07 June 2015

Big stars on big Beting Bemban Besar

'Besar' means 'big' in Malay and this submerged reef is indeed enormous. We can only survey a tiny part of it on each visit.
Today, large sea stars, corals and other encounters. But zero Giant clams.

This submerged reef lies opposite Pulau Semakau.
The team saw a total of 13 Knobbly sea stars, in around the same spot that we last saw them in Nov 2014. Last year, we saw 15 of them.
This bright orange thing that looks like ribbon is probably the eggs of some kind of nudibranch or slug. And a large one too. Alas, I couldn't find it.
These three Black-margined nudibranchs were high and dry near one another. I often see this sort of situation. I wonder what is going on.
This Common hairy crab was hugging a bunch of seaweed and running off towards its hiding place. I often wonder what crabs eat and have decided to document when I see them eat.
It has been very hot lately, which makes us worry about coral bleaching. So we also checked for this during our trip. Here's the latest Bleaching Alert Areas from the NOAA website. Singapore falls in the 'Watch' status. What is coral bleaching and why this is of concern on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog. Fortunately, we didn't see many corals bleaching today at Beting Bemban Besar.
from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch website.
Most of the leathery soft corals were alright, but some like this one was starting to 'melt' forming holes in the middle of the colony. Eventually, they may split up into smaller colonies. I notice this happens when the colony is starting to bleach. I didn't see many Asparagus flowery soft corals and those I saw were pale.
Many of the Flowery disk corals were pale or pastel shades, and some of the Pore corals were pale.
I saw a few colonies that were bright pink, and some were pale or yellowish.
This reef edge is not as thickly covered in corals, but there were many kinds of corals here. Most of them were healthy.
I saw a few mushroom corals of various kinds: Circular mushrooom coral, Tongue mushroom coral and Mole mushroom coral. Most of them were not bleaching.
Back at Marina at Keppel Bay, the corals growing naturally on the pontoons are not bleaching either.
I was so glad to see the small patch of branching Montipora corals were still alive and well.
These branching corals are like a tiny forest, forming places for other animals to grow and find shelter and food.
Many parts of the shore was covered in scummy growth.
There were some patches of seagrasses. But they were heavily coated in epiphytes. Mostly Spoon seagrass and Tape seagrass which were cropped to about 20cm. Also some Sickle seagrass.
I saw four large fish traps on the mid-water mark. All of them were no longer functioning. This reef is near Pulau Bukom and its petrochemical plants.
A fishing boat put down anchor very close to the reef. Juria spoke to them and they asked if there were clams on the reef to eat. They also said that they eat large sea stars, scooping out the insides.
Our day started ominously under fearsome rain clouds. But it stayed dry, and cool and shady throughout our trip.
Tomorrow, another trip to another submerged reef. Singapore has so many reefs and we don't have enough low spring tides to visit them all!

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