The seas of S.E.A. Aquarium: The mangrove and its friends

The Bay of Bengal – home to the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Laccadive Sea is one of the zones in the S.E.A. Aquarium. And the location of our visit this time.

Where: Beside the Coral Garden and stilt fishermen.

Must-see: The panel depicting the importance of mangroves.

Bonus: See if you can spot the archerfish squirting water from the water surface.

Marine animals: Mono, archerfish.

Fun fact: Mangroves consists mainly of brackish water, a mixture of seawater and fresh water.

Balancing act.
Balancing act.

The cultural panel can be spotted easily from afar – all thanks to the prominent fishermen on stilts. Balancing on narrow wooden poles from mangrove trees, they form a bizarre sight. Weird as it may look, the way these men fish is testament that sustainable fishing is possible. They only catch fishes they need, particularly groupers and snappers, and release other marine lives.

Stilt fishing is unobtrusive as there is minimum disturbance to the fish. These anglers wait patiently on their stilts, holding their fishing lines with hooks in the water and no bait, but can easily catch some 1000 fishes daily. These fishermen are testaments that sustainable fishing – and great balancing acts – is possible.

Welcome to the mangrove.
Welcome to the mangrove.

Moving on, we see the mangrove habitat which is modelled after the Sundarbans Mangrove Forests. The Sundarbans, covering up to 140,000 hectares (approximately the size of two Singapores), contains the world’s largest mangrove forests. It is also one of the most biologically productive of all natural ecosystems where its waterways and forests are able to support a wide variety of aquatic, benthic and terrestrial organisms.

Here, we will get to know more about its inhabitants and its importance to humans.

Mono: There's no "I" in a team.
Mono: There’s no “I” in a team.

Mono, short for Monodactylus sebae, and archerfish are the main species found in our mangrove habitat. The former operates as a team during feeding time, effectively blocking out other fishes, while the latter makes up ground with their set of eponymous ability to squirt water from their mouths to knock down prey (usually insects) from overhanging surfaces. No food is too far away; they are able to squirt up to 3m above water level and can even jump to catch the falling prey.

Archerfish: Call me Legolas.
Archerfish: Call me Legolas.

The islands are also of great economic importance as they are able to act as a storm barrier, shore stabiliser, nutrient and sediment trap and as a source of timber and natural resources.

Do remember to check out the information board next to the habitat for more fun facts about the mangrove.

Next, we venture into the deep blue and come face to face with “giants” and “jellies” in the Open Ocean. Stay tuned!

Read more about the other zones in the aquarium.

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