Semporna Leads the Way in Adopting Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan | WWF Malaysia

Semporna Leads the Way in Adopting Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan



Posted on 07 December 2017
Sitting from left to right: Ms Choo Poh Leem, Semporna Team Leader, WWF-Malaysia; Tuan Dr Haji Chacho Bin Bulah, Semporna’s District Officer; Dr Zarinah Waheed, Reef Ecologist, Universiti Malaysia Sabah; with participants from Sabah Parks, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Seaventures Dive Rig, Green Semporna, Semporna Community College, and community representatives.
© WWF-Malaysia / Marine Programme
Semporna, Sabah: The WWF-Malaysia team in Semporna together with Sabah Parks, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Seaventures Dive Rig, Green Semporna, and Semporna Community College organised ‘Semporna Marine Eco Week 2017’ (SMEW). Launched by Tuan Dr Haji Chacho Bin Bulah, Semporna’s District Officer, the marine week from 27 November to 2 December was dedicated to bringing awareness and attention to climate change, coral bleaching, and the importance of marine conservation amongst dive operators, local communities, and NGOs.

In conjunction with the event, Dr Haji Chacho also launched Semporna’s Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan as part of Semporna’s plan to protect its rich coral reef ecosystem.

Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA) – located in the Coral Triangle, the centre of marine biodiversity – has the largest coral reef coverage in Malaysia. It provides ecosystem services to people within and beyond the PCA. According to Dr Zarinah Waheed, a reef ecologist from UMS, “Coral reefs are areas of high biodiversity, provides food and habitat for marine life, and protects the shorelines from storms and wave surges. A healthy coral reef encourages tourism, is a source of income for locals, and has pharmaceutical potential.”

However, coral reefs worldwide are at risk from impacts of climate change, an emerging threat to coral reef ecosystems. During the launch of the SMEW 2017, Dr Zarinah emphasised that a change in climate can cause a series of detrimental effects to coral reefs such as bleaching events.

WWF-Malaysia strongly supports and recognises the urgency in addressing climate change issues and SMEW 2017 provided a platform to emphasise this, and to empower members of different industries to take action in combating climate change together.

Ms Monique Sumampouw, WWF-Malaysia’s People and Marine Biodiversity Manager, explained that an anomaly increases sea water temperature, which causes coral reef mortality. WWF-Malaysia’s preliminary study found that there was an average rise of 0.5°Celcius from 2015 to 2016 in Semporna waters.

“Semporna’s Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan aims to strengthen the resilience of the coral reefs and sustain the future of Semporna’s tourism and marine resources,” Monique said.

This Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan (ERP) will monitor the occurrence of coral bleaching and promote its recovery. The partners towards this plan are Sabah Parks, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, The Reef Dive Resort, Pom-Pom Island Resort, and WWF-Malaysia.

Dr Haji Chacho reiterated that in order to sustain Semporna’s tourism, the coral reef ecosystem in Semporna waters must be healthy and resilient to impacts of climate change.

“In my experience, most people I have spoken to outside of Malaysia only know of Sipadan being one of the top five dive destinations in the world. As the gateway to Sipadan, Semporna has not been recognised as a centre of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle region,” Dr Haji Chacho said during the launch of the event.

However, he emphasised that we are unable to do this alone. “We need to work hand-in-hand with different industries – government agencies, dive operators, resorts, NGOs, and the communities – in order to sustain marine life and coral reefs. I am pleased to announce that Semporna is the first district in Sabah to launch a Coral Bleaching Early Response Plan.”

SMEW 2017 included activities such as showcasing a Virtual Reality 360 Sipadan experience, an ecodiver training, and ended with a beach clean-up.

WWF-Malaysia is pleased to see such a diverse group of participants during SMEW 2017 and is deeply grateful for the support from our partners, without whom we would not have been able to conduct this event with the huge success.

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For more information, please contact:
Kimberly Chung
Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer, Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office)
Tel: +60 88 262 420, Ext.37
Email: kchung@wwf.org.my
Sitting from left to right: Ms Choo Poh Leem, Semporna Team Leader, WWF-Malaysia; Tuan Dr Haji Chacho Bin Bulah, Semporna’s District Officer; Dr Zarinah Waheed, Reef Ecologist, Universiti Malaysia Sabah; with participants from Sabah Parks, Reef Check Malaysia, Scuba Junkie SEAS, Seaventures Dive Rig, Green Semporna, Semporna Community College, and community representatives.
© WWF-Malaysia / Marine Programme Enlarge
Healthy coral reefs in Semporna.
© WWF-Malaysia / Eric Madeja Enlarge
A participant trying out the Virtual Reality 360 Sipadan experience during the Green Educator event.
© WWF-Malaysia /Marine Programme Enlarge
A newly certified ecodiver and his trainer doing a mock reef check survey.
© WWF-Malaysia / Marine Programme Enlarge
A participant collecting rubbish during the underwater clean-up.
© WWF-Malaysia / Kimberly Chung Enlarge
A few young community representatives during the beach clean-up.
© WWF-Malaysia / Marine Programme Enlarge