Monday, May 31, 2010

Survivors of the Oil Spill at Tanah Merah

While it was rather depressing to find so many dead animals at Tanah Merah, we were still rather heartened to see many survivors too. While some of them appear somewhat sickly, there were a fair number which appeared quite healthy too.

Stichodactyla gigantea
This Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) still looked rather healthy, and the water surrounding it was in fact rather oil-free.

Stichodactyla haddoni
We saw many healthy looking Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) too. I guess these sea anemones were probably in deep enough water to be spared from the worst of the oil spill.

Actinostephanus haeckeli
Near the sea wall, I spotted a Haeckel's Sea Anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli). A member of the hell's fire anemone family (Actinodendronidae), this sea anemone can give very painful stings.

Soft Corals (Order Alcyonacea)
There were a few patches of Soft Corals (Order Alcyonacea) too.

Sea Fans (Order Gorgonacea
And I was rather glad to find a few Sea Fans (Order Gorgonacea) too.

Acorn Worm (Class Enteropneusta)
While I did not find as many Acorn Worm (Class Enteropneusta) casts like my previous trips, there were still a fair number of them.

Segmented Worm (Class Polychaeta
We saw this unknown Segmented Worm (Class Polychaeta) coming out of its burrow. Not sure if it was stressed out by the oil spill, but certainly hoped it would survive.

I had never seen so many Peanut Worms (Sipuncula) on a trip before. While there were many dead ones, many of them were still very much alive, but whether they could survive or not was still a big question mark.

Arachnoides placenta
There were still many living Sand Dollars (Arachnoides placenta) in different sizes.

Salmacis Sea Urchi
We even found a small Salmacis Sea Urchin (Salmacis sp.)!

While most of the Heart Urchins (probably Maretia ovata) we found were dead, there were a few that were still alive, and some were in fact burrowing back into the sand.

Synaptid Sea Cucumbers (Family Synaptidae)
I used to be able to find several Synaptid Sea Cucumbers (Family Synaptidae) on my trips here, but today, I only found one.

Holothuria scabra
We saw a few Sandfish Sea Cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) too.

Stichopus horrens
There was also a Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens), which previously I had only seen on Semakau.

Archaster typicus
While there were probably hundreds of dead Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus), there were just as many, if not more, living and healthy-looking ones.

Astropecten Sea Star
And this was also my first time seeing a Sand Star (Astropecten sp.) on this shore too! And this one was quite big, about the same size as a Sand-sifting Sea star!

Portunus pelagicus
The Flower Crabs (Portunus pelagicus) appeared to be not that badly affected too, and I saw many of them, including the two above.

Thalamita crenata
Apart from the Flower Crab, the other swimming crabs, such as the Crenate Swimming Crab (Thalamita crenata) above, appeared to be doing fine also.

Ocypode ceratophthalma
The Horned Ghost Crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma) were rather badly affected, and the few living ones we saw were somewhat coated with oil.

Ocypode sp.
And I finally managed to get some shots of this smaller Ghost Crab (Ocypode sp.)! Not sure what exact species it is, but so far I have only seen this at Tanah Merah.

Dotilla myctiroides
There were quite a few Soldier Crabs (Dotilla myctiroides) on the higher shore, but they all appeared rather stress out.

Clibanarius infraspinatus
The Orange Striped Hermit Crabs (Clibanarius infraspinatus) appeared to be doing fine too.

Penaeid Prawn (Family Penaeidae)
There were many Penaeid Prawns (Family Penaeidae) in the many tidal pools, all looking very active and healthy.

Angaria delphinus
The Dolphin Snails (Angaria delphinus) appeared rather lethargic though, probably affected by the oil stains on the rocks.

Sea Hare (Order Anaspidea
I was quite happy to find a Sea Hare (Order Anaspidea) here! Still not sure what species this is though.

Bamboo Clams (Family Solenidae
We saw many dead Bamboo Clams (Family Solenidae) before we finally found the one above which was still alive, but barely.

Gymnothorax reevesii
Near the sea wall, I spotted this Brown-spotted moray (Gymnothorax reevesii) in a hole, with two little White-spotted Rabbitfish (Siganus canaliculatus) hiding below its head.

