Documenting the Brunei Rapid Marine Assessment

In October 2008 Scubazoo were contracted by the Brunei Fisheries Department to document a Rapid Marine Survey of Brunei’s Coral, Fish and Sea Shell bio-diversity. Underwater cameraman Simon Enderby, and Chris Tan were joined by underwater photographer Seok Au Yong to complement the scientific team which consisted of some of the biggest names in Marine Science. Making up the team were Dr Mark Erdmann, famous for his discovery of an unknown Coelacanth population in Indonesia, Dr Gerry Allen – fish expert extraordinaire, Dr Emre Turak & Dr Lyndon Devantier – Coral Reef Ecologists and Coral experts, and last but not least, Markus Ruf – Malacologist (sea shell expert).

With the full backing of the Brunei Fisheries Department, the team managed to comprehensively survey 19 sites. Team members spent up to 50 hours underwater over the course of the 12 day survey on Brunei’s varied dive sites such as shallow patch reefs and offshore oil drilling platforms. Over 360 species of fish, 400 species of reef building coral and 370 species of bivalves and gastropods were identified, revealing that Brunei’s coastal coral reefs are very bio-diverse indeed. All of the scientists expressed their surprise at finding such species diversity in the Bruneian waters.

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A peculiar feature of the patch reefs off Brunei’s coast was the extreme mix of hard and soft corals, somewhat reminiscent of the reefs of the Caribbean. Beautiful swaying gorgonian harps, fans and whip corals waved from the nooks and crannies between the hard reef building corals. Under normal circumstance the hard corals would out-compete the soft corals, and in time drive them from the shallows into deeper waters where sunlight levels are lower and hard corals find it more difficult to grow as a result. In this case though everywhere you looked the soft corals had a firm grip and presence on the reefs.

As a whole the reefs and corals were in great condition, however there were plenty of signs of fishing encroachment. Discarded fish traps, lost nets, anchors and grapples were found on various sites and in general, although fish diversity was high, abundance was low and those that we did see where very wary of letting divers approach them, possibly indicating pressure from hookah and spear divers at some point.

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Update:

Simon Enderby, Chris Tan and Seok Au Yong returned in June 2009 to Brunei to complete filming and photography for the rapid marine bio-diversity survey commissioned by the Brunei Department of Fisheries. Over the course of the three weeks the survey team explored and documented a further 16 dive sites cataloguing a total of 513 fish species, 478 coral species and 475 species of mollusks with several new species added to science.

Scubazoo produced two 30min videos documenting the survey, process, dive sites, and the final results of the survey for the Brunei Fisheries Department.

A selection of the underwater photos shot by Scubazoo will soon be published in “Coral Reefs of Brunei – an introduction” by Dr Lyndon Devantier and Emre Turek. Dr Gerry Allen will also be bringing out a book entitled “Coral Reef Fishes of Brunei”

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