February 27, 2024

Reef Check Malaysia’s Latest Survey Report and Updates on Community Initiatives

Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

Our colleagues at Reef Check Malaysia stepped into 2024 with a flurry of activities; a recap follows:

Group photo with homestay guests

Our “Homestays Improvement Program” that began in Mantanani has been progressing rather well. After several training sessions with the local homestay owners, they were equipped with better skills to run their business. The two-year project called “Establishing Community-Based Eco-Tourism in Mantanani”, funded by GEF SGP UNDP Malaysia, ended in 2022. Since then, the businesses have been running and generating quite a good income for the local owners. The total income in 2023 alone was close to RM60,000, which is almost three times more than the income in 2021! The total number of tourists who used the homestays also increased from 124 people in 2021, to 425 people in 2022, to 665 in 2023! 

In mid-November, 60 bundles of compressed plastic (22,039 bottles) weighing 407 kg and metal cans weighing 110 kg, were sent to the mainland and collected by recycling company (GNC). The company paid RM177.10 for these recyclables and this money was used to cover the cost of truck transportation from Kota Kinabalu, which was RM150, but did not include the cost of RM1,000 to rent a boat to transport these items to the mainland.

As for the waste management program, more than 1,800 kg of trash collected in the last three months of 2023 was transported out of the island to the Kayu Madang landfill area. We’re still facing the problem of costs with regards to our effort in transporting recyclables and other waste, and we’re looking to find better and cost-effective ways to address this issue. 

RCM staff, Diana, collecting the bottles on a weekly basis
Bottles collected are compressed before being sent to the mainland
Trash being sent out of the island to Kayu Madang landfill
Members of RMCG during a reef rehabilitation briefing session with a lecturer from a local university
RMCG members working together to remove a ghost net

Our “Cintai Redang” program is the newest kid on the block, having only been kicked off in early 2023. Our colleagues have made great progress nonetheless, having set up the Redang Marine Conservation Group (RMCG) to replicate the success of the Tioman Marine Conservation Group (TMCG). The RMCG now has eight members who are equipped with basic skills and certifications to conduct Reef Check surveys, reef rehabilitation efforts and other marine conservation-related activities. As they continue to expand the program, we will be starting the environmental education and awareness activities with the local school, introducing Green Fins to the dive operators on the island, and participating in several training and learning courses to enhance our team’s skills. 

We’ve made a video of our journey in 2023, which can be viewed here: https://www.instagram.com/p/C3JkIIpM1Yn/?hl=en  

Enter 2024… We’ve recently released our 2023 Annual Survey Report, capturing the health of coral reefs in Malaysia. Here is a quick summary:

  • A total of 326 sites were surveyed in 2023 (2022: 323); both in established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and non-protected areas. 
  • On average, the coral reefs surveyed have a “fair” level of living coral, at 45.87%. This is a slight decrease compared to 2022 (47.83%). 
  • Abundance of most indicator fish and invertebrates remains low. 
  • Indicators of disturbance and pollution have increased in many reef areas. Many reef areas in the Sunda Shelf region have issues with crown-of-thorns outbreak. 
  • The report recommends taking action to improve management of marine resources by addressing local impacts and introducing participatory management. This gives local stakeholders a stronger voice in decisions that affect their livelihoods. 
  • The government is asked to consider introducing a more sustainable tourism model, moving away from the “mass” tourism model of the last 20-30 years. 

The full report can be found here

Our colleagues have also launched coral bleaching monitoring efforts for 2024. The data collected will be submitted to NOAA. An online coral bleaching monitoring form is being developed for the public to use and report incidences of bleaching observed. The form is created based on NOAA qualitative and quantitative questionnaires, which will help provide sufficient data to them. We are also preparing communication materials to be distributed and published in all our social media channels, together with the online bleaching monitoring form. This is to pre-inform our local stakeholders regarding the possibility of severe bleaching this year, the steps that we will take, as well as what they can do to help.

At the end of January, our colleagues held a community engagement session on waste management in Larapan Island to provide an update on progress and challenges of the waste management program on the island. The event was attended by 68 locals, as well as the Head of Village, Field Coordinator and RCM’s staff. Ten houses were awarded with a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ for their full participation and compliance with the waste management program throughout 2023.

Our colleague, Fauzi, and the Village Head, presenting the Certificate of Excellence to one of the local villagers
The Village Head addressing the attendees

As a continuation of the community-based coral restoration project funded by IKI Small Grants Programme launched in 2023, the local Larapan Marine Conservation Group conducted maintenance activities at the reef rehabilitation sites, cleaning the reef star structures and the nursery area. They also deployed 87 bottle reefs to add to the ongoing efforts.

At the same time, two other RCM colleagues led a team of 50 local residents of Selakan in preparing 215 reef stars, collecting coral fragments, tying and deploying the structures. This is part of the community based coral restoration project in Tun Sakaran Marine Park, a collaborative project with Sabah Parks funded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah.

The bottle reefs ready to be deployed
Selakan community preparing more reef stars