28 December 2008

Stars on Sembawang Beach?

Are there sea stars on Sembawang Beach? It has been more than a year since I last visited Sembawang.
Even at this moderate low tide, quite an expanse of sandy shore was exposed. And shore seems quite shallow as people were fishing just off the sandy shore.

The shore was firm but silty. There was no seagrass, no seaweeds. It appeared lifeless. But in the worst of shores, you can almost always count on some anemone to eke out a living.But you need to look closely as many of them are transparent or very small.I'm not sure if this darker one is a just another colour form of the more commonly seen transparent ones.In pools of water, there were clusters of tiny ones.Silty shores are usually home to the pretty-in-pajamas Mangrove anemones, with fine white lines on its body column.This anemone has petal-shaped structures around its mouth. There were many of the Mangrove sea anemones on the shore, and some came in strange patterns. We still don't know the identity of these animals.One little whelk wandered slowly in a pool, carrying a pair of hitch-hiking sea anemones.Near the open water were schools of nervous little fishes.

But there was hardly any other life. No snails, no little crabs (although there were several moults of crabs).There were lots of people out on the shore. They included families and working people, all enjoying a Sunday outing. I could hear tongues of many continents on the shore, all seemed happy and relaxed.

But where are the sea stars?As the sun set, the stars soon came out of hiding! They twinkled in the waves of the incoming tide. Popped out from the silty sand like cartoon cut outs.And soon I saw lots of these Plain sand stars (Astropecten sp.)!They were all quite tiny, about 2-3cm in diameter. As usual, some had missing arms. It was nice to see so many stars on the shores, even if they were very small. I didn't see any of the more patterned Painted sand stars (Astropecten sp.) though.

What happens around Sembawang shore?

Sembawang beach lies right next to Sembawang shipyards: a 86-hectare site handling tankers, bulk carriers, container and cargo vessels, chemical tankers, LNG carriers and navy ships.While I was there, a huge RORO (Roll-on/roll-off) ship was being slowly brought to the shipyard by several tug boats. These large ships are designed to carry vehicles. Although the ship was moving very slowly, huge waves soon crashed on the shore after it passed by.Opposite Sembawang beach is Johor, a very short distance across the narrow Johor Straits.
From Sembawang, I could see a hill being stripped on Johor.With more land clearance nearby.And in the distance, a heavy industrial area on the Johor shore.
What is the future of Sembawang shore?

In the 2003 Master Plan, there were indications that reclamation was planned for Sembawang beach. The habitatnews Sembawang homepage has more details on these plans, responses to the plans and other stories of the laid-back kampung life and heritage of Sembawang.

There doesn't seem to have been any further developments on the plans for reclamation at Sembawang.
Today, I saw a section of the shore cordoned off, with a small work site on street level. But there was no signage explaining what work was going on.

More about Sembawang shore

The beach is part of Sembawang Park which is run by NParks. Facilities in the Park include barbecue pits (which were well used this evening), children's playground, fitness corner/ stations and (the ubiquitous) foot reflexology footpath.


  1. I think that's the same RORO we saw off Chek Jawa!

  2. Wow! It sure is a small Straits :-)

  3. Hi Ria,

    It doesn't look like a beach that people would go swimming :( or to go have a picnic. But you mentioned there were people hanging around?

    You know what, the second sea anemone will definitely give me the creeps if it starts waving its snakey tentacles around!

  4. You're right Chai. I won't say it's one of our best shores. Despite which, it is still appreciated by people as a getaway from our very urban city.

    I do feel it's necessary to check out all our shores, no matter how sad they may appear to be. I've been surprised many times by the life found on what initially seems to be dead shores.

    Now that you mention it, the anemone does look creepy! You will pleased to know these creatures are tiny. None exceed 3cm in diameter :-)

  5. Hi Ria,

    You are a real naturalist!

    By the way, I think a sci-fi film director would appreciate seeing the second anemone!



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