Young islanders learn to preserve, appreciate coral reefs in Semporna

A young diver learning how to assess coral reefs during the training. (Photo by Adzmin Fatta)

KOTA KINABALU: Young people from islands off Sabah’s east coast Semporna district not only learned to restore coral reefs but also the value of marine life to the ocean ecosystem.

Some 30 people, aged between 16 and 30 years old, hailing from the islands of Larapan and Mabul took part in a three-day training course organised by marine conservation NGO, Reef Check Malaysia.

Programme manager Adzmin Fatta said the islands off Semporna were regarded by most as a world-class marine paradise.

"They offer the experience of a lifetime to divers, snorkelers, or to those who are simply paddling a kayak over the wonders down below (and) this is all thanks to the diversity of life under the water – the coral reef ecosystem.

"Unfortunately for many of the islands, threats such as unsustainable fishing practice has reduced the number of available coral reefs.

"Moreover, unsustainable tourism also contributed to the expansion of development as well as overcrowding the sensitive areas of coral reefs which in turn has degraded the quality of the coral reef habitat," he said.

As such, Adzmin said Reef Check Malaysia, supported by CIMB Foundation, conducted a training course that focused on coral reef restoration and preservation around Semporna waters.

He said the series began with certifying islanders from Larapan and Mabul with diving certification for open water and advanced open water diving.

"Thirty local islanders Larapan and Mabul islands successfully underwent the three-day training course for open water and two days for advanced open water.

"This diving certification was the first step to enable the youth to participate in a long-term mission for coral reef protection," he said.

Throughout this year, Adzmin said, they will be trained to monitor coral reef health by becoming part of EcoDiver, a Ree Check Malaysia conservation initiative.

Additionally, he added, they will be able to restore coral reefs and to reduce impacts from boat anchors – a prominent cause of coral reef damage – and many more.

"The main objective of the training course was not only to equip the youth with skills relevant to coral reef conservation but also to produce leaders from the community who can spearhead the protection of coral reefs and the neighboring habitats and lives within.

"Also, these future leaders will lead to a more sustainable lifestyle in their home island," he said.

Ultimately, Adzmin said, these groups of youths could soon represent their community as decision makers who know what is best for the future generation of their respective islands.

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