November 11, 2011

Coral Rehabilitation in Malaysia

Consultations with the local community in Pulau Tioman

By Aaron Tam, Reef Check Malaysia

In November 2010, Reef Check Malaysia and YTL hotels embarked upon a coral transplantation method that has never been attempted before in Malaysia with the help of UKM scientist, Kee Alfian. The method involves collecting coral fragments and “planting” them in a nursery to allow them to stabilise and grow before final transplant. The key to our approach is to actively maintain the nurseries while the coral transplants are stabilising, keeping them free of silt and algae. In this way, mortality will be reduced, resulting in a more effective rehabilitation.

The impetus behind the project was to help rehabilitate the damaged reefs around Pangkor Island. For years, increasing tourist activity and ignorance on the part of tour operators have contributed significantly to the decline of coral reefs around Pangkor Island. The main attraction for tourists wanting to explore the marine environment around Pangkor is Coral Island, locally known as “Pulau Giam”. Ironically, there is hardly any coral left there. It is disappointing for the visitors and even more so for tour operators that depend on the Island for their livelihoods. Today, they have realised the importance of preserving their marine environment, albeit the hard way.

Nursery at Pulau Pangkor

After almost a year, the nurseries are finally ready to be transported to their permanent site close to Pulau Giam. The local snorkelling guide community has taken up the initiative of setting up a Safe Snorkelling Zone (SSZ) to protect the nursery site. This is where the real work actually begins. A campaign will be launched in order to educate visitors and the local community. Because the SSZ is not actually a legally protected area, the campaign will also try to gain the cooperation of all the local stakeholders in order to efficiently preserve the site.

However, education can only bring us so far, whether or not this project will prove to be successful in the long run, will largely depend on the will of the local community.

This year, Reef Check Malaysia embarked upon another coral transplant project in Pulau Tioman, this time with support from the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia. The method is based on the project in Pulau Pangkor but this time around, on a much larger scale. Fuelled by the ongoing success of our current progress, Reef Check Malaysia will be hoping to embark on more coral rehabilitations in 2012.

Only after about a month, the nubbins are attaching themselves onto the frame
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  Another day in the office for UKM Scientist, Kee Alfian Newly planted nubbins on the nurseries at Tioman