01 July 2010

How's Tanah Merah one month after the oil spill?

This morning, I head out for a solo check up on the Tanah Merah shore hit by the oil spill a little more than a month ago. How is it doing since our last check two weeks ago?
The big brown patches above the seawall is where the bags of oil-soaked sand sat for some weeks before they were finally removed.

On the high shore, it is as if we never cleaned up this shore a month ago. A new line of trash has formed. Some of it is covered in crude. Marine trash floats up on the shore constantly. Sigh.
There is still a long line of crude on the mid-water mark. It seems a little, but not much, less than what we saw two weeks ago.
From the high shore, streams of greyish stuff flow out to the sandy low shores with the outgoing tide. But unlike the other stretch of Tanah Merah which we checked out a few days ago, this stretch did not have a thick layer of soft greyish muck under the sand.
Still, there is grey muck streaming down to the patches of rare Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) growing here.
A creamy orange slick accumulates on the water surface with the outgoing tide.
The Ribbon seagrasses are still alive but seem to be doing poorly. With many brown leaf blades. But the leaves are mostly free of algae and scum.
The patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that is growing on the low water mark seems to be mostly alright. Although some of the leaf blades are turning brown, most of the patch is still green and not covered in algae or scum.
The patch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) on the high shore looks much worse since we last saw it two weeks ago. There are fewer leaves and the remaining leaves are shorter today.
There is another small patch of Tape seagrass growing in deeper water. It seemed less beat-up.
There are patches of grey stuff on the shore. But still lots of burrowing Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta).
Much of the shore is still thickly carpeted with what Ivan suggests we should call Bazillion snails (Batillaria zonalis). Although the snails are not so thick on areas where there is grey muck.
The tiny Dubious nerites (Clithon oualaniensis) are also still abundant on the shores and on seagrasses.
A slick and sheen still forms on the water surface over the entire lagoon, probably coating the hard corals that grow here as the tide rises and falls.
Several large hard coral colonies, under slicked water.
As on our last trip two weeks ago, probably only about 20% of the hard corals were bleached. Although a few more have started to bleach, and some corals that were starting to bleach seem to have bigger bleached portions today.
There were some Onch slugs (Family Onchidiidae) and a few Nerite snails (Family Neritidae) busy out and about on the sunny rocks.
How nice to see the fanworms (Family Sabellidae) fully unfurled as normal. On our previous trips, they were rather shy or had 'droopy' fans.
I saw several fanworms today, including one orange one which seems to have balls of muck gathered in its fan.
There were several Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius sp.) on the shore. And I also saw a living Dolphin snail (Angaria delphinus).
I saw one pink blob stuck to a Bazillion snail. I think it's an anemone but I don't know what kind. There was a larger blob buried in the sand. I think it might be a Plain sea anemone.
I saw two Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni). Both were not bleached and I saw an anemone shrimp in one of them!
On a clean stretch of sandy shore, there were many signs of burrowing sand bubbler crabs (Scopimera sp.). On the high shore, there were also many burrows of Ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus).
I saw one large squid frantically swimming in the shallow pool. It seems to be injured by a line. See the cut across its back?
I saw one Painted scorpionfish (Parascorpanea picta). It seems to have an injured 'nose'.
I did see lots of fishes which were too quick for a good shot in slicked water: gobies (Family Gobiidae), lots of other small fishes swimming in schools, some larger shy fishes hiding among the rocks, and a Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) that zoomed past me. There were also many Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) of all sizes. The bigger ones seem to have just moulted.

I did not see any Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) or any kind of echinoderm.

I saw a man with a long pole, buckets and bag. He clambered down the seawall on the seaward side with the pole.
Later on, I noticed he had unfurled a driftnet. He used it to gather fishes in the shallow pool, anchoring one end and walking with the other end forming the net into a circle. He had a big handnet, probably to scoop the fishes out.
As I was leaving, another person walked in with fishing gear.
The tide was still low so I hurried out to check up a sandy shore at the East Coast where I actually saw crude washing up a month ago.

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