Dec 31, 2007

Singapore Celebrates our Reefs: International Year of the Reef 2008


2008 is International Year of the Reef!

And many of the groups and individuals active in Singapore marine conservation have come together to consolidate activities and share about our reefs and shores.

You CAN make a difference for our reefs and shores!

Support IYOR Singapore!

Visit our reefs and shores. Come for IYOR events. The first IYOR event is SharkWaters a charity premier in support of the "Say No to Shark's Fins" campaign in Singapore.

Display the IYOR badge on your blog and website.

Tell your friends about IYOR Singapore.

Want to know more about our reefs? Gather a group of at least 50 and invite any of these speakers to give a free talk about our reefs and shores.

Visit the IYOR Singapore blog which will feature regular articles about our reefs and shores, our marinelife, and the people who work for them.

Happy New Year!

Dec 28, 2007

Artificial Reefs: do they help or harm?

Here's some thoughts from recent articles about artificial reefs (emphasis mine):

Concern Lingers on Success of Artificial Reefs
Charles Q. Choi, Yahoo News 27 Dec 07;
full report also on wildnews

The past 50 years saw artificial reefs built using anything from obsolete oil rigs and decommissioned warships to junk such as tires and washing machines. Not all have proven boons to the environment — some have proven ineffective or actually harmful.

"We've gotten smarter since then — we know what materials to use now to build artificial reefs," Perry said. "We don't want to just throw anything out there in the water — artificial reefs aren't just dump sites."

"You want to also make sure that artificial reefs are placed in a fairly stable environment and be outside of surf-pounding areas," Perry said. "You want to avoid them getting moved about by wave action."

However, "natural reefs are obviously still valuable," Perry said. "You can't just destroy a natural reef and put out an artificial reef as a replacement. Artificial reefs may help offset the growing worldwide loss of natural reefs a little bit, but they should not be the only answer."

Concerns do linger as to whether artificial reefs are good for the oceans.

"By concentrating fish all in one place and making them easier to catch, they may exacerbate issues of overfishing,"

Reefs in Peril: an interview with Dr. Nancy Knowlton
Katherine Cure, Nov/Dec 07 Vol. XVIII, no. 6;
full report also on wildnews

What do you think about the restoration initiatives that are being tried with electricity or the implanting of new artificial reefs? Do you think we’re losing time with those experiments or do you think they might contribute to helping?

The one big issue with restoration is that there’s no point in doing anything about it, if you haven’t eliminated the original causes of coral reef decline. Because then the same things will happen with the restored reefs, as with the original reefs.

Restoration has its role, but in general, we need more attention to improving conditions. That means lowering fishing pressure, improving water quality and dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s more cost-effective than restoration initiatives, unless very specific conditions exist.

Dr. Nancy Knowlton is a coral reef scientist who studies their ecology and evolution, including the impact of climate change. The founding director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of California, San Diego, she is also a professor at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Her contributions have been crucial to the advancement of coral reef science.

Today, Knowlton holds the Sant Chair in Marine Science, recently awarded by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Occupying the museum’s first funded chair in marine sciences, Knowlton will provide leadership to the Smithsonian’s Ocean Initiative, an interdisciplinary move to foster greater public understanding of ocean issues.

Dec 27, 2007

Can Labrador survive?

Today is the very last lowish tide for the year, and we thought we should have a look at Labrador, especially after the recent distressing entry on the reddot blog.Indeed, the cofferdam is in the process of being dismantled, and a new fence has been erected to replace the disintegrating blue hoarding that we saw on our visit about two weeks ago (which was emblazoned with the names of the parties involved in the project).

But surprisingly, although the contractors bothered to take down the hoarding and build a new fence, they didn't bother to clear the rubbish in the area!There was even discarded green fencing on the shore and stuffed into natural crevices in the cliff, together with other rubbish. My mind is boggled.The entire work area is a disgusting mess and smelt as foul as it looks.
Apologising doesn't cure this situation, I feel.

But how is the shore coping with the stress of trash and high sedimentation?

The rocks were alive with lots and lots of colourful Nerites (Nerita sp.)For some reason, there were plenty of orange ones in various sizes.On the big boulders, there were Toothed top shell snails (Monodonta labio), with the signature 'tooth' across the shell opening.
As well as Dwarf turban snails (Turbo bruneus) with their semi-spherical 'door' to seal the shell opening, and conical Spotted top shell snails (Trochus maculatus). The Spotted top shell snail is listed among our threatened animals due to habitat loss.
On the stones were huddles of tiny hermit crabs in assorted tiny shells.Here and there, the boulders were still encrusted with animals such as the rubbery brown zoanthid and blue sponges.Among the coral rubble were zoanthids, struggling to stay above the thick layer of silt.I also saw two Branched-tentacle sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.). These anemones are usually very commonly seen on our Southern shores and normally we would see dozens.
Heading down towards the seagrass meadows nearer the entrance, alas, we see again the heartbreaking concrete slabs left behind by Singapore Polytechnic for their seacil project. In further state of disintegration, threatening to release their component plastic bits and other potentially deadly parts.

The two enormous rectangular slabs where still there.And the triangular slab too.

The slabs lie right on the seagrass meadows, which are alive with all kinds of plants and animals.

There were tiny colonies of living hard corals among the seagrasses.
As well as small clumps of soft corals.
In the pools were little gobies like this fat Ornate lagoon-goby (Istigobius ornatus).
There were also fast skipping mudskippers, and little cardinalfishes. While a few snapping shrimps were busy keeping their burrows clear of sediments.

