Preparing the youth to care for coral reefs


Keeping them safe: A trained EcoDiver from the programme conducting studies.

KOTA KINABALU: When you live on the island, you take care of the island – this was the message that conservationists drummed into islanders at Pulau Larapan, off Semporna during a reef restoration programme.

“The sea is not only home to marine species, it is your home too, so take care of it,” said Reef Check Malaysia in Sabah programme manager Adzmin Fatta.

He said the 15 youths selected to be part of the programme since early this year, were taught to prepare coral frames for reef rehabilitation purposes.

“Before that, they underwent a classroom session to learn about what coral reefs are and the purpose and available methods for coral rehabilitation,” he said yesterday.

Adzmin said as part of their practical training, the youths spent days and nights preparing the coral frames and eventually deployed 20 of them at the nearby destroyed reef.

“The Larapan reef is very unique but is sadly undermanaged. With the training, they have become more skilled not only with work related to conservation but also with their leadership.”

He said this was an effort to prepare them with skills to manage their own resources in the future.

Earlier this year, the 15 youths were equipped with diving and EcoDiver (reef health assessment) certification, said Adzmin.

He said they will continue their training with coral bleaching monitoring and mooring buoy installation.

The diving training will also be extended to more youths in Larapan and additional rehabilitation training using different methods will be introduced in the future as well, he said.

Mad Rinta Parintamin, a Larapan youth representative, said they were very lucky to have the coral rehabilitation training as some people travelled far and spent thousands of ringgit for similar training.

“But these youths were lucky as the opportunity came to them,” he said.

Mad Rinta coordinates the waste management programme in Larapan designed mainly to prevent solid wastes such as plastics from ending up in the ocean and contributing to the degradation of coral reef ecosystems.

Larapan island is a 15 minute-boat ride from Semporna Town and has a small population of some 1,200 people mainly of the Bajau Kubang ethnicity.

The annual Reef Check survey data in 2022 showed the island has a live coral cover of 55.63% which is more than that recorded in Sipadan Island Park and Tun Sakaran Marine Park which has only 50.57% and 51.56% respectively.

Live coral cover is indicated by both the reef building, hard corals and the soft corals.

Additionally, a resource mapping exercise that year by the Larapan community with help from Dr Zarinah Waheed, a coral expert from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), identified 211 hard corals species in Larapan.

This record constitutes 53% of the overall 397 reef building coral species throughout the east coast of Sabah.

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