14 January 2017

Pulau Hantu after chemical spill and other impacts

Pulau Hantu's shores were impacted by mass coral bleaching in mid-2016, barge grounding in Oct 2016 and last week, there was a chemical leak at Pulau Bukom that lies opposite Pulau Hantu.
Living shores of Pulau Hantu
This evening, we survey the shores to see how they are doing. We saw yellowing leaves on the mangrove trees growing on the island. But the reefs looked alright, seagrass patches had long Tape seagrasses and we didn't see signs of fish nets or traps.

Impacted by chemical spill on 9 Jan at Pulau Bukom?

Last week, it was reported that on 9 Jan, the leak happened in a Shell unit on Pulau Bukom that was already shut down for maintenance. Shell said "there is no adverse impact expected in the water or the surroundings" as a result of the leak. When asked about what chemical was leaked, Shell said it does not provide such details "for reasons of commercial confidentiality". "The cause of the leak is being investigated," its spokesperson added. "The safety of the community and our personnel, as well as the protection of the environment, remain our top priority."

Today, I noticed yellowing leaves on the two large Perepat mangrove trees growing on Pulau Hantu. In one of the trees, half of the tree appears to be bare of leaves.
Perepat (Sonneratia alba)
There were fruits developing on the trees among the yellowing leaves. I'm not sure if this is a sign of exposure to chemicals?
Perepat (Sonneratia alba) with yellowing leaves
Nearby saplings looked alright.
Mangroves at Pulau Hantu
And some of the Api-api pasir trees nearby had some yellow leaves but normal looking flower buds and seedlings.
Bakau pasir (Rhizophora stylosa)
I had a look from afar at the mangroves that have naturally settled on the seawall around the northern lagoon. They seemed alright.
Mangroves on Pulau Hantu seawall

Impact of huge barges 'parked' in western lagoon in Oct 2016?

I decided to check the Western lagoon where two huge barges were seen 'parked' inside in Oct 2016.  Barges require tugboats to be moved around. I find it hard to believe the barges ended up in the lagoon by accident. Particularly since the opening of the lagoon is only about 90m and the barges are estimated to be 50m long.
Here are photos of the barges in the Western lagoon.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon.
 A closer look at the barges that appear to be grounded right up on the shore.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon.
The mouth of the Western lagoon was covered in Sargassum seaweed, so I couldn't see much of the shore. The shore is dotted with some boulder shaped corals. I didn't see any that were bleaching.
Living shores of Pulau Hantu (Western Lagoon)

Impact of mass coral bleaching since mid-2016?

We didn't get a chance to visit Pulau Hantu at the height of mass coral bleaching. But we did see mass coral bleaching at nearby Terumbu Hantu in Jun 2016. About 60-70% of the hard corals and soft corals that I saw were bleaching.
Mass coral bleaching at nearby Terumbu Hantu in Jun 2016.
Today, around the Western lagoon, I saw a few small leathery soft corals of various kinds. All seemed alright.
I saw many Merulinid corals. Most were not bleaching, but had large dead patches.
I saw two Flowery disk corals. One was pale, another had dead patches.
I saw two small Anemone corals, one was alright but had large dead patches, the other was still rather bleachy.
I also saw a few small colonies of Galaxy coral, Brain coral, Lettuce corals and Acropora corals. Also some small clumps of  Branching Montipora corals.
There were also two Fire anemones in the sandy lagoon.

Russel Low surveyed the reef edge of Pulau Hantu and saw lots of healthy corals. What a relief!

MORE photos by Russel in this album.

While the Tape seagrasses in the Northern lagoon were nice and long, I saw a few cropped Tape seagrasses in the Western lagoon. There were also sprinkles of Spoons seagrass with small leaf blades, heavily covered in epiphytes. I didn't see any flowering seagrasses. My last trip here was in Aug 2015.
Living shores of Pulau Hantu
Chay Hoon was diving the waters at the same time as our survey. I'm sure she saw lots of marvellous marine life too! You can dive Pulau Hantu too with volunteers of the Hantu Bloggers who conduct guided dives at Pulau Hantu every month.
Dive boat at Pulau Hantu
Chay Hoon shared what she saw during that dive!

Posts by others on this trip
Others who came for the trip: Marcus Ng, Lisa Lim, 

Posts about recent impacts on Pulau Hantu


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