22 August 2020

Two-clam day at Pulau Jong, no mass coral bleaching

Pulau Jong is among the last untouched islands in Singapore. It has not been reclaimed or directly impacted by development. Pulau Jong is what all our Southern islands looked like before they were reclaimed.
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
We often see many Giant clams on this island and today we saw two! We also check for and are glad that there is no mass coral bleaching on this shore today.

This is the other smaller Fluted giant clam we saw today. Giant clams can also suffer from bleaching, so I'm glad to see that both are alright.
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
I paid my respects to the remains of Mama Jong. This enormous Giant clam is called Mama Jong because her babies were a part of Dr Neo Mei Lin's work. She has been loved and monitored for a long time. We found her dead on our Jun 2018 survey. 
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
There are not a lot of hard corals on Pulau Jong. Most of them were alright. Only a few were were showing stress (paler than usual or with bleaching portions) or with recently dead patches. It certainly was nothing like the mass coral bleaching that I saw here in 2016.
Living shores of Pulau Jong
Here's a compilation of some of the hard corals I saw today, with a ruler for further study by others.
There are many leathery soft corals on this shore. Today, I feel they are not as big or as plentiful as during our last survey in Jun 2019.
Various leathery soft corals on Pulau Jong
Most of them were alright, only a few small colonies were bleaching. I saw many Asparagus flowery soft corals and they were alright. There are also many Frilly sea anemones, none were bleaching although one was rather pale. 
One of the Asparagus flowery soft corals was infested with Tiny colourfulbrittle stars!
Tiny colourful brittle stars (Ophiothela danae) in Asparagus flowery soft coral (Nephthea sp.)
Other interesting animals commonly seen on this shore include the Ferocious reefcrab with angry red eyes. There were also lots of Black long sea cucumbers. The Cheesecake nudibranch and Pimply nudibranch are commonly seen on our shores. I also saw two recently dead Keeled heart urchins.
Most of the island is rocky. But there is a small patch of sand in the middle.
Living shores of Pulau Jong
There is not a lot of seagrasses growing on Pulau Jong. I saw a sparse sprinkling of Sickle seagrass on the eastern sand patches of the island. The seagrass were all  healthy and I didn't see any burnt seagrasses as I did on our survey on Jun 2018.
A natural coastal forest cloaks the little island. This habitat is now rare in Singapore and so the island is home to some rare plants. The natural cliffs are constantly eroding and thus tree falls and landslides are a feature of this habitat.
Coastal forest of Pulau Jong
Among the rare coastal plants that can be found here is Delek Air which is listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore. Today, they were blooming!
The Sargassum was really starting to bloom on this shore. Making it a challenge to survey the reef edges.
Bloom of Sargassum sp.
I saw this small sampan with three people and several large fish traps stop briefly at the beacon area. One person got into the water with a dive tank, then got out again. They then zoomed away from Pulau Jong.
People laying large fish traps on Pulau Jong
There was one large fish trap 'stored' on the high shore above the high water mark. We saw this on our last survey here in Jun 2019 as well as on past trips.
Huge fish trap on Pulau Jong
The island lies right next to the Jong Fairway, a major 'highway' used by many huge vessels like containerships.
Large containership passes Pulau Jong
Dubbed the 'char siew pau' island because of its cute dumpling shape, Pulau Jong has a huge reef flat that is exposed at low spring tide. This reef flat together with the domed island is said to resemble the silhouette of a Chinese sailing junk, thus 'Jong'.
Sunrise over Pulau Jong
We were blessed with a gorgeous sunrise, good weather and fine company. I hope the shore stays safe until we can visit again.

Future of Pulau Jong?

Pulau Jong is one of the existing natural shores that may be impacted by the landuse plan by the Ministry of National Development released in Jan 2013 in response to the Populations White Paper with a 6.9 million population target. The dotted margined blue areas are "Possible Future Reclamation". The other shores impacted by this plan include Pulau Hantu, Terumbu Pempang Darat, Terumbu Pempang Tengah and Terumbu Semakau.

The Singapore Blue Plan 2018

As part of the cluster around Pulau Semakau, Pulau Jong has been recommended by the Singapore Blue Plan 2018 for Immediate Conservation Priority.

The Blue Plan highlights that Pulau Semakau and its associated patch reefs comprise many ecosystems: coral reefs, mangrove areas, intertidal sandflats, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. The subtidal area of Pulau Jong is larger than the terrestrial area. Pulau Hantu is a popular dive site has seen increasing interest in the past decade due to biodiversity awareness. If protection is accorded to these three islands, zonation plans for use can be implemented to manage tourism and human impacts.

More about our Crazy Rich Shores at Pulau Jong.

DOWNLOAD the Plan, SUPPORT the Plan! More on the Singapore Blue Plan 2018 site.

Photos by others on this trip

Joleen Chan

Loh Kok Sheng

Other shores surveyed

Vincent Choo


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