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Pangkor Laut and Reefcheck start coral transplant programme

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Pangkor Laut and Reefcheck start coral transplant programme

Post Number:#1  Postby timyang » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:35 pm

Pangkor Laut Resort has teamed up with Reef Check Malaysia to help “save” Pulau Giam and its marine life, including coral reefs. PUTRI ZANINA takes a look at what the work entails

AFTER about a half-hour ride from Lumut, our boat entered the waters of Pangkor Laut. Its silky green hues, in stark contrast to the murky brownish waters off the Lumut jetty.

Schools of anchovies moved in sync right below the jetty of Pangkor Laut Resort, the only resort in the privately owned island of Pangkor Laut.

Slightly below the waters was a gorgeous array of vibrantly coloured tropical fish. It’s like seeing an outdoor aquarium with a kaleidoscope of colours and forms.

The seascape here must be healthy to be able to exude that rich, silky green colour. It’s as if there’s a green belt around the island, forming a border that separates it from nearby islands.

As healthy as the sea looks, its condition, if not protected, can deteriorate like that of Pulau Giam, a popular snorkelling spot, less than five minutes by speedboat from Pangkor Laut.

I was there to see the work Pangkor Laut Resort has initiated to help “save” Pulau Giam and its marine life, including coral reefs. These have been badly damaged in recent years, partly because of human-driven activities such as careless dropping of boat anchors and poor snorkelling and diving supervision.

When people pick live corals or walk on or stir up sediment in the reefs, they damage the coral reefs which take thousands of years to grow.

The island’s snorkelling site is also threatened by nearby activities. Sand and construction barges make their way from Pulau Pangkor and Lumut on the mainland of Perak where development moves at a rapid pace. Fishing trawlers and boats laden with tourists also ply the waters.

These activities, and more, including pollution, affect the quality of the seawater and pose serious threats to the marine ecosystem that includes these fragile coral reefs.

Working together
In efforts to halt further damage and protect the marine life in the surrounding areas, Pangkor Laut Resort recently teamed up with Reef Check Malaysia — a non-profit organisation that promotes coral reef conservation and management — for their first joint coral transplant programme to restore the coral reefs at Pulau Giam.

Also held at the same time was the resort’s third reef and beach clean-up programme that saw more than 100 of the resort employees and Reef Check Malaysia volunteers taking part. While the majority cleaned up the Pangkor Laut beach, the few divers among them went underwater for seascape cleaning.

But the more fascinating activity took place underwater just off the beach between the resort marina and the Sea Villas. It was the site chosen by reef ecologist Kee Alfian of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Marine Ecosystem Research Centre and Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde for the initial coral transplantation work (see story on page 8).

Invited by the resort, which is owned by YTL Corporation Berhad, both Hyde and Kee helmed the work, which also involved Kee’s wife, Nur Leena Wong Wai Seen, a scientist at Institute of BioScience, Universiti Putra Malaysia, who specialises in marine ecology and aquaculture.

YTL has been a sponsor of Reef Check Malaysia’s activities for three years.
Hyde said the company did not provide specific sums for the projects.

“Instead, we have a close working relationship in which we assist them with specific coral conservation projects, which fit into our overall programme.”
The work in Pangkor Laut and Pulau Giam started about six months ago, and Hyde estimated that it would take some two years to see the results.

Initial assessments showed that the condition of the reefs around Pangkor Laut was good.

“That’s surprising, considering that the waters there are not as good as the waters around the islands off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia such as Redang and Tioman. Yet despite that, there’s a reasonable variety of corals, and fish life too, on the reefs around Pangkor Laut,” said Hyde.

Saving coral reefs
Now, why should anyone care about coral reefs?
According to Hyde, a third of the world’s coral reefs are facing extinction, no thanks to overfishing, blast fishing and the rise in sea temperature and sea level. Last July, a few dive sites in Malaysia had to be closed when corals there were damaged by bleaching.

The threat to reefs is particularly strong in Southeast Asia, touted as the global epicentre of marine diversity. Almost half of some 800 reef-building coral species inhabit Malaysian waters.

Reefs are home to thousands of marine life, including fish, which is an important food source for millions of people. They also support people’s livelihood in activities such as fishing and tourism.

Coral reef systems are important habitats for birds and other animals such as turtles and monitor lizards. They also protect shorelines and islands, which otherwise would not have existed.

One way to restore coral reefs is coral transplantation, which according to Kee, has been conducted in the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Kee himself has successfully transplanted corals into a nursery for his PhD research and is using this technology to restore the coral reefs in Pulau Giam.

Benefiting local community
The idea for Pulau Giam’s reef rehabilitation programme came about after discussions with local snorkelling guides who attended Reef Check Malaysia’s Eco-Friendly Snorkel Guide training last year.

“The guides were concerned about the poor quality of the reefs at their main snorkelling site in Pulau Giam, which now has very little live corals. So we proposed rehabilitating a small part of the reefs to improve the site for snorkellers.

“Although it’s a small programme, it’s of huge importance in the immediate environment around Pangkor,” said Hyde, adding that the project’s benefits were many folds.

For example, snorkelling guides would have an improved tourist product as the site would provide many educational opportunities for the guides while tourists and the local population learn more about coral reefs and their role in the ecosystem.

Hyde thinks the site has the potential of becoming a community-managed area, with all stakeholders involved in managing and protecting it. In addition, it’s one of the few coral transplant projects in the region, so it adds to the database of scientific studies on coral reef rehabilitation programmes.
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Re: Pangkor Laut and Reefcheck start coral transplant programme

Post Number:#2  Postby jgshuwei » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:19 pm

Tim, thanks for sharing.
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