Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jeffrey goes Leisure

On Sunday, marine biologist Jeffrey Low took some time away from tying bouys, transect lines, and reef check methods, to click around the reefs on Hantu.

It's a good thing he did that, otherwise we wouldn't have such fantastic images of this large Reef Cuttlefish that was hugging the reef in the hope of remaining hidden.

Jeffrey has uploaded his pictures into his flicker account. Please swing by for a vicarious experience of a Sunday dive at a Singaporean reef!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sand exports to S'pore stopped

Source: The Jakarta Post - August 18, 2006
BATAM, Riau Islands

The Riau Islands regency of Karimun has stopped the operations of six sand mining companies exporting to Singapore as it is feared the mining will destroy the environment on nearby islands, an official said.

Deputy Karimun regent Aunur Rofiq said in Batam that the decision to stop the operations, as of Aug. 14, was taken after hearing that Sebaik Island in Moro district was sinking due to excessive sand mining by PT Surya Cipta Rezeki, one of the six sand mining companies in Karimun. "Due to environmental destruction and news about the sinking island, the Karimun administration has ordered the six companies to stop operations," Aunur said.

Aunur acknowledged that Karimun regency relied heavily on sand exports, which brought in an annual revenue of Rp 3 billion (US$315,789). Aunur also admitted that the sand mining licenses for the six companies were only issued last year, but the regency had not looked into their reclamation activities.

"Actually there isn't any island that is sinking, it is just that the reclamation activities have not been implemented properly. We will reevaluate the companies commitment to maintaining the environment," he said, playing down the subsidence on Sebaik Island. -- JP

Friday, August 18, 2006

Singapore Snakes

Banded File Snakes inhabit various coastal habitats such as shallow seas, river mouths, estuaries and mangroves, feeding on fishes, including eels. Read all about them on the slog blog, a Blog that documents snake sightings in Singapore.

Also see our lastest video on YouTube, of a Yellow-lipped seasnake hunting on Pulau Hantu's reef flat!

Sleepless in Singapore

The Wildfilms crew greeted the last of the low spring tides of the year, and have blogged about the sleepless nudibranchs that gathered to be photographed. See the amazing diversity of Singapore slugs that can be appreciated simply my walking along our coasts!

And then read all about their adventures on yesterday's post Wild Things Revealed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Discovering Sudong

In late July, a couple of divers including myself, made a visit to the waters surrounding Sudong. The highlight of that dive is plastered right here as the first image of this post. A tigertail seahorse was fastened safely amongst sponges, hydriods and hard coral. Photographing it wasn't much fun because it didn't really like being photographed, so a video was also shot.

Icon seastars were observed several times along the sandy seabed..

Along with hordes of feather stars clinging tightly onto their whip corals or sea fans that grew along the seabed or along the side of vertical structures.

Some of the seafans in the area were particularly large. Seafans tend to proliferate well in areas swept with good currents.

There were also plenty of photogenic nudibranchs - unlike the seahorse, these creatures, also known as sea slugs, didn't seem to have much of a problem being photographed! You can tell when they are a bit cautious though when they retract their rhinophores. It is said that nudibranches use their rhinophores to sense and detect odours or pheromones in the water.

Again, tons of feather stars, also known as crinoids..

There were even really LARGE crinoids! This one would be the largest I've seen in local waters. Crinoids use their tentacles to sift food out of the passing water. They can also detatch themselves to swim to a new and more favourable hunting spot if necessary. Often you can find well-camouflaged squat lobsters hidden within a crinoid.

There was also an inconspicuous False scorpionfish hiding amongst the hydriods. The Flase scorpionfish is actually a member of the grouper family, unlike true scorpionfish.

And to top off the day of wonderful diving in Singapore, a beautiful sunset. We seldom get to appreciate such sunsets from the mainland, where the horizon is obstructed with skyscrapers aplenty - one of the big advantages of travelling out to sea...

See more pictures from the dive by other divers!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

'Damage is done' to Lebanon coast

By Mark Kinver
Science and nature reporter, BBC News

Lebanon's coastline could take up to 10 years to recover from a massive oil spill, the nation's environment minister has said.

Yacoub Sarraf said it was impossible to tackle the problem while the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel continued.

Marine experts have warned the spill could pose a cancer risk to people living in the affected areas.

The oil slick caused by Israeli bombing of a power station now covers 120km (75 miles) of the region's coasts.

Mr Sarraf said the delay had already severely affected the Lebanese shores.

"The damage has been done. It goes without saying that the whole fishing community will be hit for at least two or three years before the ecosystem re-establishes itself," he told BBC News.

"We cannot get equipment, companies, labour or know-how to handle the problem," he said.

"If you compare this to any spill in history, intervention can help within the first 48-72 hours of the spill; we are already 20 days too late."

'Cancer risk'

Marine experts from Inforac, an organisation with links to the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), issued a warning on Tuesday that the raid on the Jiyyeh Power plant in mid-July could pose a cancer risk to people living in the area.

Spokeswoman Simonetta Lombardo said the spill of fuel oil was a "high-risk toxic cocktail mahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifde up of substances which cause cancer and damage to the endocrine system".

The experts warned that the first people at risk from the "toxic spray" were the two million inhabitants of Beirut.

They also said that large quantities of dead fish along Lebanon's shores had been killed by the oil pollution.

The Lebanese environment minister said the latest satellite images showed the oil slick was continuing to spread across the eastern Mediterranean Sea, threatening the coastlines of Turkey and possibly Cyprus.

However, a spokesman for Turkey's prime minister said the risk to the country's shores was "fairly limited", but aircraft were carrying out regular monitoring flights and that naval vessels were ready to deploy floating barriers if needed.

