09 May 2023

Terumbu Semakau still spectacular

This morning, a small team surveys this submerged reef right next to Singapore's only landfill and near the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, and less than an hour away from the Central Business District.
Living shores of Terumbu Semakau, May 2023
The corals seem to be doing very well! The seagrass situation seems unchanged.

The reef edge facing the Landfill seawall and the natural shores of Pulau Semakau is still reefy.
Living shores of Terumbu Semakau, May 2023
The most eye-poking animals on the shores were the Magnificent anemones. These anemones form clumps of many individuals, apparently through division. So those with similar body colours are probably closely related. As usual, there were bright red, bright purple and white body colours. I also saw many Giant carpet anemones. I saw one Leathery anemone and the rest of the team did see the Merten's carpet anemone. In the area where the seagrasses used to be, I still found Fire anemones.
Today, I saw movements in several Magnificant anemones, signs of anemonefish! I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this anemonefish that was not deeply embedded among the tentacles.
Clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) and Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica)
It was so nice to see healthy well-formed colonies of corals less commonly seen on our shores. Acropora corals, Moon coral, Anchor corals, Mushroom corals, Lettuce corals, Brain corals and various plate-forming corals.
There is a nice patch of healthy looking Galaxy coral growing right opposite the seawall of the Landfill.
There used to be a large 'field' of Branching montipora which unfortunately was dead when we last saw it in May 2018. So it was nice to signs of a new 'field' starting to grow again near our landing point.
Branching montipora coral (Montipora sp.)
Although I didn't see any corals outright bleaching, I did notice signs of stress on some of the large corals - pinkish, yellowish patches. And some Cauliflower corals had bleached portions - these corals are often the first to bleach. 
There were a lot of Asparagus flowery soft corals, and many large leathery soft corals of various kinds. I didn't see any that were bleaching, although a few Asparagus flowery soft corals were oddly coloured.
Living shores of Terumbu Semakau, May 2023
Today, I saw many many Blue-spotted stingrays - big and small. Trapped in pools, hovering near the reef edge. I also saw a lot of Diadema sea urchins. It's also seems to be Ribbon jellyfish season, with many seen washed up. I saw common crabs and flatworms and also the pulsing Xenia soft coral.
The seagrass situation seems not much worse but not much better. I saw similar situations in Jun 2022Apr 2021 and Jul 2020 and May 2019. Although heavily covered with epiphytes, there was good cover of Spoon seagrasses in many of the pools in the middle of the reef flat. There were many clumps of Tape seagrass with longish leaf blades especially those growing nearer the reef edge. I saw many small clusters of Serrated ribbon seagrass that looked fresh and green.
There used to be lush seagrass meadows on Terumbu Semakau. Here's what the seagrass meadows looked like when we visited in June 2010. Let's hope the seagrasses will return soon!
Kelvin flew the drone and spotted sharks and other interesting marine life near the reef edge. Here's a lovely slow aerial stroll - check out the sea urchins!

Unfortunately Kelvin also spotted some signs of boat strikes, gouging holes in the middle of the reef flat or slicing into the edges. On the positive note, I didn't come across any fish traps or nets today.
Photo by Kelvin Yong.

What is the fate of Terumbu Semakau?

Terumbu Semakau lies next to the Semakau Landfill and close to the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom.
Here's a great fresh perspective of Terumbu Semakau thanks to Kelvin's drone shot. With Pulau Semakau ahead, the Semakau Landfill on the left, and on the horizon, the islands in the Life Firing Area.
Photo by Kelvin Yong

Terumbu Semakau and Pulau Jong will be impacted by the "Possible Future Reclamation" as outlined 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.
Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica)
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.

Others on this survey

Kelvin Yong's drone views
and photos

Kelvin Yong's photos

Marcus Ng

Tommy Arden


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