Malaysia has an estimated 4,000km2 of coral reefs, which has an economic valued of RM145 billion per year. Sadly, 90% of our reefs are under threat from over fishing, development, pollution and integrated local threats. But are we doing anything about it?
Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) was registered in Malaysia as a non-profit company in 2007, and since then has established an annual survey programme to assess the health of coral reefs around Malaysia (reports are available for download from the website: www.reefcheck.org.my). In the last ten years, RCM has trained over 500 divers to conduct reef surveys at 200 permanent monitoring sites on coral reefs around the country. RCM is also active in education and awareness programmes with students on Tioman, Sibu and Mantanani. In addition, we have been working with stakeholders in the Tioman island, Sibu Island, and in Mantanani to involve local communities in coral reef management.
Our survey data show that reefs monitored around Malaysia had an average of 43.71% live coral cover and it showed that reefs inside marine protected areas were healthier than those that were not protected by law. It is also clear that the best way to protect reefs is to improve the management of this ecosystem.
We strongly advocate co-management and believe that stakeholders at all levels must be involved in the management and protection of natural resources. It is the only way to promote ownership and to get a fair representation for each stakeholder group. On Tioman, we are working with a group of local islanders know as the Tioman Marine Conservation Group to involve the local community in day-to-day conservation and management activities. They assist with tasks such as mooring buoy installations, reef rehabilitation, cleanups and reef health monitoring. On Mantanani, we are working with local stakeholders to set up a locally managed marine protected area that will benefit both tourism and local fishermen.
Malaysia is blessed with some of the most productive reefs in the world and it is vital that we sustainably manage this natural resource before it lost forever.