Malaysia: Marine Parks Dept takes steps to protect coral reefs

The Star 19 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Marine Parks Department is moving to protect Malaysia’s valuable coral reefs following warnings that they are in danger due to rising sea surface temperatures.

Malaysia was recently notified of the danger by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which indicated that sea surface temperatures in some of Malaysia’s waters were above average, and the coral reefs might soon be exposed to thermal stress.

Coral bleaching was a possibility, added the US scientific agency.

The “Bleaching Watch” notification for Malaysia was issued on May 2 under NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Programme.

The programme publishes satellite data on sea surface temperatures, providing an indication of current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk of coral bleaching.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar noted that coral bleaching was a major threat to the health of reefs and deserved serious attention due to its implications for marine biodiversity, fisheries and tourism in Malaysia.

He said following the mass coral reef bleaching in 2010, the Coral Reef Bleaching Response Committee was set up to address future bleaching events.

“The committee is monitoring the situation and consulting with stakeholders to develop appropriate management responses,” Dr Wan Junaidi said in a statement.

The committee will begin surveys of coral reefs and track the onset of any bleaching.

Coral bleaching, according to NOAA, happens when corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients and they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.


Warmer seas in Malaysia may lead to bleaching, endangering coral reefs in our oceans
HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN New Straits Times 18 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Higher sea temperatures in Malaysian oceans may soon cause a phenomenon known as coral bleaching, endangering coral reefs in the oceans of the country.

Action plans are being prepared to protect Malaysia’s coral reefs after an early warning that mass coral bleaching could be a high possibility.

In a statement earlier, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the Coral Reef Bleaching Response Committee (CRBRC) under the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) was monitoring the situation closely.

"After the mass coral reef bleaching incident in 2010, CRBRC was established to respond effectively to future bleaching events.

"It is also currently consulting with stakeholders to develop appropriate management responses in order to protect Malaysia's valuable coral reefs," he added.

This was following the issuance of a 'bleaching watch' notification for Malaysia on May 2 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis­tration’s Coral Watch Programme.

Wan Junaidi said the notification indicated that sea surface temperatures in some of Malaysia's waters were above average and Malaysia's coral reefs may have been or soon will be exposed to thermal stress.

"Coral bleaching is a major threat to coral reef health and deserves serious attention due to implications on marine biodiversity, coral reefs fisheries and tourism in the country," he added.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Programme publishes satellite data on sea surface temperatures, providing an indication of current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk of coral bleaching, he added.

"Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scale provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching," he said.

Wan Junaidi said when bleaching conditions occurred, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions, adding that bleaching is a natural response of corals under stress.

"The term 'Mass Bleaching' describes the large scale phenomenon of many species of corals bleaching simultaneously over a significant spatial scale," Wan Junaidi said.

He said CRBRC will begin surveys on coral reefs to monitor the situation in the country and track the onset of any bleaching.

"Actions plans to respond to such an event have already been prepared.

"The committee will provide further information as it becomes available and will work to ensure all stakeholders are kept fully informed of the changing situation, "he added.

DMPM has published the first Malaysian Coral Reef Bleaching Response Plan as a guide for monitoring and managing future bleaching events and communicating with stakeholders on per-determined steps that need to be carried out during mass coral reef bleaching.

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