Malaysia: Washing machines fished out of reefs

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 15 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Divers and volunteers fished out two washing machines and filled up over 250 bags of rubbish at Pulau Mabul, a popular diving haven off the coast of Semporna.

The mainly plastic rubbish was collected from the island from around the shoreline, under stilt houses and in the water as part of an effort to protect the fragile and unique coral reefs at Pulau Mabul.

The one-day clean-up on Sunday was sponsored by the Tourism and Culture Ministry as part of their One Malaysia Green, 1 Malaysia Clean programme, carried out by Scuba Junkies Marine Week, a conservation event run by the dive operator and joined in by local volunteer group Green Semporna and Kolej Komuniti Semporna.

Scuba Junkie environmental officer David McCann said that rubbish, especially plastic waste, was a major problem worldwide and it was always frustrating to find so much plastic waste in clean-ups.

“We are fortunate in Mabul to have a dedicated group of individuals willing to do something to make a difference and we have the government support to do so,” he said, adding that many schoolchildren also volunteered.

Coral reefs are under threat worldwide. Reefs in the Semporna region, around Mabul as well as in Sipadan are known to be some of the most beautiful and diverse in the world, with many unique and rare species of coral found here.

Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the splendour of the reefs.

It is estimated that the beautiful coral reefs of Malaysia are worth an estimated RM145bil per year, through tourism, coastal protection and as fishing resources for those living near these reefs, said McCann.

He said the cleaning up of beaches and reefs would help prevent deterioration of the reefs and would go a long way towards providing a fighting chance against our planet’s rising temperatures and the coral bleaching associated with it.

It will help to safeguard future tourism revenue as well as a healthy supply of food for coastal communities, he added.

Saving marine life by collecting debris
Daily Express 15 Dec 16;

Semporna: Over 150 bags of plastic rubbish were collected from Mabul Island on Thursday – around the shoreline, under houses and in the water, in a bid to prevent them ending up in the ocean and damaging the fragile and unique coral reefs of Pulau Mabul.

The island-wide clean up sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (Motac) as part of their 'One Malaysia Green, 1Malaysia Clean' programme, was one of the highlights of Scuba Junkie's Marine Week, a conservation event run by the island's dive operator in collaboration with local volunteer group Green Semporna and Kolej Komuniti.

Director of Kolej Komuniti Semporna Norasmah Jafar said the college was honoured to be able to bring the One Malaysia Green, 1Malaysia Clean volunteerism programme to Mabul Island in conjunction with Scuba Junkie's Marine Week and the Gotong Royong Perdana event, with additional sponsorship from Seahorse Sipadan Scuba.

"It was truly amazing to see so many people working together, all dedicated to making their immediate environment a cleaner place. Visitors to the island, tourists on the island, dive operator staff and locals alike, of all ages all got involved into the clean-up, with amazing results," she said.

A volunteer for Green Semporna and an ex-student of Kolej Komuniti, Juliah, said the activity was very challenging, as the area was very wide and the rubbish was mainly trapped under the houses on the shoreline.

"But it was awesome to be part of such a large team and make this contribution for my hometown.

But the biggest contribution would be to not throw rubbish in the sea – prevention is better than cure," she said.

Clean-ups were a key feature of the Scuba Junkie Marine Week – with the theme of 'Corals In Crisis' to highlight the threats to coral reefs worldwide, all activities during the week were designed to raise awareness of these threats and to alleviate stresses placed on the reef, such as rubbish and pollution.

"Reefs in the Semporna region, and around Mabul and Sipadan, are known to be some of the most beautiful and diverse in the world, with many unique and rare species of coral found here. Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy of the reefs here.

"It is estimated that the beautiful coral reefs of Malaysia are worth an estimated RM145 billion per year, through tourism, coastal protection and as food sources for those living on or near these reefs," said Environmental Officer for Scuba Junkie David McCann.

He added that any action taken to prevent deterioration of these reefs such as reef and beach clean-ups, allows them to play their part in helping to give these reefs a fighting chance against the planet's rising temperatures and associated coral bleaching.

"Rubbish, especially plastic waste, is a major problem worldwide, and as frustrating as it was to see so much plastic here, it is even more frustrating knowing that it is not confined to Mabul.

"However, we were fortunate on Mabul to have a dedicated group of individuals willing to do something to make a difference and we had government support to do so. It was especially good to see so many school children and students getting involved in the activities," he said.

During the rest of the Marine Week, an estimated 50 bags of rubbish were collected on reef clean ups, including two washing machines, and a further 200 plastic bags were also collected from beach clean ups carried out during the week.

Outreach programmes with local schoolchildren, focusing on the roles of healthy reefs and the problems caused by plastic, were carried out by Green Semporna volunteers.

"Engaging the next generation is vital to getting the conservation message across which is why our activities during the day are for schoolchildren. We want them to know the wonders of the underwater world and how lucky we are to live somewhere as special as this.

"We also want to instil a sense of responsibility for their environment…a seed that will grow through to adulthood.

But we also want them to have fun," said Green Semporna Chairwoman Rhena Ismail.

In the evenings, presentations from Reef Check Malaysia, WWF Malaysia, Scubazoo and Green Semporna were popular with the guests at the Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort, many of whom swapped 'fun' dives to get involved in reef cleans, and turned out in force for beach clean ups.

The Animal Welfare Unit, Kota Kinabalu, were also on the island during the Marine Week to provide a free clinic for the cats on the island, neutering 45 cats in their Trap Neuter Release scheme.

"It was a great week that brought lots of different groups together.

Green Semporna especially are an amazing group of young conservationists whose dedication and passion for the environment inspires many around them.

We look forward to working with them again in the near future," said Scuba Junkie Director Ric Owen.

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