And this transparent, shy anemone.It is probably a peacock anemone (Order Ceriantharia) because it has an outer ring of long tentacles, and an inner ring of short tentacles.The Sickle seagrasses (Thalassia hemprichii) were blooming! And little shrimps are found among their leaves. There are two in this photo, can you see them? Look for their blue eyeballs! The longer Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) were also blooming.
On the left, a female flower developing into a fruit, on the right, a male flower. The Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) were also still valiantly alive.

We had a strange encounter today, with a man who brought a bag of living corals TO Labrador. He said he was returning the corals that he got from the shore.Hmmm...

Another mystery is the large number of dead corals washed ashore with large clumps of sargassum seaweeds attached to them.
I saw at least 15 such corals. There was a broad band of sargassum growing on Labrador, but in deeper water. Did these corals wash up from that zone? Why did they wash up? What does this mean?

Some stuff we saw, however, is no mystery. PVC pipes that roll about in the waves, squishing life on the shores.
Marine life on Labrador was magnificent before the construction. And today, we see that some marinelife still exists.

If the mess on the shore is cleared up soon, the marinelife might get a chance to make a slow recovery.

Otherwise, the result might be more ominous...

Dec 26, 2007

Sweet Young Things on Changi

A few of us were back on the shores for the last super low tide of the year. A nice slow leisurely look at Changi. And wow, there were so many cute little things out on the shore!

Near sunset, as on Chek Jawa, all the little stars came out. We're talking of course, about sand stars (Astropecten sp.).Those on Changi were really small! And they were all well spaced out. They looked like they were eating the seaweeds or something on the seaweeds.

There was also a very tiny Biscuit sea star (Goniodiscaster scabra) hardly bigger than a seagrass leaf.
And really small Pencil sea urchins (Prionocidaris sp.).Miniscule Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis).
Small swimming sea anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi)
A teeny weeny scallop (Family Pectinidae) with its pretty shell patterns still unhidden.Bigger scallops on Changi tend to have shells covered with encrusting animals.
Even the Button snails (Umbonium vestiarum) were tinier than those found on Chek Jawa.
Chay Hoon also found this small little Sea moth or Sea robin (Pegasus volitans).There were also small humans on the shore!A bunch of kids were out on a shore trip. How wonderful to see efforts to introduce our living shores to our children!

On the high shore, a grandpa and grandma were sharing more about the sea creatures with their grandchildren.Grandpa was using a castnet to catch all kinds of fishes, which grandma showed off in a pool of water. A few of us took the opportunity to take some photos of these fishes. (Grandma said she would release the fishes after they had a look at them).

Among the special finds was this small Blue-spotted stingray (Dasyatis kuhli)This sting ray is identified by the black-and-white bands on the tail, a rounded snout and a dark band across the eyes. The similar looking Mangrove whipray (Himantura walga) has a more pointed snout and lacks the bands on the tail and across the eyes.

How wonderful to see a thriving shore with lots of developing young animals!

While Chek Jawa is better known and appreciated, shores nearby like Changi and Pulau Sekudu are also important. Should anything happen to Chek Jawa, such as the mass deaths following the flooding earlier this year, young animals from shores like Changi and Pulau Sekudu will resettle on Chek Jawa. We should appreciate and protect all our natural shores for they are all interconnected.

Dec 25, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Chek Jawa!

A hearty cheer to everyone from Chek Jawa!
From the garang volunteers of Kok Sheng's Chek Jawa project, a hearty cheer to more good years for Chek Jawa and our other shores! And today, we are privileged and blessed to also have Joseph Lai with us. It was Joe who first publicly raised the Chek Jawa issue which led to eventual deferment of reclamation.

This tradition of celebrating the new year, began with the first New Year on Chek Jawa after reclamation was deferred in 2001.
Siva, who is in this photo, still remains involved as he is Kok Sheng's supervisor for the Chek Jawa project!

Earlier this year, we also celebrated the New Year on Chek Jawa.Also with Joe, and with the leads of TeamSeagrass (Siti, Shufen and Wei Ling) and the super guide Chay Hoon (right most).

We hope to be able to continue this tradition for many more years on Chek Jawa.

The day began much earlier, as the team of volunteers helping Kok Sheng headed down to monitor and measure a whole bunch of stuff.Here they are, heading down to the shore with the humungous orange flags.

The happy team doing the peacock anemones! Apparently much easier this time as all the transects have been set up previously. There were also very energetic volunteers doing salinity tests, and counting sea stars and more.

I got the carpet anemone job again (actually, it's the only thing I know how to do). Today, we were lucky to have four people in the carpet anemone monitoring team.
My long-suffering team mates, here fixing up the poles, were YC, Sam and Siew Lee.

It is very obvious in this photo that two extra pair of hands really made the job a lot easier!

We also replaced the numbers on the poles today. Which was a little difficult as the poles were all encrusted with barnacles and other tenacious beasts.

However, YC proves to be even more tenacious!The anemones on Chek Jawa were doing really well!

There were little ones everywhere in all kinds of colours.And lots of very large ones too!All looking healthy and happy! Let's hope there will be no serious flooding this year in Johor, so that this recovery can go on and Chek Jawa will return to its full splendour.

And here's a last cheer from the irrepressible YC for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!