05 July 2011

Driftnet at Changi Beach

Several large fishes and many crabs were caught in a driftnet that we saw at Changi this morning.
We quickly got to work to document the animals trapped in the net and release the ones that were still alive.

Jerome Pang took photos of the trapped animals, while Dr Chris Klok and Jerome Yong released the fishes. The net was about 25m long and was laid parallel to the shore at the low water mark, weighted at both ends. The net was exposed at minimum tide of about 0.1m.
I tried to photograph the fishes that were caught in the net. Here's what I managed to photograph. I used my bootie (25cm long) as a size estimate as I forgot to bring Project Driftnet gear today.
Stargazer (Family Uranoscopidae), possibly edible.
About 30cm long. It was still alive and released unharmed.
Oriental sole (Brachirus orientalis), edible.
About 25cm long. It was still alive and released unharmed.
Possibly Commerson's sole (Synaptura commersonnii), edible.
About 30cm long. It was dead.
Mullet (Family Mugilidae), edible.
About 30cm long. It was dying.
Another Oriental sole (Brachirus orientalis), edible.
About 25cm long, edible. It was still alive and released unharmed.
Flathead (Family Platycephalidae), possibly edible.
About 35cm long. It was dead.
Mangrove whipray (Himantura walga), edible.
Disk diameter about 25cm. It was alive and released unharmed.
I counted 14 Flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus) trapped in the net, body width ranging from 6 to 10cm. Most of them seemed to be still alive. We didn't have time to release all the crabs as we focused on releasing the living fishes.
While we were releasing the fishes, a man paddled up to the far end of the net in a kayak. He looked at the net for a while, then paddled off again without coming near us or speaking to us.
After he left, we thought he didn't own the net, or if he did, he didn't want the net. So we released the fishes that were alive and started to drag the net to the high shore. When suddenly, he came back, dragged his kayak up and asked for the net back.
When I tried to make conversation, he merely said that he should not have laid the net so high up on the shore as it would be exposed at low tide. He then just quietly walked off and paddled away.

Where the net was laid, we noticed furrows in the seagrasses that might have been made by dugongs. Dugongs are air-breathing mammals and will drown if they are trapped underwater in a net.
Hopefully, by collecting more data under Project Driftnet, we can better understand the issues and impact of driftnets laid on our shore.

More photos by Jerome Pang on facebook, of the driftnet, the animals caught in it and the man who took it away.

Here's more about the rich marine life we saw on this shore.

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