Malaysia: We can’t stop coral reefs from dying -- Environment Minister

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 5 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no way Malaysia can stop its coral reef population from dying due to the strong El Nino and climate change.

Saying that the natural warming of Malaysia’s waters was something that was beyond control, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tunku Jaafar said the only thing that could be done was for the country to minimise the damage on corals caused by humans.

“I have discussed this with the Marine Park Department (JTLM) and we will work ­together with local universities, the Department of Hydrology and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation on the problem of El Nino’s impact on the corals and coral reefs,” he said in a phone interview.

Universiti Malaya coral reef ecologist Affendi Yang Amri had said climate change coupled with a strong El Nino could threaten up to 90% of the country’s coral reefs.

The loss of coral reefs could also translate to a significant drop of commercial fish like groupers, snappers, emperors, sweet lips and fusiliers, which rely on reefs for habitat.

Dr Wan Junaidi said there were more pressing issues faced by the ministry in the protection of Malaysia’s underwater eco­system.

Pollution and ghost fishing, he said, were causing just as much damage to the reefs as El Nino, while the JTLM severely lacked the staff to monitor and maintain the vast 3,600 sq km of coral reefs in our waters.

Ghost fishing is when abandoned nets and fishing gear wraps itself around reefs, breaking or damaging them and snaring aquatic life in the process.

“We send scuba divers to monitor the reefs and to remove any nets that may have been caught in them. But we are very shorthanded.”

Gazetting marine parks is also an issue for the ministry, because the power to do so comes under the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry.

“We can only gazette marine parks under the Fisheries Act, which is not under us. It’s under another ministry.

“We need the law to fully enable us to protect the underwater ecosystem. But we are enforcing someone else’s law. I am personally handicapped because of the law,” he said.

Wan Junaidi added that the ministry’s intention of gazetting the proposed Tun Mustapha Park off Kudat, which has over a million hectares of coral reefs, was being hampered as the Fisheries Act was not under his purview.

GM: Reduce tourists, save our corals
JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 5 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should consider capping the number of tourists at its islands to reduce stress on coral reefs threatened by climate change and the El Nino phenomenon.

Reef Watch Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde (pic) said most of the stress on coral reefs stemmed from tourism and that limiting the number of tourists there was an option.

The large number of divers and snorkel­lers, and the incidents of touching and hitting the coral, were a major stress factor for the reefs, he said.

iphcoral: Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde said it has started a pilot project to cultivate corals at Mentangor Island, near Pangkor Island.

“Every morning there are hundreds of people snorkelling at the marine parks near Redang Island. Who is managing them?

“More education is needed to change the habits of divers and snorkellers,” he said.

Hyde said capping the number of tourists was practised at only a few places now.

“There is a logistical number beyond which you simply cannot cope and there are only so many people that can fit on an island, but deciding what that number is will be difficult,” he said.

He was responding to a statement by Universiti Malaya coral reef ecologist Affendi Yang Amri that climate change, coupled with a strong El Nino effect, could threaten up to 90% of the country’s coral reefs.

Affendi had said that while very little could be done to reduce nature’s effects on the reefs, steps could be taken to minimise water pollution, litter, coastal development and damage by divers and snorkellers.

According to Hyde, holiday resorts with inadequate sewage treatment systems were also a problem.

He said that while there were plans to better maintain septic tanks and improve the systems in places like Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian, along with a trial programme to desludge the tanks on Pulau Tioman, these needed to be carried out at all resorts and islands.

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