10 October 2014

Northern Pulau Semakau - Why are the seagrasses gone?

Living reefs! As we checked Pulau Semakau's natural north-east shores yesterday. Alas, Tape seagrasses are severely 'cropped' in parts of the seagrass meadows here.
A small team surveys this shore for coral bleaching and other threats during the first evening low spring tide of the year. Also for the first time, a survey of the fishes in deeper waters thanks to GARS (Gamefish And Aquatic Rehabiliation Society).

Though it may look comical, this creature is no laughing matter if you are its prey. This Gymnodoris rubropapulosa nudibranch eats other nudibranchs!
I came across this pair of Phyllidiella nigra nudibranchs that look like they were mating. Jianlin also saw a pair of mating Gymnodoris rubropapulosa.
How nice to come across a Tiger-tailed seahorse! Another special find was a Burrowing giant clam by Kok Sheng.
I saw many anemones: Fire anemone, Magnificent anemone, Giant sea anemones  and many Haddon's carpet anemones with anemone shrimps. There were also many Bubble-tip sea anemones at the reef edge.
I was glad to see a Sunflower mushroom coral. This is no longer commonly seen on our reefs.
Some parts of the shore are teeming with Chocolate sponges.
Most of the corals on the shore were alright. I only saw this one small bleaching coral.
Most of the hard corals I saw were not bleaching
I saw a few leathery soft corals and they seemed alright.
The corals growing on the artificial pontoons at Marina at Keppel Bay, where we got onto our boat, were also doing well and not bleaching. Hopefully, the bleaching threat to our shores is passed for the year?
Alas, all the Tape seagrasses north of the stream were cropped short (Site 1 of TeamSeagrass monitoring), and a great deal of those south of the stream were also cropped.
Eventually towards Site 2 of TeamSeagrass monitoring, I saw patches of long Noodle seagrass.
But the Tape seagrasses growing among the other seagrasses here were also cropped, though not as short as the more barren areas.
Cropped Tape seagrass among Spoon seagrasses.
I saw a flowering seagrass, I think it's Sickle seagrass.
The area we visited is north-eastern Pulau Semakau that faces the rich reefy shores of Terumbu Raya. We last visited here in Aug 2013.
On this trip, we were joined by Scott Tan and Marc Chung of GARS (Gamefish And Aquatic Rehabiliation Society). This Society of recreational fishermen are involved in habitat restoration and practice catch and release. They don't use live bait and instead have a fascinating variety of artificial lures to mimic the fish's favourite prey. The lures are very pretty!And are all handmade. Wow!
Scott and Marc fished at the sandy edge of the reef and they rapidly caught and released all kinds of interesting large fishes. After taking photos and details of the fish. They also saw a large ray. It's great to have these experienced fishing folk have a look at the biodiversity in the sea. The regular team tend to focus on shallow waters and the higher shores.
It was rather hazy, rainy and choppy. But as usual, Alex and his crew got us there and back safely.
We travelled along the shore carefully to find the stream with a sandy mouth which is free of live corals and sargassum and thus safe for the shore and for us to land and depart.
I came across this old abandoned net that is already being buried in the sand and covered with growths. It was a relief not to come any recently abandoned nets on this trip.
I also saw one small abandoned and encrusted crab trap. Jianlin found a large bubu fish trap on the reef edge.
In the early part of our trip, there was a lot of flaring at the petrochemical plants nearby. There was a puff of black smoke and a huge fire from one of the chimneys which sounded like a jet plane.
It's great to be back on the shores for our first evening low spring tide of the year. Sadly, my foot, which I broke a year ago, is still not very good and I can't explore the shore very thoroughly. But the rest of the team did a good job at that.

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