By Reef Check Malaysia
Reef Check Malaysia’s report indicates need to preserve coral biodiversity with anticipated increases in water temperatures and pollution.
Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) released its 2013 annual reef survey report, revealing the continued need to preserve coral biodiversity around Malaysia and enhance their resilience against the growing problems caused by increasing water temperatures and pollution. The report also revealed other issues such as dynamite fishing and possible poaching in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
According to widely accepted Coral Reef Health Criteria, Malaysian reefs are considered to be in “Fair” condition with an average live coral cover at 48.33% (compared with 46.37% in 2012). The report also indicated a continuing trend of recovery from the bleaching event that killed coral reefs around South East Asia in 2010.
Reef managers, however, are advised not to be complacent despite the positive rating. “I urge all coral reef managers to remain cautious despite the slight increase in live coral cover,” said Julian Hyde, General Manager of RCM. “Similar to how we manage our health, we need to adopt the same ‘prevention is better than cure’ mindset to manage our reefs. It is important they remain healthy and become resilient to preserve their huge biodiversity, helping them to adapt and survive the real threats of global warming.”
Moreover, the “Fair” rating does not reflect the full spectrum of issues faced by coral reefs. For example, the surveys indicated possible cases of illegal fishing in MPAs, with low levels of high-valued species such as groupers and lobsters.
“As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Malaysia has a commitment to protect 10% of its natural resources. MPAs are important because they provide this protection to marine ecosystems. Hence, in an MPA, we would expect to see an increase in high-value indicator species over time. However, the surveys recorded almost little or no growth among these species,” said Mr. Hyde. “This trend is more prominent in Peninsular Malaysia. Surveys in East Malaysia, however, indicate the use of dynamite fishing, which causes structural damage seen on the reefs.”
The report, “Status of Coral Reefs in Malaysia, 2013”, documents the general health conditions of coral reefs around the major islands of Malaysia. Surveys were conducted over the year at 196 sites (an increase from 165 sites in 2012) across East and West Malaysia. The sites comprised established MPAs and non-protected areas.
Reef Check surveys are conducted annually, usually at the same sites, to ensure the integrity and consistency of data. The 2013 reef surveys were made possible through public and private partnerships. Support was garnered from Government Agencies such as the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) and Sabah Parks, as well as the private sector including dive operators, recreational dive volunteers certified as EcoDivers, and corporations. Funding was provided primarily through organizations which included Alstom Power, F&N, the GEF Small Grants Programme, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, KPMG in Malaysia, KOSÉ Malaysia, La Mer, Murphy Oil Corporation, Persatuan Akitek Malaysia, Russell Bedford LC & Company, Shell Malaysia, and YTL.
RCM’s “Status of Coral Reefs in Malaysia, 2013” report is the only document that records the status of coral reefs in Malaysia. It is shared with the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia and Sabah Parks while internationally, it is shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and international coral reef databases such as Reef Base.
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