07 November 2014

A rare look at East Semakau

A quick look at the rich shores of Pulau Semakau before rain forced us to leave.
This shore is the natural part of Pulau Semakau that was spared when the Landfill was created. The Landfill seawall is on the left, with a lower  seawall built for the replanted mangroves. The reef in front of the seawalls was there long before the Landfill was constructed. So it is NOT true to say that the Landfill created the reefs.

Kok Sheng and Pei Yan did the reef edge and found all kinds of marvelous marine life such as large Fluted giant clams, large Burrowing giant clam and special sea anemones. This shore lies just opposite the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom (on the horizon).
Meanwhile, I headed inland to check out the higher shore. Much of the ground I travelled was crumbly rubble and abundantly covered with Feathery soft corals and Zoanthids. I was surprised that there wasn't a massive bloom of Sargassum seaweed in the area that I surveyed.
Here's a look a the replanted mangroves and the lower seawall around them. In front of them, a large area of Branching montipora coral.
But I took a closer look and most of the branching corals were dead. Recently dead? Because they are still standing. What killed them? Coral bleaching?
Or the oil spill earlier in the year? Pei Yan's blog post outlines the areas covered. Oil had washed up on Eastern Semakau and the impact was assessed to be worst on the mangroves lining the shore (red line).
Some other species of mangroves have started to settle naturally among the replanted Bakau pasir mangroves. I didn't get a chance to take a closer look because of the change in weather.
I saw the usual variety of hard corals and I didn't see any that were bleaching.
There were many large leathery soft corals and I didn't see any that were bleaching.
I was so glad to see that all the Asparagus soft corals were not bleaching and were nice and puple when their polyps are retracted, and brown when their polyps are expanded.
From the NOAA Bleaching Alert Areas, it appears that our region is still under Bleaching Alert (green). Hopefully, the threat of bleaching is diminishing.
I saw one Giant carpet anemone, one Haddon's carpet anemones, one Wiggly reef star anemone and in the distance, I could see the patches of purple Magnificent anemones.
There are nice sandy patches near the seawall. Here, there were lots of Common sea stars, many in 'mating' position with the usually smaller male on top. There were also many moon snails. And I saw one Mangrove horseshoe crab with a smooth tail, and one Garlic bread sea cucumber.
Alas, I only saw sparse patches of mostly cropped Tape seagrasses. There were also some patches of small Spoon seagrasses heavily covered in growths. Fortunately, none of us came across any driftnets.
Towards sunset, I noticed really nasty storm clouds over Cyrene Reef, where TeamSeagrass is monitoring with Alex! Oh dear. We saw a post by the team of really heavy rain on them.
I noticed stormy weather in the east too, and heard that our friends guiding at Chek Jawa were rained out. It's great to know that there are so many people now exploring and working on our shores during low spring tide. I hope everyone is safe!
Thanks to Alex's brother Kim Seng we managed to escape the shore just in time to avoid the rain. The way home was choppy and we had to be careful when crossing the Jong Fairway which is used by really huge container ships that probably have difficulty spotting such a tiny boat as ours in the rain. So thank you to Kim Seng and crew for getting us safely home.
On this trip, we were joined by members 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. Today, they had encounters with a Queenfish and a shark and also spotted a Hawksbill sea turtle. It's great to have this team looking at the open waters which we usually don't really look at. In this way, our surveys are more complete!

We don't visit this shore as often as we should. I last visited this shore in Oct 2011.

Posts by others on this trip

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