KOTA KINABALU (Sept 10): More than 85 kilograms of trash of various types and sizes were removed from the sea during the International Coastal Cleanup Day 2023.
Held along the waters at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park on September 6, close to 50 volunteers, equipped with scuba gears, braved the underwater current to remove all sorts of rubbish from the sea.
Among the rubbish removed were plastic bottles, grocery bags, beverage cans, plastic cups and plates, clothing, plastic food containers, glass bottles, construction materials, babies diapers as well as scuba masks and snorkels to name a few.
The collected trash were then segregated before being taken back to the mainland of Kota Kinabalu for proper disposal at the Kayu Madang landfill in Telipok.
Organised by Reef Check Malaysian and partnering with Marine Research Foundation and Sabah Parks, and funded by Rotary Club of Kinabalu Sutera (RCKS), the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day 2023 is a global event where volunteers would come together to remove trash from beaches or ocean.
Reef Check Malaysia (Sabah) Programme Manager, Nadhirah Mohd Rifal said, all collected trash will be recorded to identify what sort of trash can be found in our ocean.
“ICC is not just ocean and beach cleanup, but most importantly is for us to collect data of what sort of trash can be found in the ocean.
“The trash will be segregated, weighed and recorded and all recorded data, during the Malaysia ICC Day, will be published in a report.
“Hopefully with the data, we are able to create awareness programmes to educate the community on proper waste management which could help protect our coral reef in the ocean,” she said.
Nadhirah said most coastal and island communities do not have proper waste management systems which lead them to dispose of their trash into the sea.
“Most of the coastal and island communities do not have a proper waste management system, that is why they (community) will dispose of their rubbish into the sea.
“Some will burn their rubbish while others will bury it but most will just simply throw it into the sea,” she said.
Nadhirah said they have been providing waste management to island communities by teaching them how to segregate garbage, which are mostly compostable food waste, and rubbish, which are mostly recyclable material.
“We will help to transport the rubbish back to the mainland and any recyclable material will be sold to recycling center and the money will be used to fund for similar or other projects,” she said.
Nadhirah said the Reef Check main program is on coral reef monitoring and island-based educational programs.
She said they would monitor coral reefs annually to assess the health of coral reefs in Sabah waters.
“Reef Check is also actively involved in reef management and conservation efforts.
“Every year we will go back to the same site to monitor the reef while all data collected will be published in reports,” she said, adding that all published reports can be viewed on Reef Check Malaysia website.
Meanwhile, Marine Research Foundation (MRF) Senior Conservation Officer, Liyana Izwin Khalid said, MRF has been involved in projects related to biodiversity assessment and conservation, research, education and providing management oriented solutions to government administration and conservationists.
Some of MRF’s projects include providing management solutions to the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, Sabah Parks and others.
“One of our long term projects is the turtle excluder device which helps to save endangered sea turtles from getting caught from troll fishing through bycatch,” said Liyana.
The turtle excluder is a specialized device that allows captured sea turtles to escape when caught in a fisherman’s net when bottom trawling is used by the commercial fishing industry.
“Bycatch or incidental capture in fishing gear is likely the greatest threat to sea turtles and many other species worldwide.
“So by using the turtle excluder device, we are able to reduce the bycatch of sea turtles and protect them,” she said, adding that the project started some 15 years ago with the collaboration with the Federal and State Fisheries Departments.
Liyana added that another long term project of MRF is the bycatch of sharks and rays.
“Not all sharks and ray, even though it is listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is not protected in Malaysian and in Sabah,” she said, adding that only 10 spices of sharks are categorised as endangered or protected but its rare to find it in the waters of sabah.
To acquire data of caught sharks, rays and turtles in Sabah, MRF have set up cameras on fish trawlers which will capture five-second shots of all landings that happen on the boats through GPS.
“From this project, we were able to identify where the sharks, rays and turtles were caught. One of the results through this system is that we were able to identify one of the hot spots of sharks and rays at Tun Mustapha Marine Park in Kudat.
“We are currently working with Sabah Parks to make the Tun Mustapha Marine Park as a sanctuary for shark protection,” said Liyana.
On the ICC Day program, Liyana said the underwater clean-up with Reef Checks is not a long term solution but the main problem must be addressed directly from the main source, which is community awareness.
“Underwater clean up is not the long term solution but if we don’t do it, then it’s just going to triple the amount of rubbish in the sea within just couple of days.
“Everyone must play their part to protect our beaches and ocean,” she concluded.