Dec 24, 2007

Stars of Chek Jawa

It's low and we go! This time to help out Kok Sheng with his Chek Jawa project. He had a great team of young able-bodied people to help him out with his transect. Old fogies like me got an easier task.

Or so I thought.

The plan was to do a test of 10 sea anemones to compare with proper measurements tomorrow. Alas, today I was alone and I realised I needed at least 2 pairs of arms to get the job done.All alone, with a feeble back and knees, wild blowing winds, the results were very screwy. Sorry Kok Sheng. But either the squares floated away, or the fierce wind blew them off. Sigh.

Out in the North sand bar, Kok Sheng finds an incredible orange sea star!
It's quite huge! It is probably a Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera) because it is so large, has short arms, has a convex upper surface with tiny little pinching structures (called pedicellariae) (upper left photo) and on the under surface, large bivalved pedicellariae (lower left photo, the oval shapes which are actually large pinching structures).

Fortunately, I didn't have to do ALL the sea anemones, and had a little time over to check out the coral rubble area during this rare low tide to see whether things have recovered.

How lovely to see lots of large sponges in many different shapes and colours.There were also a few sea fans on the outer most edge of the coral rubble area.As Kok Sheng and I were lamenting the lack of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus), we stumbled upon one!It looked pretty OK on the underside too. Later on, Kok Sheng and team found three Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) and lots of sand stars (Astropecten sp.). What a star-studded day it turned out to be. We are delighted!

The shores are very much more alive than during our last visit. And the residents seemed happier. Here is Mama Noble volute laying her marvellous crystal-shaped egg cases.
The wind was blowing mighty fierce. So although the water was clear, I couldn't take photos of things underwater due to the rippling water surface.

I had a hard time shooting this very wriggly little fish which tumbled about in the waves and disappeared into deeper waters.
It's probably a juvenile Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus sp.) which swim in a "conspicuous undulating motion" that is believed to mimic toxic flatworms.

A puzzling new feature near the beacon was a large area of dead corals.
There were lots of dead corals of all kinds. Including a very large mushroom coral about 30cm long (possible Herpolitha sp.). Where did all these dead corals come from? They were mostly bleached white and not heavily covered with encrusting organisms, like the rest of the coral rubble there. Was this patch recently uncovered? Or recently ended up there? Very odd.

The dead corals formed around a deep pool which had a large fish trap in it.The trap was full of large groupers and other fishes, as well as a swimming crab. Kok Sheng took photos of them as I released the fishes. There was no float attached to the other end of the rope on the trap, so it was obviously abandoned. These fishes would never have been released. How cruel!

Joseph Lai who also happened to be on the shore, came across another abandoned fish trap with butterflyfishes in it. He also released the fishes and brought the trap up. We then both carried the flattened traps and some abandoned nets up to the high shore. Here's Joe with his son Lai Min to show how big the junk was.Joe says there's a huge abandoned driftnet still out there that will take at least 6 people to remove. Sigh. More killer nets, even on our precious Chek Jawa.

A no-fishing area in Chek Jawa and the surroundings such as Pulau Sekudu would actually help promote better fishing in areas like Changi and other parts of Pulau Ubin. A no-fishing area can be a nursery where young fishes can grow up and populate other areas.

But if ALL our shores were mercilessly and wantonly fished, and subjected to abandoned driftnets and fish traps, then fishing everywhere will be affected. If only more people who love fishing understood and supported this.

The transect team worked hard until sunset, and spent lots of time feeding the mosquitos as we washed the gear. It was pitch dark by the time we walked out, and we saw MORE stars. This time in the sky, with a gorgeous full moon.

But for me, the real stars of the day were all the dedicated volunteers who put in blood, sweat and tears to document and share about Chek Jawa. Bravo!

There's still a lot more to be done, and we need all the helping hands we can get. To volunteer for Chek Jawa, consider becoming a Chek Jawa guide with Ubin NParks. You can also volunteer with many other shore activities, some of which are listed on wildsingapore.

More blogs about this trip
Learn more about the (sea) stars on July's discovery blog
And about the (human) stars on Koh Sheng's cj project blog

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