Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miri set to become an international dive destination

MIRI: Miri is set to become an international dive destination within the next five years because of its rich marine biodiversity.

According to world dive industry icon Clement Lee Ngak Yeo from Sabah, among the attractions are the untapped wonders in the 28 diving sites.

The sites are home for over 3,000 species of fish and breeding grounds for 600 of 800 species of coral reefs in the world, making Miri waters the richest in coral reef species and marine life.

The sites cover 100,000km of coral reefs which is about 34 per cent of the total worldwide. But the question is how will these coral reefs and other marine life able to withstand threats and challenges from both human being and natural phenomenon like bleaching.

thesundaypost had the opportunity last Saturday to attend a talk on Reef Check Miri project by its coordinator Joyce Sivalingam, from the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Chapter, and another MNS member Iqbal Abdollah who shared some insights into the recent coral reef check project in Brunei.

Coincidently on Thursday (Aug 25) there was Shell Sustainable Development (SD) Grants Showcase Event 2016 in Miri, where MNS Miri and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) were the beneficiaries of the fund. RM60,000 was allocated this year for Coral Reef propagation, a continuation of the coral reef conservation programme in Miri, which Shell had provided grants in 2009 and 2015.

Managing director of Sarawak Shell Berhad Simon Durkin in his speech, said the reef conservation programme was part of Shell’s efforts to conserve Miri’s pristine underwater world for all to enjoy. The fund was part of the RM125 million pledged for the next 10 years.

Reef Check Miri

Joyce, during her talk entitled ‘The Beauty Beneath – Coral Reefs’ said since 2004, Reef check efforts in Miri were predominantly conducted by Shell employees. With the grant, MNS Miri was able to expand the pool of eco-divers, to empower recreational divers to play an active role in monitoring and conserving the reefs in Miri.

The eco-divers, comprise individuals from Petronas, Shell, Curtin University Sarawak and local agencies including MNS Miri.

The project covers six selected dive sites within the Miri-Sibuti Marine Protected Area namely Siwa 4A, Siwa Penyu, Anemone Centre, Anemone North, Sunday Reef and Eve’s Garden.

“Miri is one of the few locations where Reef Check efforts are driven and sustained for 12 years now by the local community independently. This was possible with the continuous support of volunteer divers, dive marshals of Piasau Divers, support from relevant authorities and funding from the Shell SD grant,” she said.

According to Joyce, the 2015 Annual Survey Report by Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) reported that from the survey data submitted for these sites, 50% were in fair condition, 33% in good condition and the remaining 17% were in poor condition.

“The reefs surveyed were found to have 45.7% live coral cover below the average of 58.2% for the Sunda Shelf Region. Two fish indicator species (Bumphead parrotfish and Humphead Wrasse) were absent from the survey while snappers were the highest species recorded.

The abundance of invertebrates however was observed to be low. The survey report highlights that as fish populations recorded on these surveys seems to be consistently low, over fishing may be a problem impacting coral reefs in Miri,” she added.

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