Full story

Friday, August 11, 2006

UWS launches YoT website

To commemorate the Year of the Turtle (YoT), the Underwater World Singapore (UWS) together with National Institute of Education (NIE/NTU) has developed a website to compliment its efforts to raise public awareness of turtles, as well as to develop proactivity amongst members of the public.

Several organisations inclduing the RMBR, NSS, BWV, and Hantu Blog have also contributed to the establishement of the YoT gallery at UWS.

See related posts:
Sea Turtles to be released in South China Sea
Kid's Programme for Sea Turtles

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Artificial habitats" not a panacea

Biologist Jeffrey Low responds to blog post: Study says man-made reefs don't impact negatively on natural ones

I worked on artificial reefs for my Masters thesis way back when, so, I was intrigued by the newspaper reporting a "final solution" to one of the long standing arguments about artificial reef-natural reef interactions. After reading the article though, there was no evidence to conclude either way. I did see some similarities between the report and my studies, but also some differences.

The fish community of the artificial reefs (ARs) in Singapore were certainly different from the natural one, but in contrast to the study posted, I saw mostly adults, of fish species that were not usually seen on the reef. These included the Yellow spot Rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus), snappers (Lutjanus argentimaculatus and L. carponotatus), and several species of batfish (Platax spp).

I speculated that these differences were caused by:

1. the distance the artificial reef was from the natural reef (there have been studies done on trying to determine optimal distances of artificial reefs from each other and to the natural reefs),

2. the different structure and shape of the artificial reef compared to the natural reef (there were more "spaces" in the ARs for fish to hide then on our natural reefs)

3. the depth at which the artificial reef was placed (the ARs were placed on the seabed in 15m of water, about 30m away from the natural reef).

Other studies on fish communities talk about habitat- or supply-limited systems (meaning that there was no habitat for juvenile fish to make a home, or not enough juvenile fish to fill up the "homes"), but usually in terms of juveniles. I speculate that in Singapore, at least, fish adults are constrained primarily by the lack of habitat, so any artificial reef laid down will probably show results that approximate to drawing fish away from the reef.

I tend to be very cautious about "artificial habitats" as a panacea to our environmental problems, because it has often been used as a crutch to overlook the real damage to a natural ecosystem. It is a useful tool that can assist in ecosystem recovery, but the how and why of it needs to be carefully considered, and its implementation not seen as an end unto itself.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Study says man-made reefs don't impact negatively on natural ones

By Susan Cocking McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) The Mercury News
2 Aug 06

MIAMI - For decades, fisheries scientists and managers have debated
the pros and cons of deploying artificial reefs, the major issue
being whether man-made underwater structures draw fish away from
natural coral reef habitats.

A recent study by researchers at Nova Southeastern University
Oceanographic Center shows the answer is no - at least if the man-
made structures are ships.

Said Spieler: "If you anticipate a difference between ships and
natural reefs, you'd see it there."

There was a difference, but it was in the species of fish - not the
numbers. Arena and his colleagues found fish thriving on both kinds
of reefs.

But there were species inhabiting artificial reefs that were not
only absent from adjacent natural structures but weren't found
anywhere else in Broward County. Some of those included blackfin
snapper, snowy grouper and amberjack - mostly juveniles.

Theorizing that shipwrecks might serve as nurseries for some
species, rather than attractants for mature fish, the scientists
studied a relatively new wreck for two years.

They found it was dominated by young fish, with few adults. [Full article]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Environmental 'crisis' in Lebanon

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has expressed its "grave concern" about oil pollution in Lebanese coastal waters.

An oil slick caused by Israeli bombing of the Jiyyeh power station now covers 80km (50 miles) of coast[...]

"What we have here is equivalent to a tanker sinking, and 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes reaching the shoreline," said Berj Hatjian from the Lebanese environment ministry.

"We've had it immediately rushing into the sea from the beach line," he told BBC News[...]

The group Green Line says that some of the oil has settled on the sea floor, threatening areas where tuna spawn.

It also says that slicks on beaches will prevent baby turtles from reaching the sea after they hatch.

The green turtle, whose eggs hatch in July, is an endangered species.

Unep agrees that the oil is a significant threat to some Mediterranean wildlife, but also says the slick could compromise livelihoods when the current conflict ends.

"Firstly our thoughts are with the suffering of the civilian population," said Mr Steiner.

"But we must be concerned about the short and long term impacts on the marine environment, including the biodiversity upon which so many people depend for their livelihoods and living via tourism and fishing." [Full story]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Videos from the Southern Islands

While taking a break from organising dives to Pulau Hantu, I've taken the opportunity to visit other reefs around Singapore and found the time to explore and EXPLOIT new and free media, to better bring the wonders of our local waters to you!

Here's a video of a Tigertail Seahorse I shot at Sudong wreck, on Sunday 30 July. Notice as it sucks in bits of food floating in the water.

On the second dive, we ran into this juvenile Golden travelly swimming frantically against the current, never straying too far from the bit of sargassum seaweed that has colonised a bit of the mooring line.

With tons of free media that's flooding the web, there're so many ways in which an individual can share information, and reach out to a greater and far more varied audience than previously possible! I'm looking forward to sharing more videos with you soon!

Sea Turtles to be released in the South China Sea for satellite-tracking

Source: Habitatnews

In commemoration of the Indian Ocean - South East Asia (IOSEA) "Year of the Turtle", Underwater World Singapore (UWS) has collaborated with the National Institute of Education (NIE)/Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to launch a Sea Turtle Conservation Gallery and released 12 sea turtles fitted with satellite-tracking devices... Full story at Habitatnews

Related articles:
Channel News Asia
Today Online
Kids Programme for Sea Turtles