BY IVAN LOH
Looking good: New frames with coral nubbins that have been installed onto the seabed of Mentagor Island to repopulate the corals after 85% have been destroyed by strong currents.
THE coral reef conservation project at Mentagor Island, near Pangkor, has met with some problems due to the strong currents that have decimated about 85% of its corals last year.
Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) communication officer Aaron Tam said the currents near the island have been destroying the corals transplated onto the seabed there since March last year.
“We started noticing the problems in March after a big storm.
“Some of the frames could not withstand the currents and were uprooted,” he toldThe Star.
“Our frames were designed for the islands off the East Coast, which can withstand monsoon waves but does not seem to work here,” he said.
“But we’ve repopulated the corals since then. When we go back for monitoring, we normally have to repopulate them again, about 30% each time, because they keep getting washed away,” he added.
In 2011, RCM, with the cooperation of local snorkelling guides have started a pilot project to conserve coraf reefs near the island to save it from dying a “slow death”.
The project also saw the installation of several 3 sqm-sized frames with young Acropora corals onto the seabed near Mentagor, which have shown positive signs of growth.
These frames, made from PVC pipes, provide young corals or coral nubbins with a smooth and secure surface to attach themselves to. Each frame could hold up to 28 corals.
Tam said despite the setback, they would not move the project elsewhere.
“It has more to do with the currents around Pangkor rather than just at Mentagor.
“We’ll probably still face the same problem if we move the site, maybe even worse, considering the site now is already in a sheltered area,” he said.
“We’re facing problems with the conditions at the site but we have also shown that corals can grow there,” he added.
Tam also said there were some positives with the increasing numbers of invertebrate populations, particularly the sea urchins.
“We are learning as we go and just need to develop the right and new approaches to rehabilitate the corals there,” he said.
He also said the snorkelling guides on the island were still looking after the project site.
“The protected area works with the monitoring by the guides, even without legal protection.
“They have also started to bring in tourists and snorkellers, which is good, as it takes the pressure off Giam Island, an existing site for snorkelling to allow it to recover,” he said.
Source: The Star