June 28, 2023

Malaysian Reefs Impacted by Bleaching, Ghost Nets and Crown-of-Thorns

Corals bleaching as the water temperature reaches 32°C

Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check Malaysia’s team is busy on the ground as we enter the peak time of the season. However, Malaysia is experiencing a heatwave that is expected to last until August 2023, according to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Malaysia.

The temperature has recently gone as high as 37°C (98.6°F) during the day and our team has reported that the underwater temperature reached as high as 32°C (89.6°F). This is a cause of concern as our team has observed signs of bleaching in the corals.

Due to this, our team is actively monitoring the situation and activating our bleaching response plan to mitigate the situation.

100kg of ghost nets in Mantanani Island

In addition, ghost nets (fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost or discarded) are still haunting our ocean. Teams at each of our bases have had their hands full with removing ghost nets from damaging the reefs and trapping marine life to their death.

In Sabah, our team removed 100 kg of ghost nets in Mantanani Island. It took seven people to remove the 20 to 30 m-long net. In Tioman, ghost net removal is almost done weekly. In May, our team, along with the Tioman Marine Conservation Group (TMCG), removed 440 kg of ghost nets in one session.

2,181 COTs from a four-day COT cleanup session in Sabah

On top of that, our team has also been responding to the Crown-of-Thorns (COT) starfish outbreak. In Darvel Bay, off Sabah’s east coast in Lahad Datu district, our team, with the help of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and divers from Sabah Parks, Lahad Datu Fisheries Department, Darvel Bay Diving Group and the NGO Larapan Youth, held a cleanup to remove this predator. The team managed to remove 2,181 COTs from the four-day COT cleanup session.