30 April 2017

Terumbu Hantu is alive!

Today, the hard and soft corals looked healthy at Terumbu Hantu.
Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu, Apr 2017
This is what it looked like when we surveyed at the height of mass coral bleaching in Jun 2016.
Mass coral bleaching at Terumbu Hantu, 9 Jun 2016
At that time, about 60-70% of the hard corals and soft corals that I saw were bleaching. Today, I am rather worried that I no longer see many of the kinds of corals I saw bleaching last year.

Here's a video clip of some of the corals I saw at Terumbu Hantu and nearby Beting Pempang which we also surveyed. Other interesting creatures seen include nudibranchs and a cushion star. Pei Yan also found a large Fluted giant clam.
Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu, Apr 2017
I also happened to see these tiny damselfishes when I was trying to document a large mushroom coral.
Threespot damselfish (Pomacentrus tripunctatus)
All the leathery soft corals I saw were alright, most colonies were small. But I did not come across any Asparagus flowery soft corals.
Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu, Apr 2017
There were signs of recently dead  hard corals, or colonies witih recently dead patches.
Last year, I saw many bleaching Circular mushroom corals and Feather mushroom corals, and I didn't see any of these corals today. Today, I saw mostly Tongue mushroom corals, which I did not see bleaching last year.
Last year, about half of Anemone corals I saw were bleaching. Today, most Anemone corals I saw were alright, although some had many dead portions.
Last year, all the Brain corals I saw were bleaching or not looking good. Today, I was glad to see a few Brain corals that were alright. I saw some Sandpaper corals, a few Cauliflower corals and some Pebble corals. They all looked alright.
I saw some small plate-like corals of various kinds that were alright. Including Ridged plate corals, Ringed plate coral, Disk coral and Bracket mushroom coral.
It was nice to see some corals that I rarely see: Horn coral, Moon coral, Castle coral and Anchor coral. I saw one Lettuce corals that was alright but I didn't see any Carnation corals, half of which were bleaching last year.
I saw a few Frilly anemones and many Giant carpet anemones. One had an anemonefish stranded out of water nearby. We put it gently in a pool of water nearby. When the tide returns, it will find its way home. I also saw one bleaching Pizza anemone. Alas, I couldn't find the rare Merten's carpet anemone that I saw last year, when it was bleaching. I hope it made it through alright.
Terumbu Hantu had many small clumps of Tape seagrasses, most of them with long leaf blades although some were cropped. Beting Pempang had a lot of Spoon seagrass with tiny leaf blades.
One reason we visit this submerged reef is that it has been damaged by large dive boats in the past. This is a photo of the MV Nautica a large live-aboard dive boat which was seen high and dry on the living reefs of Terumbu Hantu on 9 Nov 2014.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.
We checked for damage to Terumbu Hantu in Jan 2015 and again in Aug 2015. Large holes which are bare of living corals and other reef life are likely to be caused by boat strikes such as the MV Nautica grounding. Today I didn't see any new large holes. This looks like the one I saw on our last survey here. Today, Pei Yan flew the drone. Damage due to boat strikes are more obvious in such aerial surveys.
Signs of boat strike on Terumbu Hantu
Today we met a fisherman washing and clearing his enormous fish traps, while divers were diving from a boat parked near Pulau Hantu, and recreational fishermen were fishing from the reefs of Pulau Hantu.
People and reefs on and around Pulau Hantu
We also saw oil stains, sheen and blobs on our survey of Beting Pempang. More in this blog post.
Oil stains, sheen and blobs around Pulau Hantu
Let's hope these shores remain well until we return next year.

Pei Yan also flew the drone for some fascinating aerial views of the terumbus off Pulau Hantu.

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