Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back to underwater garden of Tuas

It has been two years since I have visited the pretty and colourful shores of Tuas. And I was glad to be back here with Sheryl and Ria who are monitoring the seagrasses. Bee Yan was here to survey the crabs at the small stretch of mangroves.

I headed out to the Merawang Beacon to have a look at how the reef is doing and was glad to find several beautiful hard corals and sea fans. 

This huge bowl-shaped coral is a large colony of Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.)! I don't recall seeing it the previous time I was here. The tide was not very low so most of the corals were still submerged underwater.

At the slightly higher profiles of the shore, I came across some smaller colonies of the disk corals.

This large green coral with "ruffled folds" is also a disk coral!

Somehow, I feel that there are many more corals near the beacon than two years ago. This is heartening because these are the colonies that survived the coral bleaching period last year. Other than the numerous disk corals that I've encountered, there are also several Boulder pore corals (Porites sp.) in both brown and green too. Ria said she also saw the Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae).

There are also many soft corals found on the reefs of Tuas. The entire shore is littered with lots of these Starry leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) which are not commonly seen on other shores of Singapore.

We also came across several small Ball soft corals as seen in this photo.

There were also small colonies of Flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae).

The main attraction of Tuas to me is definitely the Sea fans (Order Gorgonacea). It is probably one of the few remaining spots in Singapore where one can find a huge underwater garden of so many of them.

Usually the sea fans prefer deeper parts of the shore. Therefore, they are usually submerged underwater. This is one of the rarer sea fan found along the shallower waters, allowing me to take a nicer shot.

The underwater camera does the rest of the job of documenting the colourful garden of the sea fans in mostly red and orange/yellow colour.

At some spots the sea fans are rather crowded!

The waters are rather murky with the outgoing and incoming tide, and of course from my footing that stirred up sediments. So it was rather a challenge to take underwater shots.

The white spots on the surface of the sea fans are called polyps, just like those that we can find on hard corals. As such, a sea fan is a colony of many polyps or many animals as a polyp is an animal. I As the waters are not so clear and time was short, I did not get a chance to look for commensals on the sea fans.

This sea fan looks slightly different from the previous ones that I've posted here. It looks like shredded threads of carrots haha!

There are lumps found on certain parts of this sea fan. Not exactly sure what they represent.

Elsewhere along the underwater portion of this shore, one can find a colourful array of living creatures!

Here is a shot from above ground where the water is not too deep. There are many colourful sponges of all sorts!

Aha! Finally I spotted the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) with False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris)! The anemonefishes were the baby ones though. It is quite uncommon to find nemos in the waters of Johor Straits.

Tuas has lots of sea cucumbers, especially the Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis)! They are like everywhere and at times are found aggregated together.

Here is a collage of the different sea cucumbers that I came across on this trip.

Unfortunately, we stumbled across a really really long driftnet stretching across almost the entire Tuas shore! Can you spot the long line in this photo?

Some of the living creatures that got trapped by this driftnet include this large White-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus canaliculatus). Another of the same species of fish gave Ria a bad stung though while she was removing the net.

Another fish that got trapped would be this Fan-bellied filefish (Monacanthus chinensis).

We tried to remove as much of the net as possible and though the pile of net looks small and manageable, it was actually super heavy. While sorting the net at the high shores, we realize that a filefish was still trapped and we quickly released it back asap.

Here is a shot of our tireless Ria doing all she can to remove this giant net. We probably only cleared 100m of the 400m net. If the driftnet that is laid by fishermen gets abandoned for a longer time, it will lead to detrimental effects.

One of the reasons why Tuas shore remains so spectacular is because it is inaccessible to people coming from land. May it remain this way for many more years to come.

The shore sits in front of Merck, which adopted the shore for seagrass monitoring. A big thank you to Sheryl for being there to manage and facilitate this. :-)

More photos of the trip here:

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