Coral Reefs in Popular Malaysian Tourist Destinations are facing Serious Threats
Article contributed by Julian Hyde, General Manager of Reef Check Malaysia
The coral reefs of popular island destinations in Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian are rapidly declining due to climate change.
According to Reef Check Malaysia’s 2019 survey, some coral reef areas around Malaysia’s famous tourist spots have been rapidly deteriorating for the past year. Last year’s review of Malaysia’s coral reefs indicated the reefs were in fair condition. Shallow reefs found on Pulau Redang recorded a steep drop of 35.5 percent while Pulau Perhentian recorded a decline of 18.8 percent in live coral over this year.
Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian have remained as one of the most visited islands in Malaysia.
The NGO which has been monitoring Malaysia’s reefs and seas for the past 12 years announced the findings as part of its annual event Sustainable Oceans: A Fish Eye’s Perspective.
As worrying as the data are, Julian Hyde, General Manager of Reef Check Malaysia, explained that solutions to the crisis can be found in building the resilience of coral reefs while looking into ways to empower local stakeholders, including giving them a role in marine resource management.
Hyde added that the Tropical Storm Pabuk in Terengganu is a prime example of how climate change is affecting Malaysia’s coral reefs.
The storm which struck the Malay Peninsula in January caused major physical damage to shallow reefs and left a negative impact on the reefs that were in the storm’s track.
“We know from earlier events that our reefs have significant natural resilience. The recovery after the 2010 bleaching took only three years, for example, before reefs were back to the same condition as prior to bleaching.
“So this gives us great hope that we can correct this recent decline ― but we must take action soon, before the condition of these reef areas declines further,” Hyde warned.
Erratic weather patterns such as tropical storms brought on by climate change can cause rapid declines in coral reef health.
Looking at a macro level, issues like sewage pollution play a major role in affecting coral reef health, encouraging the growth of algae that can smother reefs, resulting in less diverse and less productive algae-dominated reefs.
Hyde said good water quality and a good number of herbivores to control algae are key in improving coral reefs’ health.
“Good water quality needs better sewage treatment on the islands; healthy herbivore populations need good management of fishing.
“Both of these are easily within our control. Replicating proven success factors in established Marine Protected Areas around the world would be a step in the right direction to preserve local coral reefs,” Hyde said.
Hyde is calling on all stakeholders including the local government, state governments and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to participate in reducing local threats to coral reefs such as sewage pollution. For more information on the 2018 survey report, please visit www.reefcheck.org.my/reports-downloads