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Tioman reef clean-up plan

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CONSERVATION:Berjaya Hotels and Resorts, Berjaya Cares Foundation together with several NGO partners launch programme to rehabilitate corals

IN collaboration with several  non-governmental  organisation (NGO) partners, Berjaya Hotels and Resorts (BHR), Berjaya Cares Foundation (BCF) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) have embarked on a 15-month coral reef rehabilitation programme.

Called Restore Our Awesome Reefs (ROAR), the programme was launched in conjunction with World Ocean Day  celebrated every June 8.

The NGO partners involved in the programme include Shark Savers Organisation, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia and Scuba People.

MNS executive director Shah Redza Hussein said the plan to protect and conserve marine life, especially the coral reefs around the island, would involve artificial reefs created via the Biorock technology being introduced this month.

Shah Redza said even under the adverse environmental conditions, the technology would help the corals thrive.

"The coral reefs at Tekek Bay are threatened by various factors, which is why we have decided to introduce the technology," he said.

"Our main effort is aimed at restoration and rehabilitation, and also to educate the locals in what they can do towards helping protect our diverse marine ecosystem.

"It is due to the island's continuous and rapid development that the reefs are facing the detrimental effects. We must realise that corals support a productive and biologically rich environment producing more living biomass than any other marine ecosystem."

MNS head of communications, Andrew Sebastian, said that metal wired frames will be placed around the corals. A supply of low-voltage electricity will then be generated to the wires to enhance the growth of the corals.

"The power supply is generated from the island. Our divers will place the pieces of broken coral reefs onto the wires. The electric current that passes through the wires and the minerals from the seawater will help the reefs to grow," he said.

"Once the implementation is done, we will monitor the growth of the corals. Countries like Thailand and Indonesia have used the Biorock technology successfully."

Sebastian said the coral bleaching that took place in 2008 nearly wiped out the coral population in Tekek Bay.

"Although coral reefs are known to be resilient, they still need our help especially in critical areas. This is why we at MNS and Berjaya Cares Foundation joined forces to implement the technology to save the corals here," he said.

"There are more than 400 species of corals and over 500 species of fish here. However, human activities like over-fishing, coastal development, climate change and pollution are causing serious threats to our  coral reefs and other marine life."

Sebastian added that corals, being sensitive, need clear water to absorb sunlight.

In line with the goals,  BCF presented a grant worth RM180,000 for the ROAR project. The mock cheque was presented by Berjaya Land Bhd executive director, Leong Wy Joon, to Shah Redza.

Leong also signed the corporate pledge, "I'm FINished with FINS", in support of the Shark Savers Organisation.

Leong said the foundation was mooted by Tan Sri Vincent Tan. He said for the long term, Berjaya hoped to build awareness on coral reefs, ultimately creating a sustainable eco-tourism industry while protecting the island's natural heritage.

Meanwhile, 50 students from SK Tekek joined media members in the turtle conservation workshop. The workshop was conducted by Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia co-founder, Chen Pelf Nyok, and teen ambassador  Fimie Don.

Both spoke about the extinction threat faced by turtles and urged the public to stop eating the eggs. The children were also briefed on different characteristics of turtles through fun-filled activities.

Shark Savers Organisation director Benedict Lu also gave a talk on keeping sharks alive.

Following the launch, 50 divers from Malaysia and Singapore took part in the reef clean-up. They managed to remove 103 Crown of Thorns starfishes which prey on coral reefs.

"The Crown of Thorns and climate change are behind the destruction of coral reefs," said BHR marketing and communications corporate director Abel Nelson Nang.

Tioman Island is working towards creating a sustainable eco-tourism industry.

Chen Pelf Nyok giving a talk on turtle conservation to students and members of the media. Pix by Nurul Syazana Rose Razman


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