BY TAN CHENG LI
HIDDEN from view beneath the waves, coral reefs and their benefits to man are often ignored. Yet, they are highly productive ecosystems that provide numerous services, including fisheries, recreation, tourism and coastal protection.
One study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), puts the monetary value of these functions at US$115,704 per ha annually. For Malaysia with its 4,000sqkm of reefs, this translates to the marine ecosystem contributing RM145bil annually to the economy – that is three times the export value of the palm oil industry.
These statistics push coral reefs high up in the ranking of important business sectors in Malaysia, according to Reef Check Malaysia (RCM). “And if coral reefs are a valuable economic resource, protecting them should receive a higher priority than it currently does.”
Right now, growing tourist numbers are placing stress on coral reefs around islands. The adverse impacts range from damage by divers and snorkellers to uncontrolled development and pollution from rubbish and sewage.
In Sabah, fish bombing using explosives made from fertiliser and diesel is a major threat. Between May 2011 and April 2012, RCM received 103 reports of fish bombing around Semporna, with a total of 166 blasts heard. Each bomb can damage about 20sqm of the seabed. Recovery of the destroyed area can take 25 years or more.
Source: The Star