Now residing in Malaysia, one of my favourite activities, besides eating kaya on toast, is scuba diving (kaya is a local coconut jam just to die for!) The idyllic islands scattered around the coast of Malaysia offer some of the most spectacular dive sites you can find: Tioman, Redang, Perhentian and Sipadan are among the best dive sites in the world. These places are teeming with life. You will see turtles, cave systems, sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, and bright coral in such sheer volume your eyes won’t believe it!
But global warming, rising ocean temperatures, compounded by other man-made factors, like pollution and overfishing have been catastrophic for the earth’s coral. Between 1968 and 2003, more than 600 square miles of reef disappeared in the region. That’s 1% a year, twice the pace of rainforest decline!
Last week, leaders of six Asia-Pacific countries (Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste), which represent 76% of the world’s coral species and 50% of the world’s reef fish species, have gathered to save the corals.
The CIT (Coral Triangle Initiative) is looking at ways to stop coral degradation and safeguard species. Countries will give each from 1-5 million US dollars budget to launch the initiative, supported by satellite surveillance.
Why the need to monitor coral so closely? Coral reefs constitute a complex and vast global ecosystem, home to millions of plants and fish that people depend on for food and tourist revenue; in some areas, healthy reefs help protect the shore from potentially destructive waves. Perhaps the single best advocate for the preservation of coral reefs is the reef itself: In one area of the Philippines, for instance, local leaders asked fishermen who had been making a living by blast-fishing, which destroys reefs, to trade in their trawlers for dive boats. They did, the fish came back to the reefs, the local economy flourished.
When healthy coral reefs are your bread and butter, you’re going to make sure they’re in good shape. So enjoy the amazing dives of Malaysia as I do and let’s help protect the reef!