Sole Fish (Family Soleidae)
There was a Sole Fish (Family Soleidae) on the sand in the tidal pool too, and it was really hard to spot as it blended in so well with the sand.

I also saw this rather huge grouper which I wasn't sure of the ID, and too lazy to check my books now. Haha...

There were lots of other fishes trapped in the tidal pools, but being not too much of a fish person, I did not really take many photos.

And lastly, moving on to plants, there were a few nice patches of seagrass, which appeared to be doing ok.

Now that the authorities had cleaned up most of the oil slick, I do hope these survivors will continue to survive and do well.

Oil Spill Aftermath at Tanah Merah

Ever since I heard about the oil spill, I had been rather worried and had wanted to check out our shores to see bad was the situation. However, I had been very busy with work for the past few days. This morning, I finally managed to find time to visit Tanah Merah to check on the situation there.

Oil Spill
I had read from the news that the authorities had cleared most of the oil slick, and hence I was rather surprised to see the thick layer of crude oil in the canal behind the containment booms. What was more worrying was that the oil was on the landward side, not the seaward side of the booms!

Oil Spill
A few used containment booms in a huge bag by the side of the canal. I commented to Peiting that they looked like serpents in bags...

Oil Spill
On one end of the shore over about 30m, the situation was still rather bad, with a thick layer of crude oil on the sand.

Oil Spill
Here's a closer look at the oil slick next to the rock bund.

Oil Spill
On most of the other parts of the shore, while the oil slick was not so thick, a thin layer of oil could still be seen on the upper shore forming an oily strand line.

Oil Spill
In the water, I could see a thin layer of oil at the edge, with most of the rocks coated oil too.

Many organisms appeared to be rather badly affected by the oil slick.

Worms on oil slick
The most obviously ones would probably be the various worms. Many bristleworms could be found on top of the crude oil layer.

Worms among oil blobs
Further away from the upper shore, the oil form smaller blobs, and various worms could be found dead among them.

Segmented worm next to oil blob
Here's a closer look at one of the segmented worms next to an oil blob. It was still alive, but barely...

Bleeding segmented worm
Another segmented worm appeared to be bleeding badly. It was really depressing to see such a scene.

Sea cucumber coated with oil and sand
I also found a few sea cucumbers coated with oil and sand. They were still alive, but I doubt they would survive.

Dead and disintegrating Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus)
But the most depressing thing would be seeing the many dead and disintegrating Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus). I lost count of the number of dead sea stars after a while...

Dead Heart Urchins (probably Maretia ovata)
One of the tidal pools become a Heart Urchin (probably Maretia ovata) graveyard. There were at least 15 dead ones inside.

Dead Heart Urchins (probably Maretia ovata)
Some of the dead heart urchins still had their spines on them were also spotted, meaning they just died recently. I also saw a few live ones, but really not sure if they would survive.

Dead Horned Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalma)
There were quite a number of dead Horned Ghost Crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma), all covered with crude oil.

I saw a few ghost crab burrows on the upper shore on the oil coated upper shore. Wonder if the resident of this burrow was still alive?

Dead Spotted Moon Crab (Ashtoret lunaris)
There were many dead Spotted Moon Crabs (Ashtoret lunaris) too.

Dead Spectacled Box Crab (Calappa philargius)
We found a dead Spectacled Box Crab (Calappa philargius) and a dead Reef Box Crab (Calappa hepatica).

Dead Juvenile Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
There were a few dead Spider Conches (Lambis lambis), including a large juvenile which hasn't develop proper spines as seen above.

Dead Gong-gongs (Strombus turturella)
Dead Gong-gongs (Strombus turturella) could be commonly seen every where...

Dead moon snail (Polinices mammilla)
There were quite a few dead moon snails, both Polinices mammilla (above) and Natica zonalis, though we saw a few live ones too.

Dead Onch Slugs (Family Onchidiidae)
There were many dead Onch Slugs (Family Onchidiidae) washed onto the upper shore.

Dead Squid
We also found a dead squid, though I am not sure if it died because of the oil spill.

It was indeed very depressing as we explore the shores of Tanah Merah. However, we came across several other animals that appeared healthy too. Will put up a separate blog post on them soon, and hopefully now that the situation had supposedly improved, these survivors would be able to remain healthy.