Coral reefs are important to the planet range of ecosystems because they provide habitat to a good portion of the life that we know in our oceans. Coral reefs, even though in total they represent less than one percent of the ocean floor, are responsible for 25 to 40 percent of the world’s fisheries. The function is similar to the oasis in the middle of a desert. If you were to ask “What good is the oasis?”, the answer lies in the fact that the oasis is the place where animals go to feed, breed, hide and inhabit. Similar to an underwater oasis, coral reefs is where many types of marine life like various types of fishes, shellfishes, molluscs, clams, oysters, and more congregate to feed, breed and inhabit.
Besides, coral reefs are also critical to the world’s tropical regions because they help to build up a new ocean floor because corals can utilise calcium from seawater to build reefs that protect the shorelines from cataclysm such as hurricane wave, tsunami and tidal surge. The coral reefs also possess important economic value, not just for the fishing industry, but also for tourism. And one of the places in Malaysia where the public can witness the great contribution made by coral reefs towards tourism is Tioman, an island off coast Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia’s largest state.
I was lucky to be invited by Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts to cover a coral reef restoration programme from 24 until 26 April 2017 that is part of the first ever “Keep The Coral Floral” Project, a 9-month coral reef restoration scheme at Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort – Tioman Island. This programme, led by Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Care Luxury CARES Project), involves many parties such as the Department of Marine Park Malaysia, Reef Check Malaysia and National Dive League (NDL).
The three day coral reef restoration programme aimed to protect and conserve the coral reefs around Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort – Tioman Island using the newly designed Coral Frame Structures donated by the Department of Marine Park Malaysia. “As the ocean conditions may damage the coral reefs from time to time, we started looking for a sustainable solution to allow them to thrive faster under adverse conditions and that is what made us kick-off this initiative to ensure the ‘Coral Floral’ is preserved and protected for many future generations to enjoy its natural beauty,” mentioned Care Luxury CARES Project Leader Mohd Yahya Hamsain.
In line with such initiative, Norliza Jailani, the Director of Operations Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort Tioman Island, hopes that Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort – Tioman Island inspires awareness on the need to preserve the coral reefs, ultimately creating a sustainable eco-tourism industry while protecting the island’s natural heritage. “Our main effort is aiming at restoration and rehabilitating the coral reefs, at the same time educating our guests in what we can do towards helping to protect our diverse marine ecosystem,” she explains.
NDL Head Diver and Instructor John Low Teng Boon explained how the coral frame structures work. “Once the frames are planted, we will monitor the growth of our corals. This is a very crucial process to ensure a healthy growth of our house coral reefs. Although coral reefs are known to be resilient, they still need our help especially in critical areas. This is why we at NDL and Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Care Luxury CARES) work together to plant these frames to prevent further damage on the corals here.”
“There are more than 400 species of corals and over 500 species of fish here (in Tioman). However, human activities such as overfishing, coastal development, climate change and pollution are causing serious threats to our coral reefs and other marine life,” he added.
Meanwhile, Department of Marine Park Malaysia Officer Shahabudin and Reef Check Malaysia Program Manager Alvin Chelliah mentioned about the importance of coral reefs for our future generations. They also shared that coral reefs are like rainforests of the seas and they are key to the continuity of life in the sea, thus it is everyone’s responsibility to keep the ‘coral floral’ and maintain its beauty for next generations to come.
A total of 40 divers from Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort – Tioman Island, National Dive League, and media partners formed the Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Care Luxury CARES) Volunteer Team. They participated in the coral reef clean-up during the three day programme, among them safely removing the Crown of Thorns Starfish that prey on coral reefs. “The Crown of Thorns and climate change are behind the destruction of coral reefs,” said Shahabudin.
All in all, the coral reef restoration programme was a indeed a refreshing and meaningful experience for the Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Care Luxury CARES) Volunteer Team and their partners. The chance to be part of a movement that helps to care and preserve the environment, especially at a place that is as beautiful as the Tioman Island, was indeed gratifying and enriching. The programme reinforces Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts commitment towards supporting social causes that have a positive impact on the environment and society in the locations it operates in, further cementing its crucial role as protector and preserver of the natural surroundings so that future generations can continue to enjoy their beauty, in this case the underwater life of Tioman Island.