December 12, 2007

Year in Review: Reef Check Malaysia

Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

Photo: Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check has had active teams in Malaysia since 1997. In 2001 a National Coordinator was first appointed. Since that time, the Coordinator has carried out a number of training and survey activities, but insufficient resources prevented the development of a comprehensive program.

This all changed in September 2006 with the approval of a grant from the UK government’s Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs for a one year project to establish Reef Check as a sustainable organization in Malaysia. This culminated with the registration of a non-profit company, Reef Check Malaysia Bhd, in August 2007.

Our first year has been challenging, as we have launched both training and survey programs. The year started off with a training program for EcoDiver Trainers in March, which resulted in the certification of 10 Trainers, including representatives of a number of dive centres in Malaysia. A total of 15 EcoDiver Trainers and 58 EcoDivers have been certified this year.

Our survey program began in April with a project funded by HSBC to track the impact of the anticipated El Niño phenomenon, which was expected to cause bleaching of coral reefs. Surveys were conducted at 12 sites over 4 islands on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. These sites were surveyed again in September. Fortunately, no bleaching was observed.

Reef Check Malaysia also surveyed an additional nine sites, four of which have been “adopted” by our sponsors. We conducted a total of 33 surveys on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and 2more in Sabah, East Malaysia.

The “Adopt-a-reef” program was designed as a vehicle to attract sponsorship from corporations in Malaysia. So far, three corporations have signed up for the program: Sime Plantations Sdn Bhd, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd and KPMG. One benefit of the program is that it gives sponsors an opportunity for their staff to get involved. All three corporate sponsors have established corporate Reef Check teams. Staff members were trained as EcoDivers, then these teams conducted the first survey at their adopted reef under the supervision of Reef Check Malaysia staff. The adopted reefs will be surveyed bi-annually and feedback on reef health will be provided through reports, Reef Fact Sheets and posters.

In September of this year, an additional sponsor came on board – a local Lions Club. Although they did not train as EcoDivers, their financial support allowed us to include an additional site in our list of monitored sites.

Although 200 Reef Check surveys have been conducted in Malaysia since 1997, there has been no organizational structure, and this year’s survey activities represent the most comprehensive Reef Check survey baseline thus far. If we secure the necessary funding next year, Reef Check Malaysia will continue to survey these same sites, while also establishing new survey sites in other locations.

The final area of activity that is still in the early stages is outreach. With support from British Petroleum, we are in the process of designing two programs: one for schools on Marine Park islands (in collaboration with the Marine Park authorities in Malaysia) and one for the general public, which we are hoping to launch in the KL Aquarium next year.

For more information, contact

HC= Hard Coral, SC = Soft Coral, RKC= Recently Killed Coral, NIA= Nutrient Indicator Algae, SP= Sponge, RC= Rock, RB= Rubble, SD= Sand, SI= Silt, OT= Other