February 23, 2016

Ambitious Plans in Store for Reef Check Malaysia after Successful 2015

Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

While Reef Check celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, 2016 also marks the 10th year of operations since Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) was registered in 2007, and they have come a long way in their efforts to protect the coral reefs of Malaysia. RCM sends in this summary of their successes in 2015 and plans for 2016:

In 2015, RCM successfully trained 55 new EcoDivers and 5 new EcoDiver trainers! We always look forward to having more people come aboard as EcoDivers and we hope to see you on our upcoming surveys. For those interested to become EcoDivers, please feel free to contact us at ecodiver@reefcheck.org.my or visit our website at www.reefcheck.org.my.

In total, we conducted 242 surveys across Malaysia in 2015, our biggest programme to date. The aggregated results from these surveys show that there are no significant changes to the health of coral reefs in Malaysia, good news overall. However, individual reef areas do need action to reduce impacts, and these will be discussed with reef managers and local stakeholders over the coming months.

Our Cintai Tioman community programme is now entering its third year! The recycling programme with the villagers was a huge success in 2015. All in all, we collected 1612.5kg of plastic, 1,421kg of tin and 130kg of batteries. We also conducted trainings for members of the local population in areas such as computer skills, Rescue Diver and Emergency First Responder (First Aid), Reef Check surveys and reef rehabilitation as well as Medic First Aid training for licensed boat operators. As a result of the reef rehabilitation training, some of the trainees are now working on reviving our reef rehabilitation efforts in Monkey Bay. A composting workshop was also organised with students from SMK Tekek, and as of 2015, we have 20 individuals participating in our composting programme. We hope that the recycling and composting efforts will continue to help reduce the waste management problem on the island.

RCM’s work on Mantanani Island continued in 2015 with the expansion of reef rehabilitation sites and more education efforts with the local primary school and community. We are still testing different approaches there, due to challenging water conditions around the island. But more importantly, the project allows us to continue to work with the local community to promote the idea of improving management of the islands’ reefs, in particular combating fish bombing.

Throughout 2015, as part of efforts to improve management of Malaysia’s coral reefs, RCM has been working with Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) to identify local impacts to coral reefs, and develop Action Plans to reduce or eliminate those impacts.

Our focus this year will be very much on improving management of Malaysia’s coral reefs, with the inclusion of all stakeholders. The programme is ambitious, but one which we hope will successfully demonstrate novel approaches to managing marine ecosystems.

We will be working closely with DMPM and other agencies to implement the local impact Action Plans, as part of which we hope to increase the involvement of local communities in decision making. This is already happening in Tioman, where we are training a group of islanders to provide services to the Marine Park, as well as working to revitalize the Community Consultative Committee. We are hoping to replicate some of those activities in Perhentian.

In Mantanani, we hope to hold the first round of formal community consultations on the concept of managed areas around the islands’ reefs – a process which will take some time to complete but which will eventually involve all stakeholders working together to the common goal of sustainable reef management. Similar projects are on-going in Perak and Johor, and we are hoping that in each location we will be able to demonstrate different approaches to reef management, all with the relevant local communities deeply involved.

Finally, we could be dealing with another mass bleaching episode this year. Predictions from NOAA, based on satellite tracking of sea surface temperatures, indicate potential catastrophic bleaching in South East Asia by April/May, though it is worst in the south of the region. If necessary, the Malaysia Bleaching Response Plan will be activated. This defines a number of management actions in response to different levels of bleaching, ranging from simple monitoring to site closures. We will work closely with DMPM and all local stakeholders and involve them in decision making as far as possible.

For more information on Reef Check Malaysia and how to get involved, please visit https://reefdpd.wpengine.com.my.

Some of the recycle bags filled with plastic bottles and tins, ready to be shipped out Participants of the Local Impacts workshop One of the reef rehabilitation sites in Tioman