22 May 2015

Punggol's living rocky shores

There is a pretty little stretch of rocky shore at Punggol Jetty, just opposite Pulau Ubin.
Alas, no seagrasses today. While the shore had colourful marine life, it was far less diverse than my last trips here over the years.


The most abundant animal on the shore at first appeared to be these colourful blobs. These are animals called ascidians: thus Blob ascidians.
But this photo shows that actually, the most abundant animal are the barnacles that cover the rock! It is only obvious when the barnacles have been scraped off (probably by a crab) leaving a white patch on the rock. The other abundant animal were banded bead anemones.
Brittle stars are also quite abundant even in the most beat-up-looking shore. But they can be very tiny and well hidden.
Almost every rock I turned over had a pair of tiny snapping shrimps, usually cuddled up next to one another, while tiny porcelain crabs scrambled all over the place. There were also small Stone crabs and other crabs. Jay and Randy found lots of larger snapping shrimps!
I saw only a few small colonies of Zebra coral. The big blob next to is a Burgundy anemone with its tentacles retracted into its body column. I also saw a few Worm snails and one Crown sea star.
I saw one very much alive Coastal horseshoe crab.
These Ovum cowries were huddled together on a sponge. There were also a lot of Spiral melongena snails and Drills.
Under the jetty, there were dense schools of little fishes.
The water is quite clear here, before the boats start arriving at the jetty and big ships start passing by. The sandy shore is dotted with cerianthids and fat Flowery sea pens. As well as bunches of seaweeds. There were also many tiny to medium-sized swimming crabs, including a pair of Flower crabs.
Big fat Burgundy anemones are still plentiful. Punggol is the only place where I've seen a lot of these anemones. I also saw several Haddon's carpet anemones.
Today, I saw mainly Rainbow sponges. In small patches. There were few other sponges. I saw very few Green mussels, although the shore was littered with empty shells of adults. Also no sea fans or sea urchins. The shore is certainly a lot less lively than at my last trip in Aug 2014. Which means, today the shore is even more sparse than on my trip in Aug 2013, and even worse than the situation in Jan 2013.
Today I saw four large dead fishes, one of them a toadfish, the others I couldn't really make out as they were well decomposed. These could just be fishing bycatch deaths.
As on my last trip in Aug 2014, the beautiful rocky shore is marred by litter floating in a constant stream.
This is the debris from today's incoming tide.
This must be the trash load from the last night's high tide.
Punggol Beach is clean only because it is cleaned. As I ended my trip there was a lady cleaner hard at work under the jetty.
It is obvious the cleaners have been diligently working to keep the beach clean. Large piles of planks, wood and large trash are piled neatly on the high shore. Probably to be disposed of at regular intervals.
Each day the low spring tides starts a little later. So today, we started at sunrise (instead of ending at sunrise). There was already a guy with a cankul (hoe) on the shore digging large chunks of the rocky shore. I tried to make conversation with him. He was digging up worms.
When I got back to the jetty at the end of my survey about an hour and a half later, he was still digging at the same spot. There were now three large holes around him.
Although this shore lies opposite Pasir Gudang it is also next to some industrial and massive construction sites on Singapore. Here's a look at one of the drains that wash out onto the Punggol shore.
Just behind the greenery, I saw a raw stripped  hillside. This must be the construction that is going on next to Punggol Marina.
In the distance, large ships and large piles of stuff. Thanks to Jerome Lim's post on his blog, I learned that this must be Punggol Timor and Punggol Barat islands, which are reclaimed shores. These are now used to store mountains of sand and mountains of aggregates.
I have always wondered whether there are checks on whether such large construction and heavy industries along our shorelines are subject to checks for their impacts on water quality.

It will be another year before I am back at Punggol. I hope it stays safe until then.

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