26 January 2020

Paying respects to our Big Sister (Island)

Once again, for Lunar New Year, we pay our respects to Big Sister's Island, part of Singapore's first Marine Park. Thanks to NParks for permission to survey after sunset.
Living shores of Big Sisters Island
There are many corals along the artificial seawalls and inside the artificial lagoon. We see all kinds of marine life too!

Here's a glimpse of what I saw, on this pretty little island just half an hour from the Central Business District on mainland Singapore, and near major shipping lanes.
Living shores of Big Sisters Island
Most of the shores on both Big and Little Sisters were reclaimed: seawalls were built on the reef edge and the reef flat buried. The original islands were much tinier.
Most of Big Sister's Island is ringed by artificial seawalls, which create two swimming lagoons. The Big Lagoon has many corals on the inside of the seawalls. I didn't get to survey the middle of the lagoon today. The Big Lagoon remains much sandier, with a seemingly higher level of sand. I noticed this first on our survey in Jan 2018 and Feb 2019 too.
Living shores of Big Sisters Island
The situation with hard corals seems similar to our last survey in Feb 2019. Today, I saw many large Pore boulder corals, large Merulinid corals, medium-sized Sandpaper corals - most were alright. I also saw a good variety of other corals, but not many individuals: Ridged plate corals, Brain coral, Anemone coralsDisk corals, Carnation coralCauliflower coral. The rest of the team saw Circular mushroom coral. Most were alright.
I saw a few colonies of a variety of corals with pale patches or showing stress colours like bright pink, or large colonies with recently dead portions. In particular, I saw Pebble corals that were brightly coloured.
I saw many small coral colonies growing on some portions of the artificial seawall.
Corals growing on artificial seawall on Big Sisters Island
I also saw some medium to large leathery soft corals. All seemed alright.
I saw many Frilly sea anemones, and many Giant carpet anemones, none were bleaching, although some Giant carpet anemones had small sections of white tentacles.
The rest of the team saw Anemonefishes in the Giant carpet anemones.
The rest of the team saw lots of colourful marine life. Here's a snapshot of those seen by Jianlin Liu. There was even a small shark in the Big lagoon!
I surveyed the reef edge on the outside of the western seawall. Hard and soft corals are growing well on the narrow reef flat here and even on the artificial seawalls.
Living shores of Big Sisters Island

Living shores of Big Sisters Island

Living shores of Big Sisters Island
The small patch of Tape seagrass in the small lagoon is still badly cropped. There was a small Haddon's carpet anemone in the middle of the patch. I didn't come across any Spoon seagrass.
Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides)
There was a bloom of Bryopsis seaweed in many areas inside the lagoon in the low water mark outside the seawalls. Sargassum seaweed remains in mild bloom on the outer reef edge, normal for this time of the year.
There was a group of other people set up in one of the shelters on the island. They were not fishing and left before sunset. We did not come across any fishing nets or traps.

More about Big Sisters Island

This island is now part of the Sisters Islands Marine Park. Like many parks in Singapore, you can visit Big Sisters Island any day from 7am to 7pm. You don't need a guide or a permit to visit during these times.
Living shores of Big Sisters Island
Marina South Ferries now offer travel to the Sisters Islands on weekends. Besides the ferry, you can also hire a water taxi to take you there from Marina South Pier. There are about 10 commercial water taxi companies located there. You can call to book a taxi or just go to the Pier and get a taxi. Most leisure visitors go with Island Cruise, which caters to tourists.

More about the Sisters Islands Marine Park on the NParks website and on the Sisters Islands Marine Park blog and facebook group.

Photos by others on this trip

Jianlin Liu

Loh Kok Sheng

Kelvin Yong

Eugene Tan

Joleen Chan

James Koh

Rene Ong via Naturely Curious

Frances Loke via Little Green Men

Keet Yeng Cheong

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