WWF lauds move to close dive destinations to protect bleached coral

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Eco-tourism |

-The Star-

PETALING JAYA: Pre-emptive measures like closing the affected dive destinations to reduce stress to the bleached corals is important, said WWF-Malaysia.

It said the closure of affected dive sites was a temporary measure to minimise further stress to the bleached corals.

“However, it is important to take pre-emptive measures against events like this by putting more resources into marine protected area management, preventing coastal and marine pollution and promoting sustainable fisheries,” it said in a statement Friday.

WWF-Malaysia hoped that the Government would adopt and implement Ecosystem Based Management of Fisheries and strengthen Marine Protected Area Management and Integration.

On Thursday, The Star reported that several dive sites in Tioman and Redang were temporarily marked off-limits to divers until the end of October.

These two of the top dive destinations and a marine park, Pulau Payar in Kedah, are affected by coral bleaching, a phenomenon caused by global warming that has increased sea water temperature by 2°C to between 28°C and 29°C.

Marine Park Department director-general Abd Jamal Mydin said this was done to protect the coral reefs that had turned white.

He said that the department would continue to monitor popular dive sites affected by coral bleaching.

WWF-Malaysia said coral bleaching occurred when coral reefs were stressed.

“At a local scale, the stress may include disease, pollution, sedimentation, cyanide fishing, changes in salinity and temperature, and storms,” it said.

The trust said mass bleaching events like what Malaysia was currently experiencing primarily due to increased sea temperatures.

Temperature increased of one to two degree celsius above the long term average maximum could already triggered mass bleaching.

However, WWF-Malaysia said corals could recover from bleaching events, but they must have support for factors that promote coral resiliency.

Studies shown that the recovery success of healthy coral systems was much higher than the degraded ones.

Good water quality, high coral cover and an abundant, and diverse community of herbivorous fishes are important conditions to promote coral recovery, said WWF-Malaysia.

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