02 May 2021

Land of Leatheries: Terumbu Pempang Tengah

Huge leathery soft corals colonies of various shapes and colours crowd the southern part of Terumbu Pempang Tengah! Even though this submerged reef lies near Jurong Island and major shipping lanes.
Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae)
Today, I also came across two Fluted giant clams, and I didn't see any mass coral bleaching. Kok Sheng surveyed a reefy part of the shore and saw a wide variety of healthy corals.

There have always been a wide variety of Leathery soft corals on the shore. Some resemble fried omelette, others look like discarded gloves.
Each is a colony is made up of countless tiny polyps that look like tiny flowers. The polyps are embedded in a shared common tissue that is hard and stiff. When the polyps are retracted, the common tissue appears smooth.
Small Omelette leathery soft coral (Sacrophyton sp.)
There were other cnidarians too. I saw one small Leathery sea fan, one cerianthid and one Spiky flowery soft coral. There were many Giant carpet anemones, some Frilly anemones. As well as many Carpet corallimorphs. Asparagus flowery soft corals were also plentiful. All of them seemed alright.
The shore is dotted with corals big and small.
Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae)
Most are the kind that are commonly seen on our shores. But also include mushrooms corals which are less commonly encountered.
The large field of Branching montipora near the landing point is still there and is alright.
Branching montipora coral (Montipora sp.)
Kok Sheng surveyed a reefy part of the shore and saw a wide variety of healthy corals. Including this patch of healthy Acropora corals!
I was glad to come across two Fluted giant clams! This was because today, I decided to survey an area that I have not visited for many years. I remember seeing clams here, and was glad to come across them again.
In the shallow waters, lots of fishes zoomed about. Especially Blue spotted fantail rays. But the dangerous rays are those that are buried under the sand. Here's one with only its tail visible.
Blue spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma)
There were sprinkles of seagrasses of various kinds on many parts of the shore: sand bar and sandy areas in between rocks. Mostly Spoon seagrass with small leaves,  heavily covered with epiphytes, and some with large leaves which were cleaner. There were also many clumps of Sickle seagrass. These were some longish Tape seagrasses.  The situation looks better than what we saw in Jun 2020.
Today is the last super low tide of the series, and thus happened well after sunrise. So it was super hot!
Shipping and Jurong Island off Terumbu Pempang Tengah

Future of Terumbu Pempang Tengah

The Terumbu Pempang submerged reefs are among 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 Singapore Blue Plan 2018

Pulau Semakau and nearby islands and submerged reefs have been recommended by the Singapore Blue Plan 2018 for Immediate Conservation Priority.
Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae)
The Blue Plan recommends the intertidal and subtidal marine areas of Pulau Semakau and adjacent Pulau Hantu, and Pulau Jong to be designated Marine Reserve.

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.

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

Photos by others on this survey

Loh Kok Sheng

James Koh and on flickr

Liz Lim

Chay Hoon

Vincent Choo


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