19 April 2011

Quick check at Tuas, Merawang Beacon

I'm back for a quick look at the rich shore of Tuas with volunteers working at the company along this shore who monitor the seagrasses here with TeamSeagrass.
It was a hot morning! And I saw a plume of cloud hanging over the tower in Johor behind the green Merawang Beacon that marks the reefy part of this shore.

Helen pointed out a white-bellied sea eagle resting on Merawang Beacon before we started.
The tide was coming in fast as I headed out to Merawang Beacon to check on the situation there. But even in the high murky water, I could see glimpses of the rich marine life that is found here.
More clusters of sponges and soft corals.
It was a relief to see no obvious signs of massive bleaching as I waded to Merawang Beacon.
This is what I saw at the height of coral bleaching in June 2010. The water was dotted with pale soft corals and hard corals. There were still signs of bleaching on my visit to Tuas in Oct 2010. More about coral bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore.

I saw several Flowery disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) large and small, and one large Thin disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) which all seemed unbleached.
I came across two small colonies of boulder-shaped Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) that I rarely see elsewhere. They seemed to be fine.
The Flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae) seem alright and were not 'glowing' in the water as during the height of coral bleaching.
There are still lots of sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) here!
There remains lots of zoanthids (Order Zoanthidea) on this shore of various kinds.
There are also hydroids in the water! The white kind stings badly! We also saw several Ribbon jellyfishes (Chrysaora sp.) in the water, which also sting badly.
Even though the tide was high, we still managed to see lots of interesting marine life on the high shore. One of the sharp-eyed volunteers found this Spotted-belly forceps crab (Ozius guttatus)!
This shore is particularly rich in sea cucumbers! Even during our short trip we managed to see many different kinds: Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis), Orange sea cucumbers and one of the volunteers noticed a See-through sea cucumber (Paracaudina australis) my first sighting on Tuas. There were also some rather dried up sea cucumbers on the hot shore, which should recover when the tide turns.
There are lots of Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) here. Some had anemone shrimps.
Tuas shore lies opposite the rich seagrass and mangroves of Sungai Pulai in Johor. Today, we saw lots of mangrove seedlings floating in with the tide to land on Tuas.
Across the Johor Straits are the Sungai Pulai estuary "possibly the richest marine bio-diversity spot in Malaysia" and gazetted a Wetland of International Importance in 2003. The area is already going to be impacted by plans to develop a massive petrochemical installation there. Recently, volunteers with Save our Seahorses in Malaysia have started surveying for dugongs using a blimp in this area. Sungai Pulai is one of the three Ramsar sites in Malaysia, that lies just across from Tuas.
The shore near Merawang Beacon is a part of this special area. Hopefully, greater awareness of Sungai Pulai will be raised among Singaporeans with plans to develop a cross-border tourist attraction involving Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and three Johor Ramsar sites of Sungai Pulai, Pulau Kukup and Tanjong Piai.

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