Sunday, December 18, 2011

Humungous driftnets at Pulau Ubin (18 Dec 11)

Today, a small team bravely attempt to remove a huge pile of abandoned driftnets on Pulau Ubin.
The nets are badly entangled among mangrove tree roots and draped all over the shore.

I first saw this pile of nets in November during the Mega Marine Survey there. The net looked freshly abandoned at that time. Fortunately, we could get together to remove it today.
Abandoned driftnets in Pulau Ubin mangroves
Today is neap tide at 1.4m. I was afraid we would have to work in high water, but fortunately, it was quite dry at the work site. The net is partially hidden under a bloom of Sea lettuce seaweed (Ulva sp.) which is quite normal for this time of the year. This seaweed accumulates in huge drifts everywhere on Ubin during a bloom.
We got started on the huge nets straightaway.
Part of the net stretched out into the low shore in deeper water. I started working on that portion.
Andy finds another portion of the net that extends into the water.
We found three of these crabs badly entangled in the net. They were still alive.
It looks like a Stone crab (Myomenippe hardwicki) but didn't have the typical green circled red eyes of this species.
Here's another of the crabs found in the net, it had lost one of its pincers.
Brandon is the only one among us with real surgical skills so he leads all the operations to remove all filaments from the trapped crabs.
It takes patience to carefully remove all the entangled net filaments from the crab without hurting it.
Hussain gives a hand while Brandon carefully removes all the filaments on the crab. Andy also spotted a fish trapped in the net.
I was very relieved to have strong young men on the team as today there was a lot of heavy duty work to be done. Fallen branches are lifted so we can carefully cut away the nets.
Soon we managed to fill up all the huge bags with the nets, and the mangrove tree roots are breathing easier! Unfortunately, we didn't have time or manpower to remove the bigger nets which come from the fish farms. But these don't entangle marine life as badly as the transparent driftnets do.
We also quickly removed a few more nets which seemed to have been on the shore for a long time as they were already starting to fall apart.
Alas, as we were washing up in the mangrove stream, we saw MORE nets. Andy also saw more driftnets further up along the shoreline.
And Andy destroyed and removed some fish traps found in the mangroves.
Here's a last look at the pile of nets we dragged out.
We (rather, the men) dragged all the nets out to the road. That's a humungous pile! Seems like we moved out our body weight in nets today! NParks will kindly dispose of these nets properly.
Alas, this is a very small fraction of the nets that remain on the shore. We will need to go back and remove the rest eventually.

Thanks to Hussain, Brandon, Jerome and Andy for removing the nets! We are very glad that Hussain will be looking at the data we have been collecting this past year. His research on this issue locally and globally will help us better understand and hopefully manage this heartbreaking issue on our shores.

This trip has been funded from the generous donation by Aardwolf Pestkare as part of their very kind project to feature wildsingapore photos on their 2012 calendar.

More about this trip on the wild shores of singapore blog.

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