22 January 2023

Four-clam day at Pulau Jong

Kelvin Yong's stunning drone footage illustrates the beauty of our last unspoilt island. This is what our Southern Islands looked like before they were reclaimed. 
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'. Although it lies near petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, the Landfill and major shipping lanes, the island is still very much alive.

As usual, the rest of the team did a better job that me at finding colourful animals on the shore! Here's a sampling from photos by Kok Sheng, Jianlin, Russel and Kelvin (links to their albums below). Animals that remain plentiful were zoanthids and Black long sea cucumbers. I saw a few Giant carpet anemones, but failed to find the Merten's carpet anemone.
We often see Fluted giant clams on this island. Today we saw four! Kok Sheng spotted one soon after we landed. It's about 30cm long, seen with the Semakau Landfill transfer station in the background. I found ones I saw on previous trips: the smaller one high among the rocky area - it was about 20cm long. And the bigger one also rather high up, seen with the CBD skyline in the background - it was about 30cm long.
I went to pay my respects Mama Jong. Only the stick which marks her location remains. 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, and in Aug 2021, even her shells were no longer at the spot where she was.
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Kok Sheng and Russel spotted this very large one in deeper water. He said it reminded him of Mama Jong. I think it's the same one that Jianlin saw on our last survey here in Aug 2021. Jianlin saw two in deeper water then.

Kok Sheng also saw the shells of a dead one.
There remain many leathery soft corals on this shore, of various kinds. Today, I saw many big colonies, hopefully an improvement over the decline we saw since Aug 2020.
Living shores of Pulau Jong, Jan 2023
There was a heavy bloom of Hairy green seaweed on the shores today. Making it a bit tricky to survey lower shores even when the water was out.
Bloom of Bryopsis
I have never seen a lot of hard corals on Pulau Jong since we started surveying it. Today, the heavy bloom of Hairy green seaweed made it hard to find them. But there were still a few large corals, and some smaller ones - most were boulder shaped. There were many Flowery soft corals too. I didn't see any that were bleaching.
A first sighting for us, three very skinny Long-tailed macaques. We wonder where they came from?
Long-tail macaques (Macaca fascicularis)
There was also a data logger on the shore. Good that something is being monitored on the shore. Today, I also couldn't find any large fish traps 'stored' on the high shore. Although we saw two floats in the water which probably marks the location of traps in the water.
Data logger on Pulau Jong, Jan 2023
The island lies right next to the Jong Fairway, a major 'highway' used by many huge vessels like containerships.
Living shores of Pulau Jong, Jan 2023
We left in heavy rain. Our attempt to survey Jong last year was thwarted by heavy rain and strong winds, so I was afraid we would encounter the same situation. Today, the rain chased us as we headed out to Pulau Jong, but stopped as soon as we landed on the island. Hurray! 
Landing on Pulau Jong


What is the fate of Pulau Jong?

Pulau Jong as well as Terumbu Semakau and much of natural Pulau Semakau is slated for massive reclamation outlined recently in the Long-Term Plan Review.

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.

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.
Living shores of Pulau Jong, Jan 2023
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


Russel Low


Che Cheng Neo




Kelvin's drone footage


Kelvin's photos


Jianlin Liu


Vincent Choo




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