08 June 2023

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal corals and seagrasses thrive!

Today, a small team returns to survey the amazing coral reef that has settled naturally on the seawalls of Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. There were lush seagrasses on the shore next to the Ferry terminal. I saw otters, while the rest of the team saw a shark, a large puffer and other large fishes.
Living reefs at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Jun 2023
We restarted surveying this shore in Jun 2022 after a break of nearly ten years. This shore is now strictly off limits without a permit. We surveyed with permission from agencies kindly arranged by NParks and support from the Ferry Terminal.

Some of the team explore the tricky seawall in front of the Ferry Terminal. A diverse range of healthy corals have settled naturally on the artificial seawall. Here's just one of Kelvin Yong's awesome photos, check out his album for more.
Photo by Kelvin Yong

Kok Sheng surveyed extensively and encountered large, healthy, well formed corals. Including some less commonly encountered species. He also saw an anemonefish! For more photos, check out his album.
Photos by Loh Kok Sheng
Meanwhile, I checked the lagoon behind the seawall next to the Ferry Terminal. Even here, many corals have settled on the seawall, especially where pools of water are retained even at low tide. Most are boulder shaped species, but there were also many branch and plate-forming species. Most were well formed without any dead patches. I did see a few pale colonies and a handful that were bleaching.
At sunrise, I heard splashing in the bigger pool of water left behind at low tide. It was a pair of otters hunting! They quickly caught some fish, attracting birds who were probably hoping to get some scraps. Later on, the team saw a small shark, a large pufferfish, a needlefish and a stingray in the same pool!
Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
The rest of the team spot the interesting animals here, after they are done surveying the corals. Kelvin Yong spotted special animals like a very large pufferfish! Also the Forskal's sidegill slug, lots of Spider conch, an Spotted orange hermit crabOrange spotted rabbitfish, the Snaky anemone, Fire anemone and lots of squids. And many more, see Kelvin's full album.
As usual, I only see common and obvious animals. There are a lot of large Fan shell clams in a large area - more obvious at dawn. I saw a few Common sea stars scattered in sparse groups, the team found Knobbly sea stars. There were many Cake sand dollars and Oval moon snails. I also saw several Pink moon snails. I saw a few Giant carpet anemones, one Frilly anemoneGreen gum drop ascidians covered a large area of seagrasses and other hard surfaces.
Similar to our survey in Jun 2022, I saw many patches of Tape seagrass, most of them with long or very long leaf blades. There were a few large clumps especially in the pools that remain at low tide. There were smaller clumps on the higher shore and even among the seawall boulders. A few had female flowers that appear to be about to bloom. Some clumps appear to have cropped leaves, but not very short. In the past, there was only one, but large, Tape seagrass clump.
The big patch of Smooth ribbon seagrass has grown even bigger than what I saw in Jun 2022. It is now about 15m wide and grows from the low water mark to the seawall. There are also a few small patches of this seagrass nearer the ferry terminal. There are now many large patches of Sickle seagrass with fresh leaves. Some were cropped but most were alright. In the past, there was only one small patch of this seagrass. Spoon seagrass remains the most abundant species, growing almost throughout the shore.
There was a light load of floating marine trash on the high shore. 

Where did all these corals come from?

The babies of these corals are from Singapore reefs! This chart shared in the Long-Term Plan Review shows coral larvae (babies) dispersal in our waters from mass coral spawning. This highlights the importance of protecting our 'mother reefs' so that they can continue to produce babies that settle all along our shoreline.

What is the fate of this shore?

Massive reclamation is planned near the area we surveyed today as outlined recently in the Long-Term Plan Review.

Photos by others on this survey

Kelvin Yong's photos of reefs at the seawall

Kelvin Yong's photos of the seagrassy area

Loh Kok Sheng

Che Cheng Neo

Vincent Choo

Tommy Arden


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