01 May 2014

How is Kusu Island doing?

The wacky Kuiter's dragonet was the highlight of the trip. This fish was recently identified as a new record for Singapore, thanks to Kelvin K. P. Lim and from photos shared by Mei Lin, Debby Ng and Chay Hoon.
Kusu Island seems to have survived the recent oil spill and a smothering of mattresses. Although there were some worrying signs.


Here's a wider shot of the intriguing fish. It's got all kinds of sticking out bits on the sides and on the top of its head.
There was a little Slender sea moth! This is a fish with body armour, like the seahorse.
How nice to see a Grey bonnet snail, our first sighting of this at Kusu Island. This is not really very surprising since we saw this snail at nearby Seringat-Kias.
There were also some Moon crabs. Seems like the sandy lagoon is very much alive.
Without Chay Hoon, none of us spotted any nudibranchs. The only slug I saw was enormous: this Spotted sea hare which I have seen before at Kusu Island. Sea hares often release a purplish dye when they are annoyed.
The Dawn flatworm is commonly seen and we saw some big ones and little ones today.
Kok Sheng spotted this Remarkable sea cucumber buried in the sand. We regularly see this sea cucumber at Kusu Island.
I saw several Giant carpet anemones. This one had captured some small fishes that accidentally swam into its tentacles in the low water.
The Magnificent anemones are still common on the shore and looked alright. But none of the large sea anemones had any anemonefishes in them.
There was patches of seagrasses in the lagoon with tiny-bladed Spoon seagrass and skinny Needle seagrass. The seagrasses were full of Bazillion snails, little hermit crabs, fishes and other small critters.
I was worried about the corals growing here because I saw a huge barge inside the Kusu seawalls in Jan 2013. This was part of repair and restoration work to existing rock bund at Kusu Island.
There were still a variety of corals in the lagoon near the seawall. Including the patches of branching corals, although large areas of the branching corals were overgrown by Halimeda seaweed.
The delicate corals are still there as well as the usual boulder-shaped ones. I didn't come across any corals that were bleaching.
But what I saw wasn't as rich as what I saw in Jun 2012 (below).
I was also worried about how the Kusu shores were coping with the impact of the oil spill in Jan 2014 which was documented by Kok Sheng, Pei Yan and Chay Hoon.
Oil spill impact on the Kusu Island swimming lagoon.
Photo by Loh Kok Sheng shared on his blog.
There was oil slick on the corals too.
Oil slick next to living corals at Kusu Island.
Photo by Heng Pei Yan on her blog.
Today, I saw some signs of oil slick scum on the water surface, washing up on the corals.
It was also greyish just beneath the sand. Something that I saw for many years after the major crude oil spill in 2010 landed on Tanah Merah shores.
There were many large healthy looking Common sea stars, and some small ones among the seagrasses. But I did come across one sea star that was disintegrating, its arms rotting away.
Although I didn't come across any bleaching corals, I saw some corals producing a lot of mucus, a sign of stress.
I was taking a photo of the octopus in the hole, but when I got home, I realised the coral was also producing 'strings of snot', a sign of stress.
How about the the mattresses and other large debris seen at Kusu Island? MPA and Sentosa promised to remove these in Feb 2014.
We still saw a few mattresses, but it is clear Sentosa is working hard to remove what they can. This work can only happen during low spring tide, most of which do not occur during daylight. Grace Lee of Sentosa sent me these photos of Sentosa staff removing some of the mattresses in Feb 2014. Bravo!
Photo provided by Grace Lee.
Photo provided by Grace Lee.
We started work well before dawn with the twinkling lights of the Central Business District on the horizon. Fortunately, the early morning rain was brief and cleared for a wonderful dry cool trip.
Here's the same spot in daylight.
We were glad to have Juria Toramae and Jerome Lim with us on our trip today. Juria takes photos with a medium format camera on film and it's great that she's documenting our shores. More about Juria and her work.
The highlight of the trip was the maiden flight of The Drone in the South. Kok Sheng took awesome photos of the action. The Drone Commander (Pei Yan) took it on two flights and we'll soon get to see awesome footage of our favourite shore from a different point of view. Here's a sneak peek.
While the others continued working on the other lagoons, I gave The Broken Foot a rest and had a look at the sea turtles in the temple pond nearby. The tide was still low so all the sea turtles in the pond were easy to see. There were quite a lot of them (I think at least 6). There were also many large reef fishes.
The turtles are large and seem to be covered in epiphytes. Oh dear.
I didn't manage to check out other parts of Kusu Island, but the rest of team did so and will share what they saw in their blog posts. My last trip to Kusu Island was in Jun 2012. With few suitable low tides, we usually visit Kusu only once a year. More about Kusu Island on wildsingapore.

Photos and stories by the rest of the team

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