After the lockdown was partially lifted and diving activities were allowed to resume again, we received a report from the local community about the ghost trawler net stuck in the reefs on Tulai Island, off Tioman Island in Malaysia.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us were forced to remain indoors. For those who relied on day-to-day income, they were badly affected and were unable to afford basic necessities.
At one of our project sites, there are a total of 180 families on Mantanani Island, Sabah who are struggling to sustain themselves, as they depend heavily on tourism for income. They would generate income from small scale fishing, working in resorts, water sports or making handicrafts. With no tourists at all, many have been jobless since February.
We have been fundraising for emergency food relief for 1000 islanders. There have been 2 mass food distributions - one on 7 May and another on 3 June.
A few weeks ago, we noticed a sharp increase in the population of a coral predator, Crown-of-Thorns (COT) around Tioman Island. COT feeds on corals and in the right numbers, they play an important role in keeping the ecosystem equilibrium. However, in large numbers, they are detrimental to the coral reef ecosystem.
With logistical (boats and tanks) and manpower support from Tioman Dive Centre, Moby-Tek Dive Company, and Tioman Marine Conservation Group (TMCG), we managed to elimate 80 COTs from Renggis and Pirate Reef sites. We injected the COTs with a vinegar solution that will kill them. COTs thrive when the water quality is poor.
On Saturday 14 March 2020, our team on Mantanani Island organized a Coral Day to raise awareness on marine conservation for the local community. There were 3 main activities to cater to different age groups and skill levels of the islanders:
Awareness talk and activity for kids: We highlighted the importance of coral reefs and marine ecosystem for Mantanani Island, where the school children will likely depend on for their livelihoods in the future.
Recycling workshop with villagers from Siring Bukit: We celebrated the accomplishments of the Siring Bukit Village with implementing a waste management system for the past 16 months. They have adhered to separating their waste at source and collectively, prevented more than 8,000 kg of trash from escaping into the environment and ocean.
Coral restoration with local youths: We conducted a coral rehabilitation trial using a coral frame and corals of opportunity (broken coral fragments found near the sites) with 6 islanders from the Mantanani Youth Club. We will be monitoring the growth of the coral reefs and will look into expanding the efforts if proven to be successful.
Our colleague, Nadhirah was speaking in a workshop in Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Sabah a few weeks ago. She shared on the challenges that Reef Check Malaysia face in battling plastic pollution, and our efforts, especially on Mantanani Island.
This is the first step in a project by the resort and University Malaya Sabah (UMS) Faculty of Engineering, to come up with a mechanism to clean up our oceans. Let's hope for an amazing, useful, and innovative design that can contribute towards solving this issue of plastic pollution!
Throughout the year, Reef Check Malaysia will conduct educational and marine awareness talks to students and local communities all around Malaysia.
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