30 July 2011

Fishes galore on oil-slicked Tanah Merah

I still see an amazing variety of fishes, even though crude remains on this Tanah Merah shore.
How nice to see the Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis)! This fish behaves just like a floating leaf in the water. I last saw these fishes here in 2009, before the May 2010 oil spill.

I'm not sure what fish this is. I saw a similar fish at Kusu Island recently. It changed colours very rapidly.
Mystery fish no. 1
When a large Brown spotted moray eels (Gymnothorax reevesii) popped up beside it! In total, I saw three moray eels today.
Here's another mystery fish that I think is a kind of grouper.
Mystery fish no. 2
How nice to see the Black cardinalfish (Apogon melas), another fish which I had seen before the oil spill.
I saw lots of halfbeaks (Family Hemiramphidae) today. This one has a broad 'nose'.
In particular, I saw several of these fishes that resemble twigs. Some were shorter and skinnier with less developed 'beaks'. Are they all the same kind of fish?
Here's a closer look at the 'beaks' of the twig-like fishes.
This one with a very long 'beak' is probably a young Needlefish (Family Belonidae).
There are many small groupers on this shore. I came across several Chocolate hind (Cephalopholis boenak).
There were lots and lots of Painted scorpionfishes (Parascorpaena picta). Also many False scorpionfishes (Centrogenys vaigiensis) which are actually groupers. When they are next to one another, it's easier to tell them apart.
Uh oh! Not our favourite fish, the Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida) is one fish that has not disappeared since the oil spill.
I saw many filefishes (Family Monacanthidae). This one looks different from the usual ones I see. But these fishes can change their body patterns. So I'm not sure if it's the Seagrass filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) that I've been seeing on this shore even after the oil spill.
Mystery fish no. 3
Other fishes seen include: I saw many small Common mojara (Gerres oyena), one small Cresent perch (Terapon jarbua), one Crocodile flathead (Psammogobius biocellatus), many  Bengal sergeants (Abudefduf bengalensis), many Three-spot damselfishes (Pomacentrus tripunctatus), many cardinalfishes (Family Apogonidae), and other damselfishes (Family Pomacentridae) large and small. I only saw a few small White-spotted rabbitfishes (Siganus canaliculatus).
Today, schools of countless tiny fishes were crowded together in the shallow pools left behind at low tide.
A closer look and it seems they comprise of several different species.
I saw this Pygmy squid (Ideosepius sp.) happily hunting on the sand. This tiny animal doesn't grow any bigger! I also came across a few larger squids (Family Loliginidae). One looked like it was hurt.
I saw many Saron shrimps (Family Hippolytidae) today. But only managed to take a good photo of this one. These shy creatures quickly slide into hiding at the first glance of torchlight.
There were lots of crabs out on the shore. There were many small Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus), and many small Swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) of all kinds. I saw some Spotted moon crabs (Ashtoret lunaris) and one medium-sized Stone crabs (Myomenippe hardwicki). The sea walls were crawling with small Purple climber crabs (Metopograpsus sp.). There were lots of Red nose shrimps (Periclimenes sp.) and many Blue-tailed prawns (Family Penaeidae).
I saw several White spotted hermit crabs (Dardanus megistos). There were also some Banded hermit crabs and many Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius infraspinatus). I couldn't find any Land hermit crabs (Coenobita sp.) on the high shore.
I saw eight Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) today. They were close to one another and all seemed alright.
The corals on the shore seemed alright. There were many large colonies, as well as some small colonies of Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) and Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).
There were also several Pore corals (Porites sp.) that were still a little pale.
As usual, most of the hard corals here are Favid corals (Family Faviidae). At night, those which remain submerged have their tentacles nicely expanded.
The clusters of tiny Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungidae) are still there!
I finally manage to take a closer look at this colony and confirm that it's an Encrusting disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).
I saw one individual of some anemones: possibly a Plain anemone, a Peachia anemones (Peachia sp.) and a burrowing anemone. I didn't see any Frilly anemones (Phymantus sp.).
There were some large patches of Button zoanthids or colonial anemones (Zoanthus sp.) on the shore.
The two large patches of Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) were doing well, with long blades mostly clean of growths. The Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) that have settled among these seagrasses are also still doing well although I saw fewer today and didn't see Five-spot anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) in any of them. I checked up two clumps of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) which seemed alright. The patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) seems alright. Oops, I forgot to look out for the Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis).
The most abundant seaweed on the shore were Mermaid's fan (Padina sp.) and crunchy pom pom seaweed that was growing on ropes and extensively on rockier parts of the shore. With small clumps of various other kinds of seaweeds.
In the middle of the lagoon, I saw dark patches with whitish growths. I kicked a little beneath the soft sand and sure enough, there was a layer of crude beneath. Still smells as fresh as the day it landed more than a year ago. There are many Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta) producing long coils of 'processed sand'. Most of the coils are clean but a few have dark to very dark sand.
Scum also still forms on some parts of the lagoon where the water pools at the outgoing tide.
Throughout the trip, we noticed two people fishing on the shore. Both on the seawall and with a driftnet in the lagoon.
The tide turns as the sunrises and we head to the high shore to take a closer look at a sad situation. Alas, it's another spill of plastic on the high shore.

More about the oil spill on this blog and on the Oil spill facebook page.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, Ria! Such a great assemblage of fishes and marine life alive and kicking indeed. You know, I want to say so much, but I think no words of mine will ever describe sufficiently the fabulous documentary work you do for our underwater treasures than this feeble 'thank you, Ria'. Your tireless and consistence sharing of our wild wonders is so very impactful in educating and helping Singaporeans to value our natural heritage in the sea. I Bravo, Ria, Bravo!!

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  2. Your kind words mean a lot to me Joe! I take inspiration from your own tireless and quiet work. Thank you for your encouragement!

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