24 May 2015

Checking Terumbu Pempang Laut in a mizzle

This submerged reef is close to Jurong Island, spewing emissions on the horizon as usual. Yet is it home to corals and other interesting marine life.
We visited in a mizzle (miserable drizzle) and were glad to see our familiar favourites.

Terumbu Pempang Laut is one of our largest submerged reefs and located near industrial islands such as Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
Hurray, the little Fluted giant clam is still there! It was all retracted into its shell because it doesn't like the rain too. We saw it first in Jun 2014.
The Fire anemone has a nasty sting! But it's nice to come across one in the sandy area near our landing point. There were also many Common sea stars, some of them in mating position.
The only nudibranch I saw was this nudibranch: Discodoris boholiensis.
Zooming by in the water were squids, leaving being ink in the shape of themselves! There were also many Blue-spotted fantail rays.
The mostly rocky reef has hard corals scattered on it. I came across one Acropora colony.
In some places near the reef edge, there are many corals crowded next to one other.
It has been very hot lately, which makes us worry about coral bleaching. So we also checked for this during our trip. Here's the latest Bleaching Alert Areas from the NOAA website. Singapore falls in the 'Watch' status.What is coral bleaching and why this is of concern on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog.
from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch website.
I saw one Crinkled sandpaper coral and several Cauliflower corals that were not bleaching.
A few of the corals I saw were pale or had white portions, but I didn't see any that were full on bleaching.
I'm always glad to see a nice healthy mushroom coral.
There was a large patch of branching Montipora corals in the middle of the reef. Sadly, the entire patch is dead. I first saw this patch in Apr 2011, and it was alright when I saw it in Jun 2014.
There were many large leathery soft corals on the reef, most were alright. But this leathery soft coral has a hole in the centre of the colony. We notice that these soft corals tend to fragment during coral bleaching period.
The Asparagus flowery soft corals (three clumps on the left) that I saw were mostly looking rather pale or had a yellowish tinge.
This is a leathery sea fan. I don't often see it and usually only one colony per reef.
I came across an area with several small Magnificent sea anemones. No shrimps or anemonefishes though.
I saw several Giant carpet anemones (no anemonefishes though) and many Frilly sea anemones. I didn't check the seagrass area in the middle of the reef so I didn't see any Haddon's carpet anemones.
I noticed many of the Chocolate sponges were very pale (left lump). They are usually chocolate coloured (right lump). The other sponges I saw seemed alright.
At Marina at Keppel Bay, the corals growing on the pontoons are still alright.
There is a swathe of Spoon seagrass growing near our landing point. I didn't see any dugong feeding trails here, unlike on our trip in May 2012.
There were patches of Spoon seagrasses and Sickle seagrasses sprinkled among the rocky parts of the reef. Many were covered in ephiphytes.
Most of the Tape seagrasses I saw were 'cropped' although they were rather long.
I did see a few clumps of Tape seagrasses with longer leaf blades.
There are parts on the reef with deep holes surrounded by piles of dead coral (yellow arrow). Probably a result of a boat strike, i.e., a boat running aground on the reef.
The area to the south of the reef is allocated for mooring of large ships. On the horizon are the Live Firing Islands.
To the east, are the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, producing a cloud of emissions as usual.
During our short stay on the reef, we saw five boats fishing or laying fish traps on the reef edges.
I came across one abandoned fish net that is so old that animals and plants are growing on it. We usually leave such nets on the shore.
Terumbu Pemang Laut is one of the existing natural shores that may be impacted by the landuse plan by the Ministry of National Development released in Jan 2013 in response to the Populations White Paper with a 6.9 million population target. The dotted margined blue areas are "Possible Future Reclamation".
The other shores impacted by this plan include Pulau Hantu, Terumbu Pempang Darat, Terumbu Pempang Tengah and Pulau Jong and Terumbu Semakau.
Singapores submerged reefs are often out of sight under the high tide and thus forgotten. Let's hope Terumbu Pempang Laut stays safe until we can visit again next year.

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