug the entire net out without injury, we decided to cut out the netting from the heavy ropes. The ropes won't trap animals and much of the rope is already overgrown with seaweeds and other encrusting marine life. Snipping off bits of net and tossing them into our blue bags, we feel like tea pickers at a tea plantation!
Some parts of the net are full of seaweeds, and sponges have grown into the net. Other parts of the net are still transparent and thus dangerous to animals that blunder into these invisible traps.
Another look at the state of the net. We snip out the parts of the net that are dangerously transparent and that are not too heavily encrusted.
Although most of the net was clear of large animals, we did find two little crabs (about 6cm across the body width) trapped in the nets.
They both appeared to be Spoon pincer crabs (Leptodius sp.) with spoon-shaped tips on their pincers. The one below seems to have been recently entangled in the more transparent portion of the net. We use blunt tipped scissors so we don't hurt the crabs when we carefully snip out the entangled creatures. The other crab was more seriously entangled and had already lost a pincer and some legs.
Today, there is a big public intertidal walk conducted by the Nature Society (Singapore). We saw them starting off into the low shores while we were in the middle of our work. There is a large drill ship and large tanker on the horizon. The area off Pulau Semakau is designated anchorage for such large vessels in Singapore for maintenance and repair.
Here's a closer look at the people compared to the huge vessel.
After about two hours, we finished removing all of the 100m of net! Fortunately, the tide was slow thus the water remained clear even though it was turning. We heard splashing in the water while we worked but were too slow in looking up to see exactly what large creatures were busy in the deeper waters near us.

After we finished, we walked back along the hard sandy parts at the low shore. The higher than expected tide allowed us to float our blue bags all the way back. It was much easier than having to heave them on our backs on the soft muddy high shore! In the clear waters, we also took the opportunity to check out the rest of the low shore for more abandoned nets. Fortunately, we didn't come across any.
Along the way, we saw pretty colourful encrusting marine life in patches here and there.
We also saw many healthy unbleached hard corals. Mostly Favid corals (Family Faviidae) and Pore corals (Porites sp.).
I was delighted to see a large Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.) among the seagrasses.
We came across two Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus)! One was a small one, and another medium sized. The water was too murky for photos, so we gently put it on our bag for a quick shot before returning it to water.
Rene saw this Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). Abigayle spotted the Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). In the incoming tide, we saw a Ribbon jellyfish (Chrysaora sp.) and lots of stingrays and other fishes zooming too quickly to be sure of what they were.
Just before we left, we came across two circles of egg ribbons probably laid by a nudibranch!
By the time we reached the high shore, all the visitors had already left and the tide was slowly coming in. We saw FOUR Great-billed herons foraging very close to us. Wow!
Thanks to NEA and Jinny for arranging a ride for us to and from the shore! We managed to get the nets to their final destination, a proper dustbin!
It was also nice to catch up with the guides doing the public walk! Bravo for sharing this special shore with more people.

Despite being a small all-ladies team, we had a great time removing the net! The weather was wonderfully cloudy with gentle breezes, the high water floated our bags and the company was great!

Thank you Abigayle, Rene and Kah Ming for helping with this retrieval, which is part of Project Driftnet.

More about Pulau Semakau.

Other posts about this trip
  • Rene on facebook with more photos of what we saw including great shots of the Great billed herons.


  1. Good Job! Another net bites the dust...bin!

  2. Yes, it felt good to bin it. Bin there, done that. Haha!

  3. Jiayou! Jiayou! I love all-women team!

    Gee...Ria, those huge crabs looked good tho... ;)

  4. Yeah Wendy! The crabs were small lah, about 6cm across the body. I don't think they make good eating, for people anyway.

  5. Hi Ria,
    Well, those crabs did look huge from the picture taken. Are you sure we are talking about the same crabs? ... hahahhaa

  6. The only photos in this post of crabs are the Spoon pincer crabs we disentangled. You can see my finger in the photo. The crab is about the size of my index finger, and my hands are small :-)



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