05 June 2011

Long driftnet traps many colourful fishes on Terumbu Semakau

Many beautiful fishes I don't recognise were seen trapped in a long driftnet on Terumbu Semakau today.
Mystery fish no. 1
One of the heart-breaking effects of driftnets is that they indiscriminately kill all kinds of fishes and sea creatures, not all of which are valuable to the fishermen. These are simply thrown away, as wasted by-catch. Wild dolphins and sea turtles have also been sighted in this area and could be trapped in the driftnet and drown.

I took shots of the fishes trapped in the portion near me. The rest of the team also took photos of them. Most of the fishes were dead, but recently so. Some were half dead.

Here's some of the fishes that I don't recognise.
Mystery fish no. 2
Mystery fish no. 3
Mystery fish no. 4
Mystery fish no. 5
Mystery fish no.6
Mystery fish no. 7
Here's some of the fishes I think I recognise and whether they are edible to humans.
Needlefish (Family Belonidae), edible.
Black eeltail catfish (Plotosus canius), edible.
Emperors (Family Lethrinidae), edible.
Mullets (Family Mugilidae), edible.
Possibly snappers (Family Lutjanidae), edible.
Orange spotted rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus), edible.
This looks like a Remora, a fish that usually hitches a ride on sharks, sea turtles and big fishes.
A closer look at the Remora's 'sucker'. It seems these fishes are edible.
These dead fishes had already attracted many crabs which naturally scavenge on the shores.
Some of the fishes had already been badly scavenged by the crabs. These crabs in turn will get entangled in the driftnet. Not all these crabs are considered valuable by the fisherman and much may be discarded.
Besides killing fishes and crabs, the driftnet also drapes over and may damage hard corals, sponges and other immobile animals on the reef.
Here's a closer look at some hard corals and sponges that the driftnet covered.
The driftnet stretched from the edge near the Landfill seawall towards the other edge of the reef near Pulau Bukom. We estimate it's about 150-200m. It comprised a single layer of monofilament with a mesh size of about 5cm.
As we paid some attention to the nets, someone soon came off a boat nearby with a styrofoam box to remove the fishes. I forgot to take a photo of the boat...sigh.
We were here with Dr Daphne to look at sea anemones. We also had to leave quickly as lightning started near us. So we didn't have time to remove the net. I hope the fishermen will eventually remove the net at high tide. While working nets cause damage, abandoned nets cause even more unnecessary damage.

More about driftnets and fish traps on Project Driftnet.

Others who posted about this event
  • Andy with a video clip of the driftnet.
  • Marcus with more photos

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