February - April, 2014, Kota Kinabalu – From February to April this year, Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) will commence the second round of Marine Education and Awareness programme in Sabah to emphasize to young students the importance of a healthy and productive reef.
This Marine Education and Awareness programme will continue from last year’s efforts to raise awareness among primary five students. The programme will be conducted in three West coast districts of Sabah – Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Penyu and Kota Belud, including the up-and-coming Mantanani Island where the programme previously reached a total of 1,183 students from 21 primary schools.
A survey conducted last year before the programme was introduced revealed that 54 percent of the students did not know what reefs were while 72 percent did not understand the importance of coral reefs.
Coral reefs are comprised of immense amounts of calcium carbonate also known as limestone that is deposited by living organisms called polyps. These colourful underwater organisms provide food and are home to thousands of marine life. They also play a leading role as breeding and nursery grounds for numerous aquatic animals.
“Sadly, despite their importance, coral reefs in Malaysia are constantly being destroyed by human activities, such as destructive fishing practices, pollution and irresponsible tourism,” said Julian Hyde, RCM’s General Manager. “Implementation of laws and regulations banning blast fishing continue to be a challenge due to a lack of resources and manpower. Hence, awareness programmes and campaigns shedding light on the long term damage caused by blast fishing are the most practical and effective approach to minimising the practice.”
In Sabah itself, blast fishing remains the leading environmental destroyer despite its lethal consequences. This method of fishing leaves craters of varying sizes on the coral reef, along with fractured, damaged and dislodged coral fragments. Furthermore, the debris left behind can potentially cause underwater avalanches and erosion thereby causing more damage to the surrounding healthy reefs. This indiscriminate method of fishing also kills everything else in the blast zone.
RCM’s Marine Education and Awareness programme consists of a PowerPoint introduction on coral reefs, several video screenings about destructive fishing practices, and an animated video on corals. The programme aims to expose students to Sabah’s amazing underwater paradise available at their doorstep, teach them to be responsible guardians of the environment, and educate them on the causes of reef degradation.
Mr Hyde added: “Our greatest hope is for this programme to gradually generate a sense of love and care for the environment among the young generation. We believe this sense of ownership will ultimately help put an end to all environmental destruction, especially of the marine ecosystem.”