PULAU TIOMAN: The crown of thorns (COT) threat on corals in Pulau Tioman is not yet serious, however, efforts have to be done to control it from harming the reefs.
In the recent “Starts in Tioman” (SIT) diving programme held in Kampong Genting, some 282 divers, both professionals and new learners, took the initiative to find and destroy the COT, apart from the beach cleaning programme.
According to studies, the adult COTs is a carnivorous predator that usually preys on reef coral polyps and tropical coral reefs, COT specimens reach mean locomotion rates of 35 cm/min, which explains how outbreaks can damage large reef areas in relatively short periods.
Because of its threats and to prevent the overpopulation of COT, which could cause the widespread destruction to coral reef habitats, the Pahang Tourism Ministry with the full cooperation of the Marine Park department and a group of divers have started a long process to protect and conserve the corals.
The divers also plant artificial corals on the sea bed and clean the corals and its surroundings.
The Pahang office of the Tourism Ministry general manager Idros Yahya said once the corals are destroyed by the COT, marine life goes out of control, sooner or later the other marine life will disappear.
Idros said under the Government’s National Blue Ocean Strategies, this scuba-diving event invites international divers from across the globe under the conservation programme to save Tioman island’s majestic reefs and undersea wonders.
Idros, who hosted the “1Malaysia Green 1Malaysia Clean” initiative, said this event also encourages dive enthusiasts towards obtaining their diving licences and to encourage scuba-diving activities on the island.
He added that previous SIT programmes also focused on replanting corals in reefs surrounding Tioman.
Idros added that the programme also involved volunteers to participate in dives.
“We are aggressively promoting Tioman island as a tourism and diving attraction and our main goal is to have a certain target of tourists divers.
“We want to create a long-term tourism attraction here and if there are no efforts to take care of the environmental impact, including the healthy growth of the corals and its marine life, then tourists will not return.
“When this happens, what do we have to offer tourists; the future locals will suffer most,” Idros said.
He said at these diving events, all divers are warned to be careful when they dive, enjoy the exciting colourful marine life and do their part to sustain the environment.
“Our concern is also for tourism players and operators to play an active role in conserving the environment, both underwater and on land,” Idros said.
He said divers should take the initiative to clean the sea beds voluntarily wherever possible so that corals can be sustained and enjoyed.
The SIT programme has attracted a growing number of participants since its first year in 2010 when only 20 Pahang journalists took part to obtain open water diving licences.
The number of both participants and volunteers has kept on increasing since then.
This event has successfully received the support and active participation from several parties including the popular band “Wings” who have been the event’s ambassadors.
Other supporters also include the Tourism Malaysia Pahang, groups of professional divers and Damai Resort.
The programme is divided into a few categories comprising professional divers from Brazil, the Philippines, Singapore, Iran as well as locals, students, new licensed divers , snorkellers, licensed divers from the media, sponsors and volunteers.
Idros said the increasing number of participants was proof of the increasing trust and faith in the programme which includes planting artificial reefs.