MIRI: The corals within the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef Marine Park easily rank as one of the ‘best and healthiest’ in the country, but threats from climate change and human activities are a growing concern.
A member of the Malaysia Nature Society (Miri), Kumareson Paranthaman, said one of the major threats was sedimentation.
“If deforestation accelerates in watersheds feeding the shore water, additional silt run-offs could begin to kill the reefs nearest to the shore,” he cautioned.
Kumareson explained that coral reefs closest to the shore grow in shallow waters, around seven metres, while the deepest one thrive far out in the shelf, in nearly 30 metres of crystal clear water.
He pointed out that there were already indications that coral reefs in Miri were under siege when there was an outbreak of coral bleaching in 2009.
“Bleaching is a sign of coral stress and represents a threat to the health of the reefs and their associated eco-system. Bleaching can be local or regional and there are several known causes,” he said.
Among the causes are climate change, sedimentation, and chemical pollution, while indiscriminate fishing and large fishing nets snagged on the reefs are equally damaging. This leads to the reefs becoming unattractive algal reefs.
Kumareson said this when presenting a talk entitled ‘Coral Reefs in Miri’ at Pustaka Miri on Saturday.
He was among three individuals who spoke at the function which was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the MNS – the nation’s oldest environmental NGO.
The other two speakers were MNS president Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor, who talked about ‘MNS 70th Year Anniversary’, and geophysicist Nazeri Abghani, who is also MNS Miri chairman, who delivered ‘Fossils in Miri’.
Kumareson told the 100 school kids and MNS members present that coral reefs play an important role in maintaining equilibrium in the marine eco-system.
“It provides home to 33% of all known fish species, and nursery ground for over 25% of all marine species,” he said.
In view of the threat on the coral reefs, Kumareson said MNS Miri, in collaboration with relevant government agencies, had initiated several conservation programmes.
Among them were ‘net clearing’ dives, to remove fishing nets caught on the reefs, and conducting ‘Reef Check’ surveys.
The data collected had been passed on to both national and international organisations which dealt with the sustainable management of coral reefs.
He said the general public could also play their part.
“One of the ways is to avoid polluting the environment. Recreational divers should not step on coral reefs as it takes between 100 to 150 years to mature” he said.