By Reef Check Malaysia General Manager Julian Hyde
2009 has been a year in which Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) has continued to develop our activities in Peninsular Malaysia, as well as become more active in East Malaysia.
Training and Surveys
In Peninsular Malaysia, we certified over 50 EcoDivers and 3 EcoDiver Trainers. This training was done in association with a small network of six dive centres on islands which are the main dive destinations off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Two new Certified Reef Check Facilities have also been established on the islands.
Once certified, EcoDivers are given the opportunity to participate in our Reef Check survey programme. This year, 50 surveys have been completed on the East coast islands, many of them repeats from the previous two years. This survey programme is sponsored by Sime Plantations.
In East Malaysia, we have conducted our first training programmes and have now certified 15 EcoDivers and two EcoDiver Trainers. We now have an active Reef Check Certified Facility in Miri, Sarawak, which is delivering training and organizing surveys through a local dive club. We are hoping to establish other training facilities around Sabah over the next 12 months.
As part of a government-sponsored expedition to assess marine resources around Sabah, 26 surveys were completed, many in areas that had not previously been surveyed. An additional 31 surveys were conducted in other parts of East Malaysia, covering both Sabah and Sarawak, by Reef Check Malaysia and its partners.
Our 2009 annual report will be published soon, with details of all surveys, and an update on coral reef health in Malaysia.
School outreach has become a very important activity for RCM. Our main programme is the Rainforest to Reef programme, sponsored by Alstom Power. This is targeted at schools on the Marine Park islands off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia (Perhentian, Redang and Tioman). Comprised of a three day Coral Reef Camp and two additional Supporting Activities, the programme introduces children aged 11 years old to basic environmental awareness, and includes a snorkeling trip to show participants a nearby reef to strengthen understanding.
This programme will continue through to 2011 under the existing sponsorship arrangement. We are now extending this programme to Urban schools. KPMG has funded a programme for a KL-based school, and we will extend the programme to an additional six schools around Kuala Lumpur in January 2010 with funding from local bank CIMB.
In February 2009, RCM launched an 18 month programme on the Perhentian Islands, a Marine Park off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Funded by the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme, the goal of the programme is to encourage greater community involvement in the management and operation of the Park. Activities under the programme include: establishing a new association for businesses operating on the islands to improve communication; establishing Reef Check monitoring teams and a survey programme; skills training including “eco friendly snorkel guiding”; and a programme targeted at school children.
A similar project at Pangkor Island on the West coast is looking into how we can improve the marine environment around a tourist island which is not a protected area. Coral reefs in the area have been badly damaged, in part by tourism activity (boat anchoring, poor snorkeling supervision). We are looking into the possibility to do some small scale coral reef restoration, which would improve snorkeling areas and link into tourist and community education programmes. This is a long term programme with YTL Group, a major RCM sponsor.
If you would like more information on RCM, please visit their website at www.reefcheck.org.my.