June 30, 2009

Reef Check Malaysia Trains Local Dive Centers

By Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check Malaysia Bhd (RCM) recently teamed up with a number of dive operators in East Malaysia to conduct the first Reef Check EcoDiver training courses for local dive centres.

Coral reefs are a valuable ecological and economic resource in Malaysia worth, according to one estimate, some US$635 million per year, mainly from tourism and fisheries revenues. Seventy five percent of Malaysia’s reefs are found in the waters around Sabah, which is part of the Coral Triangle.

Despite this, little is known about the status of coral reefs in Sabah. Julian Hyde, General Manager of Reef Check Malaysia said that “at a recent meeting it became clear that, although various groups are doing coral reef surveys around Sabah, there is no sharing of data. So we don’t have a clear picture of the condition of coral reefs here.”

Although there is a regular monitoring programme covering the islands off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia, there is no similar programme for Sabah. “We need to establish such a programme here,” said Helen Brunt, a Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer and Sabah Coordinator for the Semporna Islands Project. “We have been monitoring the reefs in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park for over 10 years, and we can see how they have changed. We need to have similar data for more coral reefs around Sabah. Without this monitoring information it is difficult to make decisions on how to protect coral reefs.”

From May 14-17, a Reef Check training course for Piasau Boat Club dive centre in Miri, Sarawak, saw 2 EcoDiver Trainers being certified, along with 3 EcoDivers.

Following that, from May 21-24, a group of 6 staff members of the Mari Mari Dive Lodge completed the EcoDiver course. Mari Mari Dive Lodge is on Mantanani Island, a small island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah.

In early June, a course was held for the staff of Reef Guardian in Lankayan Island. Three staff members were certified and a number of surveys conducted. Reef Guardian is the private sector manager of the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area, tasked with patrolling and protecting an area of some 143 km2.

RCM hopes to continue to work with these groups to help them to establish regular survey programmes. Please contact wecare@reefcheck.org.my to find out how you can get involved.