Malaysia: Semporna leads the way in coral reef protection

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 9 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Semporna is leading the way in adopting the Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan to protect its rich coral reef ecosystem.

Semporna district officer Dr Chacho Bulah recently launched the plan during the six-day Semporna Marine Eco Week 2017, which ended on Dec 2.

The plan aims to monitor coral bleaching and promote recovery. Assessment will be carried out
by Sabah Parks, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Reef Dive Resort, Pom-Pom Island Resort, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia.

Chacho said to sustain Semporna’s tourism industry, the district’s coral ecosystem must be healthy and resilient to face climate change.

“Most foreigners I have spoken to only know Sipadan as one of the top five diving destinations in the world.

“As the gateway to Sipadan, Semporna has not been recognised as a centre of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle region.”

He said there was a need for strong commitment and cooperation between government agencies, tourism players, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local communities to conserve marine life and coral reefs.

“I am pleased to announce that Semporna is the first district in Sabah to launch a Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan,” he said, adding that the Semporna Priority Conservation Area had the largest coral reef coverage in Malaysia.

The conservation area, which is in the Coral Triangle, is the centre of marine biodiversity and provides ecosystem services to people in, and beyond the area.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) reef ecologist Dr Zarinah Waheed said coral reefs were areas of high biodiversity, providing food and habitat to marine life.

“It protects shorelines from storms and wave surges. A healthy coral reef encourages tourism. It brings income to locals and has pharmaceutical potential.

“However, coral reefs worldwide are at risk from the impacts of climate change, an emerging threat to coral reef ecosystems. This change in climate can have detrimental effects on coral reefs, such as bleaching.”

In recognising the urgency to address climate change, WWF Malaysia organised the Semporna Marine Eco Week to empower players from different industries to take action to combat climate change together.

WWF Malaysia’s Marine Programme people and marine biodiversity manager Monique Sumampouw said increased sea temperatures led to higher coral reef mortality.

She said based on WWF Malaysia’s preliminary study between 2015 and last year, there was an average rise of 0.5°C in Semporna’s waters.

“Semporna’s Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan aims to strengthen the resilience of the coral reefs and sustain the future of Semporna’s tourism and marine resources.”

The Semporna Marine Eco Week was organised by Sabah Parks, UMS, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Seaventures Dive Rig, Green Semporna and Semporna Community College.

The programme aimed to improve awareness about climate change, coral bleaching and the importance of marine conservation among dive operators, local communities and NGOs.


WWF Malaysia on mission to save coral reefs
stephen then The Star 9 Dec 17;

MIRI: WWF Malaysia has started an urgent project to save the coral reefs off the coastal shores of northern Borneo Island from the increasing risks of coral bleaching.

The environmental body found that pollution and climatic change are causing serious coral bleaching offshore Borneo and other states.

As such, WWF Malaysia is deploying volunteers to check on the health of coral reefs offshore Sabah and Sarawak.

WWF Malaysia Marine Diversity project manager Monique Sumampouw said yesterday that the first team of volunteers had gone to offshore Semporna to check on the corals on the seabed there that were experiencing bleaching.

“For example, here in northern Borneo waters, there is an urgent need to activate an early response plan to tackle these bleaching in the coral reefs on the seabed as these areas are important marine parks.

“Bleaching of coral reefs caused by climate changes and sea pollution as well as human activities, if left unchecked, will cause serious decline in population of marine animals.

She added that WWF Malaysia wanted to work with coastal and island resort operators, marine park officials, diving operators and tour agencies to tackle this issue.

“Coral reefs are very sensitive to environmental impact,” she said in an email to The Star.

She stressed that early measures could be taken to rescue corals affected by bleaching.

She explained that natives living on the coasts, fishermen and even tourists must be educated on the need to be cautious when carrying out activities in waters where coral reefs were found.

WWF Malaysia through its Reef Check Malaysia Unit is enlisting the help of the state marine authorities to help out in the effort to save the coral reefs in the respective states, she added.


Coral bleaching threatening reefs off northern Borneo
stephen then The Star 13 Dec 17;

WWF Malaysia has started an urgent project to save the coral reefs off the coastal shores of northern Borneo island from the increasing risks of coral bleaching.

The environmental body found that pollution and climatic change are causing serious coral bleaching offshore Borneo and other states.

WWF Malaysia Marine Diversity project manager Monique Sumampouw said the first team of volunteers had gone to offshore Semporna to check on the corals on the seabed there.

“WWF Malaysia has found evidences of increasing coral bleaching in the sea off the coastal shores in all parts of the country, especially in those areas where there are a lot of environmental impact.

“Bleaching of coral reefs caused by climate changes and sea pollution as well as human activities, if left unchecked, will cause serious decline in population of marine animals.”

She added that WWF Malaysia wanted to work with coastal and island resort operators, marine park officials, diving operators and tour agencies to tackle this issue.

She stressed that early measures could be taken to rescue corals affected by bleaching.

“People living on the coasts, fishermen and even tourists must be educated on the need to be cautious when carrying out activities in waters where coral reefs are found.

“Through its Reef Check Malaysia Unit, WWF Malaysia is enlisting the help of the state marine authorities to help save the coral reefs in the respective states,” added Sumampouw.

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