17 July 2018

Some bleaching at Pulau Semakau (East)

The Eastern shore of Pulau Semakau next to the Landfill seawall is rather reefy.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau, East, Jul 2018
Sadly, today I saw some dying corals and bleaching corals. Although some other marine life seem to be doing well. We saw several giant clams and seahorses, but it was unfortunate that FangYi got stung by a stingray.

A quick glimpse of the shore which lies opposite petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, the submerged reef of Terumbu Semakau and next to the Landfill.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau (East)
This is what the shore looked like in July 2016, at the height of mass coral bleaching. At that time, We estimated about 70% of the hard corals and 40% of the leathery soft corals are bleaching. We estimate 5-10% of the corals have died then.
Mass coral bleaching at Pulau Semakau (East), 23 Jul 2016
This is what it looked like during our last survey in Jun 2017. No bleaching was seen and the soft corals were abundant again.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau (East), Jun 2017
This is what it looked like today. The ground is a lot less sandy, with much exposed coral rubble, which was rather hard to walk on. I sense the situation is a little worse than during our last survey in Jun 2017.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau, East, Jul 2018
While some corals seemed alright, others were bleaching, pale, dying or dead.
Various corals and marine life, Pulau Semaka
I was rather alarmed to see many Boulder pore corals with dying upper patches that were grey and sloughed off. This is similar to what I saw at Sentosa Serapong last month.
Almost all the Boulder pore corals had white upper parts. While the Branching pore corals were less affected.
Many of the Merulinid corals were bleaching, some with dying patches.
Nevertheless, many of the Brain corals seemed alright, with only some with large dead portions and bleaching.
I saw large Anchor coral colonies that were 99% dead with only tiny living portions on the bottom. Similar situation with Lettuce coral and Trumpet coral.
I saw some healthy Carnation coral, Ridged plate coral and Disk corals. While Mei Lin pointed out a highly stressed Acropora coral that was bright pink. But I saw healthy clumps of Branching montipora coral. I saw two recently dead Cauliflower corals. I did not come across any Mushroom corals.
Most of the Anemone corals I saw were alright with only one small one that looked a little bleachy. I saw a few Galaxy corals that were also ok except for small dead upper portions.
There are still a lot of large leathery soft corals of all kinds. None were bleaching and most seemed alright.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau, East, Jul 2018
Another look at leathery soft corals on the shore.
Various corals and marine life, Pulau Semaka
I saw two Leathery sea fans with only living tissues at the tips. There were many Asparagus flowery soft corals, most of them alright, a few were oddly pastel.  Zoanthids of all kinds and Broad feathery soft corals covered wide swathes of the shore. Some Broad zoanthids were rather pale.
Magnificent anemones remain abundant on this shore, with many clumps even near the mid-water mark. The rest of the team saw anemonefishes in them.
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau, East, Jul 2018
There were also some Bubble tip anemones, Giant carpet anemones, Frilly anemones and I saw one Wiggly reef star anemone. None of them were bleaching.
I came across a nice Cheesecake nudibranch. The rest of the team saw many other nudibranchs and seahorses too!
Doriprismatica atromarginata
And a tiny Fluted giant clam. The rest same many more Giant clams, hurray!
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
The long abandoned fish net that we first saw in Jun 2017 is still there. Although most of the netting seems to have disintegrated.
Impact of abandoned net on reef at Pulau Semakau, Jul 2018
It has cut into some hard corals and affected other marine life. But we did not have the time or manpower to remove it on this trip.
Impact of abandoned net on reef at Pulau Semakau, Jul 2018
Today FangYi and Jia Min joined our trip to document the shore for a video they are planning as part of Intenational Year of the Reef. Unfortunately, toward the end of the trip, FangYi got stung by a stingray. Thankfully, Alex and James was there to very professionally deal with the injury and had a hot water bath to reduce the pain while they whisked us away to the mainland. Alex radioed ahead and an ambulance with friendly officers were ready to transport them to the hospital the minute we arrived.

This is our first hospital evacuation since Ivan stepped on a stonefish in 2010. A good reminder that we need to be careful when surveying. I always say it's like crossing the road. If we keep a look out and heed safety warnings, follow others who are more experienced, we can do it without harm to ourselves or the shores.

More about Pulau Semakau

Just as Changi Airport and Changi Beach are not the same even though they are near one another and share a name, Pulau Semakau is NOT the same as the Semakau Landfill. The Landfill was created by destroying all of Pulau Saking, and about half of the original Pulau Semakau by building a very long seawall. Fortunately, the landfill was constructed and is managed in such a way that the original mangroves, seagrass meadows and reefs on Pulau Semakau were allowed to remain.
It is NOT true that the construction of the Landfill created the marine life found on Pulau Semakau. The marine life was there long before the Landfill was built.
As the existing half of the Landfill was used up, the Phase 2 of the Landfill was launched. This involved closing the gap of the seawall on the Semakau Landfill, forming one big pool where incinerated ash will be dumped. NEA worked to limit the damage to natural shoresduring the construction work for this expansion of the landfill.

The 2030 Landuse Plan by the Ministry of National Development released in Jan 2013 shows plans for 'possible future reclamation' (in light blue surrounded by dotted lines) that may impact the eastern shore of Pulau Semakau. More about the possible impact of the 2030 Landuse Plan on our shores.

Let's hope these shores will be spared this fate.

Here's photos by others on this trip...

Photos by Jianlin Liu

By Frances Loke

Photos by Jessleyn Chua and Jose Hong.

Blog post by Dr Neo Mei Lin.

Others on this trip: Jia Ming, FangYi, Giorgio

Meanwhile, other shores were visited ...

By Carol Phillips on Sentosa Tanjung Rimau

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