10 August 2014

Checking up on Pulau Semakau South

 It's always great to see lots of Clown anemonefishes! They were happily living in Giant carpet anemones that dotted this sandy, seagrassy part of natural Pulau Semakau.
We also checked for coral bleaching, fish nets and the general health of the shore.

Among the special finds today, were Masked burrowing crabs. We saw many out and about. I saw this one clinging to and clambering actively on a Tape seagrass blade. Kok Sheng saw lots more!
Marcus and I found this pretty whelk that has yet to be identified, and which our local snail experts are interesting in having a closer look at.
Sharp eyed Pei Yan found this little sea hare on a Sargassum seaweed blade.  Chay Hoon found one too yesterday. We may have been exploring Singapore's shores for years, but we still keep finding things that we have not seen before!
A pretty Pink moon snail. I first saw this snail on Pulau Semakau when we were training volunteer guides for the first of the shore walks at Pulau Semakau!
Pulau Semakau is one of the few shores where we can see many of these curious Upsidedown jellyfishes. The jellyfish harbours microscopic, single-celled algae (called zooxanthellae) inside its body. The algae undergo photosynthesis to produce food from sunlight. The food produced is shared with the jellyfish, which in return provides the algae with shelter and minerals. It is the algae which gives the jellyfish its colours. Because it relies on photosynthesis, the jellyfish tends to be found in shallow waters.
There were also many Common sea stars and Garlic bread sea cucumbers in the sandy and seagrassy areas.
There were a lot of these Durian sea cucumbers which are actually quite well camouflaged among the rubble.
The Reef octopus is superbly camouflaged and I only spotted this one when it moved.
Pei Yan also found this curious little shrimp which has yet to be identified.
I saw this tiny wiggly fish and I thought it was a Worm eel. But a closer look and it looks like a young Snake-eel! The rest of the team also spotted a Dog-faced water snake and a Banded file snake.
While there were patches with cropped Tape seagrasses, there were also large patches with very long healthy Tape seagrasses. There were also thick growths of other seagrasses like Needle seagrass (broad blades), Sickle seagrass and Noodle seagrass.

On the Tape seagrass is this tiny Seagrass sea hare which blends perfectly on the seagrass blade. The sea hare is translucent and even  has white stripes to match the seagrass.
There were also tiny Seagrass sea anemones settling on the Tape seagrasses.

Alas, some patches of seagrasses were covered in scummy growths.
I didn't manage to get to a reefy part of the shore, so I didn't see many corals. Those I saw seemed alright. I didn't see any bleaching corals. I was glad to see many small colonies of healthy Cauliflower corals that are usually the first to bleach. The Sargassum seaweed is starting its annual 'bloom' whereupon they will carpet large areas of the reefs. This makes it hard to explore the reefs safely, but also provide shade for the corals and may help them keep cool.

There were also a few small to medium sized Haddon's carpet anemones. This one seems to be starting to bleach in the middle.
I saw two of these Fire anemones and they both looked alright.

There were also many different kinds of colourful sponges. But I didn't manage to find any nudibranchs.

We were fortunate to have a clear sky and explored the shores under a bright full moon. Eventually, we also enjoyed a gorgeous moon set. Jerome and Juria probably took great photos of this so I shall just burn the blurry photos I took of it.
We hurry to finish documenting the shore are the tide turns in the first blush of sunrise, while the lights of the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom and distant Jurong Island are still shining brightly.
Pei Yan aka Drone Commander flew SG Sea Drone from the boat because we had to leave before sunrise. Check out the SG Sea Drone facebook page for the photos and videos!

While we didn't see a freshly laid net, we did come across a small section of rolled up old net that is already heavily encrusted with marine life. So we left it there. This net looks very much like the one we saw on our last visit here one year ago in Aug 2013. Sigh.
Alas, this dustpan was also seen on the shore.
Pulau Semakau is NOT the same as the Semakau Landfill. The Landfill was created by destroying all of Pulau Saking, and about half of the original Pulau Semakau by building a very long seawall. Fortunately, the landfill was constructed and is managed in such a way that the original mangroves, seagrass meadows and reefs on Pulau Semakau were allowed to remain. It is NOT true that the construction of the Landfill created the marine life found on Pulau Semakau. The marine life was there long before the Landfill was built.
There are plans to close up the gap of the seawall on the Semakau Landfill, forming one big pool and to start filling up the big lagoon with ash. This is because, the existing landfill area is almost all filled up. NEA plans to limit the damage to natural shores during the construction work for this expansion of the landfill.

Among the threats to the Southern shores of Pulau Semakau is the large fish farm locate very close to the shore. More about it in this separate post.

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