12 June 2013
LABUAN – For the first time since its establishment in Malaysia, Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) surveyed coral reefs off Labuan together with The Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM). The surveys were conducted as a satellite event under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation’s (MOSTI) Coral Triangle Day commemoration. A total of 10 Marine Park officers from Labuan were also trained in the Reef Check survey methodology.
Labuan is located within the Coral Triangle, a region that spans over 1.6 percent of the world’s oceans. Despite its size, the Coral Triangle region comprises 76 percent of all known coral species, hosts 37 percent of all known coral reef fish species and 53 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
When asked about the state of the coral reefs in Labuan, RCM’s Programme Manager Alvin Chelliah said: “There were more than 50 percent live coral cover on average at the sites that were surveyed, which is actually quite good. We also noticed a high diversity of coral species and marine organisms.”
Despite the positive survey results, there were concerns about the absence of commercially valuable species.
“The Reef Check surveys are based on identifying indicator species on the reef. For example, we look for common reef fish like Groupers, which are highly sought after for consumption. Throughout our surveys, we only recorded one Grouper over the size of 30 centimetres or rather one adult Grouper,” said Mr Chelliah. “Labuan is also known for its abundance of lobsters, but again, we only managed to record one. As the coral reef is in a healthy state, we can only conclude that there may have been some pressure from fishing at the sites surveyed,” he added.
|An EcoDiver surveying the health of Labuan's reef
||Only one Grouper was spotted at Labuan
Labuan was gazetted as a Marine Park in 1994, which means that the waters within one nautical mile of the island are protected. RCM’s General Manager Julian Hyde expressed concern for the possibility of fishing in a Marine Park.
“We are extremely concerned with the absence of commercially valuable species in Labuan. We are trying to determine if this is linked to a rumour that there was a break in enforcement of the Marine Park rules for a period of time at the end of March thereby allowing fishermen to fish within the Marine Park area of Labuan,” said Mr Hyde.
He added that RCM will continue to monitor the situation by surveying Labuan’s reef annually. “By comparing the data from year to year, success rates of management efforts can then be measured. If they are lacking, the results would also help troubleshoot where efforts should be concentrated.” RCM hopes to work closely with DMPM to ensure that fishing will no longer be a problem in Labuan. “Hopefully, we will record more numbers of commercially valuable species when we survey the sites next year,” said Mr Hyde.
The Coral Triangle Initiative is a multilateral partnership between the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste to safeguard the region’s marine and coastal biological resources. The Coral Triangle Initiative seeks to address poverty reduction through economic development, food security, sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities, as well as biodiversity conservation through the protection of species, habitats and ecosystems. Coral Triangle Day is held annually on 9 June.
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Last Updated: 07 February 2014