27 May 2010

Crude cruelties: Oil spill victims on Tanah Merah

Long before the oil spill, we had already planned to visit Tanah Merah this low spring tide. It was with a heavy heart that we headed out at 4am this morning.
Some stretches of the shore was coated in a thin layer of oil.

The rocks are coated with oil at the high water mark.
And in this zone, heaps of dead porcellain crabs.
On the sandy shore, layers of oil slick are concentrated on the mid-water mark. With generally clear sand to the low water mark.
Animals were moving through the slick, but it's hard for a marine creature to outrun the slick. Sigh.
Some animals are mired in the oil, like this poor hermit crab. "I'm sorry!!" I say to the little creature.
Most of the Ghost crabs are well coated in oil.
If the oil coating doesn't kill them, eating the poisoned dead animals on the shores would probably do them in. Sigh.
But even the 'clean' sand was a death zone full of dead Spotted moon crabs (Asthoret lunaris). Mothers and their unborn young are killed.
This mother crab was still feebly kicking her legs. The eggs she holds under her belly are still orange and alive. But probably not for long. Chay Hoon kindly filmed a little swimming crab that was turning constantly in circles. It is a slow painful death for these animals.
Animals normally buried in the sand were seen above ground in distress. There were many 'swarms' of usually buried bristleworms in pools of water. And countless number of peanut worms were writhing or lay still on the sand.
Clams that are usually buried have come up to the surface: There were several gaping Large cockles and several Big brown matra clams (Mactra mera) with their siphons hanging out.
And large stretches of 'clean' sand are littered with dead Button snails, which usually lie buried in the thousands in the sand. The dead snails dot the sand among still living Common sea stars.
Thing are not much better in the water where patches of oil float on the surface.
In deeper water, under a rock, I saw what seems to be a distressed or dead Arabian cowrie snail (Cypraea arabica). And a goby that is most certainly dead.
This large hard coral is completely bleached. A hard coral (and other cnidarians) can turn white or 'bleach' when it is stressed. A bleached coral become weak and may get sick and die.
There were a few that were partially bleached. But most of the hard corals still had their colours.
In large parts of the water, there is a 'sheen' of oil. This prawn is still alive, among the few living ones that I saw.
Many prawns and shrimps already lie dead on the shore. I saw one dead octopus, Chay Hoon saw another. Among the few dead fishes I saw was a flatfish.
A bitter sweet discovery, this strange striped mantis shrimp that I have never seen before. It was lying dead right at its burrow. Nearby, another striped mantis shrimp. They were probably a couple. This is very sad.
Many Gong gong snails were in deep distress. "I'm very sorry!! I apologise on behalf on all humans" I say as this bewildered beast peers at me with its large eyes.
It was a beautiful sunrise, over a very sad shore. If all the distressed creatures could scream, moan or yell, we wouldn't stand being on the shore for more than a moment. As it is, I was close to tears, and it was not just because of the fumes in my eyes.
But not everything on Tanah Merah was dead. We saw a lot of life, although most were in great distress.

High resolution photos of some of the animals dead and distressed is available for free download on wildsingapore flickr.


Related Posts with Thumbnails