| Feb 15, 2024
Safeguarding Semporna's Reefs with Mooring Buoys
Beautiful coral reefs at Timba-Timba Island
The local marine conservation groups are making great strides in marine conservation efforts once again. Earlier this year, volunteers from the IKLIM Mabul Youthand Larapan Marine Conservation Group collaborated with the Semporna district office and Pulau Sipadan Resort and Tours (PSR), as well as Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) to install four new mooring buoys at Timba-Timba Island, located off Sabah’s east coast district of Semporna.
This initiative was part of the ‘Building Marine Conservation Leaders in Semporna’ project, funded by the CIMB Foundation, with additional support from Tourism Jetty and the Semporna Professional Dive Association.
Adzmin Fatta, RCM’s Programme Manager explained that the main objective of deploying these buoys was to mitigate the impact caused by boat anchors to coral reefs. The reefs of Timba-Timba Island are a hot spot for diving and snorkelling activities, and as such, boat operators are frequently anchoring their boats in the area, causing damage to the reefs. It has been reported that the number of visitors to Timba-Timba Island in a month exceeds 20,000 people.
“The indiscriminate use of anchors has been identified as a significant threat to the health of coral reefs, prompting this collaborative effort to provide an eco-friendly alternative for marine enthusiasts,” he said. He also explained that Timba-Timba Island was chosen as the location for the buoys based on a study by Reef Check Malaysia, which showed a decline in coral reef coverage of the island.
“The mooring buoy deployment aligns with the broader goal of Reef Check Malaysia, which is to foster marine conservation leadership in Semporna. This initiative not only addresses immediate environmental concerns but also contributes to the sustainable management of marine resources and the long-term vitality of the region,” Adzmin added.
A mooring buoy is a floating structure attached to the seabed using chains or ropes, and is used to moor sea vessels such as boats, either in deep or shallow water. Without these buoys, boats would have to throw their own boat anchors into the sea, which are capable of breaking coral reefs and destroying them. In the event of bad weather and strong waves or currents, the anchor can be dragged along the seabed and through reef areas, causing irreversible damage. It is therefore crucial that we address such local impacts to coral reefs, to strengthen reef resilience and support local communities. Adzmin added, “Reefs are important not only for our marine ecosystem but also for our livelihoods, such as tourism and fisheries.”
Each of these mooring buoys installed were equipped with three sinkers, capable of accommodating up to five boats. Semporna district officer Alexandar Liew was delighted with the buoy installation and urged boat operators to use these facilities. “Many have raised concerns on the anchoring impacts at Timba-Timba, particularly by dive and snorkelling guides. Therefore, it is important for us to address this issue to ensure the sustainability of our tourism industry in Semporna,” he said.
Local youths preparing ropes for the mooring buoys
Preparing the sinkers for the mooring buoys
A boat using the mooring buoy after installation