11 May 2012

Signs of dugong in the South!

My second surprise of the day were lots of dugong feeding trails on Terumbu Pempang Laut!
We were here for another Clam Rescue with Mei Lin. My first surprise of the day was sprung by Siti.


She didn't tell me that Len and Rudi of international SeagrassWatch were in town and joining us for the trip! I was delighted to see them at the marina! In fact, they were the ones who spotted the feeding trails almost as soon as we landed on the reef!
Siti had also spotted dugong feeding trail on Cyrene Reef last month, and Kok Sheng saw them too at Pulau Semakau in May 2011. All these signs suggest there might be dugongs in our Southern Islands!

Terumbu Pempang Laut is rather rocky. The area that we first started exploring had few hard corals. It was only towards the end of the trip that we hit a more reefy part.
I had a quick look under the rocks and there's a lot of more life here. Lots of colourful sponges and encrusting animals, as well as snails and clams.
In some parts, the corals are rather well grown and closer to one another.
I saw several colonies of Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). Most had new growths next to dead portions.
Also many Favid corals (Family Favidae) as well as some other commonly seen hard corals.
I only saw a handful of corals that were partially bleached. But I saw many Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.), which tend to bleach first, that seemed healthy.
There's lots of leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) here of all kinds, as well as other commonly seen soft corals.
I saw a small colony of Leathery sea fan. These are not abundant but seem to be regularly found on all our southern submerged reefs.
I saw one Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), but no 'Nemo's.
Wow, an octopus! Quite surprising to see this large one out and about in broad daylight. And it turned out to be a hot scorching day!
Hurray, Bill has found a Giant clam! This Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) is rather small though, so we leave it behind on the reef to grow up further. Hope it will stay safe!
James also saw some amazing marine life including a seahorse and cuttlefish! But the day was hot and the tide not very long, so we didn't manage to reach the end of this large reef. On my previous trip in Apr 2011, I saw lots of corals there.

There are also some feeding trails in the seagrasses growing in the middle of the reef. The white puffs in the sky are not clouds but emissions from nearby Jurong Island.
There's also some Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) in this lagoon.
There's all kinds of seagrasses here. Siti even found Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium)! But some patches of seagrasses were burnt, and some were covered in scummy growths.
Alas, we saw several fish traps on the reef. We saw two on arrival and another along the way which were full of holes already. This one in the middle of the reef was still operational and had several rabbitfishes and an angelfish. I released the fishes and disabled the trap.
Later on, I came across a long roll of chicken wire. Are these 'supplies' left on the reef by fish trappers to create new traps?
The Sinki Beacon marks the western most part of the Terumbu. Beyond it is Selat Sinki, a major shipping lane, and on the horizon, Jurong Island. Large vessels regularly passed by while we were on the reef.
These submerged reefs are located closer to major industrial installations.
This morning, the refineries on Pulau Bukom were releasing a massive cloud of emissions. Here's Len taking a photo of the emissions over the dugong feeding trails.
We explored the reef under this cloud of emissions.
We could see the emissions long before we arrived. And also the layer of haze under the otherwise blue sky.
Right next to Pulau Bukom are the palm-fringed shores of Pulau Hantu, a great spot for recreational diving. The volunteers of the Hantu Blog conduct monthly dives here to showcase the amazing marine life that can still be found on Pulau Hantu. Check out their gallery of awesome photos!
As we arrive, on the horizon, more emissions hanging over the industrial facilities on the much larger Jurong Island.
Despite these, our southern reefs are still very much alive. Today I also learnt that Kareen saw three dolphins the day before at St. John's Island! Plus the dugong feeding trails, and corals and more!

Tomorrow, we are making an impromptu trip to Cyrene Reef to show Len and Rudi the seagrasses there. I feel bad having to miss guiding at the Naked Hermit Crab walk at Chek Jawa. I'll also be missing the World Migratory Bird Day events at Sungei Buloh, and Dan Friess' talk. So much going on for our shores, not enough time and tide to do everything!

Posts by others on this trip
  • Mei Lin with another kind of giant clam and other sightings. 
  • James with awesome close ups of marine life found there.

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