Semporna islanders working hard to restore ailing coral reefs

Divers taking in the coral restoration project in Selakan Island.

KOTA KINABALU: Over 50 committed individuals, primarily local islanders, recently carried out a marine conservation initiative at Sabah’s east coast Selakan Island.

From Oct 12 to Sunday (Oct 22), they deployed a total of 290 reef stars along with over 4,200 coral fragments.

Selakan Island and its community boast a rich history, culture and marine biodiversity.

Local islanders working together to build the reef stars.Local islanders working together to build the reef stars.

“Yet, they face the challenge of coral degradation, exacerbated by various factors, including the lingering impact of historical fish bombing,” said Reef Check Malaysia programme manager Adzmin Fatta.

Hence, he said, the work by the Selakan group was not only important to safeguard their cultural and environmental heritage, particularly the precious coral reefs, but also a uniting factor for marine conservation.

ALSO READ: Youths dive in to save Semporna Island’s coral reefs

Organised by Reef Check Malaysia and Sabah Parks, the programme is part of the Community-Based Coral Restoration and Conservation Project within the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

“Generously funded by the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, this initiative exemplifies the power of collaboration in safeguarding our natural heritage.

“Reef Check Malaysia firmly believes that community empowerment in marine conservation yields enduring results, allowing for the sustainable stewardship of marine resources led by local communities themselves,” said Adzmin.

Divers holding up a banner of the programme underwater.Divers holding up a banner of the programme underwater.

Mohammad Raziman Hamjah, a youth diver from the Selakan group, said the group was dedicated to this vital effort.

"We are actively engaged in the restoration of our ailing coral reefs in collaboration with Reef Check Malaysia and Sabah Parks.

“This (is our first marine conservation) experience, and we eagerly anticipate seeing the positive outcomes of our deployment,” he said.

Women folk hard at work building the coral frames.Women folk hard at work building the coral frames.

During the closing ceremony, Selakan Island village chief Kasan Abdul Hakim said he aimed to elevate the island to become a coveted destination.

ALSO READ: Threats to marine ecosystem

Situated in Tun Sakaran Marine Park and under the jurisdiction of Sabah Parks, Selakan Island holds an important position in the region's marine ecosystem.

Sabah Parks research officer Mohd Nara Ahmad, based in Semporna, said it was important not only to deter illicit activities but also help the recovery process of critical marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs.

The completed coral frames ready to be transported out to open sea.The completed coral frames ready to be transported out to open sea.

In addition to the deployment of 290 reef stars, Reef Check Malaysia and Sabah Parks conducted awareness sessions for the children of Selakan Island on the role of reefs in marine ecosystems.

ALSO READ: Preparing the youth to care for coral reefs

Reef stars are hexagonal steel frames with coral fragments attached that are used to plug gaps between live corals and depleted stretches of reefs.

The 10-day programme was part of a two-year collaborative project between Reef Check Malaysia and Sabah Parks with the support of several partners including representatives from Aquadive Discovery Sdn Bhd, Kulapuan Youth, Mabul Youth and MARRS Trainer from Indonesia.

The next phase will see the installation of an additional 200 reef stars in partnership with the local community.

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